Q&A: Sports Betting for Newbies

With sports betting becoming one of the forefronts of the sports world in the last year, it seems that every sports-related article involves talk of sports betting and terms people are not all that familiar with. This topic will become even more prevalent at UNC, with sports gambling becoming legal in North Carolina as early as January 2024. So, here is everything you need to know about how the sports gambling world works. 

Q: Where can I place a sports bet? 

A: While you can still go into a casino and place an in-person bet there, over 70% of all sports bets take place online

The most common websites and platforms to make these bets include DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM. These are known as sportsbooks.

Q: What is a spread?

A: The spread of a game is essentially the handicap that puts two uneven teams on equal ground. If the spread of a game is seven points, one team will be seven-point favorites and one team will be seven-point underdogs. The spread is the sportsbooks’s way of saying they expect one team to win by seven points. The spread is commonly referred to as a line.

A seven-point spread would be represented by (+7) or (-7). (+7) refers to the underdog, while (-7) refers to the favorite. If you were to bet on the favorite(-7) in this scenario, you would need them to win by more than seven points. If you were to bet on the underdog(+7), you would need them to win the game outright or lose by less than seven points.

Q: What is a push?

A: A push is essentially a tie. Referring back to the scenario just talked about, if that game were to end with the favorite winning by seven points, the result would be a push. In this case, you would not lose any money, but you would not make any money.

There are games with spreads that have fractional numbers, such as (+3.5) and (-3.5). In this case, there is no chance of a push because a game cannot end in a 3.5-point victory.

Q: What is a moneyline?

A: The moneyline refers to the odds the bookmakers have given for a team to win. You might see this as +135 or -150. The favorite in this instance would be -150, and the underdog would be +135.

Betting on a -150 favorite means risking $150 to make $100. Betting on the +135 underdog means risking $100 to win $135. You do not have to bet this much. These are just ratios. You could wager $15 to win $10 or $10 to win $13.50.

A common misconception with these bets is that you are putting in $150 only to make $100 or putting in $100 to make $135. Instead, think of it as risking rather than wagering. You can lose all the money you bet.. However, if you win, you only see the profit and you keep the money you bet. 

Q: What is a vig?

A: Sportsbooks are businesses that try to make as much money as possible. The vig is commonly referred to as the “house edge”. This is how sportsbooks can ensure they turn a profit on each bet.

When placing a bet on the spread, the odds of winning are the same on both sides. So, the odds of winning that bet are 50/50. Therefore, the odds should be +100, meaning a $10 winning bet would give you a $10 profit. 

However, sportsbooks offer these odds at -110, meaning you must wager $11 to win $10. That extra dollar you would have to wager is the vig and is essentially a surcharge for allowing you to bet.

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