What Does a Negative Betting Line Mean?

When you place a wager on a sporting event, there’s usually no question as to whether or not the outcome will be positive. But what if the opposite is true and you’re betting against the odds? What does a negative betting line mean? Let’s take a look.

The Basics

When betting on a sporting event, you’ll often see the spread or the handicap listed next to the teams’ names. These are the margins of victory or defeat, respectively, and they give you an idea of how much better or worse the team you’re betting on will perform than the bookmakers’ odds would have you believe. If you’re seeing this written in an odds-oriented book, then the team you’re betting on is getting paid off at the expense of your wallet.

The spread and handicap don’t always work in the same way, however. The spread can be positive or negative, but the handicap always indicates whether or not the bettor is ahead or behind of the line. This line, sometimes referred to as the juice, is essentially the bookmakers’ estimate of who will win the game. It’s usually dictated by the oddsmakers as a courtesy to the bettors, but it can sometimes be slightly different to persuade the bettors otherwise.

The juice is usually printed in a newspaper or online sportsbook as part of the pre-game or in-game coverage in the form of odds or spreads. While it may not always be possible to know for certain which team will win until the end, the odds will give you a pretty good indication of who’s going to win and by how much.

What Is A Parlay Bet?

Speaking of odds, a parlay bet is when you combine two or more bets on the same game. For instance, if you’re betting on the Boston Red Sox against the Chicago White Sox and the San Francisco Giants, you could place a parlay bet on the game in the form of +100 on the Red Sox and +150 on the Giants. In some places, you may also see this written as a “Pari-all” or “Pari-lay” bet.

In the example above, even though the Red Sox are favored to beat the White Sox, the Giants’ performance will actually decide whether or not the parlay bet pays off. If the Giants win, you’ll break even on your bets. If the White Sox win, then you’ll lose your initial +100 on the Red Sox but you’ll make a profit of +150 on the Giants. In either case, the parlay will be a profitable wager. But what happens if the Giants lose? Then you’ll lose your +150 on the Giants and have to refund the +100 you placed on the Red Sox.

To avoid losing money, make sure you research the betting lines before placing parlay bets. The more you know, the less likely you will be to lose. And when you do lose, it’s usually not through fraud or technical error, but through sheer bad luck.

When Do You Break Even On A Parlay Bet?

Parlays are pretty self-explanatory, but sometimes it’s not entirely clear when you should break even on a parlay wager. Let’s take the example above and assume the White Sox win, which means you’ll have to refund the +100 on the Red Sox. In this case, you’ll obviously lose your money on the parlay, but you’ll also lose your money on the individual bet. Consider this a sunk cost and be sure to recoup your money somehow before making any more wagers.

Parlay betting is all the rage these days, but it’s not without its risks. The big question is whether or not you’ll be able to recoup your losses (at least partly) from subsequent wagers. If you end up losing money on a parlay bet, it’s usually not the fault of the establishment or service where you made the wager, but rather your bad luck. So try and stay lucky!

More Than Meets The Eye

There’s a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to understanding negative betting lines. For one, they don’t always indicate that the team you’re betting on will lose. Sometimes, particularly in the case of the NBA, they can even indicate that the spread will turn out to be positive. Here’s another example:

Say there’s a game between the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks. Before the tipoff, the line is 2.5 points for the Nets and 4.5 points for the Knicks. This means that if you bet on the Nets, you’ll win 2.5 points and if you bet on the Knicks, you’ll win 4.5 points (or a net gain of 1.5 points).

At first glance, this might not seem like an entirely negative situation, but if the Nets win, you’ll actually lose money because of the 2.5-point spread. So in this case, it’s best to avoid betting on the Nets unless you’re trying to lose. Instead, look at the over/under lines to get a better idea of what’s going on. In the above example, if you were to bet on the over/under totals, you’d lose 1.5 points no matter which team won. This would make the game a draw and you’d break even. Sometimes, depending on the odds and the spread, a negative betting line can even be lucrative if the opposite team happens to be very good and wins easily.

More Entertainment

What’s more, betting on a sporting event sometimes means that you’re giving the bookies more entertainment. Even if you’re certain that your team will win, you may still want to place a bet on the outcome simply to give the bookmakers something to do. This could entail laying down a small wager just to make them think or to put a smile on their face. It’s all about psychology anyway, so why not?

As much as possible, you want to avoid unnecessary drama during an event, particularly when it comes to the results of a game. There are plenty of bookmakers out there who will try and up your nerves by repeatedly offering you odds that are too good to be true. This is also a ploy to trick you into placing more wagers, but you must be on your guard and not get carried away. Some people even lay down a psychological bet and will lie to your face if they think it’ll make them look more believable. Don’t be afraid to walk away from such a person; you can always find better odds elsewhere.

Final Takeaway

To sum up, when you place a wager on a sporting event, you usually have no questions as to whether or not your team will win. When the opposite is true and you’re betting against the odds, it can sometimes mean that you’re getting extremely lucky or that the team you’re betting on is not as good as advertised. Regardless, it’s usually not a good idea to bet on the outcome of a game or a contest unless you’re ready to lose money, so be sure to avoid such situations if you want to remain financially healthy.