Point spread and handicap betting are one of the most popular forms of sports bets that you can place. The reason we say "one" of the most popular forms instead of "two" is that these bets are effectively the same thing. These bets are a lot of fun because they allow you to root for teams that you still think are going to lose. With point spread and handicap bets, the team you're betting on can lose the game, and you can still win your bet. In contrast, the team you are betting on can win the game, and you can still lose your bet. Now that we've thoroughly confused you let's build up your knowledge, so you're an expert on the bet type. This is like sports betting boot camp; we confuse you and break you down and then build you back up as a betting machine!
In most cases, the favorite will be the team with a negative moneyline (in some cases both teams can have a negative moneyline if they are both closely matched). A line of -160 means that you would have to bet $160 to win your base amount of $100. A team with a moneyline of -130 wouldn't be favored nearly as strongly as a team with a moneyline of -330.
Shopping betting lines is one of the most important things you can do when betting point spreads in basketball. While the majority of sportsbooks will have the same line, it's fairly common that you can find lines that are a half or full point different. This can have a huge impact on your bottom line. If you don't think a half point or one full point makes that big of a difference, just ask anyone who has bet sports for a while. They will inform you that getting an extra half point is like winning the sports betting lottery.
Simply, bigger returns. On a point spread bet you would usually have to spend $105 or $110 to win $100. If you bet on the moneyline you may instead only have to spend $50, or even less, to win $100. You won't win as often, of course, because the underdog not only has to cover the spread, but it actually has to win the game outright. Upsets happen, though, and good handicapping will often isolate situations where the likelihood of an upset exceeds the risk of the bet. This is especially relevant in the NBA because the number of games, and the possibility for even the best teams to have a bad night mean that major upsets are far from rare and can be very profitable.
Another thing to consider is popular winning margins, which are particularly applicable to football. Consider that many tight games may finish with either a three point or a seven point margin. If the point spread is around either of these marks, make every attempt to be the right side. For example, if you were to back a team that is either 2.5 or 3 point favorites, you’d want to back them at the 2.5 mark, as if they were to win by 3 you’d win as opposed to a push.
The level of the gambler’s profit or loss will be determined by the stake size selected for the bet, multiplied by the number of unit points above or below the gambler’s bet level. This reflects the fundamental difference between sports spread betting and fixed odds sports betting in that both the level of winnings and level of losses are not fixed and can end up being many multiples of the original stake size selected.
These are the handicap bets that we have already talked about. These are your straightforward bets that pay out according to the spread and odds posted. Draws are treated as a loss with this format. If you just scrolled to this section first, scroll up and read the general section about handicap bets because this type is addressed extensively with some great examples there.
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.
Sportsbooks will use a variety of methods to set their line on a game. Some firms will use computer simulations, some will use a form of power ratings, some will use an experienced team to set the line – some may even use a combination of all three. Other books may even wait to see where their rivals set their lines before dipping their toe in the water themselves.
As an example, let’s consider a matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and the Cincinnati Bengals. In our scenario, the Bengals are the home team, which means they will be listed last and the Colts, as the visitors, will be on the odds slip first. If Indy’s rotation number is 101, then Cincy’s rotation mark would be 102. When you place a bet live at a Vegas sportsbook or over the phone, you would say the number of the team on which you want to wager and not the name.
Where people seem to get confused with moneyline bets is with how they are presented and how they pay out. While the criteria to win a moneyline bet will never change, the amount you win and how the bet is presented will change. Don’t worry, though. It’s easy to understand if it’s presented to you properly. We are going to cover this thoroughly in the coming sections. You’ll be a moneyline expert ready to crush the books when you get done with this guide.
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.