How Do Alternate Betting Lines Work?

The legalization of sports betting continues to grow around the United States, and with Arizona sports betting now a reality, it’s time to get in on the action. With betting lines for just about any major professional or college league, there is no shortage of wagers no matter what you are looking for. Oddsmakers work very hard to determine the best lines for each game. Often they are very accurate, which is why sportsbooks continue to stay in business.

As you place bets, you might want a sportsbook’s lines to be a little different. This could be to give yourself a better shot at a winning bet with a smaller payout. Or you could opt to give yourself a smaller chance of winning and increase the potential payout. This is where alternate betting lines come into play. Sportsbooks will allow you to shift the lines, and it’s up to you whether it’s worth it.

This guide will cover betting on alternate lines to give you a better understanding of the strategy, including examples from a variety of sports.

Alternate betting lines explained

Alternate lines give you more control over what you’re wagering on. If you move the line in your favor, your potential payout is smaller. And the opposite is true if you move the line in the sportsbook’s favor. These alternate lines are generally available for point spreads and point totals. Even 0.5 points in either direction could create a swing in your chances, and betting alternate lines is especially popular when wagering on football.

Below, we will take a look at the basics of point spreads and totals betting with some examples of alternate betting lines.

Alternate lines in spread betting

If you’re new to this, the point spread is essentially the oddsmakers’ way to even the playing field. If you follow any sport, you understand that not every team is equal. One is usually better than the other. To handicap this, oddsmakers will essentially give the lesser team extra points.

For example, let’s say the Arizona Cardinals are 5.5-point underdogs in their upcoming road matchup with the Seattle Seahawks. Here is how that would look on the NFL betting board with the traditional -110 odds on each side.

  • Arizona Cardinals +5.5 (-110)
  • Seattle Seahawks -5.5 (-110)

The plus sign indicates the underdog, while the favorite will have a minus sign in front of its number. In this scenario, the Cardinals would need to either win the game outright or lose by no more than 5.5 points to cover the spread. On the other hand, if you believe the Seahawks are better than the oddsmakers think, you would bet on Seattle to win this game by more than 5.5 points.

So how does the payout work? Oddsmakers aim for even action on both sides, and the typical odds for point spreads are -110 on each outcome. The easiest way to understand this is by using $100 as an example. With -110 odds, you would need to wager $110 to receive $100 in profit on a winning bet. Both sides usually having negative odds is how the sportsbook makes money on these types of bets, and it’s the reason sportsbooks are so difficult to beat long-term.

Let’s say that after doing your research, you want to bet on the Cardinals, but you are not confident enough they will cover the +5.5 point spread. This is where alternate betting lines come in. In order to give yourself a better chance at a winning wager, you might want to move that number by 1.5 points from +5.5 to +7. You have a greater shot at a winning bet, but the payout is going to decrease to compensate. Your new wager might look something like this:

  • Arizona Cardinals +7 (-146)

Because you changed the line in your direction, the -110 odds are now -146 odds. Instead of needing to bet $110 to win $100, you would now have to wager $146 to collect a $100 profit on a winning bet.

On the other hand, let’s say you are extremely confident the Cardinals will perform better than the oddsmakers’ number of +5.5. Not only do you believe they will cover that spread, you believe they can cover +3, so you move the line by 2.5 points. Now, here’s what your bet could look like:

  • Arizona Cardinals +3 (+142)

If the Cardinals win the game outright or lose by fewer than three points, you would see a significant payout. Odds of +142 mean that if you bet $100, you would receive a profit of $142 if you were correct.

Alternate lines in totals betting

Totals, or over/unders, are wagers on the total number of points that both teams combine to score in the game. When betting on totals, you don’t care who wins or by how many points. Oddsmakers will set a number, and you wager whether the actual point total will be over or under that line.

Let’s go to NBA betting with this example. Just like with the point spread, the oddsmakers put out -110 odds on each side. The Phoenix Suns are taking on the Los Angeles Lakers, and the over/under is 220 points. The betting board will look something like this:

  • Over 220 (-110)
  • Under 220 (-110)

If you believe the combined points between the Suns and Lakers will finish higher than 220, take the over. If you believe the total will be fewer than 220, you would bet the under. The odds would work the same as with the point spread bet.

Now, let’s move some lines. If you like the over but would like to protect yourself with a better shot at winning, you could move the number five points to 215. Now, the wager might look like this:

  • Over 215 (-177)

Because the number moved a full five points in your direction, the odds changed from -110 to -177, meaning you would need to wager $177 for a potential $100 profit.

Conversely, if you are extremely confident in the over, you could move five points in the opposite direction, setting the line at 225:

  • Over 225 (+140)

By changing the odds against you, now a $100 bet at +140 odds would result in a $140 profit if it’s correct.

Where to find alternate betting lines

Locating alternate betting lines is an easy process on most AZ online sportsbook apps. In this example, let’s use DraftKings Sportsbook, though the process is likely similar at most other books.

On the homepage of the app, click on the league you want to bet on. You will see the full list of games for that sport, and there will be clickable links near the top that read “Alternate Point Spread” and “Alternate Total Points.” Click on whichever item you prefer, and you will see a significant number of potential bets along with the odds for each outcome.

How to bet on alternate lines

Betting on alternate lines can be best explained as buying or selling points in exchange for odds. By buying points, you are giving up some of the odds for a better shot at winning. By selling points, you are increasing the odds with a lower chance of getting the outcome correct. Here are some examples of moving lines for various sports:

Alternate lines for NFL

Football has specific numbers that are very important in betting, especially with the point spread. The two that matter the most are three and seven because games are often decided by a touchdown or a field goal. These are important to identify when looking at alternate lines. Let’s bring back the Cardinals and say they are 3.5-point favorites in their home game against the Los Angeles Rams.

  • Los Angeles Rams +3.5 (-110)
  • Arizona Cardinals -3.5 (-110)

With Arizona at -3.5, you understand the Cardinals need to win by more than 3.5 to cover. However, many games will end with three as the margin of victory, so you would like to move the line a full point so it drops to Cardinals -2.5. That way, a three-point victory is now a winning bet for you. Now, your wager might look like this:

  • Arizona Cardinals -2.5 (-167)

You gave up quite a bit on the odds to gain a full point in your favor, but it could be worth it if Arizona pulls off a three-point victory.

Alternate lines for MLB

While alternate lines are very popular in the NFL, they are also an option for MLB bettors. One of the things that sets baseball apart is that the run line (baseball’s version of point spread) is typically a standard number: -1.5 for the favorite and +1.5 for the underdog. However, the odds could be relatively far off from the traditional -110 odds that we might see in a sport like football.

For example, suppose the Arizona Diamondbacks are favored in a game that looks like this at the Unibet betting site in Arizona:

  • Atlanta Braves +1.5 (-137)
  • Arizona Diamondbacks -1.5 (+115)

Because the Diamondbacks have their ace on the mound, you might be bullish on their chances and move the line an additional 1.5 runs. Now, your bet looks like this:

  • Arizona Diamondbacks -3 (+210)

If the Diamondbacks can win by more than three runs, you’d receive a pretty good payout compared to the amount you risked.

Alternate lines for NHL

Betting on NHL games will have plenty of alternate options, and for this example, we will go right in and set a new goal total. The Arizona Coyotes are taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning in this scenario, and here is what the total goals look like at BetMGM AZ.

  • Over 5 (-143)
  • Under 5 (+118)

Oddsmakers suggest the over has the highest likelihood of hitting based on these numbers, and you agree with them, believing there will actually be at least six goals in this game. To increase your potential payout, you add 0.5 points to the over, changing your wager to this:

  • Over 5.5 (+120)

If the puck finds the back of the net six times, your ticket has cashed.

Alternate line betting tips

Here are some tips to consider when it comes to wagering on alternate lines:

  • Shopping lines: By opening accounts at different sportsbooks, you can compare the alternate lines with one another and find the best possible number for the bet you want to place.
  • Get the line you want in parlays: A parlay is an all-or-nothing style of wagering that requires multiple outcomes to be correct for you to win, and the payout is generally quite high. When wagering on alternate lines, it might make sense to get the numbers you want. Even with the cost of buying points, a winning parlay could pay out substantially.
  • Sell points for bigger payouts: On the other hand, if you are extremely confident in a potential wager, feel free to give a few points away in order to return an even higher profit if you do end up winning.
  • Keep an eye on key numbers for the NFL: Key numbers are extremely important in betting on the NFL because of how the scoring works. By betting alternate lines, you can aim to use key numbers to your advantage.

Alternate betting line FAQs

Are alternate lines available in all sports?

Alternate betting lines are available for just about any sport that offers a point spread or total. The importance of alternate lines varies by the sport. They are most important and most popular when betting on the NFL.

Are there any drawbacks to alternate lines?

There are two obvious downsides to wagering on alternate lines. If you buy points in your favor, you are giving yourself a better shot at a winning bet. However, you also are going to receive a lesser payout. On the other hand, when you sell points, the payout could be quite large, but the likelihood of a winning wager decreases.

When should you avoid alternate lines?

Many sports bettors will avoid alternate lines altogether because of the drawbacks mentioned above. Taking a chance at manipulating the lines for or against your wager comes down to personal preference. Some bettors may decide it is not worth the hassle. It is up to you to determine whether it’s something you want to try.