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How the book makes its bread
on the spread

Dear Mark,

How does a sports book make money on sporting bets when you bet against the spread?

Nick L.

Whenever you place a point-spread type wager, Nick, you lay 11 to win 10. That means if you want to win $100, you have to wager $110 no matter which team you are betting. If you win, you will collect $210-your $110 wager plus the $100 you just won. This commission, also called a vigorish (a.k.a. vig), is the compensation taken by the house on every sport bet wagered.

Dear Mark,

My brother-in-law never makes a bet on his favorite football team, but on the final score. What type of bet is that?

Cindy H.

Football betting, Cindy, offers you the ability to wager on the combined total of points scored by both teams during a game. This bet is called a "totals" wager or an under/over bet. Winning an over bet requires that more points be scored than the linemaker's total. Winning an under wager requires that fewer points be scored.

Dear Mark,

What percentage of sports bets do I have to win to be even against the sports book?

Jessup C.

To break even against the house edge, you need to win at least 52.38 percent of any point-spread wagers you make.

Dear Mark,

What is your longest winning streak betting sports?

Matt O.

I once developed rotator cuff tendonitis patting myself on the back when I picked winners in 19 out of 20 horse races over two days when my ponies either won, or placed, at Del Mar. Also, I have done extremely well handicapping the Indianapolis 500. Other than that I feel I'm like the veteran losing gambler who was hopelessly hooked on football betting. Nothing else interested him. Unfortunately, he lost almost every bet he made. Finally, even his bookie felt bad for him. "You lose all your bets," said the bookie. "Why don't you bet on hockey instead of football?"

"Hockey" said the gambler in dismay. "But I don't know anything about hockey!"

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