King Yao is the author of Weighing the Odds in Hold‘em Poker, and Weighing the Odds in Sports Betting. He uses his experience from making millions in financial derivative markets and translates it into gambling. Since he left his trading position in 2000, he has been playing poker and betting on sports. He travels to Las Vegas frequently, especially during football season.
Let’s discuss basic principles of sports betting. All sports bettors should know the information below. All other types of casino advantage players, including blackjack players of all skill sets, which includes card counters, should have good working knowledge of Expected Value as well. You should not be betting online or anywhere else without this fundamental knowledge.
Betting sports in Las Vegas casinos may be intimidating if you do not understand the layout of sportsbooks or the semantics conventionally used at the betting window. The sportsbook can look like a stock market exchange with many numbers in lights on boards high up on the walls.
Sportsbooks post the betting lines on the board so you can see them easily. Most now use electronic boards that are updated via computer.
Each betting option has a rotation number associated with it. Sportsbooks may not have titles on their lines; but each set of lines is distinct from another, so experienced bettors have no problem distinguishing one from another. If you are in doubt, ask the clerk at the betting window.
Lines on baseball games may look like this:
107 Rangers +155 +1.5 -135 9.5 -110
108 Mariners -170 -1.5 -115 9.5 -110
109 Dodgers -125 -1.5 +120 9 -115
110 Giants +115 +1.5 -140 9 -105
The rotation numbers are 107 for the Rangers, 108 for the Mariners, etc. The money line on the first game is Rangers +155, Mariners -170. The run line on the first game is Rangers +1.5 -135, Mariners -1.5 -115. The total on the game is 9.5, -110 for both over and under.
Lines on college football games may look like this:
201 Texas Tech -8 -320 58
202 Baylor +8 +260 58
203 Oklahoma State +7 -115 +240 49 -120
204 Nebraska -7 -105 -280 49 +100
When there is no accompanying money line listed for a point spread or total, the vig is -110 on both sides. The line on Texas Tech is -8 -110. When the accompanying point spread is different from -110, the sportsbook explicitly lists it. The accompanying money line on Nebraska -7 is -105. Money lines are typically listed next to the point spread. The money line on Oklahoma State is +240. At bigger sportsbooks, money lines are offered on most games; but when the point spread is high, many casinos do not offer money lines. When a point spread is pick ‘em, there may be no money line listed since it is essentially the same as the point spread.
To make a sports bet in Nevada, tell the cashier the rotation number of the wager and the amount you want to risk. If instead you name the team you want to bet, the cashier will have to look for the corresponding rotation number, and that wastes time. State the amount you want to bet, and proffer that amount in cash or casino chips. If you want to bet the money line, you have to state that explicitly or the assumption will be that you want to bet the point spread.
Examples using the baseball and football lines above:
“202 for $550” means “I’ll take Baylor +8 -110 for $550 to win $500.”
“204 on the money line for $560” means “I’ll take Nebraska to win the game at -280, risking $560 to win $200.”
“203 Under for $200” and “204 Under for $200” both mean “I’ll take Under 49 in the Oklahoma State / Nebraska game risking $200 to win $200.” The total is associated with both teams in the game, and the cashier needs to punch in whether you want the Over or the Under.
“110 on the run line for $140” means “I’ll take the Giants +1.5 runs risking $140 to win $100.”
“Parlay 107 and 109 for $200” means “I want to parlay the Rangers on the money line and the Dodgers on the money line, risking $200.” They will tell you the exact amount the parlay pays; in this case, it should be $718.
In Nevada, once you make a bet and receive the ticket, the bet is good. Future line changes do not affect your bet. Even if the sportsbook made a ridiculous mistake, it has to honor the ticket. If a team should be favored by 33 points, but a sportsbook mistakenly allows you to bet it plus 33 points, the book has to honor your ticket when you win.
This is part of an occasional series of articles.