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What are sports betting lines?

Of all the different kinds of gambling, sports betting has always had the advantage that it’s not just a random shot in the dark. Wages are based not purely on guess work – at least not if you’re a serious player – but on carefully thought out, strategic betting based on knowledge of the sport, the players and the way the current season has been playing out. If you know and love your sports, you’re virtually halfway there. 

The one difficulty, though, is that there are certain things you need to know about how sports betting itself actually works, if you’re to make the best use of it.

One phrase that comes up time and time again when dealing with sports betting is “betting lines” – but what are they and how do they work? 

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What It Is.

Very simply, a betting line is a kind of sports betting where the bookmaker or sportsbook looks at each match, decides which team or player is the likely winner, which of them is the underdog, and then sets the gambling odds accordingly. It’s a fairly unique system that still requires the bettor to do their homework, but the odds are supplied to them by the bookie, based on the bookie’s own assessment of the situation.  

The “line” in “betting line” refers to the margin between the two teams or players. And because there are really only two possible outcomes, this margin becomes the main parameter on which the bet is based. 


How It Works.

Let’s take a practical example to get a better idea of how this works.

Let’s say we have two teams in a game: the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Washington Wizards. The sportsbook or bookie then decides that in a spread bet (bets that are based on estimates on how much the winning team will win by), the Cavaliers will have a 20-point lead over the Wizards. The Cavaliers are therefore seen to be the more likely winning team, the Wizards the underdogs and the difference between them is 20 points. With this information on hand, the bookie then handicaps the Cavaliers 20 points, and those 20 points are our line bet.

With this information, the bettor must decide between two options. One, bet that the Cavaliers will win by 20 points or more, or two, that the Wizards will manage to end up within those 20 points. 

In effect, this betting line has leveled the playing field as the odds for either outcome is the same.

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