It may seem counterintuitive, but the easiest way to become more profitable betting on MMA (in fact in betting on any sport) is actually one of the easiest concepts to understand and to implement. At the same time, it is also one the least-practiced concepts, especially among those new to sports wagering.
I’m talking about the concept of line shopping.
What is line shopping?
Simply put, it’s the practice of finding the best available price on the market for placing a bet. This isn’t any different than buying a car. When buying a new car, most of us start by researching the available models and features in order to select the right vehicle. This is analogous to handicapping in sports betting – selecting the bet you want to place.
Once someone makes a decision to buy, does he walk into the nearest dealership and buy the first car he sees at the listed price? No, most of the time he tries to find the best deal available. He might shop several dealerships or use the internet to do research. In other words, most people do their homework before making a major purchase.
Yet most people placing a bet generally do the opposite. They place their bets at the first convenient line they see (often at their one regular sportsbook) and do not shop for the best price.
Add to your arsenal
Line shopping is one of the most powerful tools available to a sports bettor. To “beat” sports betting, you must line shop, period. I’d go as far as to say that I know many more winning bettors who are simply good at line shopping than I know people who can reliably pick winners. It’s that important to your success.
Most people hold the misconception that all it takes is picking winners. For sure, if you can pick winners at a staggeringly improbable clip, you can make serious money doing so. But there are only a handful of handicappers in the world who are good enough to win purely on their picks over the long run. Even more important than picking the right side to bet is finding the best available line.
To give an example from the NFL, a half-point in an NFL total (a bet on the total combined points scored by two teams playing each other) can have as much as a 2% difference in winning or losing your bet. While that might not seem like a lot, in sports wagering where small percentages edges ultimately determine your fate, that small percentage edge can be critical to your long term success.
Getting started in line shopping is easy. You simply need to have access to more than one sportsbook account. When you are ready to place a bet, check your options at your multiple books to look for the best available line, instead of placing your bet at the first line you see.
This process has one downside other than the additional time you’re spending. To be able to take advantage of line shopping, you have to have funded accounts set up at multiple books. This requires a larger initial deposit; perhaps this is the main reason new bettors don’t take advantage of this powerful technique. However, having access to the best line is perhaps the largest obstacle preventing the initial success of someone betting sports, and ties in to one of the worst sins: poor bankroll management.
Most people getting started in betting sports will open an account with a bankroll of a few hundred dollars and put all the money on one site. While there’s nothing wrong with this practice if you’re a casual sports bettor and you’re only betting a few dollars per pick, most people do the opposite. They deposit $200, and wager $25 or $50 per fight. They may even put their entire bankroll at risk on a single night’s fight card. Risking as much as 25% of your bankroll on a single pick where your edge might only be a few percentage points is a surefire way to ensure you lose your initial deposit as fast as possible.
It’s like stepping up to a roulette table and putting half your stack of chips on the first spin of the wheel. More likely than not, you’re in for a short night.
Instead, if you are serious at betting sports, you should consider opening and adequately funding accounts with at least three to five top rated sportsbooks. Line shop actively between these books anytime you place a bet to find the best possible price. Spread your bankroll out among the sites. And don’t forget to control your bet sizes; when you’re just getting started, put at most 1% or 2% of your total sports betting bankroll into action on a single bet.
Sometimes spending five to ten minutes extra in shopping for the best available line on the internet is all you need to make a significant difference.
Discipline is Key
On the sports betting forum of TwoPlusTwo.com, a forum I moderate, a noted veteran poster proved the point perfectly. A vocal young poster declared that he was a serious student of the NFL and would be releasing his picks publicly. However, the rookie was adamant that he was not going to line shop at all. He would simply be placing his bets at a
So if the rookie posted a bet of the Bears -3 (-110) over the Eagles, the veteran would take just five or ten minutes and look for the best bet on the other side. While sometimes he’d just fi nd the standard +3 (-110), sometimes he’d find a truly errant line, like Eagles
Across seven weeks of the NFL season, the two posters had the same record on their bets: 17 wins, 16 losses, and 2 ties. The young poster had lost money on his bets. The veteran? Despite the same record, he had won money over the same time period, due to the better lines he had bet. He had also put less of his bankroll at risk, which gave him a significantly better ROI (return on investment), which is the true measuring stick of a bettor’s success.
If you want to be successful at betting on MMA, practice line shopping. Maintain discipline not just in researching and making your predictions for a fight, but also in finding the best possible line to bet. It will pay off in the long run.
As usual, this article built on the concepts covered in the previous three issues of FIGHT! If you missed them, get your hands on a back issue, or see the MMA Wagering Guide at MMAjunkie.com.