Should You Ever Buy Points When Betting on NFL Games?

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The NFL logo is seen on a football packaging. Photo by Chris DELMAS / AFP

There are many strategies when betting on professional football but one of the most hotly debated is whether or not to buy points to get a more comfortable point spread. Is it worth it or not? Let’s talk about it below.

Watch Out for the Juice

There’s a fine line between genius and jackass, particularly when it comes to sports betting. After all, picking a team to cover the spread is a 50/50 proposition but those who do it with more frequency than the rest of us are considered gurus while those who cover less are categorized as mushes. If we routinely employ flat bets at -110 vig then all we need to do is pick ATS winners at a 52.4 percent clip.

It doesn’t sound hard but now it’s no longer a case of flipping a coin and knowing that if you’re right half of the time there will be no harm, no foul, and no money out of your pocket. That would be completely fine with many recreational bettors as they would be happy to have action for an entire Sunday, as well as Monday and Thursday night, and walk away even.

But the vig catches up and when many bettors see a negative balance, their sole purpose is to get even so they don’t have to think about it anymore. It’s a fairly normal reaction but it is also a dangerous one, and the hallmark of a rookie mistake or a degenerate who never learns. Once you try to wish that negative balance away, your unit size invariably increases on wagers that are wrought of desperation rather than due diligence.

So, what’s all of this have to do with buying a hook in your NFL picks? I mention it because desperate times often call for desperate measures and as the size of the wagers increases so too does the volume of bets and, inevitably, the extra juice being spent willy-nilly on getting the best line possible regardless of the cost. Can you say reckless?

What to Do?

I used to know a security guard down at my local horse track named Bill, who was in his 80’s during the ‘80s so it is safe to say Old William has long since shed his mortal coil. However, in between talking ragtime about one thing or another, he did say something I will never forget. His words rang as true then as they do now when he said, “I’d rather lose on a horse I bet than watch one win that I almost bet.”

And that’s the conundrum we have in terms of buying hooks, or even whole points, vis a vis the NFL odds being offered at our favorite top online sportsbooks. We can get careless buying them because it can become an addiction. However, when that half-point coming off of a three is suddenly the difference between a push and a cover when the game ends, well, who in the world is smarter than you, right?

When you lose the extra vig when buying a half-point or more, the extra money out of your pocket never feels as bad as the loss itself. It’s almost like you blend it in and forget about it. But when you buy a half-point off of a 3, whether it is to +3 ½ on the dog or -2 ½ on the chalk, the books can charge you as much as 25 cents on top of your initial vig. So now you are laying -135 on a point spread which gets very costly over the long haul if you are not judicious.

The same thing is true to a lesser degree when buying off of a 7, where the extra vig is normally charged at 15 cents, making the wager -125 instead of the standard -110. If you make a habit of this, you will get vigged out and your bankroll will melt like butter in a blast furnace. For every one of those wagers that cover because of your line buy, you will have all of the other high-priced losses eating away at your wallet.

However, I am not going to say never buy off of, onto, or through a 3 or a 7 because sometimes you feel the need to get off of a bad number and onto a good one. Now, most of the time I will pass on those games because if you believe a half point will be the difference between covering and losing then perhaps you should move onto another game. I know that in any game I bet, I always see a distinct discrepancy in the line I’ve assigned to each game (before peeking at the official lines) and my bookie’s line. Those are the wagers I make and perhaps, so should you!