Middling is the practice of finding and attempting to exploit line movement in the sports betting arena. Middling can best be explained using examples.
An example of middling is finding an opening line of -3 on the Houston Texans and then taking the +6 you find on the Baltimore Ravens later in the week. Lines sometimes move drastically from what they are initially posted at. This is true for every sport, but no sport sees its point spreads impacted as much as football commonly does. In this example, you would win both bets if the Texans win by four or five points. This is called middling.
Middling is also common practice on over/under or ‘total’ lines. You may choose to bet under 49 on the Chiefs versus Dolphins. As you are watching the game you check the live lines and see that the over/under has dropped to 44. You decide to hit the over 44 you find available as it seems like too good of a value to pass up for a high-powered Chiefs offense. In this case, a total of 45-48 will result in a win on both of his wagers, and a successful middle.
The middle range must be large enough to give an opportunity to win on both sides, lest you lose one bet and have to eat the juice. To illustrate, consider that the Texans were -110 and the Ravens -130. If the Texans win by 7 points you lose your Ravens bet. This means you now have to pay 30 cents per dollar or $30 per $100 wagered. If you placed a bet of $300 on both sides and only won on the Ravens side you would be out $90.
The Infamous Black Sunday Middle
SuperBowl XIII. Steelers vs. Cowboys. The line opened as low as -2.5 but by the time the public got to it the line sat at -3.5 Steelers. By game time the spread swung significantly to -4.5 Steelers. This was only one point of movement but was more significant because of the sheer volume of bets placed on Super Bowls.
The middle opportunity here was to bet -3.5 Steelers and +4.5 Cowboys. In fact, one sportsbook named the Stardust offered a promotion for bettors to take both sides. In order for a successful middle, the Steelers had to win by four points. Generally one would prefer a larger middle or middle range, but sometimes one point is all it takes. The final score in this game was 35-31 Steelers. The middle hit and Vegas lost over $3 million, a figure that should be taken into context since this occurred in 1977. This number would be well over $50 million if it occurred today.
This is an incredible and illustrative story regarding middling. It also shows that a successful middle does not always require a multiple-point swing. Middling is not necessarily a betting strategy, as you cannot gameplan for line movement on your contest of choice, but it is indeed a tremendously valuable tool that is at the disposal of all bettors. Consider middling opportunities when they present themselves, but be cognizant of the potential pitfalls.