Contrarian Betting on Inflated Lines

Contrarian betting is well-known throughout the betting community. Smarter bettors recognize that betting on public teams is usually not the way to go. Often, sportsbooks inflate the lines on public teams. That makes this strategy even more enticing.

Key Points

– Contrarian betting puts you on the side of the house, which is a good thing.

– Learning to spot inflated lines is a key to betting against the public.

Contrarian Betting Defined

Bettors must first understand exactly what contrarian betting means. In its simplest terms, a contrarian bettor is someone who bets against the favorite, or public-backed team. 

For example, the New York Yankees are playing the Toronto Blue Jays. The Yankees are a popular team with several stars. Public, or casual, bettors that don’t pay a lot of attention to the data behind making bets, typically bet on popular teams like New York.

Sportsbooks know this and use it to their advantage. In this MLB example, The Yankees might realistically be a -125 favorite against Toronto. However, knowing that public bettors don’t really care about the odds, oddsmakers will inflate the line to something like New York -175 or -180. Public bettors will still place wagers on the Yankees.

We see that in games like this when the Yankees receive 75 or 80 percent of the tickets. Smart bettors know that the lines on these public teams are often inflated. The smartest bettors understand that betting against the public often results in big wins.


Inflated Lines Are Real

When it comes to sports betting, inflated lines are a real thing. Bettors need to be able to recognize them and then act appropriately when they do find them.

Inflated lines are typically more common in NBA or NFL point spreads. The general public enjoys betting on particular NFL teams. Public favorites include the Packers, Chiefs, Patriots, and Cowboys. 

Regardless of the point spread in their games, bets will be placed on these teams. Sportsbooks and oddsmakers will adjust their lines accordingly. 

Imagine that the Lions and Cowboys will be playing on Sunday Night Football in Dallas. The public enjoys placing bets on home favorites and the Over in primetime football games. Sportsbooks, of course, know this and adjust their lines and odds.

Dallas might really be a -6.5 favorite over Detroit. Knowing that the public will bet on Dallas to cover no matter what is why sportsbooks will raise the line to -7 or even -7.5. In the end, sportsbooks get 75 percent of the action on Dallas regardless of what the spread is.

Speculative Betting on Inflated Lines

So, how do you use this idea of inflated lines to your advantage? While contrarian betting is not a surefire way to make money in sports betting, it is a strategy that can be successful. 

Keep in mind that when betting against the public, you will be on the side of the sportsbooks. The sportsbooks win the majority of the time. That’s why they are still in business. 

It’s worth looking at an example to see how you can use inflated lines to your benefit. Consider that the Los Angeles Lakers opened as -2.5 favorites in their matchup with the Toronto Raptors. 

One of the most popular NBA teams is the Lakers, who typically receive over three-quarters of the public’s bets on any given night. The sportsbooks’ response to this would be to raise the line to LA -4 in an effort to get some public support for the Raptors. 

If you were lucky enough to get the Lakers at -2.5, you would have beaten the closing line value. The Lakers only need to win by three instead of five with the line at -4. 

Now, as a contrarian bettor, you can find more value in the Raptors at +4. At +2.5, Toronto has to win outright or lose by two or less. Now, you have an additional 1.5 points of security in a bet on the Raptors.

The bookmakers opened this game at Lakers -2.5, which tells us they thought it was going to be a close game to begin with. With the inflated line, you can now get the Raptors at a better price. That’s value and if you can learn to find it, you’ll see your wins increase. 

Is Contrarian Betting Risky?

Sports betting itself is risky. Every time you place a bet, there is a chance that you will lose. Since the public likes favorites, contrarian betting involves wagering on a lot of  underdogs. Don’t forget, though, the house is right more than it is wrong. 

In the world of sports betting, playing the contrarian takes persistence and real guts. You’ll be forced to wager on a lot of teams that have records below .500. You may be forced to wager on a lot of Unders. That’s actually okay as Unders are more prevalent in things like the NBA and NFL playoffs.

The other thing is this. It really doesn’t matter which team wins as long as you are placing winning bets. The majority of the time, it pays to side with the house. The key then becomes determining when to zig when everyone else zags. 

Keep in mind that lines often change because of sharps placing sizable wagers on them. Sometimes, they place those wagers to inflate a line so that they can attack the other side of the bet. Savvy bettors have to get real good at determining when and why lines shift before placing a contrarian bet.