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Comparing Odds & Line Shopping

When was the last time you made a significant purchase without first shopping around and comparing prices? We bet it was quite some time ago. Very few people are willing to part with their hard-earned money unless they’re confident they’re getting a good deal. Thanks to the internet, it is extremely easy to compare prices these days. For most purchases, it’s as simple as going online to see who’s offering the cheapest price. This usually only takes up a few minutes of our time.

There are even price comparison websites that do the hard work for us. The popularity of these sites proves that a lot of people are very price sensitive when it comes to making purchases. The thrill of getting a good deal is actually what motivates them to make those purchases in the first place. That’s why half the world seems to go shopping crazy on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

You’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with sports betting. Let us explain. Did you know that shopping around for the best deal is actually crucial when betting on sports? Unfortunately, many bettors don’t realize this. They’ll happily spend some time searching for the cheapest price on a new household appliance, but they don’t even consider spending time to find the best odds and lines when placing their wagers. The irony in this is that finding the best odds and lines can save them A LOT more money over time.

Bookmakers and betting sites don’t all offer exactly the same odds and lines for every single betting market. Just as prices can vary from one retailer to another, prices can vary from one bookmaker to another too. The differences are usually pretty small, but that doesn’t mean they’re not significant. Over the course of several wagers, getting slightly better odds and lines can have a notable impact on your overall betting results. The more wagers you place, the bigger this impact will be.

Comparing odds and “line shopping” is something that ALL bettors should do. Whether you are serious about trying to make money or just betting to have fun, this is something we recommend doing. This article covers the benefits of comparing odds and “line shopping,” explains HOW to compare odds and line shop, and offers some useful tips for doing so effectively. At the end of this article, we’ll finish by explaining WHY the odds and lines vary at different bookmakers and betting sites.

The Benefits of Comparing Odds & Line Shopping

Here are the two main benefits of comparing odds and line shopping.

  • It increases the size of your payouts.
  • It increases your chances of winning wagers.

Let’s focus in on this first benefit. If you’re a winning bettor, then increasing the size of your payouts will simply mean that you win even more money. And even if you lose money overall from your betting, it’s likely that you’ll win at least SOME of your wagers. Getting bigger payouts on the occasions that you do win will cause you to lose less money overall. If you’re only marginally losing money, then these bigger payouts could even be enough to turn you into an overall winner.

Increasing the chances of winning your wagers is just as attractive. In fact, it’s possibly even more so. Winning more wagers has the potential to make a HUGE difference to your betting results over time.

Now, we think it’s safe to assume that getting bigger payouts and winning more wagers is something  that ALL sports bettors would want. And yet, despite this, we know for a fact that lots of bettors don’t bother to shop around when placing their wagers. After talking with some sports bettors, we discovered that many of them have never even considered comparing odds and line shopping.

We can understand this with recreational bettors to some extent. They typically don’t put much thought into how to improve their betting results. They’re only really interested in enjoying themselves, so they’re happy just as long as they have some fun and win a reasonable percentage of their wagers.

We struggle to understand it with serious bettors though. We’re always amazed when we talk with people who put a lot of time and effort into their betting, but aren’t aware of how beneficial comparing odds and line shopping can be. It’s even more surprising when you consider just how easy it is too.

Comparing odds and line shopping is VERY simple, and takes just a matter of minutes.

Successful sports betting is ultimately about finding value in the betting markets. This is not easy to do consistently. It can be done, but it takes real dedication and commitment. Most sports bettors aren’t prepared to do what’s necessary, which is why most sports bettors lose. Comparing odds and line shopping, however, is a great way to get better value WITHOUT having to work especially hard. This is why we firmly believe that all sports bettors, whether recreational or serious, should invest some time into trying to get the best deal out of every single one of their wagers.

How to Compare Odds & Line Shop

Comparing odds and line shopping is essentially the same as comparing prices for any product that you might want to buy. It’s a simple of matter of researching what’s available, and then selecting the best deal. This is extremely easy to do when betting online, as you just need to visit a few betting sites and check out their odds and lines. Choose to place your wager with whichever site offers the best value.

For example, let’s say you’re looking to place a wager on an upcoming tennis match between Miles Raonic and David Goffon. You check three different betting sites, and find the following odds available.

Miles Raonic vs David Goffon – Match Winner

SelectionOdds (Decimal)
Betting Site A

Miles Raonic
David Goffon


Betting Site B

Miles Raonic
David Goffon


Betting Site C

Miles Raonic
David Goffon


If you’re planning to back Raonic to win, Betting Site C is the best site to place your wager. You’ll get odds of 1.40 rather than 1.35 or 1.30. If you’re planning to back Goffon to win, Betting Site B is the best site to place your wager. You’ll get odds of 2.90 rather than 2.80.

The differences in odds may seem small, but they’ll quickly add up over time. If you were staking $100 on Raonic here, getting 1.40 instead of 1.30 would mean earning an extra $10 in profit if the wager is correct. That may not seem like a lot right now, but winning an extra $10 for every single correct wager you place IS substantial.

Not convinced? Let’s say you place an average of ten wagers per week, and your win rate is around 40%. Over the course of a year, that’s 520 wagers placed and 208 wagers won. An extra $10 return for each winning wager would mean you’d be over $2,000 better off. That’s not bad for spending just a few extra minutes each time you bet.

Comparing odds for win bets is very straightforward, as all you need to do is choose the site which has the best odds for your chosen selection. Things get a little more complicated when betting point spreads and totals though, as there’s a little more to consider. In addition to the odds, you also have to look at the size of the spread or the totals line.

For example, let’s say you were looking to bet on the point spread for a football game between the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets. You compare the lines at three sites, and this is what you find.

Miami Dolphins vs New York Jets – Point Spread

SelectionOdds (American)
Betting Site A

Miami -3
New York +3


Betting Site B

Miami -2.5
New York +2.5


Betting Site C

Miami -3.5
New York +3.5


Here you’ve got some decisions to make. Regardless of whether you want to back the Dolphins or the Jets to cover, there’s an argument for placing your wager with any one of these sites.

Let’s say you wanted to back the dolphins to win. You consider going with Site C, because they are offering the best possible odds. However, the Dolphins are giving away 3.5 points on this line. At Site B, they’re only giving away 2.5 points. A wager at Site C offers a better potential return, but a wager at Site B is easier to win. A wager at Site A is a compromise between the two.

It’s a similar situation if you wanted to back the Jets to cover. The best possible odds are at Site B, but the Jets are only getting 2.5 points. At Site C, they’re getting 3.5 points. But the odds are worse. Again, a wager at Site A represents a compromise.

What’s the right thing to do here?

There’s no right or wrong really. It’s down to you to decide which is the best option, based on your overall outlook. If you were backing the Dolphins and confident that they’d win by four points or more, it would make the most sense to take the better odds. If you were confident they’d win by three, but not sure about them winning by four, taking the -2.5 line would be the logical thing to do.

As a general rule, we tend to prefer taking the safer option over getting better odds. In our opinion, it’s usually better to improve our chances of winning than increase the size of any potential payout. Let us make it clear though; this is only OUR opinion. Others would argue that taking the higher odds offers the better overall value.

Before we move on to explaining why the odds and lines vary at different bookmakers and betting sites, we have three tips that we’d like you to bear in mind when comparing odds and line shopping.

  • Compare the odds and lines for EVERY wager you place.
  • Have accounts at several reputable betting sites.
  • Always consider potential bonuses and rewards.

The first tip is simple. Shop around every single time you place a wager and we guarantee that your betting results will improve in the long run. Regardless of whether you bet for fun or for profit, there’s really no excuse for not getting the best possible deal on your wagers.

Having accounts at several reputable betting sites is vital if you want to get the maximum benefit out of comparing odds and line shopping. If you only have accounts at one or two, you’re not necessarily going to get the best deal every time. You don’t need accounts at dozens of sites of course, but at least three or four is advisable. And the key word here is REPUTABLE. Don’t go betting with some shady site just because they offer slightly better odds. Stick with sites that you know can be trusted, like any of the ones that we recommend.

When betting with reputable sites, you’ll typically have the opportunity to earn bonuses and rewards on your betting activity. Take this into consideration when comparing odds and lines. It’s possible that the value of the bonuses and rewards you can earn at one site will outweigh the extra value from the slightly better odds offered at another site. Doing a few simple calculations will help you determine your best options.

Why Odds & Lines Differ

The online betting industry is very competitive. There are LOTS of betting sites, with only so many customers to go around. This is why those sites are motivated to attract new customers and retain existing ones. One way they can do this is by offering the best odds and lines that they possibly can.  They know that at least some of their customers, and potential customers, are price sensitive, so better odds and lines will encourage those customers to bet with them.

Betting sites are also very protective of their margins though. They can’t simply offer the best odds and lines every single time, as this would reduce their ability to make a profit. So they have to offer the best they can, when they can, while also considering other factors.

Here are the three main factors they must pay attention to.

  • Customer base
  • Overall outlook
  • Weight of money

We’ll now explain each of these in a little more detail.

Customer Base

There was a time when online betting sites could be classified as either “sharp books” or “square books.” Although these are American terms, the basic principle applies to online betting sites all over the world. Sharp books cater primarily to professional gamblers and other serious bettors, while square books cater primarily to recreational bettors.

The distinction between these two types of bookmaker isn’t as great as it used to be. It wasn’t that long ago that the odds and lines at sharp books were often significantly different to those at square books. This is simply because they were targeting different bettors with different betting habits. Sharp books would offer odds and lines likely to appeal to the serious bettors, while square books would offer odds and lines that appealed to recreational bettors.

Most betting sites take a more holistic approach these days, and tend to try to cater to all bettors rather than just the serious ones or just the recreational ones. However, many of them will still set their odds and lines with at least some consideration for who makes up the majority of their customer base. Some of the differences we see in the odds and lines are because of this.

Overall Outlook

The odds and lines set by a betting site are almost always influenced by their overall outlook. They’ll be guided by the market to a certain extent, but they’ll also consider their own views on what’s likely to happen. Not every site is going to have the exact same view of course, so this also accounts for some of the differences we see in the odds and lines.

Let’s go back to the tennis match we used as an example earlier, between Raonic and Goffon. We saw that one site had Goffon at odds of 2.90 to win, while the other two sites had him at odds of 2.80. This could easily have been a case of differing views. The site offering odds of 2.90 could simply have felt that Goffon’s chances of winning were less than the other two sites believed.

Weight of Money

Bookmakers and betting sites always aim to create balanced books on any betting market they open. When their books are balanced, they’re liable to payout the same amount regardless of the actual outcome. This means their overall profit margin won’t be affected by the outcome either.

When their books become unbalanced, they could potentially lose money. For example, they might take an unexpectedly high number of wagers on the underdog in a cricket match. This could put them in a situation where the underdog winning the match would result in them losing money on the relevant market.

Bookmakers don’t like to lose money of course, so they’d take action to address this situation. They’d probably increase the odds on the favorite for the match, and reduce the odds on the underdog. Their goal would be to take in more wagers for the favorite, to hopefully balance their book better and not face the potential of losing money.

There are all kinds of situations where the weight of money betting sites take in can lead them to adjust their odds and lines. When they make these adjustments, their odds and lines are probably going to differ from other sites. So, this is another reason why we see the differences we do.

If you’re interested in learning more about how and why bookmakers set and adjust their odds, you should read our article explaining what a bookmaker does. The important thing to note here is simply that there will be differences. By comparing odds and line shopping, you’ll be able to benefit from those differences.

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