A quick word on that annoying half point in the point spread – most lines you’ll come across will use half points, but it’s not standard practice across the board. When you see a line with a full number instead of a number with a half point, your wager could end up as a push. In our example, if the line were 7 instead of 7.5 and the final difference in points was exactly 7, your wager is returned to you, and neither you nor the book makes money.
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The point spread is essentially a handicap towards the underdog. The wager becomes "Will the favorite win by more than the point spread?" The point spread can be moved to any level to create an equal number of participants on each side of the wager. This allows a bookmaker to act as a market maker by accepting wagers on both sides of the spread. The bookmaker charges a commission, or vigorish, and acts as the counterparty for each participant. As long as the total amount wagered on each side is roughly equal, the bookmaker is unconcerned with the actual outcome; profits instead come from the commissions.
The point spread is a handicap placed on one team for betting purposes only, it has no place in the game itself. It's designed to give both teams an equal chance at winning in the context of wagers. Think of it this way: If last season's Super Bowl champion was playing a basement-dweller team that hadn't won a game all year, that's a shoo-in bet. Of course, you're going to take the Super Bowl champs, and in all likelihood, you're going to win. What's the fun in that? Even your bragging rights would be next to nil.
You don’t have layers of complexity to fight through to see if your prediction is a positive expected value move (one that is going to make you money). With some simple mathematical calculations, you can figure out whether or not there is value in a bet. Even if you don’t like math and would prefer not to use it when assessing value and making your picks, it’s still much easier to “eyeball” value with moneyline bets because of the simplicity.
The most important takeaway is the actual pointspread, which is seven points in this example. The plus sign is always in front of the spread for the underdog and the minus sign is used to signify the favorite. Next to the pointspread in this example is (-110). This number reflects the actual commission (or juice) that the sportsbook is charging to book this bet. If you wager $100 on New England as the favorite and the Patriots go on to win my more than seven points, you would win $100. If they won by fewer than seven points or lost the game outright, you would owe this betting outlet $110. If New England wins by exactly seven points, the bet is considered to be a PUSH and no money exchanges hands. You only pay the 10 percent commission on losing bets.
For example, imagine a game where the odds were -550 for the favorite and +450 for the underdog. A bettor shopping around for lines might be delighted to see the same favorite offered at -490 and enthusiastically back the team at those odds simply because those are the best odds available. However, if we removed the vig from -550 and +450, we'd see that the fair odds are actually -466 and +466. So, placing a wager at odds of -490 doesn't actually offer any value.
If you want to bet on football, then you have plenty of options. There are not only lots of games you can bet on, there are also lots of different types of wagers you can place. Point spreads and totals are the most popular types, by quite a distance, and many football bettors stick solely to those. This isn't really the ideal approach, as some of the other wagers can be very useful in the right circumstances.
Is there value there? Yes. Are you going to make money off that bet? Well, it depends. If you’re only able to make a bet like this once, then you’re most likely going to lose. In order to realize that value, you’ll need to be in a lot of similar opportunities. If you have a very long-term betting strategy, then you can probably get away with making this bet. But if you’re looking for some more regular profit, you might want to steer clear of this. The odds say that the team is only going to win the game a little under 3 times for every 100 times they play. There is value there, but it depends on your betting strategy if you want to make that bet.
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.