Middling Strategies: How to Bet on the Middle for Sports

June 15, 2023

Taking advantage of the strategy known as “middling” can be challenging, but when executed successfully, it has the potential to yield significant profits in sports betting. Numerous instances in sports betting history have witnessed bettors scoring substantial payouts by effectively hitting the middle.

This article aims to elucidate the benefits of incorporating middling into your sports betting strategy and how it can bolster your bankroll.

What Exactly Is “The Middle”?

Middling is a betting tactic that takes advantage of the movement of point spreads or entire lines in sports betting. To fully understand this strategy, it’s crucial to have a solid understanding of point spreads and total betting.

In sports betting, point spreads are used to level the playing field between teams of unequal strength. The favored group is assigned a negative point spread, while the underdog receives a positive point spread. The point spread represents the predicted margin of victory for the favored team. When bettors place wagers on a point spread, they are betting on whether the favored team will win by many more points than the spread (cover the spread) or if the underdog will lose by fewer pts than the spread (beat the spread).

On the other hand, total betting involves predicting the total score of both teams in a game. The sportsbook sets a line representing the expected total score, and bettors can bet on whether the real score will be over or under that line.

Middling comes into play when the point spread or total line shifts between the time you place your initial bet and the time you place a subsequent wager. 

This movement creates an opportunity to bet on both sides of the line or total and win both bets.

There are four common scenarios where middling can occur:

  • Widening Point Spread: The point spread moves further away from zero, creating a more significant margin between the favored and underdog teams. For example, if the initial point spread is +4.5/-4.5 and moves to +7.5/-7.5, there is a potential middling opportunity.

  • Narrowing Point Spread: The point spread moves closer to zero, reducing the margin between the favored and underdog teams. For instance, middling becomes possible if the initial point spread is +4.5/-4.5 and it narrows to +1.5/-1.5.

  • Increasing Total: The total line moves up, indicating a higher predicted combined score for the game. For example, if the initial total is set at 40 and it moves to 44, there is a middling opportunity for those who placed bets on the under and over.

  • Decreasing Total: The total line moves down, suggesting a lower predicted combined score. If the initial total is 40 and drops to 36, bettors who wagered on both the under and over have a middling opportunity.

  • It’s important to note that the examples provided are purely hypothetical, and the actual movement of point spreads and totals can vary in different ways based on various factors such as betting activity, new information (e.g., injuries or lineup changes), or adjustments made by sportsbooks to balance their books.

Point Spread Middling

Whenever a movement occurs in the point spread, an opportunity arises for a middling strategy. Consider a specific example: Suppose the initial point spread for a game is set at +4.5/-4.5, but the line shifts the following day to +2.5/-2.5. This presents a chance to employ the middling strategy. To execute a successful middle in this scenario, you would initially bet on the Philadelphia Eagles at +4.5 when the initial line is released. Then, after the line moves, you would place a bet on the New England Patriots at -2.5. The objective is to win bets and secure a middle position, resulting in a significant profit.

For the middle to be achieved in this case, the Patriots would need to win the game by exactly 3 points. For instance, if the final score is 24-21 in favor of the Patriots, both wagers would be winners. The Patriots would cover the -2.5 spread by winning with a 3-point margin, while the Eagles would cover their +4.5 spread by losing only 3 points.

Executing a successful middle requires precise timing and an understanding of how the point spread movement can impact the outcome of the bets. It is important to note that hitting the middle is not guaranteed and depends on various factors, such as the final score of the game and the specific point spread movement.

Totals Middling

To achieve a middle in total betting, there needs to be a situation where the underline is higher than the overline for one of your two bets. Let’s consider two scenarios:

  • Decreasing Total: If the total line initially opens at 44.5 and later moves down to 39.5, it creates an opportunity for a middle. To capitalize on this, you bet on the under at 44.5 and another on the over at 39.5. If the game’s final score is higher than 39 points, you will have successfully hit the middle.

  • Increasing Total: Conversely, another middling opportunity arises if the total line starts at 39.5 and moves up to 44.5. In this case, you bet on the over at 39.5 and the under at 44.5. If the game concludes with a total score exceeding 40 points, your middle bet will be successful.

Is Betting on the Middle Common?

Middling opportunities are more common than expected, especially in certain sports. In college football, it is not unusual to witness point spread and total lines shifting by at least three points from their initial opening to the start of the game. Point spreads in college football games can even experience shifts of up to 7 points in many cases.

Other sports, such as Canadian football, arena football, and college basketball, often show significant fluctuations in their lines.

However, it is essential to note that shifts in the point spread and total lines are less substantial and frequent than in NFL and NBA games. This is primarily due to the high betting volume and meticulous scrutiny from bookmakers that these popular leagues receive. It’s worth remembering that while swings in a point spread or totals may be less frequent in NFL and NBA lines, it doesn’t mean they never occur.

Why Is Middling Such a Great Opportunity?

One of the advantages of middling is that it is considered a low-risk strategy. By placing bets on both sides of a point spread or total bet, you are guaranteed to have one of the bets succeed. If you do not hit the middle, you will only lose the vig, which is the commission charged by the sportsbook.

However, it’s important to note that just because the opportunity for a middle exists, it does not guarantee that it will be the likely outcome. Middling requires careful analysis and timing to identify favorable situations.

For example, you make 21 bets on both sides of a wager with -110 odds each time, aiming to hit the middle. In this scenario, you would only need to hit the middle once to secure a profit successfully. Winning 1 out of 21 bets is sufficient.

In percentage terms, you would need to hit the middle approximately 4.8% of the time to avoid losing money. Achieving a middling success rate of 4.8% is feasible. However, it’s crucial to understand that middling is not foolproof, and there are inherent risks associated with it. Before engaging in middling, you must know the possible risks and consider your betting strategy carefully. If you can hit the middle up to 4.8% of the time, it can positively impact your bankroll.

How Super Bowl XIII Changed Middling Betting

One of the most well-known instances of middling occurred during Super Bowl XIII in 1979 between the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Initially, the point spread was set at -3.5 for Pittsburgh, making them the favorites, while Dallas had a +3.5 spread.

Due to a significant number of bets being placed on Pittsburgh when the line was first released, oddsmakers adjusted the line to +4.5 for Dallas to attract betting action on the other side. However, most of the bets had been placed on Dallas by the time the game kicked off.

The game’s final score was 35-31 in favor of Pittsburgh. As a result, those who bet on Pittsburgh at -3.5 and then on Dallas at +4.5 won both bets. Although it is relatively uncommon for NFL games to have a 4-point margin of victory, it famously occurred in 1979 during Super Bowl XIII.

The incident significantly impacted bookmakers, leading to the nickname “Black Sunday” for Super Bowl XIII. Bettors experienced substantial winnings, while bookies suffered losses due to the successful middling strategy employed by bettors.

In Live Betting, How You Can Hit the Middle

The popularity of live betting has significantly increased in recent years, offering bettors a way to hedge their bets and providing additional opportunities to achieve a middle.

Let’s consider a scenario where you initially bet on the New England Patriots to win by a margin of 4 or more points (-4) against the Philadelphia Eagles. After the first quarter, the Patriots have a commanding lead of 14 points. As a result, the line may shift to +7 for the Eagles, reflecting their reduced chances of covering the spread due to the significant deficit. While it is unlikely for the Eagles to come back and cover the spread with three-quarters remaining, it is not impossible.

In this situation, if you decide to bet on the Eagles at plus seven after the first quarter, in addition to your pre-game bet on the Patriots at -4, you would have an excellent opportunity to hit the middle. If the Eagles mount a comeback, and the game’s final score is 26-20 for the Patriots, you would successfully hit the middle.

Live betting presents dynamic and ever-changing odds, allowing bettors to react to the unfolding game and potentially exploit middling opportunities throughout the match. It adds an element of excitement and strategic decision-making to the betting experience.

Middling Isn’t for Beginner Bettors

Attempting to hit the middle in sports betting is only advised if you strongly understand sports betting concepts and strategies. It requires in-depth knowledge of sports and various betting strategies and a significant time commitment.

To successfully hit the middle, you must closely monitor sports betting lines. Middling opportunities arise by tracking the lines at the same sportsbook where you placed your initial wager. However, your chances of success are higher if you compare and shop for lines across multiple sportsbooks.

Confidence in the line movement is crucial when aiming to hit the middle. It is essential to act quickly upon seeing the opening line and anticipate how it will shift.

We do not recommend middling for novice bettors. Familiarizing yourself with several sports betting strategies before attempting to hit the middle is advisable. Develop a strong understanding of the fundamentals of sports betting and gain experience before delving into more advanced techniques like middling.

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