Betting Takes Are Not Always Evenly Distributed, Which Leads To Sportsbooks Needing Teams To Win

Published on September 22nd, 2020 12:33 pm EST
Written By: Dave Manuel

Sportsbooks and betting lines.  Illustration. Have you ever heard a phrase like this being said?

"XYZ Sportsbook needs the New Orleans Saints to cover the spread against the Raiders on Monday Night Football"

If you understand how sportsbooks work, you might be a little confused at this statement.

Don't sportsbooks set the lines so that there is an even amount of money paid out, regardless of which team or player wins the game?

If sportsbooks set the line properly, don't they have zero risk regardless of who wins?

In a perfect world, this would be the case.

The problem for sportsbooks is that they usually receive more money on one side than the other, especially if a popular team is playing.

For instance, let's say that the Dallas Cowboys are playing against the Houston Texans. The Cowboys are 4 point favorites to win at home.

Now, because the Cowboys are one of the most popular teams in the NFL, they will almost certainly receive the majority of the betting action, as people love to wager on their team.

So, let's say that a sportsbook takes $4 million in wagers on the Cowboys to cover, while $1 million bet on the Texans +4.

This results in the sportsbooks "needing" the Texans +4 side to win.

If the Texans +4 side wins, the sportsbooks will pay out $900,000 in profits and keep the $4 million in wagers on the Cowboys, while would result in a very nice payday for the book.

If the Cowboys cover the spread, however, the sportsbooks would be looking at a multi-million dollar loss.

When there is a popular team playing, sportsbooks will almost always take in more money on the popular team, which leaves them open to a potential loss. They can move the line somewhat, though they will almost never be able to move it enough to result in equal payouts.


Having said that, betting on a popular team is usually a sucker's bet over time, as the sportsbook will move the line at least somewhat in order to account for all of the increased betting action.

While the sportsbooks will be profitable over time accepting bets on popular teams, there will be some instances when they open themselves up to potentially large one-day losses.

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