When it comes to betting on sports, there are various terms and phrases that you may come across: Over/under, money line, prop bet, parlor game, and of course the ubiquitous plus and minus sign. While it may seem obvious that these signs indicate how much one team or player is favored to win, it’s important to understand what they mean and how they work in conjunction with traditional bookmakers and online betting websites. Here we’ll discuss the various meanings of ‘+’ and ‘-‘ in relation to sports betting, along with how to use them effectively to increase your chances of winning.
Odds And They Mean Everything
Odds are one of the most important indicators of betting on sports as they dictate the advantage of one team or player over another. When placing a wager, you’ll often times come across odds that range from -1.5 to +1.5, or as simply as -/+ on a match that has less than a 1.5 point spread. So what do these numbers mean? Let’s break them down.
- -1.5 Odds: These are the odds that a team or player is judged to have in favor of them winning the game. For example, the New York Jets have odds of -1.5 for their upcoming game against the Buffalo Bills this coming Sunday.
- +1.5 Odds: These are the odds that a team or player is judged to be against them winning the game. For example, the Buffalo Bills have odds of +1.5 for their upcoming game against the New York Jets this coming Sunday.
- 1.5 Pointspread: The pointspread refers to the amount by which the odds of a winning team exceed those of the losing team. The term comes from the fact that when betting on football, point spreads are typically expressed in terms of odds. For example, if you wager $100 on the New York Jets and they win the game 4-0, you’d win $150. That’s a 400% return on your investment! Point spreads typically range from -3 to +3, with 0 being a “push” game, where the teams are judged to be equally strong. In this instance, there’s no ‘favorite’ as both teams have a 50% chance of winning the game.
- 3-Way Tie: A 3-way tie occurs when two or more teams or players are judged to have an equal chance of winning the game. In this instance, none of the bets made on the game have any value as there is no ‘favorite’ in any of the wagers.
- Handicap: A handicap bet in sports betting is a wager where the underdog (team that is both the favorite and the sportsbook’s implied odds against them) is given an advantage (or a disadvantage depending on the wager). For example, if you wager $100 on the New York Jets and they win the game 20-17, you’d win $300, even though the point spread was only 4. Your winnings would be based on the ‘handicap’ theory that most people have a natural tendency to bet on the favorite in all wagers, whether it’s real or perceived. It is important to note that handicap betting is not necessarily a bad idea, but it is one that you should not necessarily base your entire wager on. For example, if you have a hunch that the game is going to be close and you want to maximize your chances of winning, you could consider a half-point bet (which gives you a 4% advantage) on the New York Jets.
- Over/Under: An over under bet is where you place a wager on the total number of points that will be scored in a given game. For example, if you think that the New York Jets are going to beat the Buffalo Bills by more than 3 points, you could wager $100 on 3 points or more for a winner take all payoff. Odds on over/under bets typically range from -150 to +150, with -150 being the underdog’s (usually the team with the lower odds) advantage and +150 being the favorite’s (usually the team with the higher odds) disadvantage. Moneyline bets, which we’ll discuss next, are generally accepted as the simplest and most popular type of wager when it comes to sports betting. Simply put, the favorite is the team or player you want to win the game and the underdog is the team or player you don’t want to win the game.
- T-Bet: T-Bets are identical to over/under bets but instead of wagering on the total number of points scored, you wager on whether the total number of points will be more or less than a given score. For example, if you think that the New York Jets are going to beat the Buffalo Bills by more than 3 points but you also think that the game is likely to finish closer than that, you could place a t-bet on the game ending under 3. It is typically accepted that there is a 2% advantage to placing a t-bet on the favorite and a 2% disadvantage to betting on the underdog, regardless of whether or not the game ends up in a tie. Most sportsbooks will not accept t-bets on single game events such as soccer matches where the game ends in a tie or overtime, due to the complexity of calculating the win probabilities for these games. But for other sports, like the NFL, you can usually find a way to make a t-bet work. For example, if the New York Jets are 2.5 points behind the Buffalo Bills and you think that the game is going to be close, you could place a t-bet on the game ending under 3, giving you a 2.5 point advantage.
- Accumulator: An accumulator wager is a wager where you put on several wagers (either against the spread or individually) that add up to a profit, should you win. For example, if you think the New York Jets are going to beat the Buffalo Bills by more than 3 points but you also think that the game is going to be close, you could place a $100 accumulator wager where you put money on both the New York Jets and the underdog in the form of a t-bet. In this case, you are effectively wagering $100 on a loss (the two bets don’t add up to $100 because the underdog doesn’t win) but you still win $300 because the spread between the two teams is greater than 3 points. Most sportsbooks will not allow you to make accumulator wagers on single game events, as it’s difficult to determine the exact outcome of those games. However, for weekly or monthly contests, you can usually find a way to make an accumulator work. For example, if the Pittsburgh Steelers are 3 points behind the Baltimore Ravens and you think that the game is going to be close, you could put $100 on each side of the rivalry and make an accumulator where you add up the points scored by each team. Most fans will assume that the Steelers will win because they’re the home team and they’re playing the Ravens, but if you wager on the game’s outcome, you can actually win $300, as the spread between the two teams is 3 points.
- Combine: A combine bet is a wager where you make a single bet on several teams or players that are perceived to be collaborating or coordinating toward a common goal. For example, if you think that the New York Jets are going to beat the Buffalo Bills and the St. Louis Rams are going to beat the Chicago Bears, you could combine those bets and wager $100 on the three teams. In football, combining multiple teams makes sense because the games are usually seen as collaborative events where the individual players are working together toward a common goal. The downsides to combining several teams is that you have to wait for all the games to settle before you make any money and you have to be lucky enough to correctly predict the collaborative outcome. Most sportsbooks will not accept combine bets on individual sports due to the complexity of calculating the appropriate win probabilities for those games. But for other sports, like the NFL, you can usually find a way to make a combine work. For example, if you think that the New York Jets are going to beat the Buffalo Bills and you think the St. Louis Rams are going to beat the Chicago Bears, you could combine those bets and wager $100 on the three teams. Now, you are effectively wagering $100 on a win (the combined total of those three teams is more than 3 points) but you still win $300 because the spread between the Bears and the Rams is greater than 3 points.
As you may have suspected, betting on sports can be a bit complex. But don’t get discouraged because of this, as there is plenty of opportunity to make money and have some fun with it. If you keep an open mind and use the information discussed here, you’ll be able to make the right wagers and increase your chances of winning.