Mathletics: How Gamblers, Managers, and Sports Enthusiasts Use Mathematics in Baseball, Basketball, and Football

By Wayne Winston | Go to book overview

38
SPORTS GAMBLING 101

In this chapter we will review (largely through a question- and- answer format) the basic definitions and concepts involved in football, basketball, and baseball gambling.


Betting on the Odds

In the 2007 Super Bowl the Colts were favored by 7 points over the Bears and the predicted total points for the game was 48. How could someone have bet on these odds? Theoretically the fact that the Colts were favored by 7 points meant the bookies thought there was an equal chance that the Colts would win by more than 7 or less than 7 points (in the next chapter we will see this may not be the case). We often express this line as Colts—7 or Bears + 7, because if the Colts'—7 points is greater than 0, a Colts' bettor wins, while if the Bears' + 7 is greater than 0, a Bears' bettor wins.

Most bookmakers give 11–10 odds. This means that if we bet “a unit” on the Colts to cover the point spread, then we win $10 if the Colts win by more than 7 points. If the Colts win by fewer than 7 points we pay the bookmaker $11. If the Colts win by exactly 7 points, the game is considered a “push” and no money changes hands. A total points bet works in a similar fashion. If we bet the “over” on a totals bet we win $10 if more than 48 points are scored, while we lose $11 if the total points scored is fewer than 48. If exactly 48 points are scored the totals is a push and no money changes hands. Similarly, if a bettor takes the under he wins if the total points scored are fewer than 48 and he loses if the total points scored are greater than 48. Most gamblers believe the Total Line (in this case, 48 points) is the most likely value of the total points scored in the game. Basketball point spread betting and totals betting work in an identical fashion to football betting.

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