Sports bettors place their wagers either legally, through a bookmaker/sportsbook, or illegally through privately run enterprises. The term "book" is a reference to the books used by wagebrokers to track wagers, payouts, and debts. Many legal sportsbooks are found online, operated over the Internet from jurisdictions separate from the clients they serve, usually to get around various gambling laws (such as the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 in the United States) in select markets, such as Las Vegas, Nevada, or on gambling cruises through self-serve kiosks. They take bets "up-front", meaning the bettor must pay the sportsbook before placing the bet. Illegal bookies, due to the nature of their business, can operate anywhere but only require money from losing bettors and don't require the wagered money up front, creating the possibility of debt to the bookie from the bettor. This creates a number of other criminal elements, thus furthering their illegality.
Parlays are wagers placed in combination with the spread, moneyline, and totals to increase the payout. A parlay is only a winner when ALL individual plays hit. A teaser is the same as parlay, except you put points down in your favor to help the bet come to fruition. For example, if the proposed line is -13 and you have a 6-point teaser, your new line is -7. A teaser may have reduced some of the risks of the parlay, but you still have to hit each individual play and the payout is reduced significantly. Many sportsbooks let you bet up to 15 times for one parlay, and if all wagers are at -110, that’s a payout of 16,306.94/1!
Let’s say you decide to bet $100 on the Packers to win by more 7 points and the final score is Packers 30, Seahawks 21. The Packers have won by 9 points, meaning they’ve covered the spread, and you’ve won the bet. The -110 means that your $100 bet will win you a total of $190. That total includes your original bet amount, so your total profit is $90.
The New England Patriots are currently the favorites to win Super Bowl 53. The point spread opened with the Rams installed as a one-point favorite following the AFC Championship Game, but before the end of the night, the Patriots were a two-point favorite at most sportsbooks. The line has climbed to 2.5 points at most sportsbooks, with a couple going up to three points.
Here's an example: Imagine that using the money line above with the White Sox and the Astros, you want to win about $100. If you place your bet on the favored White Sox, you will pay the bookie $120. If you win, you get your $120 back, plus $100 in winnings. If you lose, the bookie keeps your $120 (technically, bookies collect on losing bets after the game most of the time, but for our example we'll assume the bet is prepaid). If you bet $100 on the Astros, you'll get $110 in winnings if they win, and only lose $100 if they lose.
The point spread is essentially a handicap towards the underdog. The wager becomes "Will the favorite win by more than the point spread?" The point spread can be moved to any level to create an equal number of participants on each side of the wager. This allows a bookmaker to act as a market maker by accepting wagers on both sides of the spread. The bookmaker charges a commission, or vigorish, and acts as the counterparty for each participant. As long as the total amount wagered on each side is roughly equal, the bookmaker is unconcerned with the actual outcome; profits instead come from the commissions.
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