Key Numbers In Sports Betting

When you get into the sports betting game, you will quickly find the inherent value there is to be had in knowing your numbers. All that time you spent in math class, wondering why you need to learn all these calculations and theories of probability. Where would it apply in your life experience? Well, if betting on sports is something you plan to get involved with, here's where all that hard labor with a calculator is going to pay dividends.

Is This The Key To Betting Success?

On the other end of the equation, the oddsmakers at the top sports books are all math whizzes. It's their job to analyze every potential outcome for an event and to recognize which equations are most likely to play out on a more regular basis when teams take to the playing field. On your end, you should also be doing the math with equal fervor and tenacity, studying trends, and analyzing the way things generally fall during the course of the game to help you determine where the best bets are located.

This is where the theory of key numbers becomes prevalent. Handicappers have studied game outcomes for decades to determine the most likely point differentials in each sport. They have a handle on what the final margin of victory will be, and this is the formula they utilize to determine point spreads in football and basketball, the puckline in hockey, the runline in baseball, and total wagering in all sports.

Key Numbers In Football

The two most common methods of scoring in football are via the touchdown (seven points) or field goal (three points), which explains succinctly why the vast majority of point spreads on NFL games will be set at three or seven points. But the reasoning behind this key number theory goes much deeper than that, and the evidence that it is wise handicapping is overwhelming.

Studies done of NFL games played over the course of the past 15 years show that nearly 19 percent of all final scores finished with a margin of three points. Next in line in terms of the most common finishes was the seven-point margin, coming in at well over 11 percent. But wait - there's more evidence of why three and seven are the key numbers in football betting.

Continuing the analysis of final game outcomes from the NFL, all of the top finishing margins were either mutiples of three or seven, or combinations of the two. Ten points (7.65 percent) was the third most common margin of victory. Next came six points (6.87). Four points (6.67) was fourth, and that also makes sense. Think of how many NFL games finish with four-point verdicts due to touchdown-field goal combinations - 7-3, 14-10, 21-17, 28-24, 31-27. 

After that, you get right back into the mutiples of three and seven, with 14 points at 5.97 percent.

Key Numbers In Hockey And Baseball

While most bettors will wager on the moneyline in NHL and MLB games, there is another option that is available to be played, and here's another betting offering where key numbers become a vital component. In hockey, it's puckline wagering, and it baseball, it is runline wagering.

With this wager, there are almost always only two bets - the favorite will be listed as -1.5 and the underdog is assigned odds of +1.5, and this rarely changes, no matter how much money is wagered on a game. The sportsbooks will try to balance wagering by changing the odds on each wager. To see a puckline or runline move to 2.0 would require a serious mismatch in that game.

Here's a typical MLB betting window from Bovada, and as you can see, the runline is set at 1.5:


In the NHL, if the Anaheim Ducks are playing the Florida Panthers are are listed at -1.5 in the puckline, this means if you make a puckline wager on the Ducks, you are giving the Panthers a goal and a half, so the Ducks would need to win by a two-goal margin in order for you to cash a winning ticket. By contrast, the Panthers would be +1.5, so if you bet them you get a goal and a half. If Florida wins the game outright, or loses the game by less than two goals, then a bet on the Panthers would be a winner.

Before you opt to wade into puckline or runline wagering, it's important to understand and recognize why the that margin is commonly 1.5. The vast majority of NHL and MLB games are decided by one goal or one run. In hockey, that outcome happens slighty more than 50 percent of the time. Baseball isn't as dramatic, but it's still the most common end result, with around 20 percent of games being one-run decisions.

Key Numbers In Basketball

The consistency in final scores that you see in other sports aren't as prevalent on the hardwood, so it's a bit more difficult for the oddsmakers to determine pointspreads in NBA games - something you might want to keep in mind as you look for sharp wagers on any given day.  

The most common end result in an NBA game is a seven-point margin, but even this occurs only about seven percent of the time. With the three-point field goal and trailing teams fouling at the end of a game in a desperate attempt to get back into the contest, final scores in basketball tend to vary by a wide margin. 

Should You Buy Points To Avoid Key Numbers?

The opportunity to buy points is offered at certain sportsbooks. You can get a favorite's number reduced or an underdog's digits increased, generally in half-point increments, but at the cost of the sportsbook lowering your odds on the wager.

Still, this is one area where it may prove to be a wise investment. Say the San Francisco 49ers are listed as three-point favorites to beat the Arizona Cardinals. The chances of a three-point final margin are legitimate, so buying a half point to get the line to either -2.5 on the 49ers or +3.5 on the Cardinals may prove to be a wise investment that ultimately pays dividends for you.