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Sports Gambling 101: What are Alternate Lines?

Our Sports Gambling 101 series continues with a look at alternate betting lines. What are alternate lines and how can bettors use them to their advantage?

As our Sports Gambling 101 glossary of terms illustrates, betting odds are posted in many different styles and prices. Beyond standard point spread and game total options, bettors also have access to alternate lines on a variety of sports. Once bookmakers post their list of opening odds, they add alternate lines as prop betting options. Depending on the sport, alternate lines can be several points higher or lower than the standard odds.

Which Sports Offer Alternate Line Betting?

In competitions that are normally low scoring, like the NHL and MLB, bookmakers may offer -0.5 or -1 alternate odds along with standard -1.5 point spreads. Totals in hockey usually don’t move by more than one or two goals while totals in baseball can swing by two or three runs. Juice prices increase when buying points and decrease when selling points. Alternate lines in soccer are often very similar, as illustrated in this example from FanDuel.

Alternate Point Spread

Odds swing dramatically when betting on football and basketball alternate lines. Depending on the sportsbook, it’s not uncommon to find alternate football odds that range from 1 to 14 points higher or lower than the main point spread. The same goes for game totals as displayed in the image below. The main total price was set at 49.5 with equal juice on both sides. Bettors were able to move the main line down to 36 points or up to 54 points.

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Alternate Game Total

What Are The Best Alternate Lines Betting Scenarios?

Opinions on alternate lines vary from player to player. Some bettors are willing to pay extra juice for more favorable lines, while others never stray far from the standard (-110) commission price. Moving off a hook is a popular football betting scenario, as bettors can buy one point to move a -3.5 (-110) line down to -2.5 (-125) odds. While the juice rises, buying one point cashes a winning ticket if the game is decided by a field goal.

Alternate lines are also popular with parlay bettors. That is due to the rich payouts that are possible with winning parlay tickets. If a bettor wagers on three games with -3.5 (-110) odds, they receive a $596 return on $100 wagers if all three teams win by at least four points. On the same bet, with -2.5 (-125) lines, the return drops to $483 but the teams only need to win by three points. Chances of winning are better with the -2.5 odds.

Betting on alternate lines boils down to two choices. Players receive more favorable lines by purchasing points but need to pay added juice to do so. Bettors who sell points face steeper odds but the juice becomes more favorable. The latter option is often preferable in basketball, as bettors can push a -5 (-110) line to -10 (+300) on a strong favorite. When properly used, alternate lines can help bettors boost their bankroll.