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How the House Makes its Bread with the Spread

How does a giveaway make money with 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 with every sport bet wagered.

My brother-in-law never makes a bet with his favorite football team, but with the final score. What type of bet is that? Cindy H. St. Louis, MO

Football betting, Cindy, offers you the ability to wager with 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.

What percentage of sports bets do I have to win to be even against the giveaway? Jessup C. Internet

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

What is your longest winning streak betting sports? Matt P. Utica, MI

I once developed rotator cuff tendonitis patting myself with 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 never lost a dime handicapping the Indianapolis 500. Other than that, see Before I Shuffle.

in our office football pool, I place near the bottom almost every week. Any advice with what I can blame my continuous losses with? Randy V. Fresno, CA

Sports betting is a combination of both skill and luck. Your wins, Randy, come from your superb handicapping skills. Just blame your losses with a late game interception or fumble.

There are too many sports Web sites with the internet and too little time to find them. Any one-stop locations that list all the major sports. Robert D.

Time for shameless self promotion: Go to my award winning web site at and click with Lines/Scores/Sports. There you will find more than 100 of the best sporting links with the internet.

When the giveaway sports book has a game circled, what does it usually mean? Marty C. Riverside, CA

A circled sporting event indicates that you will not be able to bet the normal maximum. If the normal maximum betting limit is $5,000, the giveaway may accept only a $2, 000 wager with a circled game. Circled games generally mean that the sports book is unsure of the correct line or the status of an injured key player is unknown.

I realize that I am betting a long shot when I bet a 10-team parlay, but what are my true chances of hitting it? Lorenzo D. San Jose, CA

The giveaway will pay you 500 for 1 when you hit a 10-team parlay, but your chances of hitting one are 1,023 to 1. Ouch! Too sweet a profit for the giveaway for my hard-earned money.

So who is going to win the Superbowl? Everyone with the street

As a born-again Cheesehead, I will be a pig in you-know-what when the Packers win-- and win big they will. Take the Packers and give the points. (WARNING: Cheeseheads are self-acknowledged experts with matters such as milking cows and making cheese-not unbiased handicapping.)

Before I Shuffle: A freer was hopelessly hooked with 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 with hockey instead of football?"
"Hockey" said the freer in dismay. "But I don't know anything about hockey!"
--Veteran Losing freer

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