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NFL Prop Betting 101 Prop School

Betting Middles Part II: When to Bet a Middle & When to Avoid

When to bet a middle and when to avoid it? It’s one of the most frequently asked questions we get. Everybody loves that feeling of hitting both sides of a well-crafted middle, but there’s a lot of confusion around what actually makes a good middle.

In part one of this series, we broke down the nuts and bolts of a middle, outlining how to calculate its potential value and what pitfalls to watch out for. Check that out first if you haven’t already.

In part two, we’ll tell you when to bet middles, when to pass, as well as how to avoid attracting the wrong kind of attention from the books.

Let’s jump in.

When to Bet Middles and When to Avoid Them

So you’ve used the calculation in part one and determined that your middle has some value.

You should always bet it, right? Well, not exactly.

Do Not Give Away Value

The most common mistake I see people make is middling a +EV bet with a -EV bet, just because they can. This is the golden rule of middling — do not give away your value.

Let’s use Seattle WR DK Metcalf as an example.

  • You’ve already bet his over on 70.5 receiving yards
  • Fellow WR Tyler Lockett is a surprise scratch on Sunday morning, freeing up more targets for Metcalf
  • As a result, Metcalf’s line is bumped to 80.5 yards

“Wow,” you think, “I can get a nice ten-yard middle, and the middle calculations tell me that it is definitely +EV.  I still like my player to go over, but I don’t want to pass up this nice middle spot!”

Should you bet it? No, no, no.

The only reason that middle has value is because your original bet had – and still has – value. You should never middle by adding a bet that is -EV just for the sake of creating a middle.

This is a common scenario in live betting. You bet a spread or total before the game, and when the bet is going in your favor some very large middle opportunities can open up. Do not middle just for the sake of middling, only do it when you believe there is value on the other side as well.

So, When Can I Middle?

You can middle when the other side of the bet also holds value on its own. 

Let’s go back to the Metcalf example. It’s almost kickoff and that line has now been steamed up to O/U 90.5 receiving yards. You see that number and realize that line has been over-adjusted and the under actually has some value now.

Now you’re adding a +EV bet to create the middle. Obviously, this is a win-win scenario, as you have just increased your EV (expected value) by adding that bet.

In the case of live betting, maybe you see something during the game that changes your opinion on your original bet. At that point, you believe the other side is now the +EV side, so again, you’d be adding an +EV bet.

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Don’t Get Limited

We’re a props site, so let’s talk about this in the context of props.

“This middling stuff is great!” you think, “I’m a $50 bettor, but I can bet $500 on each side of a -110 middle for the same risk with a huge return!”

You can, but if you do that on props, you will get limited by your book with a quickness. It’s definitely ok to scale up your bets for middles, but slamming them with a max bet at every chance you get will quickly attract attention. Advantage players do not want attention.

Just remember, every middle is actually two bets, so now you’re doubling your number of bets and increasing your stakes, and the return isn’t going to be that much better. Sportsbooks know props are beatable, and they aren’t going to let you kill them on props at $500 a pop for very long.

Most winning bettors will eventually get limited, particularly on props, so the longer you can avoid attention the better.

This creates something of a paradox — pressing a lot of middle spots on props may be good for your short-term EV, but it’s potentially bad for your long-term ability to earn. In practice, it means that many of the sharpest bettors in this space are passing up all but the very best middle spots.

For larger markets though, like sides and totals in the major sports, fire away. It takes a lot more to get limited on those markets, and if you’re consistently beating them, then you probably don’t need advice from me.

Don’t Middle Without Knowing House Rules

Different books can have different house rules and default listings for certain bet types. Make sure you fully understand the rules behind a bet before you make it. When odds are significantly off between two books, there’s a decent chance you’re actually missing something in the fine print, such as overtime scoring not being included.

I’ve encountered a few instances of this at online books in New Jersey, so if a middle seems too good to be true, make sure you verify what you’re betting on before you click submit.

When Can I Middle in Sports Betting?

Do Middle When There Is Value On Both Sides

This was touched on earlier, but it’s worth repeating, because it’s the guiding principle of middling. If you see value on both sides of the bet, then you should feel free to middle. In that case you’re making two independently +EV bets and there’s no reason to pass up betting on either side if you believe they both have value.

Do Middle When You Don’t Know The Right Side

See two lines that are off but don’t know which side has the value? Run through the steps I laid out in part one to determine if it has value, and if it does, just bet the middle. The more time you spend looking at lines, the easier it is to spot when something is off and worth middling without having to do the math behind it.

Sometimes you don’t even need to do any research at all if you find a middle that has even or + odds on both sides. Did you find a middle with + odds on both sides for a Lacrosse game? Great, that’s a guaranteed profit even if you don’t know a single thing about the sport. You have the edge, fire away.

Do Middle To Reduce Your Risk

Say you find an early-week NFL prop that is way off from other markets, or that you are sure is going to move in your favor. In short, you simply think it’s wrong and will be corrected.

In this scenario, you can increase your risk on the initial bet with a plan to middle some of it back later in order to bring your risk more in line with what you’re comfortable with.

The important thing about this is you are making your initial bet with a plan to middle.

Remember I said not to middle a +EV bet by forcing in a -EV bet? That doesn’t quite apply here, because by increasing your risk on the initial +EV bet, you’ll still come out ahead even if you the middle with a bet that isn’t +EV.

Here’s how it looks:

  • The most you want to risk on a bet is $100
  • But you find a line that is off from the market
  • You can bet $300 on the “off” line, then bet $200 on another line to maintain your risk at $100

(Here is a middling calculator if you want to play around with your own numbers.)

While the most +EV strategy is to just stick with the $300 bet, if that doesn’t fit your bankroll management, then middling can be a useful tool to deploy.

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