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.
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.
When the point spread was invented in Chicago by Charles McNeil the money line took a backseat. When two unevenly matched teams played, the playing field was leveled by having the favorite give points (for example Chicago Bears –7) while the underdog got points (Minnesota Vikings +7). No matter which team the bettor took the bettor would always risk $110 to win $100. The extra $10 needed to win $100 is called the juice or the vig, it is basically the house’s or the bookie’s take. It’s 10-percent of the bet so it would take $33 to return $30 and $440 to return $400 etc. (winning bettors get the vig back).
According to an article in The Times dated 10 April 2009, approximately 30,000 spread bet accounts were opened in the previous year, and that the largest study of gambling in the UK on behalf of the Gambling Commission found that serious problems developed in almost 15% of spread betters compared to 1% of other gambling. A report from Cass Business School found that only 1 in 5 gamblers ends up a winner. As noted in the report, this corresponds to the same ratio of successful gamblers in regular trading. Evidence from spread betting firms themselves actually put this closer to being 1 in 10 traders as being profitable, with a high number of clients suffering from the volatility that is supposed to be one of the benefits of spread betting.
The -110 on either side is like paying a tax or commission to the sportsbook. Bettors would pay 10 percent (aka juice) to the sportsbook, which is essentially a fee for brokering the wager. So, the -110 indicates that a bettor must risk $110 to win $100. Some sportsbooks will even reduce the juice for you which means you can earn the same $100 payout but risk less money to do it.
Sports betting has been around since 1000 B.C in China, where betting on animal fights was commonplace. In ancient Rome, one could wager on the Gladiatorial games. The idea of betting on sports is as old as organized sport itself. But up until the 1940s, bettors were fairly limited in what kind of bets they could make. The standard system of odds would allow bets on, for example, the 3-1 odds that the Steelers would beat the Browns.
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.
Wagering on the NFL revolves around the point spread in which one team is designated the favorite and the other team is called the underdog. The NFL point spread sets a specific number of points that the favorite must win by in order for a person betting that particular team to win their wager. Lets use an example from last week's NFL slate to demonstrate the art of NFL point spreads. This past weekend the New England Patriots played the Seattle Seahawks. The Patriots were four point favorites in that game. So in your local newspaper, you might have seen something similar to this illustration.
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