What Does -200 Mean in Sports Betting?

When people hear the terms “bets” or “betting” they usually think of sports betting. While there are certainly benefits to betting on sports, it’s important to understand what -200 means in sports betting. Let’s take a look at the various meanings of that number and how to leverage it to your advantage.

History Of -200

You may wonder where the -200 number comes from. Back in the 1970s, U.S. sportsbooks would take bets of three digits only in order to avoid accidental activation of payouts. For example, a typical three-digit bet in the ‘70s would be 12. The bookie would record the bet as “001,” and the payout would be calculated as “200” — three digits and two zeroes. So, if the winning number was 12, the payout would be 200. Since most people wouldn’t dream of putting in a bet in the thousands, the -200 limitation effectively limited wagers to the hundreds and helped keep the books clear of large bets.

The Present And Future Of -200

In the 1980s, the advent of computerized sportsbooks shifted the bookie mindset. Suddenly, it was possible to make large wagers without risking large payouts — or at least, not paying out in full. The result was that sportsbooks began taking higher and higher bets, with many setting the spread at -200. Here’s what that means:

  • A $100 bet on the New York Jets would pay $150 ($200 less $50),
  • A $100 bet on the Baltimore Orioles would pay $400 ($200 less $200), and
  • A $100 bet on the Chicago Bears would pay $600 ($400 less $200).

So, while the “three-digit” rule still exists and is largely applied in the U.S., sportsbooks have largely moved toward taking larger and larger wagers. At times, a bookie will offer a bonus of 100% on a single bet — for example, a $100 bet would earn you $100, rather than the usual $75 — if the total sum of all the bets made during a particular season reaches a certain level. That means that even small wagers can add up quickly!

Matching Up -200

Another way to look at the “-200” is to see it as a “matching up” number. When two people make wagers on the same team, the bookie will most often offer the difference in spread between those two teams as a way to make up for the fact that they’re not directly matched in order to avoid a situation where one team wins and the other loses. For example, let’s say you wager $100 on the Denver Broncos and the spread is originally -250. If the Patriots open as a -280 favorite, the bookie will likely offer you a payout of -40 ($200 less $180) in order to make the total amount you win “0.” In this case, you would win exactly $0, but would also be responsible for paying out -40 on a bet you made on the Broncos. So, in effect, you’re getting a free -40 in the form of a rebate on your bet! This is one of the primary ways that -200 works in favor of the bettor, as it’s essentially free money!

More Than Meets The Eye

Besides being a “matching up” number, the -200 can also be used to signify a bonus bet. Just as with a normal betting position, if you place a bonus bet on a particular team, the bookie will sometimes offer the difference in spread between that team and the team you selected as a bonus as an additional payment. For example, if you selected the New England Patriots as your bonus team but the spread is currently -280, the bookie will likely offer you a payout of -40 in order to entice you into placing another bet. In this case, you would lose -40 on your first bet but would win $20 on your second bet, entitling you to a $20 profit before tax!

As you can see, there are many different ways that the -200 number can be used in betting. It’s important to remember that, as with any number in gambling, having more than one thing going on can increase your chances of winning. So, while you may be leveraging the number to make small wagers on individual teams, it may also be used as a qualifier when you bet on the total sum of all the games played that day. That means you’re more likely to win as a sharp gambler who knows how to use the -200 number effectively!