How Do Vegas Sportsbooks Set Betting Lines?

The way a bookie sets the odds on a particular sporting event is usually a closely guarded secret. But sometimes, betting lines are published and exposed for all to see. If you’re not sure how and why betting lines differ from sportsbooks’ odds, continue reading.

The Mathematics Behind Bookmaker Odds

The odds in a bookmaker come from a mathematical formula that relies on the outcome of previous events and the current ‘line’ in those events. Setting a line in one sport doesn’t mean the same as doing so in another. In fact, the calculations for line-setting can be quite different.

For example, consider the case of a college football team. They might have won their first five games and settled on a 5.0-point spread in those contests. But, in their sixth game, they lost by 23 points. The sportsbooks aren’t stupid – they know the odds are gonna go down as soon as they notice this huge discrepancy between their first five and their sixth games. So, conversely, they will likely set the line on this one at a much larger spread, say, 8.0 points.

Why Do Sportsbooks Favor Fewer Matches?

For one thing, it’s a lot easier to calculate the odds of a one-off event (such as an NFL game) than it is to make the same calculations for multiple events (such as the World Cup or Summer Olympics). Another reason is that having fewer games gives the sportsbooks a higher chance of completing a particular set of events – they don’t want to overload their odds calculators with hundreds of thousands of potential events. Thirdly, people have a shorter attention span when it comes to sports than they do when it comes to, say, politics or religion, so having fewer sports to follow definitely favors the sportsbooks.

What About The Moneyline?

The odds on a money line are simply the opposite of a parlay. With a parlay, you’re betting on two or more teams winning simultaneously. With the money line, you’re betting on which of two teams will WIN the game. So, for example, let’s say that you’re making a wager on the New York Jets to cover the 3.0-point spread in their game against the Buffalo Bills. You’d place your bet on the Jets winning the game and earning you 3.0 points (the spread), but you wouldn’t have to worry about the Bills winning, since you’re only betting on one team – the Jets.

Here’s another example. Let’s say the New England Patriots are playing the Kansas City Chiefs in a Super Bowl. You want to bet on the Patriots to win the game, but you also want to get the over/under total for the game (for example, 54.5 points). You decide to create a parlay card with these two wagers. In this case, you’re saying – ‘I bet on the Patriots and the over/under,’ not ‘I bet on the Patriots and then I place a separate bet on the over/under.’ This is why the money line is often referred to as a ‘two-sided bet.’

What’s A Prop Bet?

A prop bet is an attempt to predict the outcome of a specific event, such as the winning horse in the Kentucky Derby. The person making the wager places a bet on the outcome of the event, but he’s not expecting to win money. He’s doing it as a promotional effort for a particular business or brand (the bookmaker in this case).

A few years ago, for example, fans could place bets on the Super Bowl with the Las Vegas casino operator. The chances of winning were 1 in 14, which is extremely low. But it was still considered a prop bet because the casino wasn’t actually expecting to make money from this promotion.

The advantage of props is that you’re not risking your own money. This allows the bookmakers to take larger bets than they could if the money came from actual gamblers. The disadvantage is that you have to wade through a lot of confusing information in order to figure out what events you’re betting on. Plus, the fact that you’re not risking your own money makes it a lot harder to analyze whether or not you actually made a successful wager.

What Are Parlay, Split, And Lay Betting?

The way a bookie sets the odds on a parlay, split, or lay bet is a little different than how they set the odds on a straight wager. Basically, you’re putting together a parlay card with multiple wagers. So, if you want to make a straight bet on the Buffalo Bills to beat the New York Jets by 3.0 points, you would put that on a parlay card with the other teams – the Steelers and the Raiders. You might then decide to put another bet on the over/under total for the game (for example, 54.5 points).

A split bet is a little bit like a parlay bet, except you’re only making one wager per card. A lay bet is pretty much what it sounds like – you’re placing an ordinary bet but you’re doing so ‘on the lay.’ This is usually used for a proposition bet, where you put down a single wager and the bookie decides whether or not that wager will win. For example, ‘Will the Minnesota Vikings win the Super Bowl?’ or ‘Will Tom Brady throw for three touchdowns versus the San Francisco 49ers?’

The lay bet doesn’t need to be complicated – you just have to understand that the bookie isn’t taking any bets on the game you’re wagering on. They’re only taking bets on the outcome of the event you’re betting on. So, if you lose, you haven’t lost money – you’ve just lost the money you placed on the event, not the bet itself. This is why books don’t like lay bets. It’s not that they don’t like taking bets, it’s just that they don’t like risk-inclined gamblers trying to save money by reducing their wagering activity to an absolute minimum.

The Most Popular Sports In Vegas

It’s not exactly a secret that Vegas is the place to be if you love sports. Even if you’re not a fan of any particular team or game, there’s still probably something here that you’ll enjoy. Some of the most popular sports in Vegas include, but are not limited to:

  • College football
  • NHL hockey
  • Basketball
  • Baseball
  • Fishing
  • Tennis
  • Car Racing

This probably won’t come as a huge surprise, given that a majority of the population of the United States is actually of legal age to gamble at a Vegas casino. But, just in case there was any doubt about how committed American sports fans are to their teams, here’s a solid reminder of just how big the NFL, NBA, and MLB are in the United States:

  • NFL: 12.3 million fans across the US according to a Sports Illustrated report
  • NBA: 10.8 million fans according to a Sports Illustrated report
  • MLB: 13.1 million fans according to a Sports Illustrated report

This is interesting in comparison to the other major sports leagues. For example, the NHL only has a few hundred thousand casual fans, yet they get almost as much TV coverage and promote themselves as much as the other three major sports. Why? It’s not like the other leagues don’t cover themselves in glory, it’s just that the NHL is such a comparatively obscure and foreign sport that, for whatever reason, most Americans haven’t given it a chance. If you’ve never heard of the NHL, it’s probably because you’ve never played hockey or watched a hockey game. For whatever reason, American sports fans have decided that the NHL just isn’t for them. So, while the other three sports make a lot more money, the NHL actually has a smaller fan base.