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Betting.net / Betting Guide / What Does a Line Bet Mean? Line Betting Explained 2023

What Does a Line Bet Mean? Line Betting Explained 2023

Last Updated on January 23, 2023
Fact checked by: Jesse M Cox

When should you place a line bet? We reveal all our secrets below!

If you’re looking to find out everything there is to know about sportsbook betting lines, then you’ve found your destination. From explaining the basics of how betting lines work, to providing you with our best strategies – it’s all covered here!

Buckle up and get ready to jet into the exciting world of strategic sports betting. By the time you reach the bottom of this page, you’ll have gone from beginner to expert on the subject. So from the favourites, to the underdogs and handicaps, let’s begin our tour!

Sportsbook lines – key points

  • Used to outline the probability of an outcome
  • Can ultimately be used to determine how much money you stand to win
  • Lay out the favorite and underdog teams for a match
  • Moneyline and handicap bets
  • Can be displayed in American, fractional or decimal odds format

What are sportsbook lines?

Before we get into the nitty gritty of reading sports betting lines and how you can implement our best sportsbook guide and strategies, we first need to address the most basic question – what exactly are sports betting lines? 

Sportsbook betting lines are used by the bookmakers to display the favorite and underdog for a particular sports fixture. Additionally, they’ll also show you the implied probability and how much money you stand to win via the odds displayed. Sports betting lines can use moneyline, handicap and spread bets.

An example of a sports betting line is as follows:

For an NFL fixture between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Cleveland Browns:

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 400
  • Cleveland Browns +150

In this scenario, the Bucs are the overwhelming favorites to win, therefore the odds are shorter and the payout would be less. The above is an example of a moneyline bet, however there are different types of betting lines including handicaps and spreads. We’ll explain more about these below.

In addition to the above, we should also point out that the odds displayed here are in moneyline (American) odds format (see betting odds explained here). Depending on where in the world you are, you may find that the odds are displayed in decimal or fractional format. Once again, we’ll explain more about this below.

Favorites vs Underdogs

With all sportsbook betting lines, there are two possible outcomes – one side wins and one side loses. The side deemed most likely to win is known as the favorite, with the one thought least likely to win being deemed the underdog.

The odds are shorter for the favorites and longer for the underdogs. This means that there is always less value in backing the favorite as it is the most likely outcome – meaning the sportsbooks want to limit their losses should the outcome come to pass.

Sportsbook lines – moneyline bets

Moneyline bets are the most basic betting formats, and therefore they are the most popular – especially amongst beginner punters. With these betting lines, the sportsbook will simply display the favorite and the underdog with the proposed odds. Naturally, the odds will be shorter for the favorites and longer for the underdog.

As the bettor here, you are backing the simple outcome of one team to win and the other to lose without any additional factors or complications. In sports where it is possible, the odds for a draw or a tie outcome may also be displayed.

Let’s use a Premier League soccer fixture as an example here: 

Liverpool vs Burnley

  • Liverpool: -300
  • Draw: +150
  • Burnley: +350

In this example, Liverpool are the favorites with Burnley being the underdogs. The draw is the second most favored outcome over the Burnley win. In some cases it is possible that the draw is the favorite outcome or the underdog.

The problem with moneyline bets

The issue with moneyline bets is the value that they offer. As the probability suggests, the favorite is going to win in the majority of cases with moneyline bets. This is therefore reflected in the odds and you’ll thus find very little returns values in most bets when backing the favorite. Unless you have it on good authority that the underdog is likely to win, you’ll rarely find value on moneyline bets.

That’s why, in order to add value to their bets, many people either use multiple moneylines as part of a combo or accumulator bet. Another way to add value to your betting lines, is to look at handicap markets, which we’ve explained for you below.

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Sportsbook betting lines – handicaps

Handicaps are used by the sportsbooks in order to even up the stakes in the betting lines between the favorite and the underdog. As a result of using handicaps, the odds on the favorite are length and therefore the potential value of your bet is increased.

Let’s use an NHL hockey game as an example here:

New York Islanders vs Philadelphia Flyers

  • Islanders (-1)
  • Flyers (+1)

This has evened up the playing field by imposing an opposite handicap on the favorite and the underdog. In this case, if you were now to back the Islanders, they would need to win by at least two goals in order for your bet to pay out. However because of the handicap, the odds will have been lengthened and therefore your potential payout will be higher.

Sportsbook lines – over/under

Over under betting lines involve the sportsbook displaying the total estimated number of a certain stat. You as the better can therefore bet on the total number being over or under that amount. Most commonly, over/under betting markets will involve the total number of goals or points. However they can also be applied to niche stats, such as passes completed in a football game or corners in soccer.

Let’s use an NBA basketball game as an example here:

Clippers vs Hornets

  • Over 185.5 points: -100
  • Under185.5 points: +200

With this betting line, you could either back the total points tally being either over or under the proposed 185.4 points. Just as moneyline and handicap sportsbook betting lines have a favorite and underdog, so do over/under markets.

In the above example, the possibility of the game ending with over 185.5 total points scored is seen as the favorite of the two outcomes. The .5 is used to rule out the prospect of the outcome ending with the exact proposed points tally. Just remember, that you’re backing the total number of points scored between the two teams here, not the points tally of a single team.

Sportsbook betting lines – odds formats

In all of the above examples, we’ve used the moneyline (or American odds) format as an example. When it comes to explaining betting lines, this is the logical format to use as it is a concept that was specifically designed and created with sports betting lines in mind.

However, this odds format is only really in common use in North America. Depending on where you are in the world, you may find the odds displayed in either decimal or fractional format instead.

Starting with moneyline (American) odds, we’ve provided you with a quick explanation of how each odds format works. 

Moneyline (American Odds)

As we mentioned above, this is the odds format that’s most commonly used in North America, and was specifically designed to make the winning potential easier to read for sports bettors. As you will have seen in the above examples, there are both positive and negative numbers to be considered here.

Positive number odds

Positive number odds show the amount you stand to win with a $100 stake. For example, with a betting line at odds of +200, your potential returns with a $100 wager would be $300 (your $100 stake + $200 profit). In the majority of cases, underdogs will have positive number odds as the probability of the outcome happening is low.

Negative number odds

With negative odds, the number displayed shows you the amount you would have to stake in order to win $100. For example, odds of -200 would mean that you would need to stake $200 in order to get that $300 return total (in this case, $200 stake + $100 profit). In the majority of cases, the favorite will have negative number odds as the probability of the outcome happening is high.

Decimal odds

Decimal odds are most commonly used in mainland Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Here the outcome of a team or player winning is displayed as a decimal ratio. The team with a lower number will be the favorite and the team with the higher number is the underdog.

For example: 

  • Liverpool – 1.5
  • Burnley – 4.5

In this case, Liverpool are the favorites with Burnley as the underdogs, and therefore the payout is lower for Liverpool and higher for Burnley.

To calculate how much you stand to win, you just need to multiply your stake by the odds amount. To use the above example, if you were to back Liverpool with a £100 stake, your potential winnings would be $150 ($100 x 1.5).

Fractional odds

The fractional odds format is the oldest in existence and still the most commonly used in the UK and Ireland today, particularly with horse racing. When the numbers are simple, they can be easy to read at a glance, however with more complex numbers reading them can be tricky, especially for beginner bettors.

With fractional odds, the favorite will usually be “odds on”, meaning the fraction will begin with a smaller number, e.g 3/5. The underdog will have longer odds, with the first half of the fraction being higher than the second, e.g. 5/2.

To calculate your potential winnings, you multiply your stake by the top number and then divide it by the bottom. For example, a $100 stake at odds of 5/2 would yield a $250 profit (and be +250 in moneyline odds format).

You get to this conclusion as follows: ($100 x 5 = $500) ÷ 2 = $250

The above example gives you the total profit, alongside your $100 stake, you would see a total return of $350 in this case.

What other betting and strategy guides are available at Betting.net?

So you now know about sportsbook betting lines and how they work, however we’ve got so much more to offer you here at Betting.net. From basic beginner guides, to advanced strategies and tips to managing your bankroll – we’ve got plenty to offer you here when it comes to understanding sports betting. And it’s not just sports betting that we cover either – you can also find online poker and casino guides. Be sure to bookmark this site and take a look around today.

Conclusion – how your knowledge of sports betting lines

So there you have it, a basic guide to how sports betting lines work and how to read them. If you’re now planning on going ahead and using this knowledge to place a real life sports bet, just remember some key advice.

Firstly, start off with small stakes and wager on simple betting lines. Secondly, always stick to wagering on sports you know. Lastly, learn the most common betting markets for betting lines on your chosen sport(s), as well as the most commonly used odds format where you are. Just remember that you also need to be above the legal gambling age in your state to bet on sportsbook lines.

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Sportsbook lines FAQ

❓ What exactly are sports betting lines?

Sports betting lines are used by the bookmakers to give bettors a displayed version of the proposed possible outcomes to a match or sporting event. From betting lines, you can work out the probability of each possible outcome as well as how much money you stand to win with your stake. Confused? Find out more in our betting lines guide.

⚽ Which sportsbook has the best lines?

That answer really depends on a whole number of factors, especially where in the world you are. You can find the best sportsbooks where you are right here at Betting.net, a global gambling site review site.

🟥 How do sportsbooks set their lines?

A lot of work and a number of factors goes into sportsbooks selecting their lines. The sportsbooks would rather you don’t know exactly how they set their lines, as that would give you a better chance of beating them. We’ve gone behind the scenes to help you find more value

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