Spreads, Totals And The Elusive Betting Edge

Wednesday, February 13, 2019 5:41 PM UTC

Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019 5:41 PM UTC

Spreads and totals bets are perfectly tuned to give the house the edge -- here's how you change that.

<p>Last week I wrote a post about flipping coins and drawing cards from a deck, which is to say, it was a lesson in probability and emphasizing the necessity of having a financial edge. "Should I take the bet?" is a question that should be immediately followed up, not with "do I think I can win?", but "how much is the payout and does that cover my risk?"</p><p>So let's revisit that coin flip scenario just long enough to remember some key numbers: you have a 50/50 shot at winning the bet (e.g., calling heads and having the flip turn up in your favor), which means that you need to be making at least dollar-for-dollar (or +100) just to break even. <a href="https://www.sportsbookreview.com/betting-odds/ncaa-basketball/" target="_blank" title="Live NBA Odds Board">You need better than +100 to start turning a profit</a>.</p><p>So what does that have to do with spreads and totals bets?</p><p style="text-align:center"><img src="https://i.giphy.com/media/kGdXSdl6EoQec/giphy.webp" /></p><p>Quite simply, they're all coin-flip bets. Take a look at these win percentage numbers from sport to sport over the 2018/2019 season:</p><p> </p><h2>NBA</h2><ul> <li>Spread favorites: 50% WP</li> <li>Spread underdogs: 50% WP</li> <li>Unders: 50% WP</li> <li>Overs: 50% WP</li></ul><p> </p><h2>NCAAB</h2><ul> <li>Spread favorites: 50% WP</li> <li>Spread underdogs: 50% WP</li> <li>Unders: 52% WP</li> <li>Overs: 48% WP</li></ul><p> </p><h2>NFL</h2><ul> <li>Spread favorites: 46% WP</li> <li>Spread underdogs: 54% WP</li> <li>Unders: 53% WP</li> <li>Overs: 47% WP</li></ul><p> </p><h2>NCAAF</h2><ul> <li>Spread favorites: 49% WP</li> <li>Spread underdogs: 51% WP</li> <li>Unders: 50% WP</li> <li>Overs: 50% WP</li></ul><p> </p><h2>NHL</h2><ul> <li>Spread favorites: 35% WP</li> <li>Spread underdogs: 65% WP</li> <li>Unders: 51% WP</li> <li>Overs: 49% WP</li></ul><p> </p><h2>MLB</h2><ul> <li>Spread favorites: 42% WP</li> <li>Spread underdogs: 58% WP</li> <li>Unders: 50% WP</li> <li>Overs: 50% WP</li></ul><p> </p><p>Keep in mind that NHL and MLB don't offer variable spreads like the other sports do, they offer a fixed +/- 1.5 figure, known as the "Puckline" in NHL and known as the "Runline" in MLB. You see a little bit of variance in the NFL, getting as high as a 54 percent win percentage on spread underdogs, but that's unique to this season. Over multiple years, that number sits closer to 51 or 52 percent, just barely above the coin-flip odds.</p><p>So when you bet the spreads or totals at the standard rate of -110, it's a mathematically losing proposition in which, over the long term, you will lose -4.5 percent of your investment.</p><p><em>You can quite literally get better return-on-investment odds by playing basic strategy at the Blackjack table.</em></p><p>The solution isn't necessarily to stop betting spreads and totals altogether, it's to start getting better payouts. This can be done at a large number of sportsbooks (<a href="https://www.sportsbookreview.com/Sportsbook/?v=4418&amp;book=5dimes" rel="nofollow" target="_blank" title="Get in Game with 5Dimes!">5Dimes</a> and <a href="https://www.sportsbookreview.com/Sportsbook/?v=4426&amp;book=Bookmaker" rel="nofollow" target="_blank" title="Top Rated Sportsbook!">Bookmaker</a>, for instance, have this option), it just takes a bit of patience to find the right numbers. For instance, the Bucks are 4.5-point favorites against the Pacers in tonight's game, at -110 payout. At 5Dimes, you have the option of setting the spread to Bucks -5 instead of Bucks -4.5, and your payout jumps from -110 to +100.</p><p>Similar options are sometimes available for setting your own totals, and as always, the goal is to get as close to +100 or better as is humanly possible. The extra half-point (or even a full point) on a spread or a total has virtually zero impact on your 50/50 odds of winning the bet, but you've increased your financial edge significantly. And that, more than anything else, <a href="https://www.sportsbookreview.com/picks/nba/" target="_blank" title="More NBA Picks">is what will make you a profitable sports investor</a>.</p><p><em>Stay tuned for future betting strategy posts, and be sure to check out my other sports analysis on Twitter at @HooksPicks and on Patreon at patreon.com/hookspicks!</em></p>
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