While we’d all rather our bets win than lose, sometimes the outcome of a bet doesn’t tell the whole story. Instead, sharp bettors tend to determine the quality of their bets by comparing them to the closing line.
What is closing line value?
When sportsbooks offer a game to bettors, they put out a line that they believe to be an accurate representation of the two teams involved. But the spread isn’t static.
Up until game time, the oddsmakers weigh the bets they’ve received on the game, along with any new information that has come out relating to the players, weather, officials or any other factors that could affect the outcome of the game, and adjust their lines accordingly.
The final line available before a game actually begins is referred to as the closing line. All bettors should judge their overall betting skill level by comparing the number they bet to where the line closes. For example, if a bettor takes the Patriots -3 against the Steelers and the line closes Patriots -3.5, then we can label that as a good bet because it beat the closing line by a half-point.
Why is this important?
Let’s say you’re a $100 bettor — meaning your unit size is $100 — and you make, on average, five bets per night (150 per month).
Now further assume that you, on average, beat the closing moneyline by just one cent per bet (i.e. you bet STL -134 and they close -135, or you bet PIT +121 and they close +120).
While it may seem meaningless at the time, you’re actually saving a dollar, or making a dollar, on half of your bets. When you bet a favorite that loses, you’ve saved yourself a dollar, and when your underdog pick wins, you’ve just made an extra buck. By the end of a month, you’ve got an extra $75 — almost a free unit.
The same theory applies to point spreads. If a closing line is essentially determined to be the point where each side has a 50% chance of winning, you gain an edge when you place a bet at a better number.
While it may seem as though there’s no chance the game actually lands at a margin that would affect your bet — and most of the time this is the case — that slight edge you gain by beating the closing line is actually enough to turn a losing bettor into a profitable one.
Since 2005, if you bet on every NFL favorite, you’d have gone 1859-1860-111 against the spread (yes, these oddsmakers know what they’re doing). Because of the juice, that 50% win rate would’ve lost you 78.5 units.
But let’s say you beat the closing line, on average, by just a half point on all those bets. Those 111 pushes would become wins, and it’s probably safe to assume that there were at least 111 half-point losses that would become pushes.
Your record is now 1970-1749-111, a 52.9% win rate that puts you just over the point of profit (52.4%).
How to beat the closing line
While this is all fine and dandy, beating the closing line is no easy task. There are, however, tools and strategies you can use to help increase your chances of getting good numbers on your bets.
- Sports Insights’ Line Predictor is a free tool that analyzes more than 10 years of line changes to predict how today’s lines are likely to change using that data.
- Using Bet Labs, you can create betting systems based on historical data dating back to 2005. If you’re able to create a strong, profitable system, it’s likely that your system match will end up being the sharp side. Assuming that’s the case, you’d be able to jump on an opening line before sharps knock it down to its closing number.
- Lastly, follow the previews from the experts at The Action Network. They’ll allow you to get ahead of the market and take advantage of soft numbers before lines settle.