When most North Americans get ready to place a bet on their favorite sport, they typically face a choice of whether to bet on the Money line or the Point Spread. These are the two most common forms of betting for the four major American sports. Still, there are many people that don’t know what each means, so we are going to break each down for you and help you understand why players choose one over the other.
The Point Spread
Let’s start with the point spread. This is the type of odds that you most often hear about when people talk about football games. The point spread is a wagering option where the favorite is handicapped by a specific number of points. This makes betting on both sides of the game more even of an option for gamblers. Sportsbooks use the point spread to try to get the same amount of money bet on each side of a game, thus removing the risk from their perspective.
Let’s have a look at a typical point spread, using the NFL as an example:
- Cleveland Browns +13.5 -110
- New England Patriots -13.5 -110
Ok, so let’s break down the odds above. First off, the matchup has the Cleveland Browns against the New England Patriots, which for the purposes of this example is a complete mismatch. With the Patriots so much better of a team than the Browns, they must be handicapped in some way for bettors to want to take Cleveland. This is where the point spread comes into play. In this example, the Patriots have been set as a 13.5 point favorite in the game. Expert linesmakers have determined to the best of their abilities that this is the handicap that must be applied in order to even out the game. More on that in a second.
The -110 part of the line is the amount you have to wager to win back $100. The $10 difference is what is called the “juice,” which is really the fee that the sportsbook takes for offering the wager in the first place. In a perfect world, there is the exact same amount of money bet on both Cleveland and New England, leaving the bookmaker to simply collect the 10% fee with no risk of losing money.
Ok, back to the point spread. This example means that if you want to bet on the Patriots, you have to “lay” the points. This basically means you will be starting the game with the Patriots losing 13.5 to 0. In order to win the bet, you have to believe the Patriots will win by 14 or more points. Conversely, if you think that the Browns can keep the game close, then you would want to “take the points” and start the game with Cleveland leading 13.5 to 0. What makes point spreads so much fun for gamblers is that the team you select does not have actually to win the game. As they “cover the spread,” which means they are within the number that is posted as the odds, then you win the bet.
This is also where gamblers can become very frustrated, especially in situations like this. Perhaps the Patriots are up 21 points late in the game and are easing off the throttle. Cleveland comes down and scores a late touchdown, and instead of kicking an extra point to be down 14, they go for 2 and get it, now down 13 points, and causing all bets on the Patriots to lose. Point spreads can be a friend or foe, but they do give both sides a chance to bet without being gouged.
Let’s now take the same game, but looking at the Money Line. A Money Line Bet is one where you are solely picking the winner of the game, no matter what the final score ends up being. For a game with a heavy favorite like our example, here is what a Money Line could look like:
- Cleveland +280
- New England -300
The numbers next to each team represent the return in factors of $100. In this scenario, the Patriots are likely going to win the game, so the sportsbook makes you wager a lot of money to get a return – you would have to risk $300 to win back $100 in profit with the above line. If you think that Cleveland is going to pull off a huge upset, then you are going to be rewarded with $280 back in return for a bet of $100.
Bear in mind that while both of these spreads are using $100 as a guide, you do not have to bet that much. It is essentially a multiplier, so for example if you only wanted to bet $50 on the Patriots Money Line, you would get back $66.67 if you came up a winner.
Which line is better?
Well, this isn’t really a question that can be answered simply. If you have a big bankroll and can make money line bets that will produce decent returns, then that could be the right wager for you. Otherwise, the point spreads move the risk to the outcome of the score rather than the outright winner. It is really a personal preference for gamblers. We will cover other types of bets on other pages, but for straight wagers, these are the two most common forms of odds used by the North American gambler.