Alternate Lines: A trap or good bet?

Alternate lines in sports betting are betting lines that differ from the line published by the sportsbooks. The odds are adjusted in these lines, so it’s difficult to determine if they make a good bet.

This article we’ll walk through the type of alternate lines and strategies. Here’s everything we’ll cover in order:

  • definition of alternate lines (already covered)
  • different types of alternate lines with examples
  • do all sportsbooks have alternate lines?
  • why alternate lines prey on our psychology and often are a trap
  • 2 strategies that make alternate lines useful

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Let’s start by covering definitions and examples of alternate lines (also called “alt lines”). I’ll also give examples of each.

Then, let’s find out if alternate lines are a trap, and the best strategies if you decide to bet outside of the main betting line.

Side Note (Definition of “Giving” vs “Taking”): This will be helpful as you read this article. “Giving” points refers to the favorite. It means to ‘give up’ points, or that your team has to win by that much more (eg. -4 points, your team has to win by more than 4). “Taking” refers to the underdog. It means you “take” or receive more points to help you team out (eg. +4 points, your team has to lose by no more than 4).

Types of alternate lines

Here’s a list of some alternate lines you’ll commonly find (but not an exclusive list). This will get a little repetitive, so you can just pick whichever you’re most interested in and you’ll get a good idea of how this works:

Alt Lines

“Alt lines” or “alt spread” gives you more options for the spread bet. There are options to give or take more points from each team’s spread. This applies to any sport.

Example: Arsenal is favored by 1.5 goals over Manchester. If you wanted to bet on Arsenal (-1.5), you could be offered alternate and take a bet on Arsenal -2 goals. Since this would be the same bet, except you’d push if they win by 2, you’d get rewarded by a higher payout if they won by 3 or more.

Alt Total Points

“Alt total points” or sometimes “alt points” are alternate over/under bets. In other words, you can choose if you think more or less points will be scored in the game. If you’re betting the over, you’ll get paid more when your bets hits if you chose more points, and you’ll get paid less if you took a less risky option of less points. The opposite is true if you pick the under (since less points in a game is a more risky bet when you’re trying to go under it).

Example: The Redwings and Blackhawks gave has a over/under of 6 goals scored. You think it’s going to be a low scoring game, so you bet on the alternate under line of 4 goals. Instead of earning $10 when your bet hits, you’ll now earn $25 if it hits.

Alt Passing Yards

“Alt passing yards” is an NFL bet that gives you more options on the over/under for how many yards a quarterback will throw. If you’re really high on a quarterback, you could pick the over on a higher alternate passing yards. If you’re not feeling a quarterback this week, you could pick the under on a lower passing yard total to win more money if your bet hits.

Alt Receiving Yards

“Alt receiving yards” is an NFL bet that gives you more options on the over/under for how many yards a wide receiver or running back will get in receiving. If you want a higher payout and like a certain running back or receiver, you can up their total receiving yards. One important note, this isn’t total yards for this position, it is limited to when the player receives the ball–defined as catching the ball past line of scrimmage.

Alt Rushing Yards

“Alt rushing yards” is an NFL bet that gives you more options on the over/under for how many yards a running back will get rushing the ball. If you think your team is going to be pounding the ball down the other teams throats, you could bet a higher alternate total than the listed line for their running backs to win more money. If you think a team is going to be passing the ball all game, you might take an alternate under total on their running backs to increase your risk but also your winnings. Remember, this is rushing yards only, so if your quarterback catches the ball beyond the line of scrimmage, it doesn’t count.

Alt Rebounds

“Alt rebounds” is an NBA bet on a player to get more or less rebounds than the specific line. Is the other team’s big guy out? You might consider taking an alternate rebounds with a higher total than the standard line.

Alt Assists

“Alt assists” applies to sports like soccer, basketball, and hockey. If you have a player that will dish out a lot of assists, you could go beyond the normal line and predict they have a higher total assists than what’s listed. If you hit, you’ll win big(ger).

Are alternate lines always available?

No. Alternate lines are an optional offering from each sportsbook. I almost always see them on Draftkings and Fanduel, but they aren’t guaranteed. You’ll find alternate spreads and alternate totals more than you will alternate [insert specific stat for a player].

On this note, it’s also worth pointing out that every sportsbook can make their own alternates. Since these are less common bets, the lines might vary more than standard lines. It’s worth shopping around!

Why alternate lines are usually a trap

Alternate lines feed on one of the biggest weaknesses of amatuer bettors: overconfidence.

One underrated skill of sharps is their ability to know how little of line changes make a difference. Sharps may go all and love a -2.5 spread, but the same sharps may not put a dime on a -3.5 spread for the same game and team. They know it’s the little errors and edges they find in the sportsbook that win.

Sportsbooks generally don’t make big errors, so thinking you can confidently pick a team to win by a lot more than the line, or a player to get a lot more points/rebounds/assists/receiving or rush yards than Vegas is predicting is probably overconfidence. Most of the time, the sportsbooks will gladly take your losing bet.

But… there are still strategies to use alternate bets to make money

Now that I laid out why alternate spread are often a trap, I still think they can be used to your advantage at times. Let’s go over a couple of strategies.

Strategy 1: Amplify your bet to preserve your bankroll

I like this strategy if you don’t have a big bankroll, but you’re confident in a bet.

There are two ways to make more money when you’re confident: make a bigger bet, or make a riskier bet.

If you don’t have a big bankroll, making a bigger bet may not be a good option. You don’t want to risk half your account balance on one bet, no matter how much you like it.

But there’s another option. You can use alternate lines to make your bet more risky.

Let’s say you feel you have good reason (remember, don’t just let over-confidence take you down this road!) to think a certain team or player will over-perform. Your team is giving (favored by) 2 points. You could amplify your payout if you pick them to win by 4 or more points. Of course, there’s also more chance you lose.

Let’s use an example…

Let’s say the Giants and Jets are playing and neither team is favored (the spread is a “pick em'” or 0). You’ve heard that the flu is spreading like wildfire through the Jets locker room, and that their running back was hobbling around on a bum ankle. You like the Giants to win. You could just bet $100 on the Giants straight up to win $100 if they are the winning team. Or… you could only risk a $50 bet on the Giants but take the alternate line of Giants -3. If the Jets weren’t hit by the flu like you thought, and the Jets win, you’re only out $50. But if your prediction was correct, you win $100 just like before.

Strategy 2: Find outliers

More game lines = more information = more chances for differences between sportsbooks, which brings us to another way you can use alternate lines.

Looking for outliers. Compare multiple sportsbooks alternate lines. They likely differ in their odds/payouts more than the standard lines. If there is one that really stands out as different, consider placing a bet because clearly one of the sportsbooks is off (they may have reasons they don’t care as much).

One warning: don’t force it.

Only go with the bet if you think it has good reason to win. In these cases, one sportsbook likely hasn’t reacted to the news you think will make the difference while the other sportsbook already has.

Want more tips on winning bets? Check out our sports betting guide.