Reverse Line Movement

reverse-line-movementOne of the most peculiar things in sports betting is the reverse line movement. That is, when the majority of the public is betting on one side of a point spread, and, instead of moving up, the spread moves down. For example, if the Southern California Trojans were 7 point favorites and 75% of the public was betting on USC, then instead of moving to 8 or 9 points, the line moves to 6 or even 5 points.

It is a strange phenomenon. One would think that the more money coming in on one side, the higher the spread would move. Yet every week, there are several games in which the public is heavily betting on one side but the line moves in the reverse direction by the sports books – hence, reverse line movement. And, as the public is wrong more than it is right, if you simply bet against the public every single game, you would turn a small profit over a long time. For a real look at it, in Week 13, Alabama opened as a 11.5 point favorite. Then 75% of the public bet on the Crimson Tide, and instead of moving up to 12.5 or 13.5 points, the line moved down to 10 points. When Alabama squeaked out a 26-21 win, those who faded the public ended up profiting.

UTEP opened as a pick em but, despite 65% of the public betting on Marshall, UTEP moved to a 1.5 point favorite. The final score was 52-21 in UTEP’s favor, and those fading the public again won. The same results happened with Baylor (a 20 point favorite who lost by seven).

The system isn’t fool proof, though. San Jose State was a reverse line movement from 10 to 11.5 points and just barely beat New Mexico State 13-10. Like any “system,” betting on the reverse line movement will have its ups and downs, like it did in Week 9, when the system went 8-8 for -0.8 units. If you narrow those games down to ones in which at least 75% of the public was on it and the line moved at least 1.5 points, you would have finished even worse at 1-2.

Still, if you bet the reverse line movement in 2008 and 2007 on all games that had at least 75% of the public on one side and moved at least 1.5 points in the opposite direction, you would be 364-262, or hitting better than 58%. At one unit wagered on each game, that is 67 units. And at $100 a unit, that is a profit of $6,700!

That is a lot of games to wager on, even over the span of two years. With 14 weeks of games and 60 games a week, that is nearly 1,700 games over that time – and you would be betting on more than 1 in every 3 games. The key is to find the games that really stick out, such as ones with 80 or 85% of the public betting on it, or the lines that are moving three or more points. As those games come across rarely, that would be an ideal way of limiting your picks. And, in the end, it is simply better to bet on your own picks rather than following someone else’s.