Sports and betting; the two go together like peanut butter and jelly. Betting requires a contest. What better opportunity than with real people competing in an organized sport? I think most people would be hard pressed to find someone who has not bet an office pool or with a friend on the outcome of Sunday’s game? The papers are crammed with statistics and the latest “line.” Everyone seems to be betting. Unfortunately in most places it is against the law.
Of course in most places the authorities won’t break down your door when you an the spouse have a bet on the World Series, but making book (taking wagers from the opposite sides for a profit) is illegal is many places and may cause your door to be broken down.
What about sports betting on the Internet? Let’s just say it’s a legal grey area at best. That means you could win the bet and still lose your money. The only place in the US where you can bet on sports (not including horse racing, dg racing and jai-alai) is in Nevada.
So if you’re reading this in Biloxi or Atlantic City, remember that you won’t find the sports book conveniently sandwiched between the keno lounge and the coffee shop. You’ll have to go to Vegas, Reno or somewhere else in Nevada to bet the Giants over the Falcons.
A sports book performs a function that is similar to a stock broker. A stock broker’s goal is to provide a market for buyers and sellers. This is the same for a sports book, except the market is a particular game or contest, and the goal is to match bets from both sides. The casino does not play against a better as they do in blackjack or craps, and the casino does not bank in the traditional sense of the word. The sports book simply charges a vig or commission on the bet and tries to find someone on the other side to cover the bet. Since there is usually a long shot, there must be a “line” established to handicap the favorite and make the contest equal. Without the line, the bettors on one side would outnumber the bettors on the other side. This imbalance is covered by the casino. Everyone would bet on the Patriots or the Steelers and nobody would bet on the 49ers. A line makes a bet on San Francisco potentially profitable.
A spread is one way to designate a line. Let’s say the Steelers are playing the 49ers. Experts will analyze the two teams and then set the line as a point spread. If the Steelers are favored to win, and by seven points, then the line is Steelers -7.
|0000 49ers 30 o/u
|0000 Steelers -7
The home team is always at the bottom. The negative number indicates the spread and is next to the favored team. The larger number is the total points expected in the game. o/u means over or under; it’s the basis for a bet, explained later on. 0000 will be the number to reference when placing the bet. Sometimes there are some small differences in the display. A full display would include more information like, the time of the game, the money line, and other pertinent information.
Let’s say you bet the Steelers. They must win and beat the spread (win by more than 7 points) for you to win. If you bet the 49ers, they can win or lose, but a loss must be by less that seven points. If the Steelers clobber the 49ers with twenty-one unanswered points, you’d lose, unless of course you bet the Steelers. If the game ends with the Steelers ahead by exactly seven points then it’s a push and your money is returned.
Where’s the vig? The vig or commission is built into your bet. You pay $11 to win $10. If you bet correctly, you’ll receive the full $21 ($11+$10). If you back a loser then the $11 is lost. The casino has earned $1 on the wager.
Betting the Money Line
Contests such as baseball are often decided by one run, so a spread isn’t a very effective way of establishing a line. In baseball and in most sports you can also bet the money line. It’s similar to taking or laying odds in craps. The wording is the same. Here is a typical money line; Houston is the visiting team and they are favored:
|0000 Astros -140
|0000 Cubs +130
A $10 bet on the Cubs will win $13. The bettor is taking odds that the Cubs will win. Someone who prefers the Astros would lay odds and risk $14 to win $10. The casino profit is the ten-point difference in the two numbers.
If the spread and the money line aren’t enough to excite you, an array of other sports wagers is available. They include the follow:
Over/Under: This is a bet on the total points scored by both teams. Will the total be over or under the o/u amount?
Propositions: Almost any question can (and has) been the subject of a proposition. Who will score the first goal? Who will Survivor? Who will appear in the Super Bowl? Will Jimmy Hoffa ever be found?
Parlays: The bettor is making a wager on the outcome of a combination of contests. All of the wagers made must win for the parlay to win. Parlays can be cheap to bet, and they promise big rewards.
Teasers: This is a parlay with the point spread shifted in the bettor’s favor. The downside is a corresponding drop in the payout.