How to Use Middling in Sports Betting

Learn how to use middling in sports betting.

Key Points

– Middling in sports betting is an effective strategy if you know how to use it.

– One sport lends itself to more frequent use of middling in sports betting.

How to Use Middling in Sports Betting

If you have even a little bit of experience in sports betting, you know that the odds on games and events move around frequently. Before a game, bookmakers are free to alter the odds as they please. They do so for a number of reasons including injuries, weather, and to ensure they make money. 

Because sportsbooks often adjust lines on games, it’s possible that the line you got differs from the line that the market is currently providing. In some situations, the value of your wager can increase dramatically with a line shift. 

Consider an NFL wager made on a favorite at -5. The line adjusts to -7 prior to game time. You only need your team to win by 6 or more while those who purchased at -7 need the team to win by 8 or more. 

In this situation, there is an opportunity for you to score even bigger. You have the opportunity to “middle” the bet. Middling in sports betting is an advanced concept, but any sports bettor can use it if they know what to look for.


What Is Middling in Sports Betting?

As the name implies, a bettor engaged in middling is putting himself in the middle of a wager. The strategy is to place bets on both sides of the same wager at different odds in an effort to win both bets. 

The goal is to win both bets, but at least one win is guaranteed. Bettors must recognize that middling can only occur when a line has changed since an initial wager has been made. An example best explains how middling works.

The Middle Bet Example

Let’s say you placed a wager on the Saints to beat the Buccaneers at -3.5, but later in the week, the line changes to New Orleans -4.5. We’ll assume that the juice associated with all bets here is -110. That keeps things simple.

You placed your wager on the Saints at -3.5. They are now a 4.5-point favorite. To “middle” the bet, you will place a wager on Tampa Bay at +4.5. If New Orleans wins by exactly four points, you will have won both bets. At the very least, you will have won one of the bets.

Here are the potential outcomes, again assuming juice of -110.

  • Saints win by more than 4 points:  NO -3.5 wins, TB +4.5 loses.
  • Saints win by fewer than 4 points: NO -3.5 loses, TB +4.5 wins.
  • Saints win by exactly four points: NO -3.5 wins, TB +4.5 wins.

You can also think of it in terms of common NFL scores. The Saints win 24-17. Your New Orleans -3.5 bet wins, but the Bucs fail to cover. 

The ideal finish is if New Orleans wins 21-17, a common NFL final score. When the Saints win by four, the bet has been “middled” and the bettor wins both sides of the wager.

Is This a Profitable Betting Strategy?

Unfortunately, there is not a great response to that question. It really depends on how many times a bettor would attempt to middle. Middling in sports betting is something that sportsbooks are well aware of. They do their best to avoid unnecessary risk, so middling opportunities are not all that frequent.

However, you can add a professional edge to your sports betting strategy if you can figure out how to successfully middle bets.

Now, using basic math, you can figure out how often you need to successfully middle a bet in order to break even. Assuming the standard -110 juice, a bettor either loses 0.09 units or wins 1.82. A bettor would need to hit the middle on roughly one of every 21 attempts (1.82/0.09 = 20.2), which equates to 4.8 percent of the time. 

Why Football Works Best

In football, the NFL lends itself to middling in sports betting. Because of the way football is scored, certain scoring margins occur more frequently than others. These are the NFL key numbers that bettors can use to win more bets. For instance, more games end with a final margin of 3 points than any other margin.

Since the NFL moved the extra-point attempt back to the 15-yard line, there are actually four margins of victory that occur more than 4.8 percent of the time – 3, 6, 7, and 10. Over 14 percent of all NFL games end with a three-point margin. 

Bettors can see the frequency of final scoring margins in the table below. 


Knowing the frequency of NFL scoring margins, bettors can more effectively engage in trying to middle game. 

The Moneyline Middle

When working with moneyline bets, the term “middle” is not really used. The equivalent of middling in sports betting on the moneyline is called arbitrage

Again, explaining arbitrage is done best with an example. Let’s use baseball as an example because it is more of a moneyline sport.

You play one unit on Tampa Bay against the Boston Red Sox with the Rays at +140. The odds on the Rays shift to Tampa Bay +120, which puts Boston at -130. You now have the opportunity to guarantee a profit regardless of who wins as long as you stake between 1.3 and 1.4 units.