NFL Money Line vs. Spread


Sharp Sports Betting is a tool for those interested in winning money at sports betting. The book explains the most common sports bets, what all the numbers mean, and the mathematics behind the numbers.

Prospective sports bettors should know the basic principles of sports betting. You should not bet online or anywhere else without this fundamental knowledge.

There are two common ways of betting on National Football League games: against the spread and money line.

Against the spread means one team receives points for the purpose of settling the bet.

With the money line, winning the game means winning the bet. Think of the money line as meaning zero points are assigned to either team.

In a world of efficient betting lines, the relationship between the spread and the money line should reflect exactly the chances the two bets have of winning. However, the world of sports bets is not that efficient. Oftentimes one bet is superior to the other in terms of expected win.

If you have spent any time in sportsbooks, you probably have seen the numbers on the board change. Your own bets may well have caused books to change numbers. When you have seen a change in the spread, did the money line also change simultaneously? If your experience parallels my own, the answer is “no.” What appears to happen is when a book moves a point spread in response to betting action, it does not also simultaneously move the money line.

It’s a wise shopper who, when presented with two ways to purchase the same item, chooses the lower price.

This applies to football bets too, but only if the two teams are fairly evenly matched, neither being favored by more than three points or so. Then the amount risked is of the same order of magnitude as the amount you are trying to win, so the risk for betting the money line is comparable to the risk betting against the spread.

For games predicted to be more lopsided, risk becomes a bigger consideration. A bet on a big favorite means risking a lot to win a little. A bet on a big dog means winning a lot when you win, but not winning very often.

Buying a Half Point

The break-even point for buying a half point for ten cents is five percent chance of occurrence. Buying a half point is worthwhile for those numbers that occur more frequently than five percent of the time.

Buying a 3

If you can pay ten or fifteen cents to buy a half point that gives you a push or a win on the favorite’s winning the game by exactly 3, do it. The break-even point for buying a push or win on a 3 is twenty cents. There are four situations for which it’s worthwhile paying fifteen cents or less to buy a half point: to go from -3.5 to -3, to go from -3 to -2.5, to go from +2.5 to +3, and to go from +3 to +3.5.

Buying Other Numbers

Buying a half point for ten cents when the spread is 7, 10, 14, or 17 is approximately break-even.

It’s not worth paying ten cents for a half point on any numbers except 3, 7, 10, 14, and 17.

NFL Only

The above advice on buying half points depends on the probability that a game will end in a push against the spread. The game-results data describe only the National Football League. Thus the half-point advice applies only to NFL games and not to any other professional football games and not to college football games.

This is part of an occasional series of articles.

Excerpted with permission from Sharp Sports Betting by Stanford Wong, edited for this format.


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