With the advent of sports betting, more and more people will want to get in on the action! But where and how do you start?
If you feel overwhelmed when looking at a sportsbook’s odds or the jargon used in Las Vegas, this article is for you! We’re going to look at what Moneyline (ML), Spread (ATS), Straight Up (SU), Over/Under (O/U), Vig and what all those plus and minus signs really mean – spoiler alert: it actually is so incredibly easy.
At the end of this introduction, you can tell people if you think “the juice is worth the squeeze.”
So let’s dive in!
First things first, here are bids to play the Brooklyn Nets vs. the Philadelphia 76ers. Let’s look at what you see when you visit an online sportsbook.
Betting on the money line
Let’s say you’re from Williamsburg and you want to place a bet on the Nets to win this game. You want to take the nets to win straight up (SU). It doesn’t matter if the Nets win by a point or by 15; You want to bet that the networks will win. This type of bet is an ML bet. just right? They want to put the nets on the ML.
If you look at the image above, you can see the ML betting offer in the far right column. They are simply listed with a + or – sign. The nets are +155 on the ML while the 76s are -188.
But wait, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?!
The plus and minus signs are shorthand to tell you what your payout will be if you win your bet.
If you see a minus sign next to your bet, your payout will be less than 100% of your original investment if you win the bet. If you see a plus sign, your payout is more than 100% of your original investment.
The minus sign on an ML bet also indicates that the team is preferred. It makes sense, doesn’t it? The sportsbook doesn’t pay big dividends for bets on the favourite. Conversely, in a ML bet, the plus sign indicates the underdog. Sportsbooks are willing to pay out more for the less likely outcome. In our example, the Brooklyn Nets are the underdogs and the payout is greater than what you originally invested should the Nets win the game.
So we take the nets on the ML at +155. According to the odds makers, this is a bet you are less likely to win. So if the Nets win, the sportsbook will pay you 1.55x or 155% of your original investment. If you bet $100 on the nets to win and they do, your profit is $155, for a total payout of $255. So, $100 in and $255 out if the Nets win the game!
Let’s say our college roommate is a Philadelphia 76ers fan. She’s all-in with the Sixers as the favorite and decides to put her $100 into the Sixers for a -188 payout. Should Philadelphia win this game, their winnings would only be $53.19 and their total payout would be $153.19.
To put it even more simply, with odds of -188, she would have to invest $188 to make a $100 profit.
Again with Nets +155 and 76ers -188:
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As a Nets fan, you can bet $100 for a potential win of $155 and a return of $255.
The 76ers backer must bet $188 for a $100 profit and a potential return of $288.
Also remember that the Philadelphia fan loses $188 if his team, the favorite, gets upset. You only lose $100 if the Nets, the underdogs, don’t win the game. Because of this, a heavily favored team is often not worth the risk for the potential payout.
In summary, betting on Team SU is a type of ML bet. Your payout is indicated by the ‘Prize’ represented by a plus or minus sign in the rightmost column of the bet menu.
Betting on the Over/Under
Using our same example, you can see in the middle column of the bets menu that the expected total score for the game is 234.5. The bet offered here is simple. Do you think the total score in this game will be more or less than 234.5?
But wait! You can’t have half a point for a total game!
That’s true, but this is a way of making sure that at least one site wins. Imagine if you set the total to 234 and the game ended exactly at 234. No one would win, including the sportsbook!
In that middle box, below the total score, you’ll see another one of those three-digit minus signs. This time both sides of the bet are offered at -110. This represents to Vegas that this play could go either way: above or below 234.5. It’s a coin toss and you have a 50/50 chance of winning this bet.
But wait, you’re telling me that to win $100 I have to bet $110 no matter which side I choose? Yes, that’s right. This 10% “fee” that sportsbooks charge is called “Vig”. It is also sometimes called “the juice”. Essentially, this is the commission charged by sportsbooks to ensure their business makes some money. If bettors on both sides of a bet have to wager $110 each, the sports book takes $220 per pair, but only has to pay out $210 to the winning side. This ensures you win $10 per pair of opposing bets.
So, as a Nets fan, you think Kevin Durant has a big game coming up, but you know even their defense can’t stop the 76ers. You expect to win this game with an explosive offense and you expect a lot of points in this game. You decide to take the helm in this game and bet $110 for a possible win of $100 and a total payout of $210. Your college roommate isn’t too optimistic about a high score game. She takes the sub of the total score for the same odds. One of you loses $110, one of you wins $100 and the bookmaker collects $10.
In summary, an over/under bet is simply a bet on whether you think the points in a game will be more or less than the listed total. These bets are generally, but not always, offered with a 10% vig and are a 50/50 offer. Knowing how much “commission” you’re paying is key to managing your bankroll, but that’s our next chapter.
Betting against the spread
Going back to our example, let’s look at the leftmost option in the bet menu. In each field you will see two + and – numbers. The top number is what is called “the spread”. The bottom number may look familiar to you as it is the same rate that the sportsbook offers for the over/under bet.
According to this menu, I can take the Brooklyn Nets ATS at +4.5 at a rate of -110.
So what exactly is “the spread”? Quite simply, the spread is a handicap that puts the two teams on an even playing field. In this case, you can add 4.5 points to the nets final score to determine who wins.
For example, if the final score of the game is Brooklyn 117, Philadelphia 120, as far as sports betting is concerned, Brooklyn actually scored 121.5 to Philadelphia’s 120 and Brooklyn wins that game ATS.
I have it? just right?
So if you bet $110 on the Nets ATS you would have made a profit of $100 for a total payout of $210.
However, if you had set the nets on ML, you could not add the 4.5 handicap and you would have lost your entire investment.
Now you can see why ML betting is offered at very different rates than O/U and ATS spread betting. If an underdog wins at ML, the payoff is more significant since the outcome was considered less likely. When you bet on ATS there is no outsider as the teams both have handicaps to be even.” The house profits by pocketing “the vig” hoping to get an equal amount of money on both sides of this bet.
It’s exciting to be part of the action whether you’re betting on ML, O/U or ATS. I hope this introduction helped make the process a little more accessible. It takes a little skill and a lot of luck. Above all, remember that betting should always be fun!
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