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Sports Betting 101: What are Middling and Arbitrage Bets

April 28, 2020 12:30 AM

If you're new to sports betting, the first thing you need to learn is the basic fundamentals. Among many things, this includes understanding the different bet types available to you, specifically the spread, moneyline and total. But if you want to take betting to the next level, you must advance to more intermediate betting concepts. 

Today, we're going to tackle a couple that all bettors should know about: middling and arbitrage. 

If you've spent time with sports bettors or hung around a sportsbook, you'll hear the word "middling" get thrown around often. But what does it actually mean?

Middling is when you place opposing bets on both sides of a game, creating a "middle" opportunity where you can cash both bets and double your profits if the final score lands in the middle of both bets.

To put middling in perspective, let's say the Patriots are playing the Jets. You bet New England -6 as soon as the line opens. Later in the week, the line has risen to New England -8. You could now bet the Jets + 8. This means you are carrying two tickets in your back pocket: Patriots -6 and Jets + 8. You have created a middle of two points. Why is this important? Because if the Patriots win by exactly 7 points, you cash both of your bets. 

When middling in football, it's critically important to be aware of key numbers. In football, there are certain margins of victory that are more common than others. The most common is three points because field goals are the most prevalent method of scoring. This is why you see a lot of 20-17, 23-20, 24-21 games. Other key numbers include 7 (touchdown and extra point) and 10 (touchdown, extra point and field goal). As a result, you always want to create a middle with these numbers in mind, knowing that games disproportionately result in these margins of victory.

For these reasons, you should focus on middles in which you can bet the favorite -2.5 or -2 and the dog + 3.5 or + 4 (if it lands on 3, you cash). Or the favorite -6.5 or -6 and the dog + 7.5 or + 8 (it lands on seven you cash). Or the favorite -9.5 or -9 and the dog + 10.5 or + 11. (If lands on 10, you cash). The bigger the middle, the "juicier" it becomes and the greater the chances you can win both bets.

No matter the sport, the key with middling is looking for significant line movement where you can bet the low point and high points of both sides. 

Middling is a smart play because, at its core, it's a low-risk, high-reward endeavor. Remember, when you are betting both sides of a game you are guaranteed to win at least one of them and go 1-1. In that case, you just lose the juice. But if you are able to hit the middle and cash both, you can go 2-0 and double up your profit. 

Middling can also be useful when betting totals that feature big line moves. For example, maybe you bet a college football under 42 as soon as the line opened because the forecast calls for heavy crosswinds and both teams run the ball and chew the clock. Throughout the week, the line drops down to 38. You could then bet the over 38. Essentially you've created a 4-point middle. if the total lands on 39, 40 or 41 you cash both bets. 

Middling can really pay off in college sports because you are more likely to see bigger fluctuations in line movement.

Arbitrage is another sports betting concept that bettors should learn. The term sounds confusing, but it's pretty simple.

Arbitrage is when you can guarantee yourself a profit by shopping around, comparing odds at different sportsbooks and looking for market inefficiencies where both sides of a bet offer plus-money juice. It's somewhat rare and takes a lot of time and effort but it's worth it. Why? Because it involves zero risk and a guaranteed reward. This is why it's also referred to as "scalping" in the betting industry. 

You see arbitrage opportunities most often when betting player props. For example, during the NFL draft, I was able to cash an arbitrage bet on the draft position over/under for Clemson's Isaiah Simmons. His over/under was 6.5 across the board. However, I found one book offering under 6.5 (+ 120) and another offering over 6.5 (+ 125). I bet both props knowing that no matter what happened I was guaranteed to win either + 0.2 units or + 0.25 units. 

When betting baseball, a great way to take advantage of arbitrage opportunities is starting pitcher strikeout props. For example, one book might have Clayton Kershaw strikeouts at 7.5 over (+ 105) and another under 7.5 (+ 110). Bet both and you are guaranteed to profit either + 0.05 units or + 0.10 units. 

You won't get rich overnight betting arbitrage. It's the ultimate grinder play because it takes a lot of work cross-referencing odds across the market and looking for plus-money juice payouts on both sides of the same number. However, it can be a nice slow and steady bankroll builder that can pad your winnings over time. 

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