Betting in a Sports Book

Betting in a Sports Book


A typical sports book looks like a cross between mission control for the space shuttle and your uncle Al’s TV den. It’s usually done in dark colors with giant video monitors on the walls. Placing a bet is easy. Simply walk to the desk and hand money to the writer with instructions on what to bet.

Remember that multiples of $11 (or $5.50) are preferred for bets on the spread. The writer will give you a printed ticket. It’s a bearer instrument, so treat it like money until it’s paid or the contest is decided against you. Winning tickets are paid at the cashier’s cage in the sports book or at the cage in the main casino.

Which team?

A common misconception is that the line represents what the experts consider will be the outcome of the contest. This is not exactly true. Here’s why:

Let’s say you’re making odds on a football game between the Manglers and the Liquidators. You happen to know the Manglers’ starting quarterback has girlfriend problems and he’ll be a mess this Sunday. Normally the line would be Manglers -7 (Manglers to win by seven), but you know the Liquidators will probably stun them by ten.

The quarterback’s problems have been everywhere in the newspapers, but nobody except you and a handful of the experts think this will affect the game. How will the public react if you set the line as Liquidators -10? You’ll certainly be swamped with bets on the Manglers.

Great, but nobody will bet on the Liquidators. Not even Liquidators fans will make such a (they think) stupid bet. The casino will be required to cover, all the wagers on the Manglers without any offsetting Liquidators wagers.

The line is accurate (you think), but things will be looking bad. Now what happens if the Manglers fall behind twenty-one points and pull the starting quarterback? The backup does an admirable job. He gets two touchdowns but it’s no use. The liquidators win by seven points. That’s fourteen points more than the public expected, but the Liquidators didn’t make your spread. The red ink pours from the casino books.

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