Let’s Talk About Sports Betting


By Christopher Walker

As someone who has been called a “lovely, endearing degenerate,” let me tell you: learning sports gambling is legal-ish was thrilling. If not, it’s a nice way to diversify the $20 a month I put towards scratchers (I didn’t say I was rich). It takes a certain amount of sports knowledge, a little cash, good odds and luck, in order to flip a $100 NFL Wildcard Weekend parlay into $1200.

Ahhh, the luck of some basterds. Alas, you don’t know what a “parlay” is? How about “moneyline?” Oh, don’t worry, that’s why I’m here. Let me give you the breakdown, especially before the moral quand — I mean booming business — that is March Madness.

image via wiki commons

Sportsbook: Basically, where adults over the age of either 18 or 21 can legally put money down on a variety of sports, including but not limited to the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, etc. Only four states could legally have them, due to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. However, in 2018, thanks to the state of New Jersey and former governor Chris Christie, the Supreme Court struck down the law, determining that it limited states’ rights. Thanks to technology, this has expanded on to the internet, of course.

Odds: The odds are basically how games and matches are handicapped. There are likely winners and losers, so if you put money on a likely winner, you are inclined to win less money, than if you choose the likely loser. If the likely loser wins, there is a higher cash return. Odds are commonly set by the sportsbook and shift over time, depending on how many bets come in on one side or another, as well as other factors, like injuries, rumors, etc.

Translate the odds into cash: In a simple way, let’s say you put down $10 on -400 odds on a basketball game. If the team you chose won, you only win $2.50, because the payout is built on the fraction of ¼ against what you originally bet. However, if you bet on +400 odds, then it’d be a profit of $40, because you were betting on less likely odds and a fractional setting of 4/1. (I will always advocate for using a calculator.)

Spread: What the point differential in a game needs to be to win. This is a little more complex since there are set odds along with it, but typically at -110. If you put money on the Knicks winning by +3, and they only win by 2, you don’t win. If they win by 4, you’re in the green, but honestly, this will never happen. It’s the Knicks.

Moneyline: This is way more straightforward — who you bet on wins, regardless of the odds. It is mainly built around the event, so I’d argue this works better if you know less on a game, or if the stress of the points spread may give you a heart attack.

Prop Bets: A bet on whether or not something will happen during a game, regardless of the score, based on odds. The points a player will score, the number of boards Steph Curry will grab, how many interceptions Jameis Winston will throw — all common prop bets to wager money on. The king of this though: the Super Bowl. There’s always some hot money on the length of the anthem or the color of the Gatorade the winning coach may get bathed in.

Over/Under: This is a common prop bet, built on what the possible combined score of a match could be, regardless of which team wins. Or even how long an event will take. A tip: these numbers are built off of tracking how much teams are scoring over time, so it can be predicted based on how teams play against certain offenses.

Parlay: Essentially, putting a series of individual events together into one bet, which has a higher payout. This style is built on the odds, as the more vents are added, the harder the math gets. One wrong prediction can derail it, so it is a more volatile gambling format, but there are points where you can cash out commonly, especially if the house is likely to lose a good chunk of change.

Where this is all legal: I’m going to keep this simple and give you all a list here. There are also affiliated taxes with each place. As well, this number is growing, as we speak.

New Jersey
West Virginia
New Hampshire
Rhode Island
New York

In accord, a small public service announcement: please stop betting in New Jersey’s train stations, because it’s weird. Time Magazine and Bloomberg should not be calling these places gambling hubs.

How does daily fantasy fit in: Daily fantasy sites/mobile apps like FanDuel and DraftKings have betting platforms. Honestly, fantasy football is gambling, since it is built on chance and stats, except focused on player performance individually, but I digress. Adding sportsbooks feels like a natural expansion since they have the technology, especially in the mobile app sphere. At the same time, you are not limited to these two mentioned earlier, but all online sportsbooks are limited by state legislation, so always check where a specific app is active.

Finally, I’d like to add some advice: don’t go over your means. If you are comfortable betting $100, then do it. In accord, if it’s your last $100, maybe chill out. I have a hard limit of $20 for a reason: I hate losing money. Recognize that it’s for fun, but trying to hit it big to live off of it is for the incredibly lucky or Jeopardy champion James Holzhauer. The best lesson: never chase a win, be satisfied with what you can get, and understand you’re going to lose sometimes. Also……gif via giphy

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