Sports Betting 101: Contrarian Betting on Inflated Lines


We have discussed the advantages of shaded lines. Another benefit to going contrarian is being able to take advantage of inflated lines.

Inflated lines and shaded lines operate on the same premise but occur differently. Shaded lines happen at the outset based on the oddsmakers releasing the line further in favor of the popular side. Shaded lines are harder to identify. They are like gravity. You can’t see it but you know it’s there. The books won’t come out and tell you straight up that Duke should have been a 6-point favorite but they decided on 6.5-points because they knew the public would hammer the Blue Devils regardless. Instead, it’s more of an assumed truth.


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On the other hand, inflated lines can be quantified. They are a result of the betting market pounding one side so heavily that it causes line movement in favor of the popular side. This creates added value to go contrarian and back the unpopular opinion because you are letting the public move the number and give you free additional points or a bigger payout.

For example, let’s say the Charlotte Hornets open as 1.5-point home underdogs in an NBA game against the Detroit Pistons. The public is absolutely hammering the Pistons with roughly 75% of bets laying the points with Detroit. As a result of this lopsided action, the sportsbooks are forced to adjust the line up from Pistons -1.5 to -3.5.

If you were one of the early bettors who bet the Pistons at -1.5 or -2 that would be considered a smart bet. This means you bet Detroit at a better number before the line skyrocketed up to -3.5. In betting, this is called beating the closing line. Anytime you can beat the closing line that is considered a smart bet. In other words, you beat the market and got a number better than what is currently being offered. In this case, if you bet Detroit at -1.5 and the line closed at -3.5, you received 2 points of closing line value, or “CLV” for short. If so, you would just want to sit on your bet and ride it out, knowing you beat the market.

However, if you were late to the party and failed to bet the Pistons early, the worst thing you could do is now bet the Pistons late at -3.5. This means you are getting the absolute worst of the number after it moved. The Pistons had value early at -1.5 or -2. But now the line has moved two full points and the value is gone.

Instead, it would now become a smart bet to back the Hornets due to their inflated line value. Charlotte opened at $plussign$ 1.5 and is now $plussign$ 3.5, meaning brave contrarian bettors can now get two extra points off the opener to back the Hornets. Think of it this way, the oddsmakers initially set the line at $plussign$ 1.5, which means they expected a close game. Because the public is so heavy on Detroit and causing the line to spike, you can now get the Hornets at $plussign$ 3.5, which constitutes much better value. In other words, you are getting two free points simply due to public overreaction.

Inflated lines are most valuable with underdogs because the public loves betting favorites. An adage in betting is “bet favorites early and dogs late.” So with inflated lines, the goal is to sit back and wait as long as possible for the public to move the number to its highest point.

To search for inflated lines, just compare the opening number to the current number. If you see a big difference, a minimum of 1 point but ideally 2 points or more, that would be a prime spot to take advantage of an inflated number.

However, not all line moves could be purely public driven. A line move of 1 or 2 points could be caused by sharp bettors, in which case you wouldn’t want to bet against the move. The key is looking for those super lopsided games, ideally 75% or more bets on one side, causing a public move, not sharp.

At its core, contrarian betting is all about value, getting better numbers and placing yourself on the side of the house. You are always looking for opportunities to buy low and sell high. You want to bet against the public because more often than not, they lose. The house shades numbers toward popular teams, which creates additional value to go the other way. When the public is heavily lopsided in one direction, it causes that particular side to be overvalued and overpriced, leading to inflated line value. This is why contrarian bettors love to zig when the public zags.

Instead of betting on popular teams, favorites, home teams and overs, contrarian bettors largely focus on unpopular teams, underdogs, road teams and unders, knowing they are consistently undervalued and underpriced.

Being a contrarian bettor isn’t easy. It isn’t sexy either. You almost never get to bet on the popular, star-studded teams that all of your Average Joe friends are rooting for. Instead, you are rooting for unpopular teams come through for you, teams that at first glance look like they have no way in hell covering the spread or winning the game. You are betting unders even though it’s much more fun to root for points. It can be frustrating and there are ups and downs. But there is a method to the madness. If betting all favorites, home teams, popular teams and overs were the ticket to success, the public would all be millionaires. But they’re not.