Buying points means paying a premium to give your wager a better chance of success. Moving a line in your favor can be the difference between a bet crashing out early or it staying alive to the end and winning.
Remember your last wager that lost by a whisker? It might have gone something like this. You bet your favorite team at -3.5 on the spread. A couple of hours later you’re still fuming that they went for the field goal in extra time instead of the touchdown. Yes, they won, but it would have been all the sweeter if you’d made some money off of it.
Chances are you’ve already moved on, placed more bets, and maybe even repeated the same ‘hard luck’ story. But, before it happens again, ask yourself next time, ‘should I buy points on the spread?’
The best sportsbooks allow bettors the opportunity to buy and sell points. Buying gives your bet some breathing space for an improved chance of winning while trading off for a lower potential payout. Selling gets you better odds and wipes some juice off the bet to narrow the spread for a shot at higher profits.
Buying and selling points is a good way into thinking like a betting pro to make strategic decisions based on your assessment of a sporting event. Sportsbooks routinely allow users to alter the line on point spreads, totals and some other bet types.
Buying points is a bit like investing in an extra bingo card or two. It will increase your likelihood of calling ‘house’ but comes at a price. The more you buy, the more your overall purse will take a hit - win or lose. Selling is the reverse.
For an example of buying points let’s take the New York Rangers versus the Islanders for a game in December 2021. The sportsbooks advertised the total at under 6 with odds of -110. You could opt to buy half a point to avoid the push and set the under at 6.5 for lower odds of -140. That made a winning bet more likely but instead of wagering $110 for a $100 profit, you would have had to stake $140.
If it was selling points that caught your eye, for the same game the book set the spread with the Rangers at +1.5 points with odds of -275. Say you were sure they'd win so you sold points and took an alternative line with the NYR at -1.5 at +160. The reward for your faith and for selling points here would be big. Rather than $100 returning $36.36 it would get you a $160 profit if the wager hit.
If you view sports betting as a zero-sum game, one in which you aim to minimize all losses, then a points buying strategy makes sense. Toying with the line can make watching a game more exciting. Take this example where you’re a fan of a team and can’t bring yourself to bet on them to lose.
Owing to a slew of injuries, the New York Giants were +6.5 road dogs (odds -110) against the Miami Dolphins in game week 13, 2021/22.
Given the Giants' problems, you weren't comfortable with that and could see them losing by two touchdowns. So you decided to move the line by buying points.
You opted for the Giants at +12.5 and got odds of -230 so you wagered $500.
In the end, the Dolphins won 20-9 with an 11-point margin, but your wager would have hit for $217.39 in profit. If you’d taken the +6.5 your bet would have lost
Not bad huh? But it’s likely not a wager you’d like to repeat often at those odds as you wound up wagering more than you usually would. That’s why buying points is rarely a wise long-term betting strategy. However, it made sense in this particular game so knowing when to buy points has to be based on your analysis of an event and the lines on offer.
Selling points is the same concept as buying except you’re adding to your risk and increasing a potential payout rather than playing it safe.
Taking a look at the Dolphins vs Giants game from the other side, the home team were huge favorites at around -290 on the moneyline. Miami fans looking to sidestep odds that probably weren’t worth investing in could have taken a look at totals as a bet. That market closed at under 40.5 with odds of -110.
It was already a low line for football and was influenced further by two above-average defenses and below-average offenses. If you’d recognized that, taking a touchdown off the 40.5 total to sell points and move the line to under 34.5 would have produced better odds at around +280.
A bet of $100 here would have given you $280 profit rather than $90 by not selling the points.
Usually, buying a half point will cost you 10% of the potential win amount on a standard points spread bet. For example, if you buy a half point on the Buffalo Bills at -4.0 at +110, then it changes to -3.5 at +120. On wagers of $100, the profit would be $110 and $120 so buying that half point has cost $10.
There can be some differences though depending on the sport you’re wagering on. This usually relates to buying a point on a ‘key number’. In football, this is three and seven as these are the increments that teams typically score in. So buying on a spread of 3 to change it to 2.5 might cost 25%. For example, if the Bills' line was at -3 at odds of -110, buying a half point to change it to -2.5 might have odds of -135.
In basketball betting, the most common key number is also 7 as this represents a three-possession game. In lower-scoring sports including baseball and hockey, sportsbooks don’t usually allow lines to move but you can buy points on the total scored.
Alternative lines are just a different way of applying the same principles of buying and selling points. Alternative lines are those advertised as standard at a sportsbook to streamline the process. The difference is that buying/selling is a two-step activity - you choose the line and then buy or sell points. Selecting an alternative line simply means that you pick a different spread at the displayed odds in one move.
Whether to buy a point or not depends on many factors. This includes the teams, the game and the line set. Remember, lines offered by sportsbooks are intended to be razor sharp but on some weekends they can be releasing over 200 so not all of them can be bang on every time. That’s where developing an eye to gain an edge by buying and selling points can be profitable.
To make money by betting on sports, in the long term you need to win more than 50% of the time. There are pros and cons to buying and selling points but the ability to do so is another option in your sports wagering strategy.
Most sportsbooks typically limit the number of points that can be bought to three but it does vary depending on the bookmaker, the sport and the odds. In football, it might be seven or nine for example and at the biggest NY sportsbooks, you might find dozens of alternate lines for the top games.
Because basketball scores in one, two and three points, buying just a half point can be more valuable than in football because it has more of an impact on the final score. Between one and nine points is a common margin of victory in basketball so buying a half point can make sense if you see a spread that falls on either side.
Generally, the cost of buying a half point on a bet is 10 cents. That cost is reflected in the odds, so assuming a standard -110, then buying a half point changes it to -120 and a full point to -130.
Sportsbooks use half points to ensure there is a winning side. Say a spread is set at six points then there would be the possibility of a tie. Offering it at 5.5 means wagers don’t push so the book won’t have to refund stakes.