The betting system is getting more and more complex with passage of time, so proper understanding is must before making a bet.In today's betting world, it is rare to encounter any bets against odds. While years
ago, if you liked a favorite in a game, you could give 2-to-1 odds (risking two dollars for
every dollar you hoped to earn), today bets are generally made against point spreads, with
noticeable exceptions to this standard being horseracing and golf.
The point spread is a handicap given to the favorite in terms of points. The
favorite is followed by (-points), and the underdog is followed by (+points). For instance,
if a betting line reads New England Patriots -9.5 vs. San Diego Chargers +9.5, this means
that the oddsmakers felt that in the eyes of the betting public, the Patriots are 9.5 points
better than the Chargers. If in this situation you bet on the Patriots, they must win the
game by more than 9.5 points (ie, at least 10) in order for you to collect. If the Patriots
either win by less than 9.5 points or lose outright, this means a loss for a Patriots point
On the other hand, if you bet the underdog Chargers, you essentially spot the
Chargers 9.5 points. If the Chargers end up winning the game or losing by less than 9.5
points (nine points or less), you win your bet. Lines of half-points are given in part so the
game cannot land exactly on the point spread, resulting in a "push" or tie, where neither
the bettor nor the bookmaker would win.
It is important to note that the line is not designed to show which team is favored
and how much they should win by. The line is meant to make each team equally
attractive to the betting public. No matter how great the mismatch, the point spread at
least in theory makes both teams equally "bettable"; that is, when factoring in the
handicap, equal numbers of people will want to put their money on each team. It should
be emphasized that the first line released by the Las Vegas Sports Consultants is by no
means the only line or the final line on a game. Lines fluc tuate depending on how much
betting takes place on either team. If, in the example above, the Patriots opened at -9.5
over the Chargers, and a large majority of bets came in on the Chargers, the line might
drop to Patriots -9.0 or even Patriots -8.5. If the betting was still lopsided, it could drop
further, or if people decided that the Patriots were a good deal at -8.5 and the majority
shifted to the Patriots side, the line might creep back up to -9.0, for instance. If individual
bookmakers disagree with the Vegas line, they may offer their own lines. These
discrepancies can be exploited by the smart bettor. This will be examined in a subsequent
section. For now, suffice to say that the ultimate goal is to have even betting for both
teams. Why? If exactly 50% of bettors wager on each team, the bookmakers win. How?
It's important to remember that with almost every wager you place against a line, you
give 11-to-10 odds to the bookmaker, meaning that if you want to win $100 on a game,
you must risk $110. The bettor faces odds of 4.55% against him.
Perhaps an example will make this clearer. Imagine in the situation above that one
person picked the Chargers and one person picked the Patriots. If each one wants to win
$100 on the game, he must risk $110, the extra $10 being a fee or commission for the
sports book, called the "vigorish" or "vig". Thus, the total amount risked in this situation
is $220. After the game, one bettor will lose the $110 he risked while the other will get it
back plus his $100 win. So, of the total $220 risked, $10 goes to the bookie. Ten dollars
of $220 is 1/22, or 4.55%.
While this system gives an edge to bookies, it also allows for the possibility for
good bets and bad bets. The chance at a huge payoff doesn't do you any good if your
team loses, but even if your team is an underdog and loses there is a chance that they will
have covered the spread. Your goal is to find the good bets and exploit them.
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