As a general rule, if you like the number on a favorite against the spread, betting it early isn’t a bad idea – since most bettors prefer favorites and most line movements go against the favorite as the week goes on. But while there are advantages to jumping on a line early, there can also be advantages to sitting back and watching to see how the line moves.
Line movements are sometimes fairly predictable; many lines remain fairly stagnant, eventually move a half-point or so against the favorite (as the public bets on the favorite), and then perhaps moves back to the original line after the underdog bettors get their action in. This isn’t always the case though, as some lines move quickly or by a point or more, and these movements can give us some clues on where public money and sharp money are going.
When a line moves by a full point or more, the key is often how quickly this movement takes place. If a team opens at -3.5, moves to -4.0 a few hours later, and then eventually moves to -4.5 or -5.0 days later, this is likely a case of the public just continuously pounding the favorite throughout the week.
On the other hand, if a team opens at -3.5 and is almost immediately moved to -4.5 or -5.0, this is likely a case in which smart money is on the favorite, as the line needed to be quickly adjusted. While you may have missed out on the best line in these cases, there may still be value in the side the smart money appears to be on, so it is worth a closer look.
Sometimes smart money can also be diagnosed when the line movement (or lack thereof) appears to be strange. For example, if you expect New Orleans to be a huge favorite this week and they open at -2.0, something seems off. If the line doesn’t move, or more surprisingly moves to New Orleans -1.5 or -1.0, chances are that smart money loves New Orleans’ opponent this week, which explains the odd line.