NFL Betting: Should I Buy Points?
It doesn't matter if you are a novice bettor just learning the ropes or a professional bettor that's seen everything in their 25 years in the business, at one time or another (more like several times in your lifetime) you will have to throw away a ticket in which a team failed to cover the point spread by a half point. It is one of the more frustrating losses in the industry, right next to the classic ninth-inning bullpen collapse in baseball. Some would say losing a bet by the hook is the bettors fault, not the actual players or coaches in the game, and in some cases they would be right. Buying points while sports betting is both a blessing and a curse -- depending on if you know when to do so or not.
Picture yourself locked in to the Sunday Night Football game. You have taken a beating during the day and are looking to recoup some of the losses in order to salvage the day. Your biggest bet went up in flames because a measly half-point. Now you're on tilt and decided to buy a half-point in the nightcap between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins. The Cowboys are laying 12.5 points, so the last thing you want to have happen is another loss via the hook. So, you buy the half-point and cross your fingers. The Cowboys win the game 28-20, and that half-point you bought didn't even come into play in your wager. You just paid an extra 10 or 15 cents for no reason.
I understand the thought process of buying points, and it does always seem tempting, but the reality of the matter is that buying points in bad spots is one of the quickest ways to drain your bankroll.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the process of "buying points," let me explain. Most sportsbooks will allow you to buy points in any sport that takes bets via the point spread. These points are sold in half-point increments (buying a half point is also known as "buying the hook"). Most sportsbooks also charge on a 10-percent price for each half point bought. For example, if you like the favorite laying 14.5 points at -110 (-110 is the standard juice on a point-spread wager, meaning you must bet $110 to win $100), then you will have to lay -120 to move the line to (-14) and -130 to move it to (-13.5). While it doesn't seem like much to lay an extra $10 on a $110 bet, you will quickly notice that this extra juice adds up in a hurry over the course of a full NFL season. Not to mention, the extra points that you buy aren't going to affect the spread enough to give you a proper return on your investment.
If you want to be successful NFL handicapper who wins more bets then they lose, it's vital to understand the concept of key numbers in sports that allow point-spread wagering. The most important key numbers are within NFL betting . NFL games land on the key number of three more than any other number. What I mean by "land on three" is the difference in the scores, whether it bet 30-27, 17-14, 10-7, etc. So many football games end on a game-winning field goal, which makes three the most important number. The next "key" number in the NFL is seven, since that is the difference in games decided by a touchdown and extra point. Four, six, 10, 14 and 17 are the secondary key numbers.
Since sportsbooks are in the business of making money, there is absolutely no chance they will allow bettors to buy points off the key numbers of three and seven for the standard 10-cent price. The value of turning a three-point line to +3.5 for the underdog or -2.5 for the favorite is too much for the sportsbooks to handle. Most books don't even allow you to buy off of three in the NFL because of the statistical advantage. For the books who do allow this, they will likely charge no less than 20 cents. So, a standard -110 line at -3 would become +3.5 or -2.5 (-130) depending on the book you are playing at.
The problem with betting the NFL is that point spreads of 2.5 or 3.5 normally don't stay available for public consumption too long. These lines are almost always bet to the key number of three, or else they go the other way and get bet off those numbers to two or four. In terms of bookies, they generally have a lot of risk when taking wagers at 2.5 or 3.5, so to be safe they normally move their lines to three unless there is very heavy action on one side of the number.
I got a chance the speak with a sportsbook manager, and he had this to say on buying points. "I have bought points in the past before I got into this business on some of those key numbers. But when you have to pay 25 cents more it's all relative. You can also look at it if you have to pay -135 instead of -110 to bring a favorite down from -3.5 to -3, why not just pay -110 and take the +3.5 on the dog."
In terms of other secondary key numbers, shopping around for the best lines is always the ideal method. If you aren't afforded the luxury of being able to shop around, you may still be able to get half-points off four, six, 10 and 17 at a decent price. However, if you are in such a desperate state that you absolutely need to pay such a high-price to get a key number, passing completely on the game may save your bankroll from going up in flames.
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Half-Point Betting Math
I just finished telling you guys that math plays a big role in sports betting. It helps us determine plenty of things like odds, probability, and expected value. It can also help us determine whether or not buying points is worth the hassle and extra few cents or not. To put it into perspective, we must first understand that a -110 line (the standard point spread line) implies a 52.38 percent probability. That’s how often you will need to win your bets in order to break even. If we start betting -120 lines, the breakeven threshold rises to 54.55 percent, and the task of turning a profit just got 2.17 percent harder.
The next thing we must do is find the fair value of a half-point purchase and that requires a push chart and simple math.
The push chart we are going to use as a basis for this article will tell us the probability of any NFL game played in any season finishing with a difference of one of these numbers.
-1 (2.5%), -2 (2%), -3 (9.8%), -4 (3%), -5 (1.7%), -6 (3.4%), -7 (5.7%)
-8 (2.1%), -9 (0.9%), -10 (4.9%), -11 (2.2%), -12 (0.4%), -13 (1.3%), -14 (4.9%)
As you can see, the favorite wins by seven points just 5.7 percent of the time. Now, if you consider the fact that we lose our -6.5 bet and we then push on a -7 outcome, we are going to take half the 5.7 probability and add it to the 52.38% implied probability of -110.
In this case, we go from +6.5 to +7 and half of 5.7 percent is 2.85%. We would then add it to the +6.5 -110 implied probability (52.38 percent) to get a new line of +7 with an implied probability of 55.23 percent. Based on a standard odds converter, a 55.23 implied probability would equate to a -123 American line. This tells us that moving from +6.5 (-110) to +7 is worth 13 cents and it has the same expected value.
While key numbers in the NFL are so important, there are also a lot of numbers that I consider "garbage numbers," and buying points onto garbage numbers is a mistake that almost all novice bettors will make. While it seems like many NFL games are really close at the end, not many games are decided by two points. If you have a two-point underdog and buy a half point to move your line to +2.5, you are not getting good value for the price you pay since games are so rarely decided by two points. It's the same scenario for buying a half point to move a 5.5-point favorite down to five.
Shop for the Best Numbers
I can't stress this enough to all novice bettors who are looking to make a name for themselves in the betting world. Shopping around for the best numbers is among the most important things you can possible do to limit the losses and increase the bankroll. Having multiple options to place a bet with will allow you to compare lines and furthermore bet the best line available.
Shopping around for the best numbers will almost eliminate the need to buy points completely. The majority of sportsbooks often differ among their lines, so with a little due-diligence you can avoid that line of +7 and find it somewhere at +7.5.
The reality of the matter is that over the course of the NFL season, you may net a few extra wins or avoid a few losses by turning them into pushes by buying points. However, the juice you pay will burn your bankroll in a hurry if you go on any extended losing streak. In all my years of betting on sports, I've come to believe that buying points is a losing proposition over the long haul, and I would much prefer to have several different books in order to shop around for the best lines.
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