Handicapping and Sports Betting

Sports handicapping is done by professional oddsmakers, who weight the relative odds of contestants in a sporting event to win that event. Several methods of assigning odds to a game, match, or race are used in the gambling industry. I want to discuss the most common forms of odds used today and familiarize would-be gamblers with the notation systems for betting. The two main types of wagers I want to discuss are the pointspread bets and the moneyline wagers, because any online gambler is going to run into these wagers in their time betting on sports. I’ll discuss in brief other betting types, too.

Point Spread Bets

Point spread bets are the wagers you’ve probably seen listed in major newspapers (purely for entertainment purposes). The point spread seldom involves which team is going to win or lose, but whether the favorite “covers the spread” or the underdog can win “getting the points”. For a football game, a point spread might read +7 for the underdog and -7 for the favorite. What this means is you’ll have to either add seven points to the underdog’s score or subtract seven points from the favorite’s score to know which side won the bet.

This can make for some interesting watching, because a favorite which is 4 points ahead midway through the 4th quarter has the option of scoring a touchdown to win the bet, kicking a field goal for a push on the bet, or being stopped from scoring again and losing the bet–despite winning the game outright. The point spread is supposed to make wagering fair for both favorites or underdogs, because the relative strengths of the team or players are given “handicapped”, supposedly giving each team an equal chance to win. Of course, gamblers think they can find soft point spreads which aren’t handicapped right, so they can wager on the side of the bet they think is receiving too many points. It’s a constant source of amazement to many betters how often the casino sportsbooks can get close to pointspread.

Moving the Point Spread

Sometimes after a pointspread has been announced, the majority of gamblers (or the majority of the betting money) is placed on one side of the wager or the other. Oddsmakers want 50% of the money betting on one team and 50% of the money betting on the other team, so they can make sure money on the vigorish (betting fee). When too much money is bet on one side of the equation, then the bookies and sports books are likely to move the point spread to encourage more bets on the side which hasn’t receive much money. In this way, the line might move a half-a-point, a point, or even several points from the time it’s released.

When the point spread moves, some gamblers have the theory that the public doesn’t know as much as the casinos, so they bet against the movement. These betters assume that the casino or oddsmaker knows something that the mass of gamblers don’t know, so a person should bet against the movement in the point spread. In truth, handicappers aren’t releasing point spreads to tell you who they think will win, but how they think the public will bet. Assume nothing when gambling for real money.

Moneyline Bets – Straight Bets

Moneyline bets are the favorite of bookmakers from the United States. The moneyline wager doesn’t require a point spread. Instead, the relative odds among the favorite and the underdog are weighted according to how much is required on either side to make a wager. If you’re even bet on boxing or mixed martial arts, you’re probably familiar with the moneyline odds.

How Moneyline Wagers Work

Most of the time with a moneyline wager, one contestant will have a positive figure and the other have a negative figure besides their name, like you would see on a point spread bet. The difference is you’ll see numbers in the hundreds, instead of point spreads in the points or tens-of-points. A positive figure once again distinguishes the underdog in the contest, with their fractional odds of winning being shown. A wager of +200 means they have 2/1 odds and you would win $200 by making a $100 bet. So if you make a wager of $100 and win, you’ll receive back your $100 plus $200 additional dollars.

A negative figure shows the favorite’s odds, shows the fractional odds again, but of a fraction less than 1. Therefore, a -200 moneyline bet means a bet of 1/2, so you would have to wager $200 to receive $100 in return. If you win, you’ll receive back your $200 plus an additional $100. If a bet has even odds, the sportsbook might read +100 or -100. Just remember that 100 is the default bet amount, so 100 is always indicative of 1:1 odds.

Why Moneyline Bets Are Good

In a moneyline bet, the favorite therefore has to bet a lot of money to win a lesser amount, while the underdog better can receive a lot of money for a smaller stake. The advantage to everyone of the moneyline wager is the fact point spreads don’t affect the outcome: you’re betting on who wins or loses straight up. Though the moneyline bet seems to confuse many new gamblers, once the bet is made, all you have to do is cheer for a team to either win or lose. Thus the moneyline wager is less confusing and less frustrating to gamblers once it’s been made.

Over/Under Bets

Another common form of wager is the over/under sports bet. In this proposition, you aren’t wagering whether you think one team is going to win. Instead, you’re betting on whether you think the game will be high scoring or low scoring or, better put, whether the scoring will be greater or lesser than the set line. If you see an over/under bet of 53 for the New England Patriots and Houston Texans, then you are betting on whether you think the teams’ combined score is going to be 54-or-more or 52-or-less. To those who bet the over, it doesn’t matter if one team wins 54-0 or if the teams tie 27-27, as long as the score goes over 53 points. To those who wager on the under, the Patriots could win 41-10 or the Texans could win a 28-24 nailbiter. If the points were under 53, you would win.