Sportsbooks will use a variety of methods to set their line on a game. Some firms will use computer simulations, some will use a form of power ratings, some will use an experienced team to set the line – some may even use a combination of all three. Other books may even wait to see where their rivals set their lines before dipping their toe in the water themselves.
In this example the Jets are listed as four-point favorites (-4) over the Bills and the 49ers are three-point underdogs (+3) against the Seahawks. So, if you bet $110 on the favored Jets, they must defeat the Bills by more than four points in order to win $100. If you bet $110 on the underdog 49ers you will win $100 if they win outright or lose by less than the three-point spread. If the final score happens to end up exactly on the number it's a tie, or 'push,' and you get your money back.
If you are betting on a sport where there are multiple entrants, like in a race or tournament, you may find that every entrant is paying out at favorite odds. This is because it’s much more challenging to pick a winner from a large field, and the sportsbook will be rewarding you for that. Just know that when you see the plus sign, you will be getting paid better than even money for a correct pick.
Where people seem to get confused with moneyline bets is with how they are presented and how they pay out. While the criteria to win a moneyline bet will never change, the amount you win and how the bet is presented will change. Don’t worry, though. It’s easy to understand if it’s presented to you properly. We are going to cover this thoroughly in the coming sections. You’ll be a moneyline expert ready to crush the books when you get done with this guide.
The last type of handicap bet that we want to talk about is an Asian handicap bet. Don't worry, you don't have to be Asian to place this bet; it's open to everyone. This form of handicap bet is set up through the use of whole, and half number point spreads to ensure that no draws are possible. The difference between Asian handicap bets and no draw handicap bets is that the Asian handicap bets have the possibility of what is called a split handicap outcome. Your bet will have a whole number and a half number line that are treated effectively as two separate bets, but all in the same bet.
If the bookmaker was only confident enough to give Seattle a field goal’s lead on the Patriots, it was clearly going to be a tight game. Oddsmakers aren’t often that wrong about flagship games like the Super Bowl. All things being equal, it’s likely the betting public would have taken the Seahawks to win the game and have been done with it. But throw in the point spread that gave the Patriots 2.5 points, and the proposition seems more equal.
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:
If the Cowboys are 6-point favorites, their odds are -6. If the Giants are 6-point underdogs, their odds are +6. From the oddsmakers' perspective, the Giants are starting the game with a 6-0 lead, while from the Dallas side, the Cowboys are starting with a 0-6 deficit. If you bet on the Cowboys and they win 34-30, they failed to cover the spread by two points. If you bet on the Giants, they beat the spread by two points.
Many people will say that the odds on a spread bet are even, paying 1:1. But this is not true. The actual odds are 0.90:1. For every dollar bet, you can win 90 cents. When checking out the spread, you’ll usually see a number listed next to each spread. That number, which is your stake, is posted as -110. This number tells you how much you have to bet to win $100. If you put $110 on either team, you stand to win $100. If you bet $11.00, you can win $10.00. Every NFL point spread works this way.
In an effort to have equal money on both sides of a wager, the sportsbook operator will move the point spread to attract money on the side that customers aren’t betting on. The odds for a point spread might change before the actual point spread. There are certain point spread numbers, like 3 and 7 in football, the sportsbook operators would like to avoid moving away from since they final score margin falls on these two numbers most often.
This used to be impossible or extremely time-consuming when only land based sportsbooks and casinos existed. You would have to drive hundreds of miles if you wanted to get to another casino and then hope they still had the different line. This would cost you travel money as well as time. Online sportsbooks make this extremely easy now. You can check several sportsbooks lines on a game within a matter of seconds or minutes. It doesn't cost you any additional money, just a few minutes of your time and can have a huge impact on the outcome of your bets.
The most common NFL spreads are usually set between about 2.5-10.5 points, but you will also almost always have games each week with spreads lower than 2.5 and higher than 10.5. In the event that the oddsmakers feel the game doesn’t need a spread, it would be set at 0 or what some call a pick’em (both teams are given even odds to win for this type of bet).
Betting against the spread - In the sports betting industry the acronym ATS is used to label a team's record when betting against the spread. ATS records are a valuable tool in sports handicapping. A team may be playing great straight-up, winning a lot of games but at the same time they could have a dreadful ATS record because they are overvalued by the general public and the oddsmakers. And, conversely, a team could be losing a lot of games but playing in a lot of close games as underdogs and have a good ATS record going.
When betting on the favorite, simply divide the negative moneyline by 100 to get a decimal. If you were planning to bet on the Celtics in the above example, this would give you 2.40 (ignore the negative). Now all you have to do is divide your stake by that number in order to see what your potential payouts would be. Let's say you wanted to stake $650. When you divide that number by 2.40, you'd see that your potential payout is $270.83.
The house vigorish - and your chances of winning - get worse with the more teams you add. So while some sportsbooks will let you place a 15-teamer with astronomical odds, you probably have a better chance of being struck by lighting - twice - before winning one. You are much better off sticking to two-team parlays exclusively, if you insist on taking poor odds and placing parlay wagers.
Another form of futures betting involves the over/under on the number of games a particular team will win in the regular season. This type of wager is typically found on pro football and major league baseball, and sometimes on pro basketball. For example, the over/under on the Yankees may be 93 wins. If the Yankees go on to win 94 or more games, the "over" is a winner. If they win 92 or fewer games, the "under" is a winner. If they win exactly 93, the bet is a push and tickets are refunded.