Finding The Best Price: Line Shopping Versus Market Scanning

Instead of starting with knowing what market you want to bet, start by assessing what markets are the weakest.

By | December 02, 2021

In the last article, I talked about the idea of betting correlated beliefs into low-hold markets as a way to minimize losses as a path to sports betting profitability. Today, we’ll look what that actually looks like in practice, and why the current landscape of odds comparison tools aren’t particularly good at enabling that strategy.

One concept I didn’t mention explicitly in the last article is “line shopping”, or searching for the best available line/price for the market you want to bet. Line shopping has been a foundational strategy for most sports bettors since online sports betting has been around; I don’t know a single professional bettor that doesn’t use it in some form, especially at the highest levels where your limiting factor is how much money you can get down in certain markets. Most of the odds comparison sites/tools today are an implicit endorsement of this strategy- which, again, is a good strategy if you know you are limited to these markets- and will have some variation of this layout:

This is a sensible layout for a typical line shopping strategy. It’s easy to see which books are the best places to bet the spread/total on either side of the bet at each sportsbook, allowing you to zoom to the best price at all times. However, this line shopping approach has a very specific underlying assumption that is very limiting in maximizing your potential returns: that you already know what market you want to bet before you start comparing prices. Let’s say I wanted to bet on the Bulls in the above Bulls-Knicks game, because I thought Zach Lavine was due to go off. If I used this odds screen as my primary way of checking where I should place that bet, I would be missing out on so many other markets. What about team props for the Bulls? What about Lavine’s points props, which I also think should be higher? What about rebound markets for Knicks players, which should be lower if Lavine is scoring more? And what about other markets which may not even have a correlation to the angle I’m looking to bet, but whose cross-book price discrepancies are so large I can arbitrage and lock in a guaranteed profit? As we talked about in the last article, many of these markets have low synthetic hold, or even outlier lines at a single book that may offer a better price to a correlated outcome. If you limit yourself to line shopping in a single market, you’re foreclosing yourself to all of these other markets that offer a better avenue of attack for your beliefs.  

The more comprehensive version of line shopping that opens up all these possibilities is an inversion of line shopping- I call it market scanning. With line shopping, you pick a single market for a game you know you want to bet ahead of time and get your money down at the best price you can find. With market scanning, you start by looking at every market for the game you want to bet, find which markets have favorable betting conditions (arbitrage opportunities, low synthetic hold, outlier lines, etc.), and figure out what sides of those markets to bet based on the overall direction you think the game is going to go. This approach ensures you are always taking full advantage of price discrepancies across different books, and as we outlined in the last article, will ensure your losses are minimized for the times when your approach might be wrong.  

If this sounds exhausting based on the above layout, that’s because it is. Here’s how that process would play out if you tried to assess the props market alone for one player:

That’s a lot of scrolling and assessing for a single game. Now add in the prop markets for all players, alternate spreads/totals, team props, quarters/halves lines, and you end up with just too much work to be able to execute on these price discrepancies. What you would need is an odds screen that would be able to load all of the odds data for all markets, collapse them into a more digestible form, and have an intuitive way to see which of the markets have these different types of price discrepancies. Something like….

That’s a sneak preview of what we’re building at Betscope: a way to make snap assessments of all markets for a game and attack the markets with the biggest price discrepancies. Not only that, we’ll take care of figuring out your correlated beliefs as well:

And we’ll compare all your correlated beliefs to all the markets, and highlight which bets you should be attacking:

We’ll be launching this product very soon for users to try, and it will be completely free to start. We’ll have plenty more to say about what’s going on underneath the hood, which build on some other foundational principles of sports betting. We’ll talk about some of those fundamental concepts with the next couple of newsletter articles, so keep an eye out if you want to learn more.