Understanding sports gambling basics

Understanding sports betting

   Gambling is like the Terminator. You can't stop it. You can't kill it. So, here are the basics to deal with it.

There are many ways to bet on a sporting event. The most common option is to pick an outright winner. Not much challenge in that. If the Cowboys are playing the Redskins, the Boys are gonna win. But Vegas knows this way before we do, so you're not going to win much money on this type of bet.

Handicapping with a point spread is the second easiest way to make a wager. Let's say the Saints are playing Tampa Bay. The Saints are gonna win, but what if give the Buc's 14 points (+14) before the game even kicks off? It gets a little more interesting to call that winner.

Vegas is smart. They usually get the line right for them to make money.

There are different methods of combining these actions to relieve you of your money if you're so inclined. It goes on from there, and on the other end of the spectrum - gets hard-core with gambling addicts combining multiple bets as I'll review below.'

If you haven't seen the Showtime documentary special "Action," I highly recommend it.

Let's look at the basics:

Money lines

A money line is a way of taking an outright winner in a contest. This can be in a team sporting event, fight, tennis match or any other game where there is just one winner.

This type of wager is made with a money line. Money lines can apply to a straight winner or act as a handicap on a point spread, run line or puck line.

There are two ways that money lines are published:

American odds

Most online sportsbooks will publish odds in the American format. This is where one side has a plus and the other side a minus that is based on $100 increments. For example, one side will be -200 and the other side +170.

The minus side, which is the favorite in this example, would need to lay $200 for every $100 the player would like to win. The plus side would bet $100 for every $170 that the player wants to win. The difference is the vigorish the house wins for accepting the wager.

Point spreads

A point spread is a handicap for an American football or basketball game. Some alternative lines in baseball and hockey use this. In baseball, it is called a run line. In hockey, it is called a puck line.

American Football and basketball games often use point spreads alongside money lines. This gives two ways to make a bet.

The point spread shows how many points a team must win by or lose less than by for the ticket to get paid. For example, a favorite that has a -3.5 point spread must win by four points for that side to cover the spread. An underdog that is +3.5 gets paid if that team loses by fewer than four points.

Point spreads may be whole numbers or half points. A whole number can tie. When that happens, all tickets push the same way that a player and dealer 20 would in blackjack. Half points eliminate the push possibility.

Most point spreads require a -110 lay using American odds. This means that a player must bet $110 for every $100 he hopes to win. That same line is published as 1.91 using decimal odds.

American football spreads around 3 and 7 may vary from this number. For example, it is common to see a -3 favorite also require a -115 or -120 lay. This is done because moving a number on or off of three is a major difference in American football.

Alternative run line and puck lines will most often be plus or minus 1.5. This means that the favorite must win by two runs or goals.

There is also a money or decimal line tied to the alternative line. If the underdog only loses by one, then that side wins these alternative lines. It is likely that the side receiving the +1.5 will be the money line favorite. The side laying 1.5 runs or goals will be plus money. That is because winning by two in baseball and hockey is extremely difficult. A very strong team would have to play a very weak one for the 1.5 favorite to also lay money.

Establishing the line

Many sportsbooks do not have their own in-house bookmaker, and therefore, do not produce their own line, as that can be costly and risky. Instead, those sportsbooks partner with a line originator who creates, publishes and maintains a line for them. In the state of Nevada, the primary line originators are Boyd Gaming, Caesars Entertainment, CG Technology, Lucky's, MGM Resorts, South Point Casino, Stations, William Hill and Wynn.

There are a few sportsbooks that produce their own independent line, such as Treasure Island, Peppermill, and Westgate Superbook. All other Nevada sportsbooks use a line from one of the Nevada line originators.


Totals are also referred to as over/unders. A total is the number of points scored in a match. In boxing, it means the total number of rounds a match goes.

The points from both sides count in a total. There are alternative lines where the points of just one side count towards the number. Totals may push if they are on a whole number.

A look at sports’ over/unders:

Basketball totals tend to be the highest.

NBA games can often be over 200 on an over/under.

NCAA basketball is often in the 140 range.

NCAA football will have totals around 70.

NFL games are typically around 45.

Baseball will be in the 7 or 8 range.

Hockey is typically around five.

Soccer/football matches will be around 2.5.


A parlay is when a bettor buys a ticket that wins based on two or more outcomes. This can be money lines, point spreads, totals, alternative lines or a combination of all.

Plays that are correlated may not be placed on the same parlay card. For example, a money line bet on one team and taking the point spread on the same game is not permitted. A total with one of those is typically permitted.

The house edge on parlays is well above 10 percent. The more teams that are involved in a parlay, the higher the payout. Higher payouts also equal a higher house edge. Parlays are typically thought to be sucker bets because of the high juice charged by the sportsbook.

All portions of a parlay ticket must win. A tie will drop the card’s payout by one team. Some parlay cards disclose that ties lose.


Teasers are available in American football and basketball. A teaser includes two or more outcomes. The bettor receives points in his favor. Football teasers can be 6, 6.5, 7, 10 and 14, depending on what the sportsbook offers. Basketball teasers are typically 4, 4.5 and 5 points.

A bettor picks at least two outcomes on a teaser and adds the number of points in the wager to his team’s point spread. A player that takes two three-point underdogs in a six-point teaser would move the line to nine for those teams. If the bettor took the favorite, it would move the favorite from -3 to +3.

All parts of a teaser must win. A tie typically drops the number of plays on a card down by one. Some teaser cards force ties to lose. This will be disclosed on the card.


Pleasers are reverse teasers. This is where a player gives the house seven points in American football or five points in basketball. Two or more teams must be taken.

For example, a team that is a seven-point favorite in American football would move to a fourteen-point favorite on a pleaser. This puts the player at a massive disadvantage but also gives the player huge payouts if the long shots hit.

The house edge is often 40 percent or higher on pleaser cards. Ties typically lose.


Futures bets are when a player picks an eventual winner in a field. This may be the winner of a division, league, championship, golf event or tennis tournament.

There is typically just one winner in a futures bet. The house edge on these bets is typically about 15 percent.


An in-play wager is when a player bets on an event that is already in progress. A bettor can enter the action during breaks in play, typically television timeouts. Bettors use this to get into action when late to a match or to hedge a bet.

Propositional bets

A propositional bet, often called a prop for short, is a wager that is exotic. It may be a wager on an individual player’s statistics. It may be a play between two athlete’s performances. It can also be the number of points scored by a team.

For major events like the Super Bowl, it can be as odd as the coin toss, halftime show performance, amount of money bet on the game, or statements made by the announcers.

The house edge of propositional bets is often double or triple that of a straight bet. This is due to the lower volume of action.

Sports betting FAQ

What is a straight bet?

A straight bet is where a player picks one side. It wins if that team either covers the point spread or wins outright, depending on whether a money line or point spread wager was made by the player.

What is a money line?

A money line is where a bettor picks a team or player to win a match outright. A bettor either chooses the favorite and lays money or takes the underdog and receives more money than was wagered.

What is a point spread?

A point spread is a handicap applied to a favorite. The team most likely to win lays points, while an underdog gains points. The point spread hopes to find the most likely number that a favorite is predicted to win by in a team sport. Point spreads are often found in American football and basketball. Alternative lines in hockey and baseball use point spreads on 1.5.

What is a parlay?

A parlay is a bet that includes two or more outcomes. The more teams picked, the higher the payout. All teams in a parlay must win. Ties will lower the payout by one team unless otherwise disclosed by the betting shop.

What is a teaser?

A teaser is similar to a parlay. Its payouts are lower because a bettor receives extra points to apply to each leg of the teaser. American Football teasers are typically 6, 6.5 or 7 points. Basketball teasers are normally 4, 4.5 or 5 points. A six-point football teaser on a +3 team and +7 team would become +9 and +16, respectively.

Teasers must be at least two teams. Teaser bets are accepted with as many as 10 teams, depending on the shop.

What is a pleaser?

A pleaser is a reverse teaser. This involves a player giving points away from the published line. That number is typically seven. Pleaser cards are often even where ties lose so books will try to place the lines on important numbers. Pleasers are normally available only in American football. Sportsbooks will try to place teaser lines on important numbers like 3, 7, 10 and 14. Ties lose in a pleaser.

Good Luck!

  Disclaimer: All Access Sporting News is not a gambling site, and does not accept or place wagers of any type. This website does not endorse or encourage illegal gambling. All information provided by this website is for news and entertainment purposes only. Any use of this information in violation of federal, state, provincial or local laws is strictly prohibited.


Ran DeBord - All Access Sporting News 

Source: NevadaGamingCommission; AASNSports

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