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.
Winning at sports betting is challenging. If it were easy, everyone would quit their jobs and do it, and sportsbooks would all be out of business. What makes it so challenging is that the lines are usually set pretty spot on which means it's a bit more challenging to pick the correct side of the bet. That being said, it's definitely not impossible to make money betting basketball point spreads. You'll have to develop a winning strategy and continually tweak it until it's perfect. Here are a few tips and strategies that will help point you in the right direction.
We went into detail earlier about what causes moneylines to move. The better you can get about predicting when these movements will occur and in what direction, the more profitable you’re going to be as a sports bettor. If you find a bet that you like, but you predict it’s going to move more in your favor, you can intelligently wait to bet and lock up a potentially much more profitable opportunity.
We're often asked a question along the lines of "why would I place moneyline wagers rather than point spread wagers?" There's no simple answer to this question really, as point spreads and moneylines shouldn't be viewed as "either/or" options as such. You don't have to decide that you're always going to bet on the spread, or that you're always going to bet moneylines. These are two different wager types that have their own merits, and any bettor should have them both in their arsenal.
What the sportsbook does to fix this is they "spot" the underdog team some points to make it fair. Obviously, these points aren't included in the actual score to determine who wins or loses the game, but they are calculated in to determine who "wins" the game in the sportsbook's eyes. If you ever played basketball as a kid against an older sibling or your dad, they would sometimes "spot" you some points to make it fairer. Let's say you were playing to 20 points, they might "spot" you 10 points to make it fairer. They would then have to score 20 points to win, but you would only have to score 10. This gives you a chance actually to win the game.
The biggest advantage of the moneyline for the NBA is that your team doesn't have to overcome the point spread for you to win your game. If your handicapping leads you to believe that one team is likely to win but you can be less certain that they will win by as much as the point spread then the moneyline may be attractive. You are sacrificing some potential return because the moneyline won't pay as much for the favorite as the point spread will, but it's obviously better to make a small profit than it is to lose a bet. This is particularly attractive in basketball because the favorites can often face large point spreads and teams can win comfortably and effectively without covering the spread.
The "Total Points", also known as Goals or Runs, is a 2 selection odds based on the total number of points scored in a game or event by the competitors. The "Total" is set at a specific line with outcomes listed as either Over or Under the listed amount. As with Point Spread/Handicap betting, in those circumstances where the result of the game or event Total point scored is exactly equal to the betting line, then all bets on this offer will be declared void. “Totals” can also be set on any number of predefined occurrences (e.g. goals, points, corners, rebounds, penalty minutes, etc.).
"Draw No Bet" is where it is possible to bet on either the home team or the away team. It is also common practice to refer to "Draw No Bet" in cases where no draw odds are offered. Should the specific match contain no winner (e.g. match ends as a draw), or the particular occurrence not happen (e.g. First Goal, Draw No Bet and match ends 0-0) the stakes will be refunded.
The second number in our example (-110 for both teams) tells you how much you have to wager in order to win $100. It’s an easy way to calculate how much you’ll win if your bet pays off, presented in units of $100 at a time for simplicity’s sake. Most of the time, these two numbers will be the same, because oddsmakers want to set lines so that they get as much action on the underdog as on the favorite, guaranteeing them a profit. If a book gets a single bet of $110 (by a customer hoping to win $100) on the Cowboys and a single bet of $110 on the Giants, it will have taken in $220, but will only have to pay back $210 to whichever customer wins the bet. That’s a guaranteed profit of $10, and since sportsbooks take far more than a single bet in either direction, they stand to earn that seemingly small amount of profit many times over. The $10 difference between what you wager and what you win is known as juice or vig in the sports betting industry, and it’s the way books earn their bread and butter.
Without losing you with the math, the implied probability (or how often you should win) of a +250 bet is 28.6%. This means that you should win this bet 28.6 out of 100 times. This is what the sportsbook thinks will happen. You, however, think it should be +125. The implied probability of that is 44.4% meaning that you think you should win the bet about 44.4 out of 100 times.
The only real downside to betting basketball point spreads is that the sportsbook charges a vig. While this is a downside, it is to be expected and is no different from placing any other sports bet. Obviously, the sportsbook has to make money somehow because they have to pay employees, pay for their servers or equipment, and pay for their customer service to keep you happy. This really isn't a negative about point spread bets, but just something that you should be aware of.
Moneyline bets will move the line based on the amount of money coming in on each side of the bet. It has nothing to do with who the sportsbook really thinks is going to win the game and everything to do with that delicate dance of getting the right money on both sides. For example, let’s say that the line for the Magic and Mavericks game is the following:
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.
If you’re loving some of our expert picks or have a few hot tips of your own, you’re probably itching to get your bet in before the lines move. To help you out, our team has compiled a list of the absolute best and most trusted online sportsbooks offering action on the NBA. It’s important that we note that none of these sites can pay for a better review or recommendation from us. We take our reviews seriously and our integrity even more seriously. If we allowed sites to barter or pay their way onto our lists, we’d be serving you up advertisements and not recommendations.
Money line bets are particularly attractive to square bettors when they are looking at underdogs. They see a nice high positive number and think that the payoff is significant enough to be worth the risk. Unfortunately, underdogs are underdogs for a reason, and it’s usually because they aren’t very good. However, when the right opportunity presents itself, a money line bet on an underdog can grow your bankroll quicker than betting favorites would.
This highlights a notable advantage of the moneyline wager. You get to control, to some extent, the risk versus reward. For example, you might be quite certain that the Cardinals are going to win this game, but not convinced that they're going to cover the spread. So a moneyline wager is the safe option. There's less money to be made, but less chance of losing. On the other hand, you might think that the Packers are going to cause an upset. Rather than betting on them to cover the spread, you can bet on them to win outright. There's less chance of winning such a wager, but the potential returns are much greater.
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:
The number that comes after the plus or minus sign is how significant of a favorite or underdog the teams are, regarding points. In the first game, the Bengals are a 1.5 point underdog. This means that the sportsbook thinks the Bengals are going to lose the game by 1.5 points. This means, by default, that the Chiefs are a 1.5 point favorite. This means the sportsbook thinks the Chiefs are going to win the game by 1.5 points.
The Patriots are set to take on the Rams in the greatest show on turf and money has been flowing into both sides of the Super Bowl 53 point spread. The Patriots are -3 for SB LIII according to most legal online sportsbooks but some have them listed only at -2.5. The Rams and Patriots are both offensive minded, and capable of scoring quickly; therefore, the winner will likely be whoever scores last in the game (-180). There is still no discussion of whether the roof will be open or closed at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, so weather may or may not play a factor here. Either way, make sure to get in your bet on the spread for Super Bowl 53, whether you choose the Patriots or Rams, before the 6:30 EST kickoff on Sunday, February 3rd.
In the brackets after the last two games, you will see the odds associated with each of the bets. Let's say we made our earlier example bet of the Chargers -3 and the final score of the game was Chargers 21, Cowboys 14. Looking at this, we already know that we won our bet, but just how much money are we going to get paid? For this bet, we will get paid even money because that is what is posted in the parenthesis. This means that if we bet $100, we will profit $100 for winning our bet.
As you might guess, you’re mainly going to see American odds in American sportsbooks. The other two formats are much more prominent in Europe and Asia. If you’re betting online, most sportsbooks give you the ability to change all of the odds on the site into the format that you prefer. No format is different regarding payouts; it’s just a different way of presenting the information.
If you were correct though but getting paid at the sportsbooks rate, you would lose the bet 55.6 times (-$5560) and win the bet 44.4 times (44.4 x $250 = $11,100). You would profit over $5,000 for betting on bets that you thought you were going to lose! This is finding value. Value bets are great as a part of a long term winning strategy and are the key to conquering the “simple” moneyline/win bets.
The two results above are the no-vig probabilities. If you're sharp, you'll notice that adding 68.57% and 31.43% up together will give you 100%. The extra 2.95% has been removed, so there's no more vig. We can now go to our odds converter and enter 68.57% into the implied probability field. This will give us moneyline odds of -218. If we enter 31.43%, we'll get moneyline odds of +218. The original moneyline market of the Celtics at -240 and the Grizzlies at +210 therefore has no-vig odds of the Celtics at -218 and the Grizzlies at +218.
That was all before Charles McNeil, a math teacher from Chicago, invented the concept of the point spread. An avid gambler, McNeil created what he called “wholesaling odds” and started his own bookmaking operation in the 1940s. He started out offering this new style of betting on football, but his business model grew to include basketball. McNeil changed the way sports betting was done, and his legacy lives on today in what we now call the point spread.