As a proud Canadian and a lover of hockey, this article shouldn't really surprise my American counterparts. You already know we like to do things differently here in Canada with our pro sports. A prime example is the CFL. However, hockey is no different. If you bet on hockey, you're usually betting the money line - who you think is going to win the game straight up. But in crazy Canadian fashion, sportsbooks offer something called the "puck line" which is exactly like the American version of the point spread. Read More >>
The bookmaker functions as a market maker for sports wagers, most of which have a binary outcome: a team either wins or loses. The bookmaker accepts both wagers, and maintains a spread (the vigorish) which will ensure a profit regardless of the outcome of the wager. The Federal Wire Act of 1961 was an attempt by the US government to prevent illegal bookmaking. However, this Act does not apply to other types of online gambling. The Supreme Court has not ruled on the meaning of the Federal Wire Act as it pertains to online gambling.
Betting “against the spread” (ATS) just means you’re betting on the point spread in a particular matchup as opposed to the moneyline, or some other type of wager. Bettors often use a team’s ATS record to gauge its performance against the spread. For example, the New England Patriots were 11-5 ATS in the 2017 regular season, meaning they covered the posted point spread 11 times, and failed to cover five times.
Sports betting has resulted in a number of scandals in sport, affecting the integrity of sports events through various acts including point shaving (players affecting the score by missing shots), spot-fixing (a player action is fixed), bad calls from officials at key moments, and overall match fixing (the overall result of the event is fixed). Examples include the 1919 World Series, the alleged (and later admitted) illegal gambling of former MLB player Pete Rose, and former NBA referee Tim Donaghy.
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.
*Betting $110 to win $100 obviously is not an even bet. The extra $10 (or 10%) is the sportsbook’s commission, also known as the vigorish or juice. This commission is reduced to 5% with 5Dimes and other reduced juice books, but this commission is found everywhere. You are given this back when you win, but is obviously kept by the house when you lose.
For reading the fraction odds, I strongly recommend converting them to a decimal. This will make figuring out your potential win much much easier! To do this, just like in 2nd grade, you take the first number and divide it by the second. So if your odds read 7/4, you simply divide (7) by (4), which equals 1.75. That is the decimal form odds, now you simply multiply (1.75) by whatever your wager amount is to figure out your potential profit. In this case, if you were to risk $100, then your potential win would be $175 profit if you are correct! Also, you will receive your initial bet amount of $100 as well, for a total of $275 in your hand.
The odds given on the spread are usually -110 unless otherwise noted. It is not uncommon to see one side of the spread being -105, with the other side being -115. If you don’t see any odds listed for each side of NFL spreads you are supposed to assume the odds are -110 on each. Not sure how to read NFL betting odds? Check out our Sports Betting Odds guide.
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.
NFL odds do not stop at the point spread and OVER/UNDER. There are numerous ways to bet on football these days, including the NFL moneyline, futures (odds to win the Super Bowl), and first-half and second-half betting lines. Throw in fun fantasy-style prop bets (will Tom Brady throw for 300+ yards this week) and live NFL betting (where you can wager on the next play and on odds that change all game long) and the importance of understanding how NFL odds work has never been greater. Check out the lines and bookmark for more updates and football lines enhancements in the coming weeks and months.