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Beginners Guide to Sports Gambling

A short-hand guide to understanding sports gambling

Pac-12 Network

The most common sports gambling references you’ll hear in movies are ones like “whats the spread on the game”, or “that’s the juice for this bet.” Sounds sort of vague and confusing doesn’t it? That’s because gambling has over time developed it’s own slang. Fortunately the list of need-to-know vocabulary is fairly small, so I’ve listed them below.

Action: Refers to betting activity. If you want “in on the action”, you’re asking to place a bet on a game.

Bookmaker: Usually shortened to “bookie”, these are the people that accept bets.

Handicap: Giving one team a points advantage in order to balance the betting field.

Handle: The total amount of bets taken on an event. Championships like the Superbowl, World Series, and the NBA Finals generate the biggest handles.

Hedging: When somebody say they’re “hedging their bets”, they are betting on both teams in order to minimize losses or guarantee a minimum amount of winnings.

Juice: Fee or commission you pay to the bookmaker to place a bet. It’s also known as the “vig” or vigorish.

Moneyline: A bet placed on either the favorite or underdog team to win straight up.

Push: The final score of the game matches the point spread.

The Spread: The point spread (also called “The Line”), is the handicap used to make the game competitive for the bettors. It gives one team an advantage by a certain number of points.

So you’ve got all the basic lingo down now but you’re probably still wondering how it all work together? We’ll take a look at some point spread examples to get a better idea.

Team Spread Final Score

UCLA +3 (-110) —

Stanford -3 (-110) —

In this game UCLA is the underdog (indicated by the + sign) and Stanford is the favorite (indicated by the - sign).

If you picked Stanford in this game, you are betting they will win the game by more than 3 points.

If you picked UCLA, you are betting they will either lose by 3 or less points; or win the game outright since they are the underdogs.

The (-110) and (+110) represent the juice or “vig”. If you plan to bet on either team you must pay the bookie $110. It’s not uncommon to see the juice on a bet at -105 and -115.

If you win your bet you gain an additional $100. Meaning your total would be: $110 bet + 100 profit = $210.

If you lose your bet you lose the $110 you paid for the juice.

If there is a push (both teams won or lost by the exact point spread predicted) then you get your original bet of $110 back.

The final score is how many points each team scored in the game. With spread betting you are picking a team to either win or lose by a certain amount of points a.k.a covering the spread.

Let’s look at this point spread again, this time with the final score:

Teams Spread Final Score

UCLA +3 (-110) 23

Stanford -3 (-110) 27

If you picked Stanford in this game, you won your bet since they not only won the game, but did so by covering the spread by more than 3 points.

If you picked UCLA in this game, you lost your bet since they not only lost the game, but did so by more than 3 points.

Another example for the spread betting scenario:

Teams Spread Final Score

UCLA +3 (-110) 26

Stanford -3 (-110) 27

If you picked Stanford in this game, you lost your bet. Even though Stanford won, they did so by only 1 point therefore they did not cover the spread which was set at more than 3 points.

If you picked UCLA in this game, you won your bet. UCLA lost the game, but they did so by only 1 point therefore they covered the spread which was set at 3 points or less.

*Three additional scenarios to keep in mind:

-If either team wins or loses by the exact amount of points in the spread, this results in a push and nobody gains a profit or loses the money that they bet.

-If the underdog wins the game then the bettors of that team win their bet no matter the point spread.

-If you hedge your bets (bet on both teams) and the final score for both teams covers the spread, you win both bets.

Point spread betting may not be your thing and luckily there is an alternative. Moneyline betting is sports gambling in it’s simplest form: which team do you think will win the game? However, the juice for these bets are a little bit different. I’ll use another betting ticket example like the ones I used previously:

Teams Line

USC +175

Oregon -200

Moneyline odds are simpler to understand because it’s the same as a point spread format, but chopped down to just the teams and the line. The real difference though is in how much you pay to place a bet.

USC are the underdogs in this game (indicated by the + sign). If you wanted to bet on them winning you’d wager $100 with the bookie. If you win that bet you get back your original $100 plus $175 from the line totaling $275. You pay less for the juice because the odds are USC will lose the match-up.

Oregon are the favorites in this game (indicated by the - sign) . If you wanted to bet on them winning you’d wager $200 with the bookie. If you win that bet you get back your original $200 plus the standard $100 profit to get a total of $300. You pay more for the juice because the odds are Oregon will win the match-up.

If you’re a math-lete you’re likely already crunching numbers, figuring out percentages and generally getting into this a lot deeper. Which is great because the more you know, the better the chance you have at making an informed wager! Keep in mind though, sports betting may look like just a game of numbers on the surface, but there are other variables to consider. It gets a lot more complicated when you factor in each teams offense, defense, injuries and many other things that can influence a game.

I’ll wrap this article up by congratulating college football on another entertaining start to an exciting season! I hope everybody enjoys their holiday this week and if you are interested in betting on football teams; Vegas is always open for business.