FOOTBALL BETTING BASICS by
to the first in a series of articles that will examine some of the
finer points in sports betting for newcomers to the idea of trying
to get the edge on the bookie. Many of the ideas will be applicable
to other sports, but we'll be focusing on football. Much of this
stuff will be old-hat to old-timers but I hope many people will get
at least a few ideas from the articles.
series of article was written for Bettorsworld by long time
Week: Q & A ABOUT "THE LINE"
"What the Line means - and what it doesn't."
you have a local bookie who lets you bet the line printed in your
local newspaper's sports section. On the Wednesday before the NFL
season kicks off you open the paper and under "NFL Lines"
listed first, home team in CAPS)
so what does this mean? This means you can call your bookie and bet
$11 on the Jets. If the Jets win by 7 points or more you get the $11
back plus $10 more. If the Jets win by 6 or less, or the Patriots
win, you lose the $11. Or, if you like the Patriots, you can bet $11
on them. If they win, or lose by six or less, you cash in, getting
your $11 back plus $10 more. If the Jets win by 7 or more, your
money on the Patriots is gone. Of course you can bet more than $11
to win $10. You can bet $55 to win $50, $110 to win $100, or more.
Generally you risk $11 for every $10 you want to profit...that's the
standard and it varies little.
line is also called a "point spread" or
what does it REALLY mean? The number 6.5 is the head start in points
the line-maker gives the Patriots. He thinks, and your bookie is
very much hoping, that if that's the head start given the Patriots
for wagering purposes, half of the bookie's clients' dough will be
bet on the Jets and the other half on the Patriots.
is this important? The smart bookie doesn't want to gamble-he wants
a sure thing: a guaranteed profit from his customers. Consider the
simplest case where a bookie has just two bettors, you and me, and
this number of 6.5 does its job. You bet $11 on the Jets and I bet
$11 on the Patriots. One of us wins. Let's say it's me...I hate the
Jets. I get my $11 back, plus $10 of your money. The extra $1 you
put in stays in the bookmaker's pocket as his small, guaranteed
profit (it's called "vig" or "juice").
does the Line NOT mean? It does not mean, under any circumstances,
that oddsmakers think the Jets will win by about 6 or 7 points. It's
your job to predict who will win and by how much...the line-maker
doesn't want to do your job for you. He works for the bookies. He
and the bookies don't care who wins or loses or by how much-they
just want the same amount of cash on each side so the bookies can
get juice. The line-maker tries to come up with the handicap of
points that will put half the public's money on the Jets, and half
on the Patriots. As long as the money is split evenly, the bookie
"wins" in his own way, and the result of the game is of no
importance to him.
"Whoa. The Line is different today from yesterday. What's with
the next day in the paper, it's now
Now if you like the Jets they've got to win by 8 or more for you to
cash in. If you like the Patriots, they can win or lose by 6 or less
and you'll win. (If the game lands on a Jet win by exactly 7,
anybody who bet while the line was 7 just has their money
refunded...you get the line at the time you bet, even if it changes
Line moved because the line-maker consulted with some big sports
books and the money wasn't balanced when the number was 6.5-there
was more coming in on the Jets than the Patriots. So the line-maker
and bookies changed the number to try to encourage more bets on the
Patriots to even things up and get that juice.
movement is complicated and these are only the basics. Detailing
line movements and other things a bookie can do to "even
up" the betting would take pages. One thing that the bookie
could do instead of moving the line is to say "It's still 6.5
but Jets bettors have to lay $11.50 to win $10 and Patriots backers
can lay only $10.50 to win $10." This is called "moving
the money instead of the line". Think about this one. It's
especially common when the line is exactly 3 points, a football
winning margin that actually occurs a lot.)
"Why do different places have different Lines on the same
you have access to several bookies (this is a good idea and we'll
talk about it in a later article) and you find they have different
A: Jets by 6.5 (from the Newspaper)
B: Jets by 6
C: Jets by 7
Jets by 6.5
Chandler: Jets by 7
Jets by 6.5
but the bookie who blindly follows the paper is trying to balance
the Jets bets with the Patriots bets. Maybe Bookie B is in Boston so
he is a little lopsided on people betting for the Patriots -- so
he's trying to entice Jets bettors to step up. Maybe Bookie C is in
the Bronx (so he has too much money on the Jets at 6.5), and maybe
Victor Chandler's clients bet favorite teams a lot instead of
underdog teams, so they're looking for more money on the Patriots
the above example if you like the Jets you'll take your business to
Bookie B because if the Jets win by exactly 7 you're a winner, and
if the Jets win by exactly 6, it's the only shop at which you don't
lose. If you like the Patriots, in this example Bookie C or Victor
Chandler are the places to play because the Patriots get more points
as a head-start there. More on line-shopping in a few weeks.
About the Author
is recognized as the authority on offshore sportsbooks
having served the betting community since 1995.