Before we move onto our glossary of sports investing terms, let’s answer some of the questions we hear and see most frequently with regards to the world of sports betting.

What is a pick or pick’em?

A pick or a pick’em occurs when both teams are so evenly matched that it is too hard to call.  This makes the bet even on both sides according to who the oddsmakers expect to win. In other words, a pick’em is a 50-50 proposition according to them. In this situation you could “pick” who you think is going to win without having to overcome a point spread or lay odds. In pick’em contests, betting the moneyline will give you an even return but on losses you would still pay some juice.

Pick’em games can be some of the most fun bets to make as a “gambler.” It’s just a coin flip: if your gut tells you to go one way, you place the bet. But when you’re a sports investor, things can be more difficult. A lot of times, the system will steer you away from these contests, unless there is a distinct reason to believe one team has an advantage that even Vegas doesn’t know about.

What is the point spread and how do they work?

A point spread is used to even up a matchup between the two sides. The favorite will be giving points to the underdog, and the underdog will be receiving points.

To win against the point spread, the favorite must win by more than the number of points given to the underdog. For example; you bet the Steelers -3 points.  The Steelers then need to win by 4 points or more in order for you to win the bet.

 For the underdog to win against the point spread, the underdog can use the points given in order to win.

For example, let’s say the Steelers are the underdogs and are getting +3.  If they lose by 2 or fewer points, or if they win outright, they would win you money. 

Because the point spread is used to even the matchup, the winnings you receive on a point spread bet are much closer to even in terms of your return but, again, the loss will come with some juice.

You can see bets like these with odds like 110 wins you 100.  The extra 10 on the 110 is the “juice.”

What is the moneyline and how does it work?

Betting on the moneyline means you are betting on the two sides without any points given. The difference is that there will be odds placed on each team that represent the chance of winning each team has, according to the oddsmakers.

If the Miami Dolphins played the New York Jets, you pick which team you would think will win, but the odds factor in who is the favorite and who is the underdog.

In this example, the Jets might be listed at a price of -200 and the Dolphins listed as +175. This shows us that the jets are the favorite to win the game and the Dolphins are the underdog (note the minus (-) and plus (+) signs, as mentioned before).

With these odds, if you wanted to bet the favorite, you would need to bet $200 on the Jets to win $100. If you wanted to bet the underdog, a bet of $100 on the Jets would win you $175.

This same game may be listed using a point spread also and some will use that as an extra variable that tells them where they want to make their bet.

Which is “better,” the moneyline or the spread?

For your run-of-the-mill gamblers, they’ll often try to choose a favorite between moneylines and point spreads. Maybe one makes more sense to them. Maybe one seems easier. It’s also possible they have a feeling in their trick knee that point spreads are better than moneylines for them (if you can’t tell, we’re not big fans of “gambling.”)

But for sports investors, it really makes no difference. However you set up the system will help you determine what bets to place and where. And there’s no real advantage between the moneyline or the spread. They are just two different ways of representing the same reality, that one team is more likely to win than the other, and our systems are trying to calculate how to take advantage of that reality either way.

What is a total?

In a game, the total is the number of points scored by both teams combined. Oddsmakers will often release lines for the total amount of points scored between both teams in a game, and allow wagers on the total points with a choice of either over or under the listed amount. This is often referred to as an “over/under” bet.

Oddsmakers  will sometimes put up totals for each side separately.

An example of this is the Dallas Cowboys vs the Green Bay Packers with an over/under of 45.

Betting on the “over” means you think the teams will combine to score more than 45 points. 

Betting on the “under” means that you think the teams will score less than 45 total.

Over/under bets can be very engaging because a lot of supplemental factors may play a role. Is a quarterback on a hot streak? Or has he thrown two-plus interceptions three games in a row? Is the weather neutral? Or is it windy or rainy, likely to drive down points totals? All of these factors are to be considered when weighing the possibility of betting the over/under on a single game.

Totals can also apply to wins in a season. Season win totals are some of the most popular wagers across all major sports, especially in the NFL.

An oddsmaker will determine a line to set for the number of wins a team will get in a regular season. Bettors can then wager on if they think the team will win more or fewer games than the number posted. An example of this would be the Patriots at an over/under of 10.5.  So you can wager on if you think they will win more or less than 10.5 games by the time the regular season is over. 

Oddsmakers consider bets on the total to be a 50-50 proposition. In this situation you could pick who you think is going to win without having to overcome a point spread or lay odds. In pick’em contests, betting the moneyline will give you an even return but on losses you would still pay some juice.

How much should you invest in sports?

A wise man once said, “Only bet what you can afford to lose.” This applies to opening a business, investing in stocks, playing poker, the credit limit on the credit card you let your girlfriend use, and investing in sports.

Only investing in amounts that are comfortable for you is part of proper bankroll management. Remember that each person is different, with varying thresholds. Trying to “keep up with the Jones’” is a recipe for disaster in any financial situation.

In our system we refer to the money invested as “units.” A unit is a predetermined % of your total bankroll that you would allocate for each investment.

Circumstances and different systems will come into play when determining how many units to invest, depending on the conservative or aggressive nature of each system.

It is commonly suggested among avid investors to risk in the range of 1%-5% of his or her bankroll on each individual investment.

Putting this into an example; you have $1,000 in your bankroll, so each unit would be 1% or $10 and your maximum investment in a stock or sports event would be 5% or $50.

The 1%-5% rule is there for a reason. In all type of investing and wagering, it stands as a safeguard against losing streaks, and prevents losing an entire bankroll quickly. Greed is the most dangerous enemy of investors, whether they’re investing in the stock market or in the outcome of sporting events.

Why do the odds change?

The odds in a sporting event are always changing. Always.  Why? Because oddsmakers are constantly trying to keep wagers as even for both sides of the bet as possible and often need to adjust one side, the other, or both in order to do so.

Too much money being placed on one side causes the odds or point spread to be adjusted.  Oddsmakers also take into account things like the weather reports or injured players that could affect how a game will play out. Drastic changes in these circumstances could force oddsmakers to adjust.

Odds, point spreads, or over/under numbers changing is totally normal. Just like the prices in the  stock market will adjust over time, so will the odds and point spreads at a sportsbook. Don’t let the changes throw you.  The best part about odds changing and line movement is that it can work for you if you are waiting for certain numbers to line up where you think they should be in order to get the buy price you want. This is why it’s suggested to study line movements when you are looking to place a wager and waiting until you get the best price.

What if there’s a tie?

The only thing better than winning is a tie.  Why? A tie in the world of sports betting is referred to as a “push.” If you bet on the moneyline and there was a tie, you’ll likely get your money back and that’s it. The same goes for a point spread or over/under.  If the result ends up equating to a tie, no one wins. Buy, mo one loses either.

I never learn anything talking. I only learn things when I ask questions.

Lou Holtz, legendary Notre Dame football coach and TV commentator