The most common way to bet on sports at an online sportsbook is to bet the pointspread. The pointspread is set by online sportsbook odds or linemakers in the effort to even out the wagering action for both sides. For example, if the Kansas City Chiefs play the Jacksonville Jaguars the overwhelming majority of gamblers would bet the Chiefs to win the game. But with the correct pointspread set by the linemaker the public will bet both sides equally.
What is the Pointspread
The best way to describe the pointspread is as “The Great Equalizer.” In our example of the Chiefs and Jaguars, the linemakers will set a pointspread that would attract betting action on Jacksonville that they otherwise would not receive. If the Jaguars are a 10-point home dog they will obviously get a lot more betting dollars drawn their way than if there was no pointspread at all.
On a 10-point spread the Chiefs would have to win by 11 or more points for the bet to win. If the Chiefs win the game by nine points or less, or lose the game outright, Jacksonville wins the bet. If Kansas City were to win the game by 10 points the game would be considered a “push” will all bets refunded to gamblers.
You can bet pointspreads on entire games, quarters, halves or with live betting.
The reason that the sportsbooks want equal betting action on both sides is because of the normal 10-percent commission that they charge for each bet. If a gambler bets $100 on our Chiefs vs. Jaguars example, he would actually have to layout $110 to win $100. That extra $10 is known as “vigorish” (“vig” for short) or “juice.” With the “juice,” if there is equal betting action on both sides, the “house” collects its 10-percent vig and pays out the winners while making a tidy profit. This is where the pointspread comes into play.
What Goes into the Pointspread?
The best way to look at the pointspread is to compare it to a stock on the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The pointspread is based on a combination of team ability and public perception. Those perceptions are of course based on recent results and varying factors such as injuries, historic trends, site of game, weather, and media. All of these ingredients go into the pointspread line that you will see listed on the board. And this is where a gambler must assess betting value and what is a fair or unfair price.
The Overlay and Casual Money
Media hype, team branding, and marquee man cache are a big part of how the betting lines end up. Perhaps the best example of a team that is consistently overvalued are the Dallas Cowboys. Branded for over 40 years as “America’s Team” and with showman promoter and owner Jerry Jones the Cowboys are a worldwide brand. With that in mind a lot of fan money is bet on the Cowboys each week regardless of whether the price is too high on Dallas or not.
Remember, whoever says the pointspread is based on what “Vegas thinks” is totally ignorant and wrong. The pointspread is based on what Vegas thinks that YOU think. Online sportsbooks can read the gambling public like a book and will set their lines accordingly. After all, its their job and how they make their money.
Sharps vs. Squares
The pointspread will fluctuate up and down after the “opening line” is posted on the board. And that fluctuation is based on a combination of betting activity between what is known as “sharps” and “squares.”
Sharps are the pros that probe and pick for the perfect spot to jump in at. Sometimes you will see a big move from the opening line. Many times, that is the sharps attacking what they believe to be a weak line. Following that move come the squares. The squares are fans, small time players, and causal recreational gamblers that react to the big line moves or bet on the popular teams like the Cowboys, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Lakers, etc.
Sharps are also known for blitzing a pointspread at the very end of the week or day right before a game begins. This is done after they monitor the line’s fluctuation and late news leading up to the game.