What is an Alternate Line in Betting?

Online sports betting will launch in Ohio on Jan. 1, 2023. This page will be updated with the latest news, odds and promos once Ohio sportsbooks are live.

Ohio sports bettors are warming up for good news, as they’ll soon have retail and online sportsbooks around them. It means you’ll have a variety of betting options.

Sometimes, you may find a betting line that’s slightly different from what you’re looking for. Perhaps the spread is slightly bigger, or the over/under is a little too low for you, making you abandon the bet.

However, there’s a solution to this common issue: alternate lines. In this guide, you’ll learn the basics of alternate betting lines, how to use them and the best strategies to improve your winning chances.

What are alternate lines?

Alternate lines give you more control over the bet you’re placing. They are altered lines for totals and point spread bets. Moving the line in your direction will result in a smaller potential payout. On the other hand, moving it in the sportsbook’s favor means a bigger potential profit.

Even a 0.5 point movement in either direction can lead to a swing in your chances, and alternate lines are prevalent in football betting. We’ll explain the basics of totals and point spreads with a few examples of alternate lines.

How do alternate spreads work?

The point spread is the sportsbooks’ way of leveling the betting field. In every sport, not all teams are equal. Nearly all of the time, one team will be favored over the other. Sportsbooks offer handicap bets by giving the lesser team more points.

For instance, let’s say the Cincinnati Bengals are 4.5-point underdogs in an upcoming game against the Cleveland Browns. Here’s how the betting board will look with -110 odds on each side:

  • Cincinnati Bengals: +4.5 (-110)
  • Cleveland Browns: -4.5 (-110)

The negative spread number indicates the favorite, while the underdog has the positive number. In this case, for a bet on the Bengals to win, they would need to lose by fewer than 4.5 points or win the game by any score. However, if you’re sure the Browns are better, you’d place your bet on the Cleveland Browns to win the game by more than 4.5 points.

For point spread bets, -110 is a standard odds number on both outcomes. With -110 odds, a bet of $110 would win a $100 profit if correct. Sportsbooks make money on these bets by giving both sides negative odds and tweaking the numbers to try to attract an equal amount of wagering on each side.

Let’s assume that after researching, you decide to bet on the Bengals, but you don’t want to rely on them to cover the +4.5 point spread. That’s where alternate lines come in. You might want to adjust the number by two points (from +4.5 to +6.5). That way, your chances of winning the bet will increase, but the potential payout will be smaller to compensate. Hence, the new alternate spread bet might be similar to this:

  • Cincinnati Bengals: +6.5 (-140)

Due to the line adjustment, the -110 odds are now -140. Instead of needing a $110 wager to win $100, you’d now have to bet $140 to receive a $100 profit if you win the bet.

Conversely, let’s say that you’re confident the Bengals will do better than the sportsbook’s number of +4.5. Not only are you sure they’ll cover the spread, but you also trust that they can cover +2.5, so you adjust the line by two points. Here’s how your new bet might look:

  • Cincinnati Bengals: +2.5 (+139)

If the Bengals lose the game by less than 2.5 points or win outright, you would get a significant payout. The +139 odds indicate that a $100 bet would win you a $139 profit if correct.

Visit our dedicated Cincinnati Bengals odds and Cleveland Browns odds pages for the latest game lines.

How do alternate totals work?

Totals betting, also referred to as over/under betting, involves the combined sum of points that both teams score in a game. For this type of bet, the difference in points or who wins doesn’t matter. Sportsbooks set a number, and you can bet whether the combined total score will be over or under that line.

Let’s use NBA betting for this example. The odds will once again start at around a standard of -110 on each side. The Cleveland Cavaliers are playing the Boston Celtics, and the book has set the over/under at 210 points. The betting board would look like this:

  • Over 210 (-110)
  • Under 210 (-110)

If you’re confident that the combined points from the game between the Cavaliers and Celtics will be higher than 210, bet on the over. But if you think the total won’t reach 210, take the under bet. The odds work in the same way as with the spread bet.

Let’s adjust the line. If you believe the points would be over but want to increase your chances of winning, you can adjust the number by five points (205). The new alternate total bet will now look something like this:

  • Over 205 (-175)

The odds moved from -110 to -175 due to the movement of the points. That means you’d need to place a $175 wager to receive a profit of $100 if the bet wins.

On the other hand, if you strongly believe in the over bet, you can adjust by five points in the other direction (putting the line at 215). Here’s what it might look like:

  • Over 215 (+145)

Due to the change, a $100 wager would result in a $145 profit if you’re correct.

Where you will see alternate lines

You can easily find alternate betting lines on most Ohio online sportsbook apps. We’ll use the DraftKings Ohio mobile app as an example, though the procedure is similar at most other sportsbooks.

After you open the app, select the league you want to bet on. You’ll see the complete list of games available for the sport, as well as links at the top displaying “Alternate Total Points” and “Alternate Point Spread.” Click on your preferred item, and you’ll find a selection of potential bets with the odds on each outcome.

How to bet alternate lines and spreads

Sportsbooks display the current total and spread of each game in the betting lines section of their site. They also allow you to bet on different versions of these numbers, with modified lines to show the difference in the total or spread.

Betting on alternate lines involves selling or buying points. When buying points, you’re adjusting the betting line to be more favorable, though you’ll get worse odds. Several sportsbooks allow you to increase the number by half-points up to 10 points from the original line, though the site determines the exact range.

Alternate lines for the NFL

You will find alternate lines at several sportsbooks that offer betting odds for football games, including Super Bowl odds. One thing that differentiates alternate lines for the NFL from alternate lines for other sports is that football features specific key numbers. In fact, alternate betting lines are more common in the NFL due to the more predictable winning margins in the games. Many NFL games will have a winning margin of between three and seven points.

The key numbers in spread betting are 10, 7, 4 and 3. They are the most common winning margins in the NFL. Depending on the side of the spread you find yourself on, it may be smart to keep the numbers covered. Here is an example of a listing that you might find on the FanDuel Sportsbook app in Ohio:

The Cincinnati Bengals are a slight underdog at +1.5 (-112). If you are interested in this team but want to protect against a close loss, you have the option of buying up to +3 points, which could reduce the odds to about -130 or -140 (the actual price for each full or half point depends on the sportsbook and game).

But, if you prefer to bet on a Cincinnati Bengals victory and desire a bigger payout than you would get for the +115 moneyline odds, you would need to make an alternate line bet and turn the team into the favorite. A spread of -2.5 can boost that line up to +140 or +150 and still cover the key number of 3.

If you are highly confident of the team winning with a wider margin, you can sell more points to get a higher payout, but remember the key numbers as you move further from the current spread. Totals also have key numbers. The numbers 51, 47, 44, 43 and 37 are all common point totals to different degrees. Consider these numbers when deciding whether to sell or buy with totals.

Alternate lines for MLB

You won’t find any point spreads in Major League Baseball betting. Instead, you’ll find a similar bet called the run line. It is similar to point spreads in football and basketball, but there’s one significant distinction. In baseball, run lines use a default +1.5 for underdogs and -1.5 for favorites. Here’s an example of the listing that you might see on the BetMGM Sportsbook app in Ohio:

The run lines in baseball are the same, but the prices that come along with the lines do change. They come at a premium, and every full or half run will result in a more significant change in the odds than in football and basketball. Here are a few alternate run lines for the game between the Cleveland Guardians and Cincinnati Reds above:

The Guardians are the favorite, but if you are a Reds fan and believe they have a good chance of winning the game, you can adjust the run line. Instead of Reds +1.5 (-153), you can sell some runs and change the odds to Reds -1.5 (+221). The Reds would have to win by at least two runs, though your price will significantly increase for worsening the line for your side.

When you sell points in baseball, the underdogs will become favorites, and the current favorites will become larger favorites, and that is how to increase your potential payout. Buying points and playing things safe is also an option, only the odds you’ll get will be less appealing.

Alternate lines for the NBA

Alternate betting lines in football and basketball both function the same way. For instance, let’s assume you want to place an NBA bet on the Cavaliers as an underdog at +6 (-112). You’re not sure if they will win the game, but you feel they’re not worth that cushion. You can place an alternate line bet of Cavaliers +4 (+139) and receive a bigger payout if you win. The potential payout for a $100 bet will now become $139 on a bet of $100 rather than $100 on a bet of $112.

Conversely, you might be convinced that the Cavaliers can win the game outright. You’ll have the option to make them the favorite and get a better paying line, like Cavaliers -3 (+355). Your potential payout significantly increases as you move the spread several points against your side.

When it comes to selling points, the payout on your bet increases as you move away from the original spread. You’ll generally find a variety of possibilities, and this kind of bet leaves you with many chances to choose the odds and price suitable for you for each total and spread.

Tips for betting on alternate lines

Alternate lines can come in handy, as you can use them in various ways to execute numerous strategies. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Shop for lines

It’s the case with regular totals and spreads, and it’s the same with alternate lines. Different sportsbooks will have varying odds and associated lines. Before you place a bet, compare betting lines to find the most favorable price for the alternate line you’re looking to place a wager on.

2. Sell points for bigger payouts

If your objective is to improve the amount you can win, selling points is the best way to do this. It means that you will make an underdog become a favorite (or less of an underdog) or turn a favorite into a bigger favorite. This strategy is risky, but if you can sell points and still win the bet, you’ll get a much bigger profit.

3. Get the line you want in parlays

The odds become worse as you buy more points. For favorites, that means risking more than your winning chances. For underdogs, it means forfeiting some of the potential payouts. However, selling for lower odds is usually easier to take when it’s part of a parlay.

With parlays, you combine multiple individual bets and receive an increased payout if you get all of them correct. You may also get your preferred line even if it reduces your payout. In addition, with multiple wagers in a single bet, you can easily take the blow since the overall odds will still be enhanced.

4. Keep an eye on key numbers for NFL games

Don’t be afraid to sell or buy points, especially when betting on an NFL game since the key numbers are essential. If the total or spread you are wagering on is close to a key number, adjusting it in your direction can be the difference between a loss and a win. For instance, if you place a wager on an NFL team (like the Cincinnati Bengals) at -3, don’t be afraid to buy it down to -2.5 to cover that key number.