What Is A Line, Anyway? A Look At Sports Betting From A Beginner’s Perspective

As someone who reports on the latest NJ sports betting news, I can easily answer questions about the latest casino partnership or online sports betting platform launch.

(In case you didn’t know, DraftKings Sportsbook just launched its sports betting app in New Jersey.)

What I can’t answer is any question about what it means to actually place a sports bet. Since I am writing less about online poker these days and more about legalized sports betting, it seems appropriate that I understand what all the fuss is about.

I began my quest by seeking the answers to what might seem like some fundamental questions. As someone whose only gambling vice to date is poker, the thought of placing my first informed sports bet is intimidating, to say the least.

I say “informed” because I will confess to placing bets while at the horse races. So that you know, I usually choose the horse based on its colors and nothing more.

But that is about to change.

So, what is a line anyway?

Now, don’t laugh. It is the one question I have had for quite a while and have been too embarrassed to ask.

The line is merely the number assigned by the bookmakers handicapping the team perceived as more likely to win.

For example, if Team A is perceived to be seven points better than Team B, the bookmaker can handicap Team A by seven points. The line becomes Team A to win by more than seven points or Team B to lose by less than seven points.

Come to find out, that example is a point spread bet. Of course, that opened a whole new can of worms … the different types of sports bets.

So, I went down that rabbit hole next.

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What are the different types of bets?

There are a ton of resources on sports betting out there. I am not going to lie, my quest to understand the types of bets ended up confusing me more than helping.

That is until I found some straightforward explanations from TheLines.com.

Here are the types of sports bets I found:

Point Spread Bet: Described above, the point spread bet is the most popular type of sports bet. It’s how the sportsbook evens the playing field.

Moneyline Sports Bet: Without knowing it, I have placed many, many moneyline bets throughout my life. To place a moneyline bet, the sports bettor picks a team a to win. It’s as simple as that.

Parlay Sports Bet: A parlay bet is a single bet that relies on two or more specific outcomes to be a winner. For instance, a sports bettor might bet Team A to win by more than 10 points AND Team C to win by more than six. Both teams must win to collect on the bet.

In-Play Sports Bet: In-play sports bets take place during the game and offers game-specific odds and options for bets during the game.

Prop Bet: Is a bet on a specific player or event. TheLines.com uses this example:

How Many Yards Will Tom Brady Pass For?
Over 197.5 -110
Under 197.5 -110

Looking at that example, my next question was …

What do the plus and minus mean in sports betting?

In the example above, a $110 bet would pay $100. When a sports bettor goes to collect, he will receive $210 — the $110 bet plus $100 for the win.

Most bets include a handicap, so the odds on both sides of the bet are even or close to it. Moneyline bets are different because there is no point spread to even out the odds.

As an example:

Patriots -600
Redskins +400

Looking at the odds, the Patriots are the favorite to win the game. The team with a minus (-) is usually the favorite, while the team with a plus (+) is often the underdog.

A bet on a favorite will pay out less. In the above example, a $600 bet on the Patriots will pay $100, while a $100 bet on the Redskins would pay $400.

The more I learn, the more I need to learn

I surprised myself by looking at some images of boards from a few sportsbooks and realized I understood some of it. There is still so much to learn.

I find myself consulting a sports betting dictionary often as I come across terms I do not understand. (Trust me; there are a lot of them.)

I’m still apprehensive toward placing that first bet. The more I read, the more I want to know, and the amount of information out there is overwhelming.

The NFL regular season kicks off in just a month. My goal is to place my first sports bet then, even if it is only theoretical. The big problem is I am not sure I will be in a state that has legalized sports betting.

Until then, though, I still have a lot to learn. Sure, I could just dive into sports betting head first, but I like money too much for that approach.

About the Author

Kim Yuhl

Kim Yuhl has been covering the US online gambling market since 2013. Her work is featured on various sites and covers sports betting, online casino gambling, and online poker. Kim is a full-time traveler and vlogger and is currently slow traveling to 60 countries. You can follow her travels at kimandway.com and on YouTube at kimandway.