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What Is a Sports Betting Middle or Middling?

Considering how popular sports betting is – considering, in fact, that it’s also one of the oldest forms of gambling in existence – it’s surprisingly complex. You wouldn’t think so, of course. Surely it should be as simple as placing a bet on a team or player to win or lose and if they do, you win some money. But even before getting into things like spreads and pushes and all the complicated jargon involved with sports betting, even just working out how odds works takes a lot of effort.

Sports betting, in fact, may just be the hardest of all gambling games to really master. Not so much in knowing who or what to bet on – it’s not unreasonable to expect that people who bet on sports either do their homework or really know the sports they’re betting on – but in how the betting works. It’s obviously much more complicated than playing a slot machine or placing a bet on a roulette table, but even in comparison to a gambling game based on skill like poker, there’s a lot to learn.

One of those terms that makes sports betting so difficult and so daunting is known as a “middle” or, to use it as a verb but not an adjective, “middling”. What is middling, how does it work and how important is it?

Read on to find out more.

Many people watching NFL games

What It Is and How It Works

Middling really is one of the less known betting moves out there. So much so that even seasoned sports bettors may not have heard of it. Especially not those who prefer not to place multiple bets at once. 

So, to break down the concept of “the middle”, let’s look at it stage by stage. 

  • Playing the middle or middling is when you place two separate wagers on the same game in the hope of winning one or both of them.  
  • Two conditions need to be in place for middling to occur. 
  1. The first is that the bet needs to be a spread. A spread bet is, in short, when the sportsbook evens the odds of two opposing teams or players, making a bet on either team a (near) 50/50 proposition. Say we have a football match between the Chiefs and the Patriots. Based on past performances, the sportsbook, or bookie, decides that for this game, the most likely outcome will be for the Patriots to win by 3 goals or more. This is a spread of -3 and what this means is that the Patriots need to win by more than 3 points for those that bet on them to win will win the bet. On the flipside, for those who bet on the Chiefs, all that is needed is for them to lose by less than 3 points in order to win the bet. Spread bets are the most common forms of bets in team sports betting. 
  2. The second thing that needs to happen to middle a bet is that the “line” of a spread bet has to move between the time you placed the bet and the game itself. A “line” is just another name for a spread so using the above example, it’s a spread of -3 to the Patriots. These spreads are not set in stone, though, and it can happen that in between the time you originally place your bet and the time of the game something may happen to make the bookie re-evaluate what the spread is. Say, for example, that the star player of the Chiefs suffers an injury, the bookie would then move the line from -3 to -4.    
  • Now, let’s say that a bettor decided to place a bet of $50 on the Chiefs winning in the above example. He’d be betting on the underdog, but would presumably do so because he feels that the bookie is under-estimating how the Chiefs are likely to do. By looking at the spread, he believes that even if the Chiefs lose, they won’t lose by 3 points or more, because of how good their star player is. 
  • Between placing the initial $50 on the Chiefs and the game itself, though, the bettor learns that the team’s star player suffered an injury and the spread became a -4. With these new odds in place and understanding the new reality for the Chiefs, our bettor will then understand that the chances of the initial bet paying off has become significantly smaller.  
  • The bet has been placed, though, so what the bettor decides to do is to “middle” the bet by placing a second bet, this time on the Patriots winning by six goals. 
  • By doing so, the bettor hopes to do one of two things. Worst case scenario, only one of the bets pays off (say, the Patriots win by 5 points) and the bettor effectively gets his money back. Best case scenario, though, would be for the result to be in the middle with, say, the patriots only winning by 3 points so that both wagers end up paying off. In this case, the bettor’s winnings are immediately effectively doubled. 

Who Should Do It

As you can see, middling is an incredibly useful tool for sports betting, especially on team sports, but it is absolutely only for experiences and dedicated sports bettors. 

For middling to work, a constant eye needs to be kept on the sportsbook between your initial bet and the game itself. The bettor needs to know not just how the line has moved but what the smartest bet is based on the specific thing that caused the sportsbook to change. This requires the dedication and knowledge of serious, experienced sports pundits.

For those casual bettors who are just looking to make a couple of extra bucks by betting on their favorite team, middling is absolutely not suggested. Not because they can’t figure it out but because they don’t have the dedication to do it properly.

But for devoted pundits, knowing how to middle is absolutely essential if you want to maximize your winnings.

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