How To Place a Sports Bet at the Ticket Window
by Josh Nagel - 10/09/2007
When considering how to place a sports bet at the ticket window in a casino, there is a basic etiquette to be followed. Just knowing a few of these tips will make things easier on you and the hardworking ticket writers. What's more, throw in a little common courtesy and you'll have good mojo on your side as a regular sports bettor.
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What you don't want to do is stare mindlessly at the board while there are people waiting in line behind you, blurt out to the writer that you, "Want the Raiders for $20," then demand free drink tickets as a comp for your bet.
Here are some of the key fundamentals in placing a sports bet: say you want to bet the Raiders against the Browns and the Raiders are a four-point favorite. You look at the board and it will read something like this:
To bet on the Raiders using the point spread, you will be "laying" the points; in other words, they must win by five or more to cover the spread and win you the cash. If they win by exactly four, your bet is a push. If you "take the points" with the Browns, they must lose by three or less for the bet to win and, of course, you win if the Browns win the game outright. This standard straight bet pays 11/10; so you must bet $22 to win $20, $110 to $100 and so on.
The 11/10 odds are how the sports book makes some of their profits. If you bet the Raiders and I bet the Browns for $22 each, the book will have $44 of our money total and will be paying out $42 to the winner, thus making $2 regardless of the outcome. This extra $2 is called the vigorish.
If you wish to bet the Raiders simply to win, then you are betting on the money line, which is the number to right of the pointspread. In this case, the Raiders are a 2/1 favorite to win the game straight-up, so you must bet $20 to win $10 if you take them to win without laying the points. Conversely, if you pick the Browns to win outright, your $20 wager will earn you $35 if they pull the upset.
The number next to the money line is the total, or the over/under in points for the game. If you believe it will be a high- or low-scoring game, you can place a wager on the total by itself, or tie it to the outcome of the game, which is called a side-to-total parlay. This bet pays 2.6/1 even though the true odds are 4/1, thus again giving the house a vigorish in its favor.
The key to placing a bet correctly at the ticket window is knowing the type of bet you want, the number of the corresponding team you have chosen and the amount you wish to wager. Let's say you like the Raiders to cover against the Browns and you also suspect the total will go over the 38 points. You decide to place two bets on the game; a straight bet and a side-to-total parlay. Here's how your conversation with the sports book writer should go:
"Hi, I'd like to place two bets. The first one is No. 429, Raiders minus-4, for $22 straight. I'd also like to parlay this game side-to-total, No. 429 with the over 38 please, for $20. Thank you."
This gives the writer all the information he needs to know without making him or her look back at the board to see which team you selected, or have to ask what type of bet you want. Also, check your ticket right as it is printed to ensure you received the bet you asked for.
A little knowledge of the basics of how to place a sports bet at the ticket window goes a long way.
"There is a bit of an etiquette to it," said Clint Newsom, sports book supervisor for the Siena Hotel Spa Casino in Reno, a satellite book of the Club Cal Neva. "Just knowing the betting numbers ahead of time, knowing the point spreads and money lines, so you don't take up too much time at the counter."
Also, a little common courtesy doesn't hurt. Remember that the writers are in a position of customer service and they are routinely abused by rude, misinformed or otherwise angry customers who blame them for their losing bets, changes in the odds, and any number of bizarre things over which the writer has no control.
Saying "please" and "thank you" will make you stand out as a desirable customer, as will the occasional gratuity when you win. Like blackjack dealers and cocktail waitresses, sports book employees count on tips as part of their income. However, players largely ignore this factor because they either aren't aware of it, or they believe the writer had no role in making their winning pick, and they feel no obligation to tip.
But again, a little goes a long way. Let's say you win both of your bets, and collect $42 for the straight bet and $72 for your winning parlay for a total of $114. You leave the four $1 bills on the counter -- which is less than five percent of your winnings -- and the writers will be grateful and are sure to thank you. They might even offer you free drink tokes, which is about the only comp you will get at the sports book unless you bet thousands of dollars per game.
They also will privately root for you to win again - yes, because you tipped, but also because you seem to be a decent human being - and trust that they will, in fact, root against you are a frequent customer but never tip. They are human, after all.
And when it comes to gambling, you never want any bad mojo working against you. Know your basics, be courteous and you already are ahead of the game in the sports book.