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What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions

A J-Dub Gambling Challenge Primer: The “How To” of Sports Betting

Three things have happened in the past year or so which are creating the genesis for his post. The recent successes of the J-Dub Gambling Challenge combined with a year-plus long shutdown of the world and the subsequent quarantining of our very own Boyd Bergquist has seen us with a backlog of unanswered letters in the Dubsism mailbag, many of them asking for “advice” on how to pick up a few bucks by laying money on sporting events.

With the advent of college football being upon us, we thought we might dust off a few of those missives and provide some answers to those questions. But before we get started, the legal department here at Dubsism has a requirement.

The Dubsism Legal Department…complete with extra cheese.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER (mandated by our very own Small Town Pizza Lawyer):

Thanks to the Supreme Court, gambling is no longer illegal at Bushwood, sir. However, the Supreme Court can’t really help me unless one of them is willing to keep Mrs. J-Dub from braining me with a cast-iron skillet if she found out how many dimes I’m dropping on college football.

That means that as far as she knows, all wagers are mythical in nature and this is in no way, shape, or form a gambling advice column. In other words, if you lose your own “real” money, that’s nobody’s fault but yours, so don’t yell at me when we meet at the plasma center on Monday.

If you think you have a gambling problem, go find the 800 number on your own. I’m not a goddamn public service announcement.


Regular followers of the J-Dub Gambling Challenge see that disclaimer ever week during college football season, and it exists for a reason. As a former “bookie” in the days when sports gambling was still illegal, I really have no interest in creating or supporting compulsive gamblers. I could give you some lofty load of shit about the emotional and/or financial toll compulsive gambling takes, bu t frankly I’m to much of a misanthrope to care that much about anybody. The harsh reality is that compulsive gamblers are a bad risk, and you really can’t succeed as a “bookie” if you spend all your time knee-capping “deadbeats” collecting debts.

Not to mention having to shatter somebody’s bones takes away from the sheer enjoyment and possible profitability of casual gambling. To that end, the following is simply a brief tutorial geared toward enhancing the enjoyment of having a little action on a football game.

NOTE: For purposes of full disclosure, this primer will only address betting on team sports. I know horse racing is a huge element in the gambling world, but it also a completely different animal that what is featured on this blog. In other words, I don’t really play the ponies, so I’m really not qualified to speak to it.

First, let’s explore the most common types of bets.

1) The “Buddy” Bet

This is the “home-cooking” of gambling, and it’s usually the first kind of bet any future serious gambler makes. We’ve all done it, and for all sorts of things which may or may not be sports-related. The “Buddy” bet doesn’t involve a “bookie”, instead it’s a wager placed between two or more people involving an event with a simple outcome. More often than not, it’s about a few bucks laid out on a sporting event…you know…”Ten bucks says the Giants beat the Cowboys on Sunday. Who wants a piece of that?”

2) The “Straight” Bet

This is the most common type of sports bet, and its the one you see exclusively in the J-Dub Gambling Challenge. Its also the most common bet placed by professional gamblers.

As far as the money is concerned, “straight” bets operate on a simple 11/10 basis. In short, to place a $10 bet, you have to pay “juice” or the “vigorish” (or “vig”) which is customarily 10% of the amount wagered. In other words, to place a $10 bet you would pay the “bookie” $11. Realistically, its simply the price of placing a bet.

The “straight” bet also pays straight money, remembering that the amount wagered and the “juice” are separate entities. You would pay $5 to place a $50 bet, and winning that bet would net you the bet plus $50, for a total of $100.

Next, there’s two ways to make a “straight” bet. You can either play “Sides” or “Totals.”

Sides (Point Spreads):

Playing “sides” means you are picking one team to win. The most important component of “sides” betting is the “point spread” This is a device used by “bookies” to keep the action equal on both sides of the bet. In this case, instead simply picking the “favorite” team to win, that team has to win by a certain amount in order for you to cash a winner.

Let’s use the following line as an example:

Anywhere Tech -4
Southern State

In this case, Anywhere Tech is a four-point favorite. You can tell this from the -4 on their line. This means if you bet on Anywhere Tech to win, they would need to win the game by more than 4 points for you to cash a winner. Conversely, if you bet on Southern State, you still cash a winner even if they lose…so long as they lose by less than four points.

Also, some websites always place the “point spread” on the line for the home team, which is usually the team listed last. In that case, the “bookie” would denote Anywhere Tech being a four-point favorite by putting +4 next to Southern State. While that can be confusing, the easiest way to keep it straight is to simply imagine the “point spread” being added or subtracted from the actual scores of the team on which the line is places. Let’s say the final score of the Anywhere Tech – Southern State game was 20-13. Anywhere Tech covered the spread because if you subtracted four points from their score (or added four to Southern State’s total), Anywhere Tech would still be the winner.

Now, if the final score had ended up being 20-16 – meaning Anywhere Tech won by exactly 4 points – its a “tie,” which in gambling terms is called a “push.” When a “push” happens, all bets are returned, but the “bookie” keeps the “juice.”

Totals (Over/Unders):

Playing “Totals” means you are betting on the total number of points which will be scored during the game. Just like a “Sides” bet, this is an 11/10 play. Let’s go back to our example line.

Anywhere Tech -4
Southern State
49

In this case, the “bookie” is saying that the two teams combined will score a total of 49 points. As the player, you are betting whether the actual total will be over or under the line set by the “bookie.” Since we’ve established the final score of our example game was 20-16, that makes for a total of 36, therefore players who bet “under” would win. Just like with a “point spread” bet, if the total score had ended up at 49, it would be a “push,” the same rules as for a “point spread” bet would apply.

It is not uncommon for a “bookie” to post numbers for both Sides and Totals that are not mathematically possible to reach. This is done by adding a half-point to the numbers. Since it isn’t possible to score a half-point in football, this eliminates the possibility of a “push.” For more information, see “Push” and “Hook” in the Glossary section.

Whether its “Straight” bets or “Money Line” bets (which I will discuss next), the whole purpose of both is to balance the action on either side of all bets. It’s bad business for a “bookie” to have too much action on one side versus the other, because that creates too much possibility that the “bookie” can’t cover all the bets if the “wrong” outcome occurs.

Here’s what you must never forget. No matter what you are gambling, understand that “bookies” exist to take your money, and they do that by keeping the action balanced and collecting the “juice” no matter what. The need to keep the action balanced is why lines for both “Sides” and “Totals” can change from the time the lines are initially offered right up until the game actually starts. That’s why the timing of placing a bet can be almost important as who you’re betting on, or the amount you’re laying down.

3) Money Line Bet

Before the “Point Spread” was invented, the “Money Line” ruled the gambling world. This still remains a popular option for those wagering on sports where setting a specific number of points is more difficult, such as baseball and hockey. Many people still like to bet football with the “Money Line,” especially those who have been burned by “Garbage Time” scores; points scored near the end of a game which do not affect the outcome of the game, but wreck the “point spread” or the “over/under.”

The upside to “Money Line” betting is you need not worry about points; you are simply picking the team that wins, period. However, the downside is betting the “favorites” limits your winnings. Again, in order to balance the action, the “Money Line” exists to encourage bets being placed on “underdogs.”

It works like this. Unlike “straight” bets which offer the best value on your gambling dollar (which is why they are preferred by the professional gamblers), “Money Line” plays offer odds in relation to the dollar amount wagered based on a team’s likelihood of winning. Once again, I’m going to refer to our “example” line.

Anywhere Tech -4 (-250)
Southern State
49 (+200)

Again, “Money Line” plays are all about picking the winner. Just like with the “point spread,” Anywhere Tech is the favorite, which is indicated by (-250). Betting on the favorite is an exercise in betting a lot to win a little. Since Anywhere Tech is deemed to be more likely to win, the “bookie” wants to discourage players betting on that team. In this case, the (-250) means in order to win $100, a player would need to lay down $250. Conversely, a player who bets on Southern State would collect $200 on a $100 bet if they won.

That’s the allure of “Money Line” bets. Betting “favorites” offers a higher chance of winning, but at a reduced profit. On the other hand, hitting a couple of big “underdogs” can net a healthy payday. However, that comes with more risk, because let’s be honest…”underdogs” aren’t favored to win for a reason.

4) Parlays

My blog brother from another mother and fellow gambler SportsChump will disagree with this, but as a former “bookie,” I will go to my deathbed firmly believing that Parlays only exist to separate suckers from their money. The premise is simple; Parlays are popular because they offer the hope of a huge payday for a relatively small wager.

Parlays involve packaging two or more more games into one bet following a pre-determined payout scale set by the “bookie.” To win the Parlay, all outcomes the player is wagering on must happen. The draw of the potentially massive pay out makes gamblers blow right past their horribly prohibitive odds of winning.

Every sports book in America offers Parlays, because they are essentially a license to print money. As you read this, somebody out there is laying down $10 on a ten-team Parlay that pays at +1000. Granted, winning $10,000 for a Hamilton sounds great, but your odds of winning are roughly that of being French-kissed by Bigfoot in the parking lot of the Wal-Mart in Kearny, Nebraska during a hailstorm on July 4th.

On just a two-team box, the odds are terribly against you. For starters, two games means there are four possible combinations of outcomes, which places the odds of hitting the two you need at 4-to-1. In order to guarantee the sports book makes it’s money, most of them only pay 2.6-to-1 on two-teamers. Those odds only get worse with the more teams you add. In short, if you are trying to make money as a gambler, you’ve got better odds buying scratch-offs at the gas station.

5) Teasers

If “Parlays” are a “sucker bet,” then “Teasers” are sucker bets on steroids. What makes the “Teaser” so tempting is that it allows the player to move the line. While some sports books will allow “Teasers” on a single play (usually this will require the player to cough up some extra “juice”), most only offer the “Teaser” as part of at least a two-team Parlay. There’s also some variety on the number of points players can move the line, but the most common is the 6-point “Teaser.”

Such a play allows the player to move the point spread or the total six point in any direction. Once again, let’s go back to our example line.

Anywhere Tech -4 (-250)
Southern State
49 (+200)

In this case, a player playing a “Teaser” could change the numbers to to give them a “better” play, such as betting Southern State, but moving the point spread so Anywhere Tech would need to win by more than 10 points. The same applies to the over/under; the player could bet neither team will score enough to meet the “Total.” but they could move that number to 55 to give themselves some additional “breathing room.”

Realistically, the true value in “Teaser” bets comes from betting on the National Football League, where final scores can be much closer than in the college game, which means a six-point shift can have a much greater impact. Also if the “Teaser” is part of a “Parlay,” all the rules for a “Parlay” still apply, specifically that you have hit all the plays in the bet as winners.

6) “Prop” Bets

Normally, I wouldn’t even discuss these, but they are incredibly popular, particularly around around the Super Bowl. Calling them a “sucker bet” is an insult to sucker bets; these are more like throw-away bets. These are the plays like, which team commits the first turnover, or over/unders on the length of the National Anthem. Honestly, these are bets intended to get the non-gambler to throw something in on a major event. A professional gambler would never touch “Prop Bets” because their is no way to get any real value from them; even winning them doesn’t pay like most of the other plays discussed here.

7) “Futures” Bets

A “Futures” bet is one in which a players bets on a team to win a particular event in the future; the most common being a “money line” wager placed at the beginning of a season on a team to win a championship. For example, as of this post, Alabama (money line +260) is the “favorite” to win the College Football National Championship, whereas Texas State is the longest of longshots at +500,000.

Glossary of Gambling Terms:

Action: Any type of bet; as in having “action” on an event.

ATS: An initialism for “Against The Spread, a term used to denote results using a point spread.

Back-Door Cover: A term for a situation when points scored late in a game by the “underdog” team that do not affect the outcome of the game, but allows the “underdog” to lose but stay inside the point spread, thus making them a winner against the spread.

Book: Also called a “Sportsbook;” An establishment which posts betting lines and accepts bets.

Bookie: A person who takes bets on sporting events outside of an established “book.” Now with the legalization of sports gambling, the function of “bookies” has largely been absorbed by sportsbooks.

Cover: Winning a bet as defined by the point spread or the total; as in “covering the spread.”

Favorite: A team expected to win.

Front-Door Cover: The opposite of “Back-Door Cover.” A term for a situation when points scored late in a game by the “favorite” team that do not affect the outcome of the game, but allows the “favorite” to make them a winner of both the game and against the spread.

Handicapper: A practitioner of “handicapping,” the practice of predicting the outcome of any given sporting event. Not to be confused with a “linemaker.”

Hedge: Placing a bet on a different line or with another book to offset another play. Think of it and an “insurance policy” on a bet you in which you may not have complete confidence.

Hook: A half-point added to point spreads or totals to make a “push” mathematically impossible.

Line: Generic term for any odds, points, money line, or point spread offered on a sporting event.

Linemaker: An individual or establishment which sets odds, points, money line, or point spread offered on a sporting event. Also known as an “Oddsmaker.”

Lock: A play that is thought to be a “sure” win.

Longshot: Refers to a team with high odds against them winning.

Overlay: An “overlay” line is one in which the odds are thought to be skewed in favor of the player and not the book.

Player: Any person who places a bet on a sporting event.

Push: Essentially a “tie.” This occurs when the outcome of a sporting events exactly matches the point spread and/or the over/under. Let’s take one last look at our example line:

Anywhere Tech -4
Southern State
49

If Anywhere Tech were to win by exactly four points, all bets on that point spread would be a “push.” Likewise, if the combined scores of both team added up to exactly 49, all bets on that over/under would also be a “push.” In the event of a “push,” the book returns all bets (but not “the juice”).

Underdog: A team expected to lose.

Underlay: An “underlay” line is one in which the odds are thought to be skewed in favor of the book and not the player.


Got a question, comment, or just want to yell at us? Hit us up at  dubsism@yahoo.com, @Dubsism on Twitter, or on our Pinterest,  Tumblr, Instagram, or Facebook pages, and be sure to bookmark Dubsism.com so you don’t miss anything from the most interesting independent sports blog on the web.

About J-Dub

What your view of sports would be if you had too many concussions

One comment on “A J-Dub Gambling Challenge Primer: The “How To” of Sports Betting

  1. Pingback: The J-Dub Gambling Challenge 2021: Week 4 – The “It’s A Trap” Edition | Dubsism

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