One of the most basic concepts when it comes to betting on sports, especially football and basketball is the pointspread. Even people that do not bet on sports understand what it means when they read or hear that New England is a seven-point favorite against Miami. While reading a pointspread and understanding what they mean is a very basic sports betting concept, there is still more to these numbers than meets the eye.
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When you bet on the money line, you are betting on one side to simply win. Any time you see a money line, the minus sign (-) indicates the favorite while the plus sign (+) indicates the underdog. For example: Chicago Bears –240 vs. Minnesota Vikings +210. Using $100 as the base, it will take $240 wagered on the Chicago Bears to win $100. For a bettor wagering on the underdog Minnesota Vikings in this scenario, $100 will win $210. With the money line you just have to hope your team wins rather than cover a point spread. Of course, the one downside is having to risk more money to return the same amount that a point spread bet would net you.
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Apply the spread. In point-spread betting, the actual final score of the game is only the starting point. Say Chicago beats Detroit 24-17. Because Chicago was the favorite, you subtract the point spread from its final score. That's the purpose of the minus sign in the spread. The spread was 6, so you take 6 points away from Chicago's point total, giving you an "adjusted" score of Chicago 18, Detroit 17. If you'd bet on Chicago, you'd have won the bet. Now, say Chicago won the game 20-17. Subtracting the 6 points from Chicago's total gives you a final score of Detroit 17, Chicago 14. If you'd bet on Chicago, you'd have lost.
In a national poll released in December 2011, Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind asked voters whether they “support or oppose changing the federal law to allow sports betting” in their respective states. Just as many voters approved (42%) as opposed (42%) allowing sports betting. However, voters who already live in households where family members (including themselves) engage in sports betting had a strongly favored legalization of sports betting (71%-23%), while voters in households where sports betting is not an activity, opposed legalization (46%-36%). Peter J. Woolley, professor of political science and director of the poll commented on the findings, “Gambling has become, for good or ill, a national industry, and you can bet that politicians and casinos all over the country are closely following New Jersey’s plans.”[8]
Major League Soccer (MLS) the top soccer league in the United States and Canada has expressed sports betting as a possible way to gain popularity. Commissioner Don Garber has stated about sports gambling, " We have a project going on now to really dig in deeply and understand it. I’ll join the chorus of saying it’s time to bring it out of the dark ages. We’re doing what we can to figure out how to manage that effectively."[49]
As the numbers grow larger each way – the small numbers get smaller or the positive numbers get larger – that indicates that those options are bigger and bigger favorites, or bigger underdogs. That’s particularly relevant when you’re looking at something like the odds to win the Super Bowl. The teams with smaller numbers are deemed as having a better chance of winning and then as the numbers grow larger, those teams are deemed bigger and bigger longshots.
Spread betting has moved outside the ambit of sport and financial markets (that is, those dealing solely with share, bonds and derivatives), to cover a wide range of markets, such as house prices.[5] By paying attention to the external factors, such as weather and time of day, those who are betting using a point spread can be better prepared when it comes to obtaining a favorable outcome. Additionally, by avoiding the favourite-longshot bias, where the expected returns on bets placed at shorter odds exceed that of bets placed at the longer odds, and not betting with one’s favorite team, but rather with the team that has been shown to be better when playing in a specific weather condition and time of day, the possibility of arriving at a positive outcome is increased.
NFL Football is arguably the most popular sport to bet on in America today. For instance, the Super Bowl is not only the most watched but also the most heavily bet upon sporting event each and every year. So, due to its increasing popularity and the fact that an NFL wager can be placed on the internet by anyone over the age of 18, we felt it necessary to offer a crash course into the NFL point spread for our novice gamblers.
In 1919, the Chicago White Sox faced the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series. This series would go down as one of the biggest sports scandals of all time. As the story goes, professional gambler Joseph Sullivan paid eight members of the White Sox (Oscar Felsch, Arnold Gandil, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Fred McMullin, Charles Risberg, George Weaver, and Claude Williams) around 10,000 dollars each to fix the World Series. All eight players were banned from playing professional baseball for the rest of their lives.[56] Pete Rose, the all-time MLB leader in hits, was similarly banned from baseball in 1989 for betting on games while he was an MLB manager.
A point spread - Lets take, for a hypothetical situation on one of the types of football bets (using the point spread), that the Kansas City Chiefs were visiting the Detroit Lions and Detroit was established as a six-point favorite at game time, which is commonly written as Detroit -6. Kansas City would be the underdog and displayed as Kansas City +6. If you bet the favorite, Detroit has to win by more than six points to win your bet. Remember, the Lions are favored by six points, so we subtract six points from their final score on a spread bet. If Detroit were to win 27-20, Lions bettors would win their wager. If the Chiefs were to win the game by any score and you picked the Chiefs you would win not including the extra six points. If the Lions were to win, 20-14, it would be exactly six and a push, so you would get your money back.
If you've never set foot in an actual sportsbook before or logged into an online sportsbook, the chances of you getting overwhelmed when you actually do is very high. In an actual Las Vegas sportsbook, there is typically a lot of commotion and the odds and lines are displayed on a massive digital board for everyone to see. When a novice sports bettor looks at the massive digital signage, they will see a bunch of numbers, both positive and negative, some two digits, some three digits. They also won't have a clue what any of it means. The same can be said for the online sportsbooks. It looks like a massive spreadsheet with negative and positive numbers beside each teams' name.
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.

A point spread in sports is a figure set by oddsmakers to provide an advantage or disadvantage based on the margin of victory or defeat for a given team. The “favorite” team (labeled with a “-” sign) would be at the disadvantage as they would need to win the game by a set number of points while the “underdog” team (labeled with a “+” sign) would be given an advantage to not lose the game by a set number of points. The reason oddsmakers do this is to provide betting interest for both sides due to one team typically being better than the other.

In 2012, despite federal law preventions, the state legislature of New Jersey and Governor Chris Christie signed a law that would allow sports betting to take place in New Jersey race tracks and Atlantic City casinos.[15] In August 2012, Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind conducted a study on the issue. Voters were asked whether New Jersey should allow sports betting even if federal law prevents it from doing so, or wait to allow sports betting until federal law permits it. Results showed that nearly half (45%) of voters wanted to allow sports betting, while (38%) decided to wait and allow sports betting once Congress allows it. Krista Jenkins, director of the poll, commented, "Although support is not overwhelming, these numbers suggest the public is cautiously behind the goal of moving forward with legalized sports betting."[16]

The most important thing you can teach yourself early on is: "Just because the books assign one side to be the favorite (even large, -200 or -300, favorites), does not mean that they will win." We have all seen favorites get upset, and it is important to avoid the temptation of finding comfort in the fact that the lines makers put one team as a favorite.

The most famous historic example of this is Super Bowl III when the New York Jets stunned the football world and upset the Baltimore Colts. The Jets were 18-point underdogs, still the largest point spread in Super Bowl history. They won 16-7, and people wondered what the oddsmakers had been thinking. Noted oddsmaker Bob Martin was later asked if he was embarrassed making the Colts such huge favorites. He said he was not because in what was then one of the heaviest bet sporting events ever, his number drew a fairly even amount of bets on both sides. This guaranteed a profit for the house.
Sports betting would be easy — or maybe just easier — if all that was required was to correctly pick the winning team. Gambling institutions, sportsbooks and bookies fall back on point spreads to make the process a little more difficult and to create the ultimate wagering challenge. You'll need a solid understanding of the point spread system if you hope to have a profitable season.
For example, a negative value (-11.5) next to a team indicates that they are favored by that many points. So you must deduct 11.5 points from their score to determine if they won the game or not. On the other hand, a positive value on the same game (+11.5) means the underdog starts with an 11.5-point lead before the game even begins. In NFL betting, the favorite must win by 12 points or more to cover the NFL spread. The underdog is able to lose by 11 points and still cover the spread.
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