As we mentioned in the close of the last section, sportsbooks try their best to get the same amount of total money bet on both sides of a game. If they can accomplish this, then they are guaranteed to make a profit no matter who wins or loses the game. The way a sportsbook goes about doing this is by manipulating the point spread to make the less bet side more enticing.
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.
The point spread - also called "the line" or "the spread" - is used as a margin to handicap the favorite team. For betting purposes, the oddsmaker predicts that the favored team will win by a certain number of points. This number of points is the point spread. The favorite is always indicated by a minus sign (e.g. -5.5) and the underdog by a plus sign (e.g.+5.5). If you bet on the favorite, you win your bet if the favorite wins AND their margin of victory is greater than the point spread. If you bet on the underdog, you win if the underdog wins, ties, or if the favored team wins but fails to exceed the point spread. It is standard for point spread bets in most sports that you wager $110 to win $100.
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.
Ideally, the lines I release will balance the action equally, so that the winners get paid out from the pockets of the losers and we take the vigorish. That’s an ideal that rarely happens – especially in sports without a pointspread, like NASCAR and golf. If Team A is getting too much action, I’ll move the line toward Team B to try to achieve that balance. My personal preference is to tweak the vig from –110 to –105 or +100 before taking the bigger step of moving the spread a half-point or more.
Bookmakers use odds to even out the bets, getting gamblers to wager on both sides of the line by leveling the playing field. Although there is overall parity in the NFL, there are teams that are haves and others that are have-nots. Indianapolis is still superior to Cincinnati but when they play each other the bookies have to get about half of the bettors to put cash on the Bengals. This covers the sportsbooks ensuring they’ll make a decent amount of cash on just about every game.
Moneyline bets can be presented in three different formats including moneyline, decimal, and fractional. While these will look very different, they will tell you the exact same information about the bet including who you are betting on, who the favorite or underdog is, and what the potential payout you would receive from a correct pick. We will cover all of this in the next few sections.
Some people consider sports gambling a disease which is why it is outlawed everywhere in the United States besides Las Vegas. However, many Americans still bet on sports illegally with various overseas bookies. Because of this, many Americans believe sports gambling should be made legal throughout the United States because the country is missing out on millions of potential tax dollars by sports gamblers using overseas bookies.
Hopefully, by now you are an absolute expert on point spread and handicap bet types. If you're still confused on anything, take your time and reread through the examples we posted and it should slowly become clearer to you. Sometimes the math can be a bit confusing to people, so take your time. If you are ever confused with a bet, you are making online or at a casino, just ask support of the agent for help to clarify. They will be more than happy to assist you in making sure you've bet on exactly what it is that you want to bet on. Don't worry, no one will laugh at you or give you a hard time because you are confused. We all were new to this one day, and they are specifically paid to help new bettors like you understand everything and have a much better betting experience.
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.
covering a spread - When a team surpasses the expectations of a point spread set by football experts. For instance, if a team is expected to win by 10 points, and they actually win by 11 or more, this is called 'covering' the point spread. If the team wins by nine or less, or they lose the game, this is called NOT 'covering' the point spread. If the team wins by exactly 10 points, this results in a push or tie.
It's also important to consider whether or not there's any correlation between the point spread and the betting total. If they are, a parlay wager is a good way to get maximum value. For example, a college football point spread +24.5 parlayed with under 48 points in the same game might be a great parlay bet. If the +24.5 team covers the point spread, then there's an increased chance that the game also goes under the posted total of 48.