Here’s an analogy. Remember when you played basketball growing up with your older brother or the older kid from down the street? It wasn’t fair if you played straight up, so they would spot you a few points to try and even things out. For example, let’s say you decided that you would play to 10 points. They might spot you 5 points in order to try and make things fairer.
One of the most basic concepts when it comes to betting on sports, especially football and basketball is the pointspread. Even people that do not bet on sports understand what it means when they read or hear that New England is a seven-point favorite against Miami. While reading a pointspread and understanding what they mean is a very basic sports betting concept, there is still more to these numbers than meets the eye.
The key to successful betting lies in quality and not quantity. Your overall chances of winning are much greater if you pick your spots carefully, and only bet when you find real value. There isn't a huge number of NFL games each week, but there's enough that it's simply not realistic to think you can handicap them all. And if you're also betting on college games then this is even more of an issue.
Score three is usually the one that confuses people. Remember, when betting on point spreads, the favorite has to win by more than the number of points they are projected to win by. The underdog can lose the game, and you can still win your bet as long as they don't lose by more points than they are spotted. In the above example, if you were to bet on the Chargers at +3, you can imagine that like you have three bonus points to play with. You can lose by one point or by two points and still win the bet. If you bet the Chargers at +3 and lose by three points, it is a tie.
Remember earlier when we said that most point spread bets in basketball pay out at -110? Well, this is where the vig is located. Sportsbooks will work to get equal amounts of money on both sides of a game and make their money off of the vig. If they are successful in doing so, it does not matter to them who wins the game. For example, let's look at our earlier example. Here are what the odds would look like at the sportsbook:
We do want to make sure to point out that this is total money returned and not your profit. We went over the difference above when discussing the American odds. Let’s take a look at the same bet again, but this time with decimal odds. We should be expecting to see a profit of $33.33 for an Eagles bet and $240 for a Falcons bet since we know that the bets are the exact same and are just presented in a different format.
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 money line bet always relates to bets of $100. A favorite will be represented by a negative money line figure such as -180. This means that in order to profit $100 off your winning bet, you would need to risk $180 dollars. But as I’m sure you already know, you can risk any amount you are comfortable with and the payment (should you win) will be in proportion to the odds. For example, a $50 bet on a -180 line would win you $27 dollars.
The negative (-) sign indicates that the Cowboys are the favorites, while the positive (+) sign indicates that the New York Giants are the underdogs. With the spread set at 2.5 points, a bet on the Cowboys would mean that they would have to win by more than 2.5 points (3 or more) in order for you to win that bet. A bet on New York would mean that the Giants would have to either lose by 2.5 or less points (2 or less) or win the game outright in order for your bet to win.
In this example, we have a favorite to win, and an underdog. The Packers are the favorites, and that is shown by the (–) value in front of the 6. Underdogs are represented by the (+) value. The 6 point value is how many points either team could win, or lose by. If you think the Packers will win by MORE than 6 points, then you’d bet on the favorite in this case, meaning that the Packers have to win by 7 or more points in order for you to win your bet.