What Does -3.5 Mean in Sports Betting?

When you’re at the betting counter in a casino, what do you see? A bookmaker, of course! To get those juicy odds, the bookmaker’s likely using a betting algorithm that looks something like this:

Betting algorithms are a common tool in the bookmaker’s toolbox, and much like their traditional counterparts, they can usually be tweaked to fit any sports betting market. When a bookmaker creates an algorithm to target American sports fans, it’s likely because they know that most people there root for one team or the other. In the case of college football, that may mean you have a very popular team like the Alabama Crimson Tide, or a perennial powerhouse like the Ohio State Buckeyes. In the case of the NBA, it might be the Los Angeles Lakers or the New York Knicks.

These teams not only have a large fanbase, but they’re also often the subject of intense media coverage. That means more people are likely going to be following their games and statistics than any other two teams in a given sport.

If you’re a fan of one of these teams, using an algorithm to find the best betting opportunities is a good idea. For the rest of us, finding the right lines and the best bets is a bit more difficult. That’s why we’ve gone ahead and calculated the mean, or average, of the odds across different bookmakers for each team. That gives us a general sense of what the odds are for that team, and allows us to find the best odds for whatever game we might want to bet on.

How Does -3.5 Work?

As mentioned, when you go to the betting counter in a casino, what do you see? Most likely, you’ll see multiple books, each offering odds on different teams or games. If we take a look at the above picture, you can see that the New York Knicks have an average odds of +195 to win at home against the Chicago Bulls. Their bookmaker, Bovada, has the opposite bet at -195, and their lines for the game are clearly displayed.

That means we can calculate that the average odds for the game are actually tied at +103.5. The New York Knicks have an edge in that game due to the dominance of their fanbase in the city, but on a national level, the game should be close. The point is that the average odds can help us determine the best betting options for any given game.

Why Is the NBA The Most Popular Sport to Bet On?

The short answer is that the NBA is generally more popular than other sports in the United States. It’s been this way for decades, with the exception of the 2002-03 baseball season. If we were to look at viewership numbers, it would be the fourth-largest sport behind only football, baseball, and hockey.

What’s more, the NBA has one of the biggest fan bases internationally. The majority of its fans come from China, which is no surprise since the Chinese Super League is the most popular league among gamers there. This is a big market for NBA games, especially since many Chinese fans don’t really follow other sports.

The popularity of the NBA means that there will likely be many options for betting lines and props available. If we take the Golden State Warriors for example, they’re the third-largest NBA team, having won the most recent NBA Championship. They have a fairly balanced roster, with several players being key contributors on the offensive and defensive end.

Here’s a look at their roster:

  • Stephen Curry
  • Klay Thompson
  • Draymond Green
  • DeMarcus Cousins
  • Andrew Bogut
  • Jackie Butler
  • Kevin Durant
  • Andre Iguodala
  • Raymond Felton
  • Bogut
  • Igoudala
  • Durant

The Meanings Of The Other Numbers On An Odds Sheet

In the example above, we looked at the numbers next to the main odds of the game. These are the important ones, as they represent the average odds for that team or game. However, there are several other important numbers that go into creating those odds. Here’s a brief explanation of what each one means:

The Total Number Of Pounds (or Kiloates)

The first number is the total number of pounds (or kiloates) that will be bet on the game. This is almost always either 1,046 or 1,092, depending on whether you’re talking about pounds or kilos. You may see some online books use the metric system, but in the United States, we almost always use pounds.

The Total Number Of Points Scored By Both Teams

The second number is the total number of points that will be scored by both teams during the game. This is important because it determines the range of points that can be covered by this spread of odds. So, if you’re looking for a game with a low total, you may want to consider avoiding those types of games or picking them very closely because of the volatility involved. However, if you’re looking for a high-scoring game, those are the types of matchups you may want to pick, as there’s a good chance both teams will score a lot of points.

The Total Number Of Free Throws Made During The Game

The third number is the total number of free throws that will be made during the game. Free throws are those shots that can be either made from the foul line or the rebound after a made basket. There’s a lot of volatility here, as it can vary from game to game. If you’re looking for low numbers, free throws may be a good option, as there’s a chance one or both teams may struggle to score in that category.

The fourth number is how many minutes (or seconds) are remaining in the game. This is important because it shows you how much time is left in the game and, therefore, how much more (or less) you have to wager in order to cover your costs for the contest.

The fifth number is the total number of turnovers that were committed by both teams. This is important because it determines how many points will be given back to the opposing team. Turnovers can be caused by missed shots, missed layups, or bad passes, so it’s important to keep track of these numbers, especially if you’re in the gambling business. If you’re looking for a low number of turnovers, you may want to consider that type of game and avoid those that are high in turnovers.

The final number is the total number of technical fouls called during the game. This is important because it determines how many free throws will be given to the opposing team. As mentioned by the technical foul rules, a technical foul occurs when a player is unjustly called for any of the following actions:

  • Charging at the basket
  • Taking an excessive number of shots
  • Holding, hooking, or jamming an opponent
  • Talking excessively during a timeout
  • Leaning or blocking an opponent’s shot
  • Putting a forearm or hand on an opponent
  • Using weapons (e.g., elbows, fists, feet etc.)
  • Basket interference
  • Getting into fights with other players
  • Refusing to travel to a game because you’re not listed on the opponent’s travel roster
  • Disrespecting an opponent (e.g., throwing watermelon chunks at them)
  • Throwing water balloons or any objects that may be considered dangerous or deadly (e.g., snowballs, darts, rocks, etc.)
  • Any physical contact, including but not limited to punching, beating, kicking, or tripping an opponent

These numbers can vary greatly from game to game, so it’s important to track them carefully. You may have noticed that many of these numbers appear to be related to the total number of points that will be scored in the game. This is no coincidence, as these numbers have actually been mathematically proven to be predictive of the final score of the game. If you’re curious, you can find more information about this on our blog, where we go over several mathematical concepts that underlie sports betting and odds calculation. We also provide extensive tutorials on how to use software like Raghu’s Number Cruncher to create and analyze your very own betting algorithms, if you’re interested.