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When Should You Place Bets in Sports Betting?

by June 8, 2019

The timing of when you should place your sports bets differs from sport to sport. The very best lines are often available early in NHL, NBA, and MLB. The lines for NFL games have enough movement throughout the week that you can actually sometimes find better values later in the week depending on what side you are betting on. There are however some other things to take into consideration.

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Underdog vs. Favorites
Which way you intend to bet can affect when you should place your bet or bets. Bettors who wish to bet on favorites often at least take a look at lines as soon as they are posted. Underdog bettors should do this too. The best values are often found as soon as a line is posted. However, this is not always true. There are times when waiting until game time can present a more favorable line for the underdog. There are also times when this happens for the favorite. Waiting until close to game time is a popular strategy for many bettors. As such there are some other things to consider.

Game Day Inactives
Gameday inactives are a thing in every sport. However, it affects sports that are played daily more than the ones that are played only once or twice a week. In basketball, for example, we may not know if Kevin Durant will be playing until he tests out his injury during the pre-game shootaround. Injuries or potential injuries to stars are often reflected in the line. This presents an opportunity if the player in question’s involvement or absence from the game will result in affecting the outcome whether it be straight up or spread.

Early Notification Inactives
Injuries are often known several days earlier in the NFL. Injuries primarily occur during actual game action. However, they do bear in mind that they happen during mid-week practice as well. In the NFL when a major injury occurs, Vegas will sometimes take the line off of the board until further information is available. This is something that happens frequently in football because of the amount of time between games. Lines may be adjusted based on the availability of impact players.

Sharps
Sharps usually bet early/as soon as possible. As a result, they can sometimes dramatically affect the initially posted line. This is so prevalent that we will barely see the true opening lines outside of Vegas. However, there are now sharps that wait until just before game time to lay their action. This is done in order to exploit any line advantages public money may have created. In fact, Vegas will sometimes adjust their lines based on which way sharps or a group of sharps lean once the initial line is first published. Some bettors follow early line movement trends and bet in unison with the sharps.

Live betting only
In the live betting age, there are now bettors who will only place action via this method. Live betting can be extremely lucrative. It allows bettors to see and take advantage of the opportunities presented by game flow. Vegas generally sets live lines based on their opening line combined with the current state of the contest in progress. This provides tremendous opportunities. If the underdog jumps out to an early lead because the favorites shots are not falling in an NBA game, bettors can now take advantage of a much more favorable line than was available prior to the game. Likewise, if an underdog you like is on the wrong side of an early game run, a bettor can get an even better line than what was available prior to the game. Sharps live for opportunities like these.

Conclusion
In the end, there is no right or wrong answer regarding when one should place their bets. There are arguments to place your bets as soon as the lines are published. However, this sometimes means you will not get the best line possible on the team you wish to place a wager on. Injuries create opportunities that are potentially exploitable. In the case of day to day injuries, you sometimes will not know until an hour or less prior to game time whether or not a specific player is going to play. Understanding the different options and the potential advantages associated with them is critical.

NFL
In the NFL early betting is recommended. The early lines often present the most value. In many cases, they do not get truly ‘sharp’ until close to game time. This is true for most sports unless there is a day-to-day injury to a star player. In these cases, it is suggested that you wait until a player is ruled healthy or inactive before placing your bet. Betting early allows you to take advantage if Vegas sets the line favorably for the side you intend to bet on.

There are of course cases when you can find a more favorable line closer to game time. This is why some sharps wait until just before a game starts to lay their action. A large volume of public action typically comes in on the day of the contest creating potential values by way of line movement. The movement can create more value not only on the underdog but sometimes on the favorite as well. This can provide middling opportunities if you already placed a wager earlier in the week.

There is no right or wrong time to place your action on an NFL contest, but absent a major injury, betting early can often present the most intriguing values. There can be line movement all week, so keep your eye on your top play if you choose to bet later in the week, or close to game time.

MLB
Betting favorites usually necessitates betting early in MLB and NHL contests. In these two sports, the vast majority of bettors opt for moneyline betting. Moneyline is favored as opposed to spread action, known as runline for the MLB or puckline for the NHL. Unless you are waiting for an even better value on the underdog, betting as soon as lines are posted is suggested for MLB. If however, there is an impact player with the day-to-day listing, waiting until the starting lineups are announced may be more prudent.

NBA
The NBA is a different animal altogether. Basketball can often be the most difficult sport to bet on when dealing with spreads. Generally speaking, if you are chasing a team that is in a big city, their lines can be slightly inflated. This is done because Vegas is expecting money to come in on that side, and want to take advantage of that. Basketball lines sometimes move dramatically based on both sharp action and public action. Basketball is more about taking an all-encompassing analytical approach. It is the sport where waiting for live lines is the most prevalent. Vegas has become increasingly sharp in their lines in all sports. However, this may be felt the most in basketball. An extra point on either side can change the line from being one to take advantage of, to one that you avoid due to being ‘too sharp’.

Basketball is also the sport where players are rested for non-injury reasons. Rest days are common in the NBA. Kawhi Leonard, for example, was given maintenance days all throughout the season by the Toronto Raptors. The San Antonio Spurs have long been a team infamous for randomly resting groups of players. It became such a theme that commissioner Adam Silver spoke to NBA teams in an effort to curtail this practice. You also have the late season tankers who rest their top players in order to improve their positioning in the draft lottery. As such unless you see a line too good to pass up when lines are first published, it is suggested that you wait until inactives are announced for your hoops bets. If the lines available at that time are not to your liking, you can monitor the live line offerings for any potential value opportunities.

There is no right or wrong time to place your wager. Bettors should at least consider the lines as soon as they are published. But as alluded to above there are different correlative factors that affect whether or not the line can be considered a potential value. Consider all of them prior to making your decision.

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