When someone bets on sports, they generally have two kinds of bets – money wagers and proposition wagers. One kind of wager is common to both, but the other is not. So let’s take a closer look at what the plus and minus mean in betting.
Matching Mismatches are exactly that – when you match the scores of two NFL football teams, you’re making a bet on the game’s outcome. You’re implying that if one team wins, the point spread will be positive; if the other team wins, the point spread will be negative. Let’s break it down.
Each week, NFL teams square off against each other to determine who will be the victor. This Sunday’s matchup features the defending champion New England Patriots (12-3) taking on the Chicago Bears (7-6), whose only win this season came against the Green Bay Packers (12-3).
The over/under on the game is currently set at 7.5 points, so if the spread is positive, the bettor will win $100 on each side; if the spread is negative, the bettor will lose $100 on each side.
With the Patriots leading the season’s first televised series 16-13, the over/under on this game is currently set at 7.5 points. So in a game with two evenly matched teams, a bet on the over will pay $100 if the game ends in a tie. It will lose $100 if the game ends in a victory by either team. (The over in this scenario is +$100; under is -$100.) A bet on the underdog (Bears) will win $100 if the Patriots defeat the spread, and it will lose $100 if the Pats lose or cover the spread. In the event of a tie, the bet will be considered a push.
Over or Under
While matching mismatches are great for sportsbooks because they provide good odds for games that end in a tie, it’s not the only kind of wager you can make. As we discussed above, if the spread is positive in a game with two evenly matched teams, the bettor will win $100 on each side. But what if the game is close and the spread isn’t positive? In that case, it’s better to bet on the over, since the over will win $100 regardless of the final outcome of the game.
The opposite is also true: if the spread is negative in a game with two evenly matched teams, it’s better to bet on the under. This is because a loss by one of the two teams will make the spread more positive, and you’ll win more money. For example, if the Packers win the game by a score of 20-16, the point spread will become -4. If the Patriots then win the game, the point spread will become +4, giving you a winning proposition.
Let’s say you want to make a $100 bet on the Super Bowl (New England Patriots vs. Philadelphia Eagles; 5:00 p.m. ET, February 4, 2019, from the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ). If the Patriots win the game, you’ll win $100; if the Eagles win, you’ll lose $100.
The key is to always look at how the betting lines are set for each game. If you don’t understand the point spread or odds, ask the bookmaker for help before betting.
The point spread is how much one team is favored to win. When a football team goes on the field, there is a clear favorite and an underdog (team to be scored against). In a normal, even game, with no injuries or weather-related delays, the favorite will win by a score of 7-0 or 7-1. (The half-point margin is because the scores are usually adjusted to make the games even.)
The point spread is generally used in conjunction with the over/under in sports betting. Let’s say you’re playing over the under 7.5 points. The point spread will be displayed along with the over/under as a way to help the bettor decide which side to choose. So in that case, if the point spread is +1.5, that means the underdog is 1.5 points favored to win.
If you’re playing with 50/1 odds and the point spread is displayed as +3, that means the underdog will win 3 points.
The money line is simply the favorite team’s odds to win. So when people talk about betting on the Patriots, they’re really talking about wagering on New England to win the game. Similarly, when someone refers to betting on the Eagles, they’re referring to wagering on Philadelphia to win.
Since betting odds are generally expressed as a fraction, like 3/1 or 10/1, the money line can be simplified to an over/under statement. So if you’re playing over, you are wagering that the total number of points will be above the displayed number (over); if you’re playing under, the total number of points will be below the displayed number (under).
Let’s say you’re playing over the under 7.5 points. The money line will be presented as a simple, +(-), or -(-), statement. So in that case, if the line is listed as -140, that means the underdog will win the game by a score of 140-138, or 10-11.
If you’re playing with 50/1 odds and the money line is displayed as -350, that means the underdog will win by a score of 350-350 or 50-50.
A tie is exactly what it sounds like – when two teams are tied at the end of a game, they’re considered to have “met the tie-breaker.”
If one team scores more points in the fourth quarter than the other team, that team wins. Otherwise, the tied teams play until there’s a winner. When this happens, the bettor will lose since there was no winner determined by the end of the game.
In a two-team tie, it’s better to bet on the favorite, because they have the advantage (scoring more points) in the event of a tie.
Proposition bets are similar to wagers, except they’re made on something other than an event that will take place. In a proposition bet, the bettor is wagering on the outcome of a particular game or event. For example, you can make a proposition bet on the next Super Bowl game. You’ll have to wait until then to find out if you’re right or wrong, but at least you can make a wager on it.
In the Super Bowl example above, you would wager that New England will win the game. However, you could also make the opposite wager – that Philadelphia will win. If you’re correct, you’ll win $100; if you’re incorrect, you’ll lose $100.
The key to understanding proposition bets is in the wording – the game, event, or sport has to occur before the bet can be resolved. So while you can make a wager on the next game, you can’t actually place the bet until that game has been played. You could conceivably make money off proposition bets, but it’s highly unlikely. Even in cases where the proposition bet wins, it’s usually only because of a fluke – the game ended in a tie, or the upset result was the result of a bad call by the refs. (For example, betting on the over/under in the Daytona 500 is generally a losing proposition because of the large number of upset results – when a driver wins the race by 10 or more laps, they’re considered to have covered the spread.)
The key point to keep in mind about proposition bets is that trying to predict the outcome of a game, tournament, or any other event is extremely risky – if you’re wrong, you could lose a lot of money. For this reason, proposition bets are generally considered to be a “hunch” or “gut feeling” type of wager – they’re usually not recommended by gambling experts.