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Basketball Gambling

Basketball always had been known as our national pastime, but that does not seem the case today. Football is far more popular, as crowded sports books on autumn weekends would indicate. It seems everyone has an opinion when it comes to football -- and most are willing to back up those thoughts with a wager. Perhaps the most important advance in sports wagering occurred in the 1930s when the pointspread became popular.

Prior to its advent, sports were similar to horse racing, in which complicated odds were posted on the basis of a particular team winning outright. While this method works fairly well on evenly matched teams, it is less than satisfactory when one team clearly is superior to its opponent.


With a pointspread, winning a bet is not determined by which team actually emerges victorious, but by the contest's final score. Here is how it works. When a game ends, the pointpsread must be subtracted from the number of points scored by the favorite. After that step is taken, the team with the higher score is deemed the victor for betting purposes. (Or, adding the pointspread to the score of the underdog). Here is an example. The table below shows how a betting board would look if Michigan were a seven-point favorite over Purdue.

Game # 101



Game #102



Placing a wager on Michigan would require laying seven points. Therefore, when the game ends, seven points must be deducted from the total number of points scored by Michigan to determine the pointspread winner. If the Wolverines won, 24-20, then bettors who took Purdue would win. Even though Michigan won the game, bets on Michigan would have lost. If UM had prevailed, 28-20, then it would have 'covered' the pointspread. Had UM won, 27-20, all bets on the contest would be refunded.

Sports bettors should remember that a pointspread is not a prediction by oddsmakers as to a game's outcome. Rather, it is a number that oddsmakers feel will attract equal action on both sides of a game. If the same amount of money is bet on both sides of a particular event, bookmakers would have no liability. They simply would collect from the losers, pay the winners and keep their roughly 10 percent commission.

Here is how sports books make money. When placing a bet, customers pay a fee, called 'vigorish' or 'vig.' On most occasions, bettors must wager $11 to win $10. If a bookmaker takes two bets on an event -- one on each side for the same $11 -- he will pay the winner back $21 (the bettor's original $11, plus his $10 winnings). And he will keep the loser's $11. So, the bookmaker made a $1 profit.

Drawn out over a much larger scale, if a bookmaker takes in exactly $110,000 in bets on each side of a game, he stands to profit $10,000. To compensate for the 'vig,' bettors must win 52.38 percent of their wagers to break even (provided they all are of an equal amount).

Bettors also can wager on the total number of points scored between two teams. In these instances, bettors simply would decide whether they want to bet 'OVER' or 'UNDER' the total posted for a particular event. If the combined final score matches the total, bets are refunded.

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