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One of the ways the sports betting markets have changed over the years is early access to information. To generate interest, NFL betting lines are now being released in the spring for games that are months into the future. That never used to happen, but the sportsbooks have found it as a good way to invite some early action.

For the purpose of this piece, I am going to qualify “opening lines” as the first line that comes out after the team has played its most recent game, not the “Game of the Year” lines released in the spring. And I will identify some of the benefits and drawbacks of betting into those “openers”.

People often ask whether it is better to bet early or late, and I am afraid to say that it really does “depend”.

Advantage 1: The Right Number?

Sometimes the markets move quickly and the number you want to bet is only available when it is first offered. Reading markets is a skill just like handicapping, but betting it early means you have the number you want without having to pay any extra premiums.

Disadvantage 1: Low Limits

Most sportsbooks raise the wager limits over the course of the week. That might not matter to recreational bettors, but it is worth noting. A lot of sportsbooks are looking for how top bettors respond to the opening numbers so they can adjust accordingly. They are looking for market signals but don’t want to get steamed if they are way off. You can bet more on Sunday for sure.

Advantage 2: Benchmark Investment

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A lot of people have different strategies when it comes to betting on the NFL. For some, they want to get in early, “taking” a number with the full intent of further investing as the market matures. That is more of a professional strategy but it can work for recreational bettors too. You know the market will move, but you want to have an early position to work from.

Disadvantage 2: Incomplete Information

Knowledge is power in any industry, especially this one. When you bet a game early, you are taking a chance that new information is not going to come to light that might harm your wager. Information could come out that helps it too, but you are taking more of a chance for the benefit of getting in early.

Advantage 3: Help Move the Market


Sportsbooks use early bets to guide their actions and help identify where they might have made any forecasting mistakes. If you get in on a number early, you can be part of that direction setting. As game day approaches, only “really big news” and “really big bets” move the number. The rest is all just noise or already baked in.

Disadvantage 3: Buyers Remorse

I have to admit that the last thing I want to do is be holding a ticket for a week as the markets adjust. Sure, I can make a secondary wager but most people don’t, and holding that ticket is more likely to make me think I missed something than improve my confidence in my wager. It is basic psychology.

I know some people like to use closing line value as a measure of handicapping quality, and I understand why, but in reality it only matters if you win or lose. If you win, then you bet it at the right time, right?

Picture Credit: Flickr