Sports Gambling: What Do You Need to Know?
With the legalization of sports gambling in the US, licensed sportsbooks are opening nationwide, and sports fans across the country are flocking to sports gambling. With this newfound wave of excitement amongst us, many sports fans will want to get in on the action – but where do you begin if you’re unfamiliar with the terminology?
Sports Gambling Guides has comprised a list of introductory terms and commonly asked questions, all of which new sports gamblers should become familiar with. Whether you are looking to place your first wager, or learn the difference between a parlay and a teaser – here’s an introduction of all the major terms and questions involved in sports gambling.
1. Favorites vs. Underdogs
When the sportsbooks are deciding what the odds on a certain game should be, they begin by establishing who the favorite and underdog is.
– The favorite is the team most likely to win that game
– The underdog or “dog” is the team most likely to lose that game
You can see which team the sportsbook thinks will win that game by the odds listed next to their name – the favorite will payout less for a win and the underdog will pay out big for a win. If the game is evenly matched, sportsbooks will open the line as “pick” or “pickem” – offering the same odds on both teams.
There are 2 popular ways to bet on a team – betting the “spread” and betting the “money line”.
When you place a bet on the spread of the game, you are betting that your team will win or lose by at least a certain number of points. Let’s give an example:
You think the star-studded Lakers are going to beat the Knicks in tonight’s game. The Lakers, being the better team, are listed as the favorite at a spread of -6. This means that when you place a bet on the Lakers – they must win the game by 7 or more points for your bet to cash. If they win by exactly 6, your bet is considered a “push” and your money is returned. Anything less than 6 and your bet is chalked up as a loss.
On the contrary, let’s say in tomorrow’s game you think that the Rockets have a chance to upset the favorite Milwaukee Bucks. The Rockets are listed as the underdog at +8. This means that when you place a bet on the Rockets – the must lose by 7 points or less for your bet to cash. If they win the game outright your bet also cashes, they just have to “cover” the 7 points spread.
The second popular way to bet on a favorite or underdog is through a moneyline bet. This style of betting has nothing to do with point spreads on the game, but simply which team will win or lose outright.
This type of bet is expressed through a “moneyline”, where the favorite in the game will have a minus designation, and the underdog in the game will have a plus designation.
Let’s give an example
You think that the Patriots have a very high chance of winning their next game against the Jets. Because the Patriots are big favorites to win the game, the moneyline expressed on them is -300. This means that if you place a $300 bet on the Patriots to win the game, and they come out victorious, your take home amount will be $400 – netting yourself a $100 profit.
On the contrary, let’s say that you think the Jets have a decent chance of beating the Patriots outright. In this case you could bet on the underdog (Jets) at a moneyline of +250. This means that if you place a $300 bet on the Jets to win the game, and they come out victorious, your take home amount will be $1,050 – netting yourself a $750 profit!
Over / Under Bets
Another popular bet available at major sportsbooks is the Over / Under wagers. When odds makers are setting lines for a game, they will also set the total amount of points scored by both teams combined. This number of points is called the Over / Under line. Bettors can then wager whether the game will result in the Over or the Under of the posted line. Let’s give an example:
The Lakers are playing the Celtics and the line on the game is 209. If you bet the over on the game and the combined points between the 2 teams exceeds 209 points, then you cash your bet. The same is also true if you bet the under on the game, and the combined score is lower than 209 points. If the game ends on exactly 209, all bets are considered a push and your money is returned.
What is the vig?
When you place a bet on any sportsbook, they implement a “tax” on every bet. This “tax” is the commission you must pay to the sportsbook for them to accept your wager, and is generally referred to as the “vig”, “juice”, “takeout”, or “vigorish”.
When placing a wager on the spread of a given matchup, the “vig” on the bet is generally -110. This means that you must bet $110 on a team in order to win $100.
In some cases, the “vig” of the bet offered is actually positive. In this case, the positive vig means that if you place a $100 wager at +110 odds, your payout would be $110.
When you are placing other bets such as moneyline, parlay, or futures wagers, the vig is already placed into the lines offered. This means that if the moneyline payout is +275, your payout on a $100 bet would be $375, resulting in a $275 profit.
Where to place a bet
With legal sports gambling spreading across America, the options in operators to place bets with are as diverse as they have ever been. Below we have a list of the major sportsbooks we recommend to our clients.
(List of sportsbook links)
To see if sports gambling is legal in your state, check out our state by state tracker (Link to state by state tracker)
As bets flow onto teams before games, odds makers adjust lines in real time to create as close to an equal number of bets on each team as they can. This changing of the lines results in different spreads for each team, depending on when bets were placed. Let’s give an example:
If the opening line for the Rams 49ers game was Rams -3, but in the first 6 hours 80% of all bets were placed on the Rams, then odds makers would adjust the spread to Rams -4. This would entice gamblers to bet on the 49ers +4, evening out the bets on both teams and creating an equal playing field.
If you place a bet on the Rams at -3 and the line later moves to -4, your wager is locked in place at -3. No matter what line movement happens leading up to the game, the spread that you placed your wager at remains the same.
Depending on which sportsbook you use, lines can vary. Some sportsbooks will have 70% of their customers wagers on one team, while another only has 55% of wagers on the same team. This variance in placed bets will result in different sportsbooks offering different lines, and is a major reason Sports Gambling Guides recommends having multiple accounts with different sportsbooks.
If you want to place a bet on the Patriots in Sunday’s game, we recommend checking out our live odds page (link) to see which sportsbook is offering the best line.