NFL handicapping isn’t rocket science but it is, to a degree, a science. Understanding the way handicapping works from the bookmaker’s perspective can make you a smarter and more productive bettor. Wagering on sports is different than playing a table game at a casino or slipping tokens into a slot machine. First of all, the odds for each casino game and slot are predetermined and fixed. Second of all, casino tables and slots feature games of chance and not skill. Sports betting definitely involves skill.
In the case of NFL handicapping, the odds makers know the game thoroughly, keep up on minute-by-minute developments and use an array of sources and tools to successfully determine favorites and underdogs. The end result of handicappers’ efforts is a list of that week’s games that offer gamblers wagering opportunities through the point spread, money line or possibly both.
Any listing of odds for a particular game will include the date of the game and the starting time. The home team is always on the bottom of the listing. Here’s a quick look at how the point spread and money line look and work.
The point spread is perhaps the best-known method of NFL handicapping. It is used to level the playing field for bookies by, in essence, making it more difficult for gamblers to determine who will win the game. In this type of handicapping, one team is given points and the other has them taken away. A typical point spread would look like this:
9/10 Tennessee +4.0
20:30 Pittsburgh – 4.0
In this example, the game will be played on September 10 at 8:30 pm in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh, which is at minus-4.0 points, is the favorite, while Tennessee at plus-4.0 is the underdog.
If you put $11.00 on Pittsburgh, you’ll win your wager if the Steelers win by five or more points. Put $11.00 down on the Titans and you’ll collect your winnings if Tennessee wins the game outright or if they lose by less than four points. By the way if with the help of the point spread the game is a tie, then the bet is a push. The result of a push is that all bets are off and all wagers are returned to the bettors. In order to negate the possibility of a tie, many times a point spread will be listed at half-point increments such as plus or minus-4.5.
Point spread wagers pay even money minus the vigorish, which is basically the commission collected by the bookie or betting service. The vigorish, which is also known as vig, the juice or the take, on an $11.00 wager is $1.00. Thus if you bet $11.00 and win, you’ll receive $21.00 back. If it were true even odds, you’d get back $22.00.
The money line in NFL handicapping works differently. The same basic elements are included. Here’s what a money line looks like:
9/10 Tennessee +120
20:30 Pittsburgh – 130
With the money line, the team listed with a plus is the underdog and the club with the minus is the favorite. In our example, the Titans are at plus-120. That means if you put $10.00 on Tennessee and they win, you’ll get back $22.00 (your $10.00 wager plus $12.00). If, on the other hand, you want to bet on the favored Steelers, who are at minus-130, you’ll have to wager $13.00 to win $10.00. Bet on Pittsburgh and if they beat Tennessee you’ll get back a total of $23.00. The profit on Tennessee is $12.00, while on Pittsburgh it’s $10.00
The major difference in this type of wager is that the winning bettors are determined simply by which team is victorious. There is no point spread involved. Bet on Tennessee and if they win so too do you. The same is true if you put cash down on Pittsburgh and they win. It doesn’t matter if a team wins by one or 50 points. With this type of wager, the winner is the winner.
With the money line you risk more cash on the favorite to win less, while you put less money down on the underdog to win more. This is done in NFL handicapping in order to get bets on both teams and even out the wagering pool. By the way, with the money line you are still paying vig. The sportsbooks hide it by including it in the line.
Those are the two basic handicapping methods used in NFL wagering. Depending on the contest, sometimes it’s better to go with the point spread and other times the money line. Whatever the case, you should be aware that both methods of handicapping are designed to put the bettor at a disadvantage.