Sports Betting Lines Explained - How To Read Them Like a Pro

The difference between a losing occasional sports bettor and a consistently winning veteran gambler is the differing levels of knowledge concerning sports betting lines. This key element can definitely make or break your online sports betting session. The first thing that you need to know to make the most intelligent bet, and have the best possible shot at winning that wager, is exactly what the different type of bets mean, and what they look like. Then you need to have an understanding of why a sportsbook arrived at that particular number. Finally, you need to shop several different sportsbooks to find the best possible set of numbers offered on the contest you are interested in, and place your bets at the most favorable of those sites.

So, let us take a look at a few of the more common sports betting lines and wager types, and see exactly what they mean.

In the NFL betting odds example provided here, the Seattle Seahawks are favored by a 7.0 "point spread" over the Arizona Cardinals. This means that before the game has even begun, if you bet on the Arizona Cardinals, you get to add 7.0 points to whatever score Arizona achieves in the ball game. Beginning gamblers generally believe that this point spread line is created to perfectly mirror the strengths and weaknesses of both squads. This is usually not the case. Understanding sports betting lines means knowing what the bookmaker is thinking. Professional sportsbooks are incredibly good at understanding public psychology. And they use this knowledge to create a point spread line or number, and then move that line in one direction or another to create a scenario with wager totals of equal size on both teams by the start of the contest.

This is because sportsbooks charge a 10% vigorish or "juice" on the losing wagers. So if a particular sportsbook operation received $10,000 in bets on Seattle -7.0, as well as $10,000 in bets on Arizona +7.0, they would have a zero risk and guaranteed win situation. After rewarding the winners and taking the money from the losing wagers, the 10% charged to those losing bettors would net that sportsbook $1,000 with absolutely zero risk. So to bet intelligently, remember that the point spread line in any given contest, whether it be the NFL, Major League Baseball betting odds, the NBA or any other sport, will always be a number which that particular sportsbook believes will attract equal amounts of money on both sides of the bet. By intimately knowing the two teams in a particular game, you can arrive at what you believe is the actual point difference between the skill levels of those squads. You then simply compare what you believe to the sports betting lines offered, making wagers where you see an attractive situation.

Looking at the second group of numbers in the example given above, 42 refers to what is known in the gambling industry as a "total" bet. These types of sports betting lines indicate an over/under situation, where you do not have to decide which team will actually win. You are simply wagering whether you think both teams will score more than or less than the given total, in this example 42 points. Again, the intelligent bookmaker wants to create a number that will attract equal amounts of over 42 and under 42 bets, and then just cleanup by taking 10% juice on the losers. This is why when you watch sports betting lines, you will see that point spreads often times change leading up to game time, in many cases more than once. In rare cases this is due to some piece of news which has a big impact on a particular contest, but the majority of the time this is simply a compensation by a sportsbook to even up its ledger, thereby reducing risk.

The final numbers you see above in the Seattle and Arizona example represent what you need to know if you would like to place a "money line" bet. These sports betting lines allow you to bet on one team or another without laying or getting the the point spread total removed from or added to one team's total score. In the above example, the Seattle Seahawks are favored over the Arizona Cardinals. Because of this, if you want to bet on the Seattle Seahawks to win without having to give up any points, you would have to bet $210 to win $100 in profit ($310 total). Conversely, if you bet the money line on Arizona, the underdog, a $100 bet would net you $165 in profit ($265 total) if the Cardinals were victorious. Since there is no point spread to "even up" the assumed talent levels of these two teams, when you bet on one team that is particularly better than another, you have to risk more money. And when you take the dog, you stand to win money with a smaller wager, or risk.

The different sports betting lines discussed here, point spreads, totals and money lines, are far and away the most common you will find at a reputable Internet sportsbook. However, since a bookmaker is solely responsible for paying any winning bets that are made by its customers, a company can create any type of gambling scenario that it likes. This will often times lead to very attractive proposition bets, as well as futures bets where you can wager on the outcome of sporting contests which are to be played at some distant time in the future. And there will always be special events and other unique wagering opportunities. Our article on Parlays vs Teasers may be of interest to you as well to further contribute to your perspective on betting lines. Stick to these three traditional and time-tested sports wagers until you know them intimately, and before you wager real money, make several imaginary bets with "play money" so you can understand just how lines move and how to spot trends. Understanding sports betting lines and how they are created is crucial to your online sports wagering success, and instantly makes you a wiser and more prepared gambler than the average punter.

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