Line Betting Explained

Line betting is a popular option for anyone that enjoys wagering on high-scoring sports such as footy, rugby league, rugby union, and basketball. It might initially seem confusing, but line betting is actually very simple once you get into the swing of it. This “Line Betting Explained” guide teaches you what the line means, how to bet on it, and how it applies to leagues such as the NRL and AFL.


What is Line Betting?

Odds compilers will assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of each team before releasing betting odds on a match. They factor in variables like recent results, head-to-heads, injuries, home advantage, and so on. You typically find that one team is the favourite to win the game, and the other team is the underdog.

Line betting is designed to level the playing field. We give the supposedly stronger team a points handicap, which allows us to offer similar odds on either team. You can then bet on the home team to cover the line or the away team to cover it. We have provided examples throughout this “Line Betting Explained” guide to illustrate this concept.


How Does Line Betting Work?

Let’s say the Sydney Roosters have a home match against the Canberra Raiders. The Roosters are in great form, whereas the Raiders have been a little out-of-sorts and they are missing a couple of key players through injury.

In that case, you might find odds of 1.45 on the Roosters to win the game, and 2.85 on Canberra to win the match.

If you were to bet on Sydney, you would earn $0.45 for every $1 you wagered if the Roosters ended up winning the game. You might like to bet on the Roosters at higher odds, so you could check out line betting. In this example, you might find the line set at 6.5 points, with the Roosters as the 6.5-point favourites.

Instead of betting on the Roosters to simply win the game outright, you could alternatively bet on Sydney to cover the 6.5-point line. Instead of 1.45, you might expect odds of 1.91, meaning you earn $0.91 for every $1 wagered as opposed to $0.45 if they cover.


Line Betting Examples

Let’s stick with the example used above in this “Line Betting Explained” guide. If the line is set at 6.5 points, you are presented with two clear options: bet on Sydney -6.5, or bet on Canberra +6.5.

The whole point of line betting is to offer similar odds on either team covering. You might find that both teams are priced at 1.91 to cover the line, or you could find 1.87 on one team covering and 1.96 on the other team covering, as another example.

If the odds are 1.91 on Sydney to cover and 1.91 on Canberra to cover, you know that you will earn $0.91 for every $1 you wager if your prediction proves correct.

If you bet on the Roosters to cover, they need to win by 7 or more points. If they lose the game or win by fewer than 7 points. Your bet loses. This is the trade-off for gaining more attractive odds on Sydney.

If you bet on the Raiders, they can either win the game, or lose by up to 6 points, and your bet will pay off. You will earn $0.91 in profit for every $1 wagered, as opposed to $1.85 in profit for every $1 wagered on the standard win market, but your chances of success are significantly greater if you opt for line betting instead.


Line Betting NRL

Line betting is most common on high-scoring sports in which draws are rare, so it is a very popular wagering option on NRL matches.

It is reasonably uncommon to find NRL fixtures where both teams are very evenly matched, so there is often a distinct favourite and an underdog. You may not want to bet on the favourite, as you would not earn a large enough payout if successful. You might also not want to bet on the underdog if it seems like too much of a long shot.

That is why line betting is so useful on NRL matches. It evens things out, providing you with appealing betting terms on either team. You generally find that you can almost double your money by betting on a team to cover the line, which is an attractive prospect.

You then simply have to predict whether the favourite will secure a comfortable victory, or if the underdog will keep things close.

For example, imagine Penrith Panthers are in great form and they are coming up against a Manly Sea Eagles team that has struggled in recent weeks. You might expect to find the Panthers priced at 1.54 to win the match, and the Sea Eagles installed as the 2.50 underdogs. If you think the Panthers will win comfortably, and you want more value, you might check out the line betting and find that the Panthers are the 4.5-point favourites.

You could then choose to bet on Penrith -4.5 at odds of 1.91 instead of the Panthers to win the game outright at 1.54, thus earning a better profit if they won the game by 5 or more points. Alternatively, you might decide that the Sea Eagles will win the game or only suffer a narrow defeat, making Manly Sea Eagles +4.5 at odds of 1.91 an appealing option.


Line Betting AFL

Line betting is also very popular on AFL matches. As an example, let’s say you want to bet on a game between West Coast and Gold Coast. West Coast are the heavy favourites at odds of 1.27, while Gold Coast are priced at 3.85.

In that case, you would expect West Coast to be the 23.5-point favourites to win the match, with similar odds on either team covering the line. You could then bet on West Coast -23.5, which would require them to win by 24 points or more, or on Gold Coast +23.5, which would mean they could win the game or lose by up to 23 points.

Alternatively, you might find the Western Bulldogs priced as the 2.46 underdogs for a match against the Geelong Cats. You may feel that the Bulldogs can win that game, but you fear they could suffer a narrow defeat. In that case, you could check the line betting and find odds of 1.95 on the Dogs +7.5.

If you were to bet on the Dogs to cover that line, they could win the game or lose by up to 7 points and your bet would pay off. As you can see, line betting gives you another compelling option when trying to find value on an AFL match.


Other Sports You Can Bet On The Line

Line betting is the most popular way to wager on an American football game or a basketball game. 

In the United States, it is often referred to as spread betting, and punters consider which team will cover the spread. In the UK, it is known as handicap betting, but the concept is the same.

Spread betting works well on high-scoring sports like American football and basketball, which go into overtime if there is a tie at the end of regulation time. However, it can also be used on sports like soccer.

For example, the Socceroos could be gearing up for a match against Nepal, and they are the 1.14 favourites to prevail. You might alternatively be able to bet on Australia -2.5 at odds of 2.20.

The Socceroos would then need to win the match by a margin of 3 or more goals, but you would earn a much larger payout if they pulled it off. Alternatively, if you felt that Nepal could exceed expectations, you could bet on Nepal +2.5.


Line Betting FAQs


What does the line mean in betting?

The line is a handicap spread issued to the supposedly stronger team in order to level the playing field. You can bet on either team to cover the line – for example, the Melbourne Storm -4.5 points against St. George Illawarra, or St. George Illawarra +4.5 in the same match. 


Why might I place a line bet?

You can gain a lot more value on a favourite if you opt for a line bet as opposed to a standard win bet. It also gives you a greater chance of success when betting on an underdog to cover the line instead of betting on them to simply win the game. Our line betting explained guide discusses the benefits in greater detail.


What sports can you bet on the line?

Line betting is most commonly used on high-scoring sports such as rugby league, rugby union, football, basketball or American football. However, you can also find line betting on comparatively low-scoring sports like soccer, baseball and ice hockey, including Asian handicaps. Read our in-depth line betting explained guide for specific examples that illustrate how to enjoy line betting on these sports.


Ready to place a line bet? TopSport offers line betting on a huge selection of sports and leagues in Australia and around the world.