A point spread (or line) is a tool used by sportsbooks to attract wagers on both sides of a game. The line is most commonly used in football and basketball games. Because it’s rare for two teams in a pro sports game to be completely evenly-matched, one team will have an advantage, another will be seen as the underdog. The point spread is the handicap offered to the underdog to level the playing field, so to speak.
For example, in NFL wagering you’ll have a pool of 12-14 quarterbacks, running backs, etc. and you can choose who will have the most fantasy points, 2nd most fantasy points, 3rd most fantasy points. Each player starts the week with certain odds that change as money wagered on different players. Your payout is based on the closing odds like parimutuel horse wagering.
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).
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.
Another way to beat football point spreads is to shop for off market prices. For example, let's say you're shopping online betting sites and see every site is offering Vikings +7.0. Then, you stumble upon one site that's offering +7.5. There's a good chance that this is a +EV wager, simply because it is out of sync with every other site. Please note that this strategy isn't quite the same as simply shopping for the best lines. Here, you're specifically looking for wagers that are +EV because they're against the market.
First, however, a word of caution: Sports betting can be a fun and profitable venture. However, like most good things in life there are pitfalls to be aware of. You should be able to enjoy many positive experiences as long as you bet in moderation and under control. We know you have heard this before but it definitely bears repeating: don’t bet money you can’t afford to lose, either emotionally or financially. If you or someone you know shows signs of compulsive gambling, one place to find help is Gamblers Anonymous.
This is where you simply wager on which team will win the game outright, no point spreads, no BS…just the straight up winner. Although this may appear to be easier, you will pay for it as the odds (payout) will reflect the lack of a point spread. If you wager on a favorite, then you will win less than with a point spread, but if you wager on the underdog…and win…you will receive and even greater win amount based on the higher risk taken.
Many reasons contribute to why point spread betting is one of the most favored by NFL players, certainly one reason it is so attractive to the recreational player is that essentially you have a 50-50 proposition on every team no matter who they are playing meaning you have the opportunity to bet your favorite team no matter who their opponents and in theory have a 50% chance of winning your bet at reasonable odds. Take the 2008 Detroit Lions who went through the regular season without winning a game, now betting them on the NFL money line odds would have been a disaster whereas their point spread record for that season was 7 wins and 9 losses. Similarly the 2007 Dolphins went through the NFL regular season with only one win however their point spread record stood at 5 wins, 7 losses and 4 pushes against the closing line.
Many of the leading gambling bookmakers from the 1930s to the 1960s got their start during the prohibition era of the 1920s. They were often descendants of the influx of immigrants coming into the USA at this time. Although the common stereotype is that these bookies were of Italian descent, many leading bookies were of eastern European ancestry.
In addition to the spread bet, a very common "side bet" on an event is the total (commonly called the over/under or O/U) bet. This is a bet on the total number of points scored by both teams. Suppose team A is playing team B and the total is set at 44.5 points. If the final score is team A 24, team B 17, the total is 41 and bettors who took the under will win. If the final score is team A 30, team B 31, the total is 61 and bettors who took the over will win. The total is popular because it allows gamblers to bet on their overall perception of the game (e.g., a high-scoring offensive show or a defensive battle) without needing to pick the actual winner.
On June 11, 2018, New Jersey became the third state to legalize sports betting, after Nevada and Delaware, with Gov. Phil Murphy signing the legislation into law. Sports betting in New Jersey began when a sportsbook opened at Monmouth Park Racetrack on June 14, 2018. Following this, sportsbooks opened at the casinos in Atlantic City and at Meadowlands Racetrack.
Each week we see the volatility in the pro football point spread market with opening spreads often but not always moving and closing at a different number. In general the movements are caused by the weight of money on one side or the other however injury rumors or confirmation of an injury to a key player, unrest in a particular NFL team's management or any number of other reasons can contribute to a point spread line being reassessed and changed by the sportsbooks. The question is often asked then, is it better to place your NFL point spread wager early on the opening lines or wait until the hour or two before kick off? There are certainly pros and cons for both which are discussed further in The Football Lines .com's When to Place Your NFL Bet article however ultimately there isn't a definitive right or wrong answer as varying NFL betting situations can require a different and flexible approach.
These are just a very small selection of some props. Many bookmakers offer dozens of different options, particularly on high profile matches. Props are generally considered a fun type of bet rather than a way to make money, but it is possible to make consistent profits from them. We explain more about props on the following page, where we also offer some strategy advice.
If you'd rather not deal with point spreads, you can do a "Money Line" wager, which is whether the team/player you bet on wins or loses. You will see "Hawaii Tech +150 or Alaska Tech -140". This means if you bet on Hawaii Tech, if you bet $100, you would profit $150 (returns $250), while to win $100 on Alaska Tech, you must put up $140. Those ratios work whether you're betting $100, $10, or any other multiple of money.
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.
For starters, you will need somewhere to place bets. If you are in Vegas, great! You can bet at one of the sportsbooks in their casinos. As more and more states pass laws to legalize sports betting, you will also be able to place wagers at local casinos in your area. You could also find a local bookie to bet through, but we recommend betting online.
If you've ever made a full-game bet that was completely toast by half time, I will assume you know all about the half time bet. If you are one of the lucky few who don't know what that feeling is like, a half time bet allows you to wager on the outcome of the second half on any particular game - regardless of what happened in the first half. If you look hard enough and focus in on one or two games, you can often find a line that offers more value than you would normally find on a full game line because the line is soft. Read More >>
There are also half bets, which are a wager placed on the odds posted for the first half or second half of a football game only. All halftime wagers are calculated the same as a straight wager. Another type of bet is a parlay which is a selection of 2 or more teams. All teams wagered on in a parlay must win. If there is a tie on any bet you would be paid out on the next payoff. For example, if you had a 5 team parlay and two teams tied, you would then be paid on a three team parlay if all the other teams won. Another type of football bet is called a teaser, which is a selection of two or more teams in one wager in which the point spread is adjusted in your favor. The number of football teams selected and the number of points selected determines the odds for payout.
When you see a moneyline value associated with the point spread, it is the percentage amount you must pay in order to book the bet. Also known as the juice or vig, if you see -11.5 (-115), it means you have to bet $115 to win $100 — a 15 percent commission for the sportsbook. The underdog may see a value such as +11.5 (+105), which means you’ll have to bet $100 to win $105 if your team successfully covers the spread.