One important assumption is that to be credited with a win, either team only needs to win by the minimum of the rules of the game, without regard to the margin of victory. This implies that teams in a winning position will not necessarily try to extend their margin—and more importantly, each team is only playing to win rather than to beat the point spread. This assumption does not necessarily hold in all situations. For example, at the end of a season, the total points scored by a team can affect future events such as playoff seeding and positioning for the amateur draft, and teams may "run up" the score in such situations. In virtually all sports, players and other on-field contributors are forbidden from being involved in sports betting and thus have no incentive to consider the point spread during play; any attempt to manipulate the outcome of a game for gambling purposes would be considered match fixing, and the penalty is typically a lifetime banishment from the sport, such is the lack of tolerance for gambling in sport.
Sometimes a line will move far enough to create a “middle” opportunity. Say the Texas Longhorns end up facing the Wisconsin Badgers in the first round of March Madness. If you have Texas early as a 5-point favorite, and I move the line to Texas –7 later in the week, then you can also place a bet on Wisconsin +7. If Texas happens to win by six points, both your bets cash in. Texas winning by either five or seven gives you a win and a push. Any other result creates a win and a loss, so you’re only risking the vigorish.
On December 7, 1980 the San Francisco 49ers overcame a halftime deficit of 28 points in what became the greatest regular season comeback victory in NFL regular season history. By the beginning of the third quarter, notorious Vegas bookmaker Frank Rosenthal received forfeiture notices from 246 San Francisco bettors totaling more than $25,000 in premature winnings. Rosenthal was able to retain these winnings despite the final outcome of the game due to gambling regulations previously established by the NAGRA.
Without a points handicap, it would not make sense to pay both sides of a wager the same amount when it's clear that not all teams are on equal footing. In fact, it is entirely possible for a team to lose the game in real-life but still win a bet if they only lose by less than a set number of points. Vice versa, a team can win a game, but lose the wager if they do not win by more points than what was predicted.
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