How Do I Know Who is the Favorite in Sports Betting? (+/- Explained)

How Do I Know Who is the Favorite in Sports Betting? (+/- Explained)

betJACK Training Camp
3 years ago
4 min read

Understanding the odds and what to expect from each bet is really important when it comes to starting out in sports betting. The odds can be a bit confusing to newcomers, and there are even different ways you can see them written out depending on where you look. We are going to be focused on American odds, or odds that are listed starting with (+) or(-).

Who is the Favorite?

In general, the team with the (-) symbol listed in front of their moneyline odds are the favorite. However, if the game is very close, it’s possible that both teams have a (-) symbol next to their moneyline odds.

For example, if the Bengals were playing the Texans and the Bengals were listed at -115 on the moneyline, and the Texans were -105, there is still a favorite, but they both are "minus money." The way to identify the favorite, in this case, is the team with the larger number attached to the (-) symbol.

What do the Symbols Mean?

While describing the use of the (+) and (-), I like to make it as direct as possible when it comes to the numbers listed. When the odds show a (-) symbol, that means that if you were to bet the number listed, you would win $100 back. For example, if the Browns were listed at -180, you would have to bet $180 to win $100. 

This is a bit hard to think about odds-wise, but that is the result of your wager. When you see the (+) symbol used, this means that you will win that number for every $100 you bet. For example, if the Reds are +200 to win, a $100 bet on them would win you $200 alongside your $100 wager. You will often see teams with a (+) symbol called "plus money" or "underdogs."

Are Favorites a Must?

You can have a situation where there is no favorite, meaning that both teams are listed with more than 50% odds to win (with the juice added). This means that you are really betting on the fact that neither team deserves to be considered "unlikely" to win. There are also sports where ties are common. 

A sport like soccer could have both teams be "plus money," but that happens because betting on a tie/draw is very viable. For example, the Columbus Crew could be listed at +155 to win, +255 to draw, and +170 to lose. This makes sense, as it's common that a 3-outcome bet will not have any outcome that is over 50% to occur.

What is a Pick'Em?

In sports betting, a pick'em is when both teams are seen as equal, and a bet on both teams is worth the same amount of money. Usually, people will use this term loosely, meaning it doesn't have to be exactly even but very close. An example of a pick'em in football would be if the Browns are playing the Ravens at home and both teams are listed at -110.

This indicates that Vegas thinks that both teams are equal, and there is no difference between the two when we are discussing their odds to win. You will often see people refer to bets as pick 'ems if both sides of the bet are - money, meaning that you will win back less than 2 times the money you invested.

For example, if in the game I suggested earlier, the Browns were -115 and the Ravens were -105, calling this a pick'em would not be some egregious error and is common, even though you could suggest that the Browns are just the slightest favorite given the odds.

What Happens to the Spread?

When we talk about a pick'em, we are referring to the moneyline being equal. However, what happens to the spread? This usually depends on the sport and the book, as you will get slightly different variations of the spread when you have a pick'em. In football, you will often just see one team given a point, which isn't a huge deal in most sports simply because ties are incredibly uncommon, and 1 point finishes in football are very uncommon.

You will normally see the difference between a pick'em moneyline and 1 point spread in football be worth just 5-10 odds points, meaning the moneyline might be -110, and the one point spread could be -105. In other sports, this is not exactly the case.

Oftentimes in baseball, a pick'em will have a 1.5 run spread for either team with significant juice on the team giving up one point. In baseball, ties don't exist barring a strange league, so half a point or even a point really doesn't increase your win odds at all.

In a sport where ties do exist, like soccer, a pick'em often looks completely different because ties are relatively likely in a game where ties are common, and the teams are evenly matched. This also means the spread will often just be .5 in favor of one team with significant juice on the team getting the half point.

Favorites in sports betting are symbolized a little funky, we'll admit it. The big trick here is to remember that the minus symbol denotes who Vegas stands with as you would have to bet more money to get that $100 bet back. Find out other ways to responsibly and safely bet by navigating through our training camp here

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