Sports Betting Odds and Lines Explained
Are you new to the online gaming world? There’s a big event that might draw your betting interest nearly every month of the year. Perhaps you are looking to put down some action on the Super Bowl, the World Series, the NBA Finals, the Stanley Cup Finals. Perhaps one of the Grand Slam events for golf or tennis. Or any of numerous horse races. Or the Olympics! Maybe you just want to be well-versed in sports betting 101 to understand what your significant other, friends or family are talking about while watching sports. Here is everything you need to know with sports betting odds and lines explained.
The simplest and most common type of gambling is on the point spread – that’s the amount one team is favored to beat the other club. Now, one thing to be aware of is that oddsmakers aren’t necessarily predicting the outcome of an event but are putting up a line that will draw the most action from bettors, preferably on both sides.
A point spread is used in the NFL and college football, the NBA and college basketball among the major American sports. If you see a line at a site that has the Chicago Bears -7.5 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers that means the Bears are favored to win by 7.5 points over the underdog Steelers.
Of course, there is no such thing as a half point in football or basketball. However, the sportsbooks use half points at times to ensure there is no ‘push’ – which means a tie and neither the sportsbook nor the bettor wins (all money is returned). So if you were to bet on that Bears-Steelers example, Pittsburgh essentially starts the game with a 7.5-point lead. If you wanted to win money on the Bears, Chicago would have to win by no less than eight points. If you wanted to win money on Pittsburgh, the Steelers would simply have to not lose by more than 7.5 points. So a 21-14 final score in favor of Chicago would be a win for Steelers bettors but not for Bears bettors. Any Pittsburgh victory obviously would be a win for anyone who bet the Steelers. There is also a point spread called a ‘pick’em’ – which means there is no favorite or underdog. All you have to do is pick the winner regardless of score.
There is also what is called a total. This is posted for every major American team sport. In football and basketball, the total is the combined amount of points the teams score in a game. You would either bet ‘under’ or ‘over’ that total. If the combined final score lands right on the number, then it’s a tie and all money is returned. In baseball, the total is usually between 6-10 runs scored combined by both teams in a game. In hockey, the total is usually between 5-6 total goals scored combined between two teams.
Often the over and under are both the same in terms of one or the other being a favorite. But there are times when either the over or under is favored over the other. This is when a moneyline comes into play. A moneyline is based on units of $100. It can also be used as a different way to bet on a winner or loser. In that Bears-Steelers example, Chicago could be listed at -150 on the moneyline and Pittsburgh at +200. That means you would have to bet $150 to win $100 on Chicago. But for that same $100, you would win $200 on the Steelers (in both cases minus what the book’s fee, or vigorish, is for accepting the bet).
Football and basketball often have both pointspreads and moneylines. You have the choice of betting either one or both. Betting on the moneylines to determine a winner are used prominently in hockey and baseball because usually these are low-scoring games where the winning team only wins by a run or goal – thus you won’t see pointspreads in those sports. But there are options in hockey and baseball to use either the puck line or run line. The Detroit Red Wings might be -1.5 goals against the Montreal Canadiens on the puck line – so Montreal starts the game from a betting perspective with a 1.5-goal lead. In baseball’s run line, the option is usually 1.5 runs to separate the teams.
Finally, fractional odds also are used in some American sports. Golf and horse racing are two prime examples. These odds are the net total that will be paid out to the bettor, should they win, relative to what they bet. It’s again best to think in terms of $100 units. So if a horse is the 3/1 favorite to win the Kentucky Derby, for example, or a golfer 3/1 to win the Masters, from a moneyline conversion perspective that would be +300. Thus, you would win $300 for every $100 wagered on the horse/golfer. If the horse/golfer is the 1/2 favorite, that means it’s -200 on the moneyline. Thus, you would have to bet $200 to win $100.
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