How Does the Line Work in Sports Betting?

If you’re an amateur bettor that’s just starting out and are in desperate
need of a quick betting terminology lesson, you’ve come to the right place.
For starters, I would like to believe that you are starting out by picking
teams that you believe will win the game outright. That would be known as a

moneyline bet

. If you are a bit more advanced then that, you would probably be looking
at betting the “line” on a particular event. To some, this is known as

the spread

and that’s completely fine. However, if you ever come across a conversation
involving the “line”, this article will prepare you for what it actually

What is the “Line”?

If you hear the term “line” being tossed around in a conversation amongst
bettors, you can be certain that they are referring to the current odds or
point spread on a particular event. To take that a step further, when you
are placing your bets, the “line” will more often than not be the
determining factor on who you decide to pick. The “line” is set by the
linemakers (not surprisingly) with the purpose of getting equal action on
both sides of the event.

When looking at the line, it is important to know that the team with a
negative point spread is always the favorite. The favorite could win the
game but not cover the spread, which will leave you with nothing but a
losing ticket.

For example, let’s say the San Antonio Spurs are at home and are favored by
15 points against the visiting New York Knicks. You would read the line as
San Antonio -15 and the Knicks +15. This means that if you bet on the
Spurs, they will need to win the game by more than 15 points in order for
your ticket to be graded as a winner. The same applies to any bet on the
Knicks – anything other than a 16 or more-point loss would give Knicks
bettors a winning ticket. If the Spurs happen to win by exactly 15 points,
the bet is graded as a “push” and both Spurs and Knicks bettors will get
their money back.

How to Find the Best Line

The most common mistake I find novice bettors make the most happens way
before they actually place their bet on a particular game or team. Most
novice bettors have only one sportsbook, which is a very big mistake.
Sportsbooks give the linemakers the freedom to set their own lines as they
see fit. While most books may post what seems like the same lines, you can
always find a better line if you look hard enough. Some places will be a
half-point lower or higher depending on the line, while some may have a
better price tag associated with that particular line.

Sportsbooks will always list a price associated with the line, and the
majority of the time it is priced at -110. From our example above, the line
would now look like this: Spurs -15 (-110), Knicks +15 (-110). In both
cases, this means that in order to win $100, you must bet $110. This is
called “vig”. The most common price found amongst the books pertaining to
the line is -110. Sometimes books will raise the price to -115 or -120 on
either the favorite or underdog if they feel they need to. If you see a
line that is a positive number, such as +150, this means you will win $150
for every $100 you bet.

Most Popular Lined Sports

You can find a line on basically any sport you can bet on from NBA, NHL,
soccer, tennis, cricket, college football and basketball, ping pong,
volleyball, and even politics. Sporting events will usually be lined with a
money line, spread and a total for wagering purposes. However, the most
popular sport that linemakers put out lines for is the National Football
League. Football is king in today’s world, and it is easily the most talked
about and bet on sport throughout the calendar year. Sportsbooks even go as
far as putting out game lines for the following season starting in June –
that’s two months before pre-season even gets underway. Most handicappers
will confirm the notion that being great at betting on football feels
greater than being good at capping any other sport. Football lines are
typically the hardest to beat since linemakers often make them their top
priority as football typically draws the biggest handle.

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