Once upon a time, sports bettors had limited options. To bet legally, you had to take a trek to Las Vegas. As such, the Vegas sportsbooks became the last word for betting odds, and the numbers that came out of the desert were gospel in wagering circles. Today, it’s a different story.
As the Iowa sports betting market continues to mature, questions remain on how the odds at Midwest sportsbooks compare to Vegas sportsbooks and how you can figure out what’s fair. With our guide to sportsbook odds, we have the answers. We’ll also teach you how to line shop at the top Iowa sportsbooks.
When a game is on tap, you can wager on it at legal sportsbooks in Iowa. For each offering, a book will post odds for all of the available events. If it’s a game or individual matchup, there will be odds on both sides of the equation.
When it’s an event or bet with multiple possible selections, each choice will have odds attached. In all cases, the odds will tell us the likelihood of an outcome, according to the oddsmaker, and the potential payout for winning bets.
If you visit an online sportsbook, you’ll see numbers attached to each market available for wagering. To illustrate, let’s take a look at an example of the lines for an NBA game:
|Minnesota Timberwolves||+3.5 (-110)||+130||O 207.5 (-110)|
|Chicago Bulls||-3.5 (-110)||-160||U 207.5 (-110)|
In this example, the numbers next to the two team names represent the odds and lines for three main bet types.
First up is the point spread, with the Chicago Bulls favored by 3.5 points, as indicated by the negative number on their side. Next to the spread are the odds for the bet, which are set at -110, in this case. Over to the right of that is the moneyline wager.
Chicago is also favored here. For the moneyline odds, negative numbers indicate the favorite, while underdogs have positive numbers.
Lastly, the final set of numbers is for the over/under bet. Oddsmakers post an estimated total number of points, which in this case is 207.5, and you choose over or under that amount. For both selections, the odds are -110.
The basic game listing works the same for all the major team sports, including NFL, NHL and MLB games. The odds and lines may appear differently for individual and niche sports, but the overall concept is the same.
Individual sportsbooks set their sports betting odds using a team of people behind the scenes. The person in charge is often referred to as the oddsmaker. The book goes through a detailed process to set the lines while analyzing lots of data.
As you would expect, computers and algorithms do a lot of the heavy lifting, but the team is responsible for the final output. Anything that could impact the result goes into the pot for further analysis.
Naturally, this will vary by sport. For the NFL, the book will consider conditions such as defensive strength and efficiency on both sides. If it’s golf, factors may include the course location and key statistical metrics for all the players in the field.
Beyond the data, there are also outside factors to consider, such as injury concerns or the potential weather. Once all the info is gathered, the sportsbook conducts a thorough analysis before releasing the numbers to the public.
You can bet on a host of sporting events at legal Iowa sportsbooks. Naturally, it’s the biggest contests that attract the most betting action. Here’s a list of the top needle-movers:
The NFL is the biggest game in the town of sports betting, followed by the NBA and other team sports. College sports attract plenty of interest, too. On the individual side, a big fight or a major event such as the Masters, Wimbledon or Daytona 500, will lead to a surge in betting activity.
Beyond the big sports, there’s also an array of more niche offerings. These may vary, but you can expect to see odds for cricket, rugby, darts and table tennis.
Inside of each available market will also be multiple bet types. Once again, some wagers are at the top of the charts in terms of overall popularity. Here’s a look at those that fit the bill and how the odds work for each.
The moneyline wager is a straightforward one that makes for a great starting point for new bettors. All you need to do is pick the winner out of the two choices. The odds are negative for favorites and positive for underdogs. Here’s a fictional example of a moneyline wager:
|Vegas Golden Knights +115|
|St. Louis Blues -105|
The spread is a number set by the oddsmakers, and is basically an estimated margin of victory. You can pick the favorite minus the spread or the underdog plus the number. To win, the side you choose has to cover the number set by the oddsmakers. Here’s an example:
|Dallas Cowboys +5.5 (-110)|
|Seattle Seahawks -5.5 (-110)|
Also known as a totals bet, this wager is all about the total number of points scored by both teams. Sportsbooks will set an estimated amount, and you then decide whether the final number will be over or under that number. Here’s an example of a potential low-scoring match:
|Over 5 (-110)|
|Under 5 (-110)|
A prop bet is a side wager, generally on something other than the winner or the game’s final score. Sportsbooks may offer props on team performance or the game as a whole. Many props will be on the accomplishments of individual players during the contest, for example:
These popular wagers offer you the chance to bet in real-time as the game takes place. Also known as in-game wagers, the odds and lines will move fast. Offerings will vary, depending on what’s happening. Here’s an example of a live bet:
These bets are all about outcomes that will happen at a later date, such as the winner of the next World Series or Stanley Cup. There will also be futures on team and player performances, such as the winner of the NFC North. You’ll see odds that look like these:
That covers the basic and most popular wagers, but there is even more to consider. Included are parlays, which is when you tie multiple choices on a single bet slip. This type of bet is a high-risk, high-reward wager, and beginner bettors should proceed with caution.
You should keep in mind that odds may vary from book to book, so you should take the time to shop around for the best prices. For example, DraftKings may have odds of -150 on a moneyline favorite, while PointsBet is at -140 on that side.
That might not seem like much of a difference, but it’s enough to impact your bottom line over the long run. Line shopping in today’s legal and regulated environment is simple and more than worth taking the time to do so.
For a long time, Las Vegas was the only place in the US with legal sports betting. These days, the legal sports betting environment is changing rapidly. Legal states have attracted top sportsbooks, and they’re doing their best on the numbers-front, as well. In fact, you’ll find that the odds and lines from Iowa sportsbooks are comparable to what you’ll see coming out in the desert.
That doesn’t mean they’re always the same. Due to market action, there’s no way that can happen. However, it does mean that the numbers stack up on an overall basis. Feel free to see what Vegas has to say, but know that the odds you get here at home are just as good. To bet at that Vegas sportsbook, you will have to be in Nevada.
At a basic level, the process for setting odds is similar regardless of the sport. Oddsmakers are analyzing everything that could impact the outcome to come to a conclusion.
On the presentation front, the odds work in the same fashion when it’s a case in which only two choices are involved. If it’s a straight moneyline, the numbers are negative for favorites and positive for dogs. The span between the numbers indicates how close the matchup is perceived to be.
For a two-sided bet with a spread or total element, it’s the same story. There’s a benchmark number that the sportsbook sets and odds for the two choices you can make. For multi-choice wagers such as a futures or props, there will be odds for all possible selections.
When you’re examining the odds, you can read them the same, no matter which sport you’re considering. However, keep in mind that there will be variances on bet types to consider, much like differences in what information books use while setting them.
After sportsbooks release the odds for public consumption, the betting action begins. Before too long, you may see a shift in the odds from where they originally were. Here’s why that happens.
For a sportsbook, the hope is to attract near-even action on both sides of a bet. If it can make that happen, the liability on its end is limited. When it’s a case in which the action has come in heavily on one side, the book could be in for a big loss if the popular side prevails.
If a clear preference emerges once public bets start, the books will adjust the numbers in a bid to even things out. They will make the side that’s seeing the bulk of the action less attractive, while the opposite happens on the side where the books want to see more betting action.
This process can continue up until game time. As part of your research, review the opening lines and compare them to current offerings. You may uncover some solid clues on which way the money has been heading on that event.
As mentioned, oddsmakers analyze every imaginable factor when setting the lines. They’re not starting from scratch every time; they lean on computers and algorithms to do a lot of the work.
An odds algorithm compiles all the data and information necessary to set the numbers. Precisely what that is will vary by sport, but you can be sure that anything that may impact the results will be in the formula.
For the NBA, that will include shooting percentages for both sides, while shots allowed are among the information you’ll find on the NHL side. A tennis algorithm may look at performance by surface, while a UFC algorithm could analyze strike rate.
The results from the odds algorithm don’t serve as the last word. The team behind the scenes reviews and makes tweaks where necessary. When the oddsmaker feels the result is on-point and will lead to an efficient market, the book releases the odds to the public.
No one sportsbook holds the mantle of having the “best” odds. In fact, the answer may vary depending on the game you’re watching. While sportsbooks may be relatively in line with the initial release of numbers, they won’t always be the same.
After the release, the market takes over. Books that see a lot of action on a specific game may adjust in response, while those that aren’t seeing many wagers may stay in place. For the bettor, these little inefficiencies in the market are a good thing.
You can always shop around to find the best prices. For example, if another half-point on a spread would make you feel more comfortable, you can look around to see if it’s out there. If you’re not happy with the potential payout for a moneyline bet, you can do some line shopping.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that what you view as the best odds can be vastly different from what another bettor sees. As such, you should be more concerned about where your comfort level is on the odds for your bets and then line shop accordingly.
The goal for legal sportsbooks is to put out odds that the market will support. If they miss the mark and the public comes in heavily on one side, they’ll adjust in an attempt to level things out. To that end, the odds are technically fair in relation to what the market has to say.
Over in the world of offshore betting, where sportsbooks do business under what they say is a legal gray area, the odds could be all over the map, from too good to be true to downright unreasonable.
The ease of doing business with the legal shops makes it tough to justify even looking at the black market. There’s no need to take the risk, especially when you factor in that there’s no guarantee that your funds will be safe.
On the fairness front, sportsbooks that put out lines that aren’t in range with the general market will have seasoned bettors pounce on them. If a book consistently dishes out numbers that weren’t any good, it’s hard to see how it would survive in today’s competitive landscape.
Also, keep in mind that what appears to be fair to you may not be so appealing to others, and vice versa. If you spot a line that looks off, that could be an opportunity for you to dig in and exploit it. Additionally, if you don’t like the odds, there’s no rule saying you have to bet. Take a pass and wait for something you like better to emerge.
Oddsmakers will adjust sports betting odds in response to public betting action. Since not all books will attract the same amount of betting on each game, there will be differences across the marketplace.
Each month, legal states such as Iowa release revenue reports that break down the betting volume by each sportsbook. This report released by the Iowa Racing & Gaming Association is a great spot to look at which sportsbooks are the most popular among the general betting public.
For individual games, you can always shop around and compare the prices at multiple shops. You’ll quickly see where the differences are, and you can jump right in and wager on the odds you like the most.
Legal and regulated sportsbooks are vetted and approved by the states in which they hope to do business. There’s a lengthy and costly application process, and they’re subject to the rules of the state gambling commission after opening for business.
Since bookies operate in the black market of gambling, there’s no one overseeing how they set the numbers. There may be some who follow the model set forth by sportsbooks — i.e., -110 for spreads and totals that adjust in response to action — while others may bump up the vig more to their liking.
A legal sportsbook has a team behind the scenes working diligently to set the numbers, whereas bookies may be copying and pasting before adding in a little extra for themselves. In today’s environment, there are plenty of regulated options to explore, so taking your business to a bookie doesn’t make any sense.
After you have an idea of what you want to bet on, you should start by examining the odds for the contest. For example, if you’re looking to get in some action on an NFL Sunday, you should take a look at the odds board to see what the numbers look like for the games.
Once you have some seasoning, potential opportunities will start to jump out at you. These are the games that are worthy of further examination. When it’s a game you can’t make heads or tails of, or odds that seem too tough to figure, that’s a good spot to pass.
For those new to betting, it can take some time to get to that point. However, there are two things you can do that can help to shorten the learning curve. First, you can consider the potential return for a winning wager based on the posted odds.
The simplest way to see it is by adding your choice to the betting slip. Next, plug in the amount you plan to wager. The return will be there for you to see on the slip, but be careful not to click submit before you’re ready. You can also use an online handicapping calculator or do the math yourself. Here’s how:
To be clear, your sports betting decisions should never solely be based on the potential profit. Anything can and will happen on the field of play, after all. That said, taking this step helps you determine if the payout based on the risk you are taking makes sense.
Second, you can figure out what’s known as AN implied probability by doing some calculations of the odds. As mentioned earlier, the odds can point you to the likelihood of outcomes, at least as far as the sportsbook oddsmaker sees it. Here’s how the math works:
While the implied probability doesn’t guarantee an outcome will come to pass, it does help you to put A matchup into perspective. If you can add these two steps into your overall handicapping repertoire, you’ll be closer to having an understanding of the odds and how they work, not to mention potentially turning some profits.