A hook is a half a point in a point spread. For example, the difference between a three point spread and a 3.5 point spread is the hook. If you hear the phrase “lost by the hook” it means that a bettor had a losing bet by that half point via the pointspread.
In that example, let’s pretend that you had bet on the favorite, and that the game wound up with the favorite winning by three points. If the point spread had been three points then the bet would have been a push and you would have received your money back. If it was 3.5, though, then you have made a losing bet – you have lost by the hook. A hook can appear on any point spread, but it is most commonly applied to the most common outcomes in games. In football, for example, three, four and seven are the most common margins of victory in games, so hooks would be most common when the point spread equals one of those three numbers.
Linemakers love adding a hook to lines when they can get away with it if the public money is likely to be tilted to one side. The betting public often doesn’t significantly react to a difference of just half a point in a spread, but over time it can have a big impact on the bottom line for books. As a result, it is very important when making bets that you shop around to different sportsbooks for the best line you can find. Avoiding the hook in games can, over the long term, make a big difference in the profit you make.
Remember, too, that there are times when a hook can actually be your best friend. In our example from earlier let’s say you were betting the underdog. The hook makes the difference in this case between a pushed bet and a winning one.
There is usually a way available for handicappers to avoid the hook when a line has one – you can buy off the hook. By paying an extra premium when you make your bet you can make the hook disappear. Because it comes with a cost, though, you need to be very careful when taking this approach. Oftentimes the cost of buying off the hook is actually higher than the long term cost of betting with the hook at a normal price. That means that shopping around for the best price – one without the hook – is almost always a more attractive approach than buying off the hook.
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