What’s the Edge in Sports Betting?

The line between winning and losing can seem blurred when it comes to sports betting. That’s why it’s important to know what the edge is in sports betting, and what situations you might be at a disadvantage.

Here’s a look at how sports betting edges work, and what you should know about them. Consider this your go-to guide for all things betting in sports.

Understanding The Mathematics Of Point Spreads

When you place a wager on a professional sports team, you’re actually placing a wager on whether the total points scored by the team will exceed or fall short of the total points scored by the opposing team. Mathematically speaking, this is known as a pointspread wager. (If you’re curious, you can find a handy worksheet with all of the mathematical equations used in sports betting here.)

For example, if you wagered $100 on the New York Knicks to cover the points spread (the team they will be facing has more points than they do), and they score 55 points (which is exactly what happened), you would win $55. The total amount you wagered would be $165, but you only won $55 because you had a theoretical edge. (For the record, the point spread in the example above is 55, New York is +55, meaning they will score more points than the opponents).

This sort of advantage or disadvantage is represented by a betting edge, and it comes in various forms. One of the most common is half-point or full-point spreads, which we’ll discuss in more detail below. But first, it’s important to understand that the edge can be used in a variety of ways to give you a distinct advantage at the betting counter.

Using The Edge To Your Advantage

A few years back, the New England Patriots were favored to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship. The line for the game was set at New England -7, but the sportsbooks took a huge hit when the underdog Steelers upset the favored Patriots in one of the most memorable AFC title games in history. In that game, Aaron Donald recorded 3.5 sacks, creating the potential for a massive betting edge in the number of points the Patriots would score. (For the record, the Patriots won that game 54-17).

In other words, the Patriots had an advantage in that game, and they used it effectively. You might be able to do the same thing, whether you have a large or small edge in the game you’re considering betting on.

What Are The Different Forms Of The Edge?

The edge in this situation can simply be represented by the number of points the underdogs will score. In the example above, the New York Knicks have a 55-point edge over the Orlando Magic. This means that the total points scored by the Magic will fall short of the total points scored by the Knicks. (In the case of a tie or overtime, points scored in the 4th quarter and overtime would not be included in the final tally).

So in theory, the Knicks have an advantage because they have more points to wager on. However, in practice this might not be the case. The NBA is a half-point-spread league, so if the Knicks score exactly 55 points in the example above, you would win $55 on a straight wager. The problem is that most bookmakers have a maximum payout limit of $2,000 per play, so they’re not going to want to take that kind of chance. (In other words, they might not offer the game or match as a wager).

This is why it’s important to know what the edge is in the game you’re considering betting on. When it comes to professional sports, you’re always at a disadvantage, but you might be able to use this information to your advantage.

How Do You Calculate The Edge?

Once you have the idea of what the edge is in a particular game, you can easily calculate it. Simply take the total number of points scored by both teams and divide it by two. (If these numbers are exact, you would have a 50% edge).

If you’re not sure how many points you’ll score in a given game, you can use an online basketball calculator to help make your decision.

More Than Meets The Eye

One of the great things about sports betting is that even if you don’t have an edge in a specific game, you might have an edge in the next one. It’s always a crapshoot whether the other team will show up to play, or whether they’ll be able to take the pitch out for any amount of time, but in theory you’re always at a disadvantage. This is why it’s so important to make the right wager at the right time, rather than just throwing down a number and hoping for the best.