What Does -14 Mean in Betting?

For those of you who are new to online betting, the number after the hyphen in a sports betting website is important. This is typically used as a reference to the standard spread for that game. For instance, if you are planning to bet on the the New York Jets versus the Chicago Bears, the standard line for that game is usually shown as under:

  • -3.5
  • 3.5
  • 0
  • 13

Where those numbers come from is quite interesting. Essentially, they are based on a formula that adds up the point spreads for all the NFL games that are on the schedule for that week. With the Jets playing on Monday Night Football that week, the formula will come up with a number like -14 for that game. Don’t worry, the -14 won’t hurt you!

While it might not seem like a big deal, that number is actually quite valuable. If you’re curious, here’s a quick breakdown of what the -14 means.

The Number Signifies A Parity Bid

The -14 is a parity bid. This means the sportsbook is simply matching the bettor’s wager (in this case, a $10 wager is equated to a $14 wager due to the -3.5 spread) and adding in an additional amount. Essentially, if you’re betting $10 on a game with a -3.5 spread, you’re actually placing a $14 wager because the bookie will add another $4 to that game.

There are essentially two different types of parities. The first is an even bet, also known as an even money wager. For example, a bet on the Giants +3 at Philadelphia might yield an odd amount (either $1 or $3 based on whether the Giants win or lose).

The second type of parity is a cover-or-nothing bet. This means if your chosen team loses the wager, you lose your entire wager. For instance, if you bet on the Browns +3 at Buffalo, you’re risking $3 on a $10 wager. If the Browns lose, you lose $3; if they win, you would win $7.

Prevailing The Odds, Getting Even, Or Making A Profit

The purpose of a sportsbook is to make money off of the action, usually by taking a commission (typically about 15% of the total wagers) and adding on an additional amount (known as the juice) to each winner. In some cases, the juice is worth just about the same as the amount wagered. This makes it easy for a bookie to simply parlay small wagers into large money-makers.

On the whole, it’s favorable for the bettor to get even (that is, to have the same total amount wagered on one side as the other). One main reason for this is the prevalence of juice payments. These are payments that the sportsbook makes to the winning side. Essentially, the more even the game (that is, the more games with the same result), the more the bookmaker earns. This is why it’s highly desirable (and in some cases, necessary) to keep games as close to even as possible.

While getting even is beneficial, it doesn’t always mean profits. Sometimes it means the bookie loses a little bit of money. To make money off of gambling, you have to be willing to risk some of it. In case you’re curious, here’s a quick breakdown of how to calculate your profit or loss from a single wager:

Profit = Wager X (1 + juice) – Commissions X (Wager X – 1)

The first term in the profit equation is the wager. This is the amount you’re risking, regardless of whether you win or lose. In the above example, a $10 wager at +3 yields a $14 wager, so the wager is $10. The second term is the juice, which in this case is simply +3. This means if the Browns win the game, you would gain $3 in juice. The third and final term is the commissions taken by the sportsbook. In this case, the commission is 15% of $10, or $1.5.

In case you’re curious, here are some general guidelines for interpreting the -14 in betting:

  • If the line is -3.5 or more, you’re getting a great value as a par bet. This is because bookies will usually match your wager (and then add a bit more for juice and commissions) if the game has a spread of 3.5 or more.
  • If the line is -3, you’re likely to see some profit, but it’s more of an even bet than a value proposition.
  • If the line is -2, you’re basically risking free money. Remember, the bookie will likely match your wager and give you added juice and commissions if the game has a spread of 2.
  • If the line is -1 or less, you’re better off avoiding this bet altogether. The reason is the juice typically isn’t worth the amount wagered and the bookie takes a loss on these types of bets.