Much like any business venture you embark on, the most important part of the journey (for most) is the bottom line. We live in a world where cash rules everything around us, so it is vital to turn a profit, not only for living purposes but to feel successful and accomplished. In the sports betting world, turning a profit seems to be a walk in the park for sportsbooks. They keep track of their billions of dollars by using a term called "handle" and nobody is aware of how big the handle is until the sportsbooks tell us. Read More >>
Above, you can see several numbers to the right of both teams. These all represent the different lines that are available on the San Francisco vs. Los Angeles game. The first set of numbers for both teams is the point spread, the second set is the moneyline, and the third set is the over/under (a.k.a. totals). We'll explain each of these lines more in-depth below.
If you're just getting started with NFL betting, the most important thing you need to do is learn how the lines work. But this is easier said than done because NFL lines can seem like learning Greek to new bettors. Fortunately, learning football betting lines won't take you nearly as long to master as the Greek language. In fact, you should have a good understanding of the matter just by looking at the following information on how NFL betting lines work.
There might be some movement when injury reports come out, but barring any kind of shocking news development (Tom Brady suspended for the game!), the line likely will not change all that much. The point spread is currently sitting at 2.5 points. I could see sportsbooks dipping into three points to level out the money on each side, but that might not happen until later next week after the teams are wrapping up their practice week. My prediction is the line settles at a field goal heading into kickoff.
This is a very common occurrence throughout the sports betting industry. Sportsbooks have the right to shift the spread or odds for any given match prior to it starting. Many factors play a huge role in this decision, and they include injuries, weather, the volume of bets on one side, and anything in between. Depending on the time you place your wager, the bettor may also have an advantage or disadvantage based on which way the spread has shifted.
In this example the Jets are listed as four-point favorites (-4) over the Bills and the 49ers are three-point underdogs (+3) against the Seahawks. So, if you bet $110 on the favored Jets, they must defeat the Bills by more than four points in order to win $100. If you bet $110 on the underdog 49ers you will win $100 if they win outright or lose by less than the three-point spread. If the final score happens to end up exactly on the number it's a tie, or 'push,' and you get your money back.
How the point spread works - When two teams meet on the playing field or on the basketball court, one team is typically better than the other or in a more favorable position because of factors like playing at home. If all you had to do were pick the winning team in a game, everybody would simply wager on the best team or the home team in a even matchup and bypass all the lines and collect their winnings at a high rate.
For example: New England –2.5 (–110) or Philadelphia +2.5 (–110) means you’d wager $110 for the chance to win an additional $100 if you bet on the point spread. Depending on which side is receiving the most action, a sportsbook will often move the line up or down in order to incentivize betting on the less popular side. Injuries or unforeseen changes can also impact a point spread gambling line. Point spreads are often listed with a half-point (ex: 2.5) in order to prevent the final margin from landing exactly on the point spread (ex: 10-point spread, final score of 20–10). A “push” or “tie” usually goes to the house or sportsbook, unless another arrangement has been agreed upon beforehand.
Winning a game in a professional sports league of any kind can be difficult for even the best teams. Very few teams have gone through a season undefeated (only NFL Teams) and even then, not every win is as easy as teams hoped they would be - even the margin of victory is sometimes too close for comfort. Unfortunately for bettors, teams don't care how they win or by how many runs, goals or points, as long as they win the game. Read More >>
If you aspire to become an avid bettor and are serious about learning the trade, the first thing I recommend doing is to come up with several angles and legitimate reasons why betting on a specific team is going to make you money. I understand that angles and reasoning can only take you so far before what happens on the court or field is out of your control but playing the angles is a key part of sports betting that isn't going away any time soon. One of the better angles I look to play is a bet called the First Half Bet. Read More >>
Oftentimes you’ll see a point spread that has a half-point added to the number. Of course, there’s no such thing as half a point in a football game, so why do we so often see point spreads with a (.5) attached to the score? Sportsbooks do this to make sure there isn’t a chance of a push. Let’s take another look at our game from above with the half point added.
All this means to someone betting on New England is that in order for them to win their wager the Patriots must win by more than four points. For another bettor placing his money on Seattle, the Seahawks must either win the game outright or lose by less than four points. If the outcome of the game were to be decided by exactly four points, it what result in what is called a “push” where both bettors would neither win or lose their wager.
Here you can see that the Rams are +3.5, while the Cowboys are -3.5. So for this example the Cowboys are 3.5 point favorites, while the Rams are underdogs of 3.5 points. If you were to bet on St Louis you would need them to lose by 3 or fewer points or just win the game outright. If you were to bet on Dallas you would need the Cowboys to win by 4 or more points.
The point spread is the projected number of points that separate two teams. A game with a spread will have a favorite (the team expected to win) and an underdog (the team expected to lose). A favorite “gives” points and is identified with a minus sign next to their point spread. The underdog “gets” points and is identified with a plus sign next to their point spread.
When wagering against the spread, you bet on the team that will cover the betting line, and not necessarily win the game. Obviously by taking the favorite, a bettor believes that team will not only win the game, but also win the game by a certain number of points to cover the betting line. But when wagering on the underdog, that team does not necessarily have to win the game to cover the line. For examples of point spreads and how those bets are won, please keep reading below where we explain betting odds for the spread in detail.
When betting off the board a calculation will be made according to the odds on each event in the parlay. You will win the same amount as if you bet each event separately and parlayed all winnings as you went. An exception is if every event you pick is at -110 odds, in which case predetermined nice round odds will be used. Except for a three-leg parlay, these preset odds are not as generous as if the calculation method were used. For this reason, it is a good idea to have at least one event in the parlay that isn't -110, which will force the calculation method to be used.
The second number in our example (-110 for both teams) tells you how much you have to wager in order to win $100. It’s an easy way to calculate how much you’ll win if your bet pays off, presented in units of $100 at a time for simplicity’s sake. Most of the time, these two numbers will be the same, because oddsmakers want to set lines so that they get as much action on the underdog as on the favorite, guaranteeing them a profit. If a book gets a single bet of $110 (by a customer hoping to win $100) on the Cowboys and a single bet of $110 on the Giants, it will have taken in $220, but will only have to pay back $210 to whichever customer wins the bet. That’s a guaranteed profit of $10, and since sportsbooks take far more than a single bet in either direction, they stand to earn that seemingly small amount of profit many times over. The $10 difference between what you wager and what you win is known as juice or vig in the sports betting industry, and it’s the way books earn their bread and butter.
The concept of betting on totals, or Over/Under (O/U), is quite simplistic. The bettor wagers on whether the TOTAL points scored in a game will fall over or under a pre-determined number set by the sportsbook. Much like the point spread, game totals can be swayed by public opinion. The example below, from the SI Archive, shows the opening totals line for Superbowl XLV:
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Sometimes the decimal point is left out, so 120 is the same as 1.20. If you want to bet on the favored team, the White Sox, you have to bet $1.20 for every $1 you want to win. If you want to bet on the underdog Astros, you have to bet $1 for every $1.10 you want to win. This is known as the dime line, because ten cents separate the favorite from the underdog. Most bookies offer a dime line, although it can increase to a 20 cent line or greater if one team is heavily favored.
The one variance you might come across in any pointspread listing is the commission owed on a bet. Instead of moving the actual spread for a game, some books will try and direct money one way or the other by adjusting the juice. For example, if there was a (-120) next to the listed pointspread, you would now owe $120 on a losing $100 bet. Sometimes a book will reduce or eliminate the juice all together to move money towards a particular side of a matchup. In this case, you might see (-105) or (+100) next to the pointspread to signify the reduced or zero commission for that bet.
Say the Bears are a six-point favorite over the Lions and the total is 42. To bet the Bears, you must "lay the points," meaning they must win by seven or more to cover and give you the win. Betting the underdog Lions, you are "taking" six points, and they can lose by five or fewer, or win the game outright, and you have a winning bet. If the Bears win by exactly six, both sides "push" and all bets are returned. It's also a push if the final score equals 42, otherwise the over or under will win.
This arrangement tells us a lot: which team is home (listed on bottom, in this case the Seattle Seahawks), which team is the underdog (listed with a plus sign next to their name, in this case the New England Patriots), we know which team is the favorite (listed with a minus sign next to their name, in this case the Seattle Seahawks), and we know the point spread (2.5 points).
A spread is a range of outcomes and the bet is whether the outcome will be above or below the spread. Spread betting has been a major growth market in the UK in recent years, with the number of gamblers heading towards one million. Financial spread betting (see below) can carry a high level of risk if there is no "stop". In the UK, spread betting is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority rather than the Gambling Commission.
The biggest advantage of the moneyline for the NBA is that your team doesn't have to overcome the point spread for you to win your game. If your handicapping leads you to believe that one team is likely to win but you can be less certain that they will win by as much as the point spread then the moneyline may be attractive. You are sacrificing some potential return because the moneyline won't pay as much for the favorite as the point spread will, but it's obviously better to make a small profit than it is to lose a bet. This is particularly attractive in basketball because the favorites can often face large point spreads and teams can win comfortably and effectively without covering the spread.
As you can see above, the combined score for Superbowl XLV was 56, and since this line was offered at reduced juice, a wager on the over at 44.5 of only $105 would yield a profit of $100. This line closed at a high of 46 points at some books, demonstrating how the public, who tend to show a proclivity for high scoring games, can increase an O/U line.
In a different study released by FDU’s PublicMind in October 2011, results showed that New Jersey voters thought legalizing sports betting in New Jersey was a good idea. Half of New Jersey voters (52%) said that they approved the idea of legalizing sports betting at Atlantic City casinos and racetracks, 31% opposed it. In addition, there was a significant gender split: a majority of men approved of the idea by a wide margin (65-21), while only 39% of women approved and 41% opposed. The October results were stable, reflecting an earlier poll in April 2011 where New Jersey voters approved the legalization of sports betting in the state by a margin of 53%-30%. However, nearly two-thirds (66%) of voters were not aware of the upcoming statewide referendum on the issue. Age proved to be a divide: voters between the ages 18 and 34 were more likely to approve of sports betting than were older voters. Dr. Woolley commented: "But... younger voters... are far less likely to vote than other voters... As always, a lot depends on who actually shows up to vote."
For example, the Golden State money line above is listed at -340 odds. Using the same principles we just discussed, $340 needs to be bet in order to win $100. Again, this is just the bet to winnings ratio - $34 will win $10, $17 will win $5, $20 will win $5.88, etc. This may seem unfair at first but it is logical. The Warriors are by far the best team in the league and have a much better chance of winning the game. Therefore, sportsbooks even this out by placing the odds at a high price for bettors to win a little.
If you bet on the point spread, you’ll often see -110 placed next to each betting option. That means that you have to bet $110 to win $100. The $10 difference is effectively a fee you are paying to place the bet. It can be referred to as the juice or the vig (short for vigorish, which originates from the Russian word for winnings). If there is an even amount of money bet on both sides of the line, the juice guarantees a profit for the house.
The point spread will list one team in the negative and the other in the positive. (Unless neither team is favored, then they will be listed as EVEN or PICK). The club posted in the negative with a minus sign is favored and so the bookies take points away from them, which means that team must win by at least a certain number of points to cover the spread. The underdog will have a plus sign and will cover if they win outright or lose by less than the posted number.
There are times when moneyline wagering is smarter than point-spread wagering and this is why moneylines are growing in popularity. Typically used in baseball and hockey, pro football moneylines are popular in Las Vegas for picking underdogs. The team you choose only has to win the game, not win by a certain number of runs or goals. The negative value still indicates the favorite (-150) and the positive value indicates the underdog (+130). It's easiest to picture the number 100 sitting in the middle of these two values. For example, if you want to pick a -150 favorite, you would risk $150 in order to win $100. On the underdog, you would risk $100 and win $130 if the underdog wins. It's a simple way to have the risk-reward scenario. In the right circumstance, where you have a small underdog, you can get a very similar bet by risking less and also get a bigger payout by going the moneyline route.