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What is Live Sports Betting?

by August 1, 2019

Live betting is when a bettor places action on a contest already underway. Sportsbooks will often offer lines and odds that are adjusted based on gameflow and current win probability. This is based on the initial line, the current score, and gamescript. Sportsbooks offer live betting on spreads, moneylines, and over/unders (totals). Some books also offer other live bet types such as “what will the result of the next play be” or “what the result of a particular drive might be.” 

Live betting is about taking advantage of the additional information that betting on an ongoing contest presents.

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Strategy
Live betting is all about strategy: what sport to play, when to play, and when not to play. These all need to be approached strategically, and there are also hedging and middling strategies to consider. Let’s dig a little deeper.

What Sport(s) to Play
The top sports for live betting are basketball, soccer, and football. There is, of course, live betting for all sports, but these are often the sports that bettors may focus exclusively on for live betting.

When to Play
When to partake in live betting should generally be decided only when watching and taking in the game in question. This allows you to soak in the adjustments or changes in gameflow in the contest. Generally speaking, one wants to take live betting action when they are able to find lines at a better value than what had been available earlier.

Experienced live bettors often prefer to wait until late in the contest to submit their live bets. The thinking here is that the later you are able to wait, the better you can increase your odds of winning that particular wager. This works best for underdogs, but also works well for favorites if you can identify the sweet spot for a specific book and sport. 

When Not to Play
There are times when a bettor should try to stay away from live betting. The number one time is when you are down big after a full day of betting. This can result in “chasing,” where you bet specifically to try and recoup some, if not all, of the day’s losses. While there are times when it is perfectly fine to engage in live betting when you are down, it is generally not recommended unless there is a standout value that cannot be ignored. The reasoning here is that a day of significant losses can influence your decision regarding whether or not a live bet option is actually an attractive value or not. Never chase. 

Another time to avoid live betting is when the contest in question involves your home team or one of your favorite teams. Betting, especially live betting, needs to be emotionless. There is no better way to let emotion and your heart creep into your decision making than to be betting on a contest involving a club or team that you support. 

Hedging
While hedging is generally frowned upon in the betting community, as explained here, it is indeed a risk management strategy that any prudent bettor should at least consider. Hedging allows you to insulate themselves against possible losses, or to ensure and “insure” that a parlay on its last leg pays out a minimum amount. 

“Hedging is when you essentially find a middle and bet on both sides. This can be done via live betting when and if you fear the outcome may go the other way. It can also be done on the last game of a mutli-contest parlay. In this case, you will bet against yourself to ensure some winnings. Generally, this calls for a moneyline bet or spread bet against the final outcome you chose on your initial ticket.

Hedge payout should at least cover your initial bet, and in most cases help you turn a profit regardless of the outcome. Hedging differs from arbitrage in that you are placing these wagers at the same book, rather than looking for line discrepancies to exploit across different books.”

Middling
Exploiting middling opportunities is often most effective via live betting. The constantly changing lines often provide numerous middling opportunities per contest. The trick is to recognize the true values. 

“Middling is the practice of finding and attempting to exploit line movement in the sports betting arena.” 

For more on middling, including illustrative examples check out our breakdown here

Live Betting Books
Some sportsbooks offer far superior odds and options on their live betting offerings. Many experienced bettors have a specific book for favorites, underdogs, parlays, and props betting. In some cases, these may be four different sportsbooks altogether. Bettors should endeavor to have live betting books as well. 

The suggestion here is to sign up for multiple sportsbooks who “welcome winners” and have a live betting interface that does not require a page refresh (automatic or not, it still costs valuable time). Having multiple accounts will allow you to take advantage of line shopping and arbitrage opportunities as they are presented. 

Arbitrage
Arbitrage is when a bettor spots line differences and values between the initially posted line and the live line that is offered. In pre-game betting, arbitrage is the practice of finding differing lines at different sportsbooks (in rare cases at the same book) and betting on both sides in an attempt to guarantee a profit. This requires you take the highest odds possible on both sides. 

Arbitrage opportunities are more readily available due to the nature of how sportsbooks set their live lines. They do so via algorithms and computer simulations. The opportunity is in that they do not have days to analyze factors as they would with pre-game betting. 

Be careful when engaging in arbitrage opportunities at the same book. Not all sportsbooks welcome this practice and thus may ban your account. In many cases, they will also freeze your winnings (not your initial deposit amount). The arbitrage live bettor has to pay special attention to ensure that the juice is such that there is indeed room to make a profit on either outcome. 

Shopping Lines
Every live bettor with multiple sportsbook accounts should be shopping lines when it comes to live betting. This is true not only for bettor looking to identify arbitrage opportunities, but also for the bettor looking for the best odds or juice on a particular bet. Having multiple tabs open with your live betting sportsbooks of choice is recommended. However, it is best to have multiple, reliable devices so you can survey all of your options instantaneously. Precious seconds can cause a change in the line or the juice. It can even cause the line to be temporarily removed while a play is in progress (typical for football).

Check out our Sports Betting Guide for strategy tips & advice >>

Raju Byfield is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Raju, check out his archive, and follow him @FantasyContext.