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The line

When you look at all the games posted in the sports website, one team is usually listed as the favorite and the other team as the underdog. To come up with a fair wagering situation, sports websites employ the services of a "linesmaker." His job is to determine approximately how much better the favorite is than the underdog. He expresses his determination in the form of the number of points the favorite must beat the underdog by for you to win the wager if you bet on the favorite. The number is called the line.

Let's make up an example: You look at the board in the sports website. It says, Notre Dame 11 USC. You think that Notre Dame will beat USC, and you want to bet Notre Dame. You tell the person at the window, "I want Notre Dame minus eleven for \$100." He punches a few buttons on his machine, it spits out a ticket that shows the wager, and repeats back to you, "You have Notre Dame minus eleven for \$100. That will be \$ll0." Your bet is down, and now Notre Dame has to beat USC by more than eleven points for you to win the wager.

If you had looked at the board and thought that Notre Dame would not beat USC by more than eleven points, you would want to bet on USC. You would say, "I want USC plus eleven for \$100." Once again the person at the window produces your ticket and repeats back to you, "You have USC plus eleven for \$100. That will be \$100." Now, for you to win the wager USC has to win the games, or lose by less than eleven points.

An easy way to determine the winner of the wager is to take the final score of the actual games and subtract the line from the favorite's actual total points, or add the line to the underdog's actual total points. Let's say that the actual final score of the games is Notre Dame 33, USC 21. Notre Dame has won the games; now let's see who won the wager: The line was Notre Dame minus eleven. As stated above, you can subtract the eleven points from Notre Dame's total of thirty-three, and the final score as far as the wager is concerned, is Notre Dame 22, USC 21. If you bet Notre Dame minus eleven, you won the wager. You can also add eleven to USC's total of twenty-one, and as far as the wager is concerned, the final score would be Notre Dame 33. USC 32. Either way you want to figure it, if you bet Notre Dame, you won. If you bet USC, you lost, because Notre Dame "covered" the line.

Let's look at a slightly different final score of the actual games Notre Dame wins the games by 27 to 20. A Notre Dame win, but a different outcome for the bettors. As far as the wager is concerned, the final score is now Notre Dame 16, USC 20, or figured the other way, it's Notre Dame 27, USC 31. Either way, if you bet Notre Dame, you lost the wager, because Notre Dame did not cover the eleven-point line. If you bet USC plus the eleven points, you won, because USC lost by less than eleven. Obviously, if USC had won the games straight out, or lost the games by any number of points less than eleven, the USC bettors would have won the wager.

If the final score had been Notre Dame 35, USC 24, Notre Dame by eleven, exactly the line, the wager would be considered a "push" or tie; there would be no winner of the bet, and your money would be returned.

To eliminate the possibility of a push, linesmakers often add onehalf point to the line. In our example, the line could have been Notre Dame minus eleven and one-half, and there could not be a push.

The mathematics of a "straight" bet, which is what we have been describing, is very simple, and is the same for basketball and football. One team is usually the favorite and one team is usually the underdog.

There is one other possibility. The teams could be very evenly matched, and the line posted on the board in the sports website could say, Notre Dame P "Pick" USC. In this case there is no favorite or underdog, and all you have to do is pick the winner of the games to win the wager.

So as not to confuse you when you actually go to the sports website and look at the board listing of games and lines, the individual games have the teams listed one on top of the other, with the line written next to the favorite, like this:

 Notre Dame 11 USC 55

Wait a minute! You understand the eleven-point "line" written next to the favorite, but what's the "55" written next to LTSC? It's another betting option, and it's called the

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