The Do's and Don'ts of playing middles

October 18, 2019 10:27 PM

Squares dream of hitting a “middle,” but rarely pull it off. Sharps don’t think much about it, but do it all the time.

One of the misconceptions new bettors have is that professional bettors “try” to hit middles. That’s betting both sides of the same game at favorable prices. Say, the favorite at -5.5, the underdog at plus 7.5, and hoping the game lands on either the 6 or the 7. Sharps will definitely make those bets if they see value. But they didn’t lay the 5.5 initially in hopes of setting up a middle, and they wouldn’t bet the dog at plus 7.5 if they made the game 8 or 9. 

The chance at a middle is a byproduct of smart betting. It’s not the goal of smart betting. 

It’s also important to remember that professional bettors may not have the same amount of money on both sides. Using that 5.5 to 7.5 window, maybe they made the game 7 and have three betting units on the favorite at -5.5, but only one on the dog at 7.5. Ignoring vigorish for the moment, they’re only risking two units on the favorite. But if the game lands on 6 or 7, they luck into a four-unit jackpot.

Over time, a hidden factor that financially separates squares from sharps is that squares bemoan “pushes” that land on numbers they bet too late, while sharps often celebrate jackpots in those same games.

One clear example on Saturday’s college football slate is TCU at Kansas State. The line opened TCU -2.5. Sharp interest (with some public sentiment) drove the line through the key number of 3 up to TCU -3.5. Some dog lovers came back on K-State plus 3.5 (others may be waiting for plus 4). Three is a common final margin, which means the percentages can swing either way with the hook. We can visualize the “sharp window.” But respected money might be weighted more toward one side or the other around the strike zone.

Should recreational bettors even think about trying for middles? Probably not. Here is why:

  • Squares greatly overestimate their ability to anticipate line moves and navigate the market. So, they’re not skilled at positioning themselves “as the dough flies.” 
  • Squares love betting favorites, but hate betting dogs. To hit a middle you have to suck it up and put some money on the underdog. These days, squares would rather mix and match favorites in point-spread parlays, money line parlays, and teasers. 
  • Squares who have tried betting middles in the past learned they were miserable spending more than three hours rooting for a victory margin to land on one or two specific numbers. Heaven forbid there’s a safety in the second quarter! Those two points could ruin everything. Recreational bettors play for fun. Sweating middles isn’t fun.  

If you want to think and bet like sharps, focus more on numbers rather than teams, make yourself available to bet openers rather than waiting until the weekend and take advantage of game-day opportunities that are created by line moves. 

You have to be in the middle of the action to have your action create middles. 

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