Have you ever heard of moneyline betting? It's an American term that's traditionally associated with betting on the major US sports. These wagers are available in other parts of the world too, but they're typically referred to as win bets. The same principle applies though. When you correctly select which team will win a match, you'll get paid out at the relevant odds.
Here in this point spread example for the NFL, the Falcons are playing the Panthers. Atlanta has been set as a three-point favorite on the betting line. That means that for Atlanta to cover the spread that has been set, they will need to win by at least four points. And for Carolina to cover the point spread, they can do so with a loss by two points or less, or obviously a win straight up. If the Falcons win by exactly three points, the bet would result in a push with no payouts.
Actually handicapping games is far from simple though. Or, at least, handicapping them well is. There are all kinds of different factors that can affect the outcome of a game, and you need to take as many of them as possible into account. You also need to assess just how much of an impact those factors will have, and try to accurately evaluate just how likely a team is to win. For more advice on how to do this, please see the following article.
When you bet on the money line, you are betting on one side to simply win. Any time you see a money line, the minus sign (-) indicates the favorite while the plus sign (+) indicates the underdog. For example: Chicago Bears –240 vs. Minnesota Vikings +210. Using $100 as the base, it will take $240 wagered on the Chicago Bears to win $100. For a bettor wagering on the underdog Minnesota Vikings in this scenario, $100 will win $210. With the money line you just have to hope your team wins rather than cover a point spread. Of course, the one downside is having to risk more money to return the same amount that a point spread bet would net you.
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.
You may be wondering how we determined which of the two teams was the favorite and which was the underdog. You may also be wondering how much you get paid out for a bet on either side of this game. If you look at the odds above (this is a screenshot from an actual online sportsbook), you’ll see that all of that information is given to you. Before the spread number of 4 ½, you’ll see a plus or minus sign. The plus sign indicates the underdog and the minus sign indicates the favorite.
Earlier, we explained how the implied probability of -240 is 70.59% and how the implied probability of +210 is 32.36%. Notice these two probabilities total 102.95%. The extra 2.95% is the bookmaker's advantage. It's called vig, and it's basically a commission that they charge customers for placing wagers. By removing the vig, you can see what the fair odds on the game would be.
Betting against the spread or ATS, as it's known in the sports betting industry, is among the toughest bets to turn a profit in over the long run. When looking at a team's record, the only thing that matters to them is winning the game outright and moving up in the regular-season standings. Teams like Golden State or the New England Patriots are generally always among the best teams in the league (straight up) but are typically a bad bet to make ATS. The reason for this is because the better the team is, the more public attention they draw and the higher the point spread is. Sportsbook know which teams the public darlings are and as such inflate the spreads in order to take advantage of how overvalued the public makes them. A team like the Patriots could go 14-2 every season but they could be a dismal 7-9 or 6-10 against the spread because they are laying more than 10 points in every game.
Say the Bears are a six-point favorite over the Lions and the total is 42. To bet the Bears, you must "lay the points," meaning they must win by seven or more to cover and give you the win. Betting the underdog Lions, you are "taking" six points, and they can lose by five or fewer, or win the game outright, and you have a winning bet. If the Bears win by exactly six, both sides "push" and all bets are returned. It's also a push if the final score equals 42, otherwise the over or under will win.
Obviously, the first three letters on the top two lines of the three-line package of symbols represents a team in the game you’re wagering on; NYG stands for the New York Giants, while DAL stands for the Dallas Cowboys. The number next to each team’s name is known as the spread or the point spread. Wagers on the point spread are among the most popular sports wagers in the world. The reason this wager is popular is that it doesn’t matter which team wins or loses; what matters is the amount of points the teams score, and whether or not the team you place your money on beats the difference in points (the ‘spread’) or not.
When two teams square up for a matchup, whether that be on the gridiron or on the basketball court, one team is typically better than the other (for whatever reason you want to believe). Since sportsbooks are in the business of making money, they tag the better team with a point spread, thus making them the "favorites" to win that specific game. Normally, the favorite has a few favorable factors working for them like playing at home or being well rested or playing a revenge game against a team that previously beat them. Every factor counts in the world of betting, and it's up to you to decide if the "favorite' can, in fact, cover the point spread.
Now Arkansas can lose by up to eight points, and you can still win a bet on Arkansas. As the Arkansas line gets more appealing, more people will start to bet that side. The sportsbook will continue to manipulate the line this way up until game time to try and get the bets as even as possible. While they won't be perfect about it, they can usually get it close enough in most situations. It's also important to note that the line will sometimes shift by half points and it's also capable of shifting back in the other direction if too much money comes in on the other side.
Handicap league bets are quite similar to the bets we've already talked about except you are now betting on a team's performance across the entire course of the season. Bets are made at the beginning of the season before the first game is played and are not paid out until the last game of the season has been played. Here is a screenshot of some handicap league bets on Premier League soccer.
Is that each game will have a favorite and an underdog. Even in contests where it’s a toss-up, the sportsbook will select someone as the favorite and the underdog for betting purposes. Depending on how big of a favorite or underdog the team or player is, the payout will be adjusted. The bigger the favorite, the smaller the payout. The bigger the underdog, the larger the payout.
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.