If your sports betting experience consists mostly of office pools during March Madness or a casual wager between you and a friend while you watch the Super Bowl, the transition to serious sports betting means learning how to read betting lines. The biggest difference between making the kind of casual bets mentioned above and placing wagers with online sportsbooks or at brick-and-mortar bookshops is the use of sports betting lines. Casual wagers usually involve each person in the bet picking one team to win, then wagering an equal amount, say $20 or $30. Professional bookmakers, online sports betting exchanges, and sports betting facilities in casinos have a more complex system for offering wagers on sporting events, in part to ensure profit on the part of the book, and in part to present a standardized representation of odds.
Bookmakers use odds to even out the bets, getting gamblers to wager on both sides of the line by leveling the playing field. Although there is overall parity in the NFL, there are teams that are haves and others that are have-nots. Indianapolis is still superior to Cincinnati but when they play each other the bookies have to get about half of the bettors to put cash on the Bengals. This covers the sportsbooks ensuring they’ll make a decent amount of cash on just about every game.
For those that live outside the United States, this may look even more strange since -110 is in American odds format. In Decimal odds, which is common in Europe, -110 translates to 1.91 odds. I'm not going to dive into Decimal odds (or other formats) since this article is about American odds, but the Decimal system is pretty straightforward. The odds listed represent a bettor's total return for a winning wager as you simply multiply the odds by the amount you wish to risk. If someone risks $100 at 1.91 odds and win, they receive $91 plus their initial $100 risked ($91 + $100 = $191).
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!
This is different from a moneyline, where payouts can vary greatly because there is not point spread that is installed. It is simply picking the winner straight up. Therefore, a bet on the favorite would not profit as high as it would betting the spread since no points are given. Payouts on the point spread are not always the same, but they do not vary like a moneyline.
Identify the favorite. Lines with a - before the number (i.e. -200) indicate the favorite. A -200 should be read as: "For every $200 wagered, I win $100." When there is a negative sign, the line should always be read with relation to 100. That does not mean you have to bet that much, it's just easiest to understand! When a + sign is present, just reverse the reading, always keeping reference to 100:
The Jets are favored by 7 points. When you wager on the Jets -7 points, they have to win by 8 or more for you to get paid. A win by exactly 7 points would be a push and you get your money back. If you wager on the Giants +7 points, you’ll need them to win or lose by 6 points or less to win your bet. The Giants can win the game and you’ll win the wager because they didn’t lose by 7 or more. A loss by exactly 7 points would be a push and you get your money back.
Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner Rob Manfred has also advocated the league changing its stance on sports betting, with both Manfred and Silver noting that the scale of illegal sports betting makes opposition to betting meaningless. He also stated a willingness to "try to shape" any future legislation at federal level. This was noted as a marked contrast to former Commissioner of the MLB Bud Selig, with Manfred going beyond tacit approval and stating, "There is this buzz out there in terms of people feeling that there may be an opportunity here for additional legalized sports betting."
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 >>
Especially in major tournaments, some sports books offer odds on unusual golf propositions, such as the over/under on the winning score, the over/under on the lowest round by any golfer or the over/under on the finishing position by a particular golfer. For example, the over/under on Woods' finishing position may be 3 1/2. If he finishes first, second or third in the tournament, the "under" wins; if he finishes fourth or worse, the "over" tickets cash.
While home field advantage may be a sports term, it can also be linked to your house, your route to work, or even a trip to a familiar grocery store. Think about this for a second. If you've ever hosted a party at your house, you know where everything is and you would have free reign to go into any cupboard, drawer or room you that you please. That would be an example of home-house advantage. If you've ever gone to an unfamiliar grocery store (maybe you weren't around town but you needed to make a pit stop), it is going to take you a while to find exactly what it is you are looking for. Read More >>
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.
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.”
A favorite (e.g. Patriots -280) on the money line works just like our bet price example above. In our new example, the Patriots are listed at -280, meaning you would need to risk $280 for a return of $100 on them. It follows that a winning bet on the Pats pays $100 (plus your initial investment of $280 back). This added risk is why betting the spread is usually more popular, especially on favorites.
First and foremost, I would look at the overall offensive rankings of both teams. Even though the saying is that defense wins championship, offense wins games, and an explosive offense could be the difference between you not only covering the spread, but also hitting the over/under bet. There is a common belief that sharp sports bettors don’t bet favorites and don’t like offensive juggernauts. I am here to tell you that is bologna. Some of our biggest wagers each and every football season will be on a well focused large favorite. There is no better bet out there than finding an attentive favorite that is ready to pour it on.
If you've ever found yourself cursing the game line or completely dumbfounded at how a basketball total from the Serbian basketball league lands right on the "over/under" number, I can assure you that you are not alone. Setting the right number is the heartbeat of any sportsbook which is why they hire the sharpest minds in the betting game and task them with calculating the lines. It's not often you come across a line that is far off from what actually happens in the game. Sportsbooks have the utmost trust in their linemakers, so that when they post their lines to the betting public they aren't vulnerable to big losses. Read More >>
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.
The moneyline works differently. With this type of wager whichever team wins outright pays off. There is no spread. How does the line work? The favorite is listed with a minus sign and a number. That number is the amount of cash that must be bet in order to win $100. The underdog is posted with a plus sign in front of a number. The number is how much a sports bettor wins on a $100 wager.
Most online sportsbooks will list their odds in what is called “American Odds”. There are a couple different versions of sports betting odds, but these American Odds are the most common odds used. Reading and understanding sports betting odds can bet a little confusing to beginners, so we have provided an example below using two NFL football teams:
If you're seeing 15 or 25 instead of 15/1 or 25/1, you're seeing a decimal form of odds, as opposed to fractional. Multiplying your stake by decimal odds gives your total return, not your profit(which is total return -stake). To get to fractional from decimal, add 1. So 3/1 fractional = 4 decimal (just 4). 4/6 frac = (4/6+1) dec = 10/6 = 5/3, or 1.666, which is rounded to 1.67 by bookies. To go from decimal to fractional, subtract 1(which makes sense from profit = total return - stake) So 15 dec = 14/1 frac. 2.33... dec = 1.33/1, or 133/100.
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.
The last number in the top two rows of our sports line example is known as the money line. If you’re not interested in betting on the point spread, you can wager on a team to win outright. The plus sign next to the underdog (in our case, the Giants) indicates how much money you’ll earn for every $100 you bet on the money line. Conversely, the minus sign next to the favorite’s line tells you how much you have to wager in order to win $100. In our example, a $100 wager on the Giants earns you $300 should they pull off the upset, while a bet of $405 on the Cowboys will net you an extra $100. Representing odds in units of $100 makes placing different size bets easy; if you want to bet $10 on the Giants, you stand to earn $30 if they win, while a $40.50 bet on the Cowboys will net you an additional $10.
If you see the point spread move, let’s say from -9 on Tuesday to -10.5 on Friday, this is known as a line move. It occurs when there is a surplus of bettors wagering on the same side of the game and sportsbooks move the line to balance the action. That means encouraging more people to bet the other way by making the line more appealing. This reduces risk for the sportsbook, who wants to have an equal handle on each team.