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Gambling 101: What is a Hook?

Our Gambling 101 series continues with an explanation of what a "hook" is, why it matters to oddsmakers and why it should matter to you.

A half-point numerically, point spread and game total betting odds often have a hook attached to them. A hook can increase or decrease the value of a betting line. Let’s take a closer look.

What is a Sports Betting Hook?

When a better says, “I just got hooked” they probably lost a point spread wager by a mere half-point. Hooks can be painful and they usually catch bettors late in a game. NFL 2019 Week 1 action provides a good example, as the Los Angeles Chargers were -6.5 point chalk at home against the Indianapolis Colts. The Bolts blew a 24-9 lead before winning 30-24 in overtime. Bettors who backed the Chargers tossed their tickets in the trash at the end of regulation time since teams don’t kick an extra point after a touchdown in OT.

While the hook hurt players who bet on the Chargers, it helped bettors who wagered on Indianapolis. Colts backers knew their +6.5 ATS tickets were winners when the match went into extra time. A hook can also help or hurt bettors when a team kicks a field goal, instead of going for touchdown, late in a tied contest. Bettors with -3.5 odds get hooked while those with +3.5 cash winning wagers. A hook also eliminates any chance of a bet being graded as a push. That takes away a possible return as original stakes are refunded if point spread bets end in a tie.

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How To Avoid or Take Advantage of a Hook

Bettors can avoid hooks, or use them to their advantage, on a wide variety of betting options. Alternate betting lines can help bettors move off a hook, but there is a cost as the juice will jump from -110 to around -125 to buy the half-point. Since three and seven are key numbers in football betting, and the two most likely outcomes of NFL games, it doesn’t hurt to shave a half point off a -3 or a -7 ATS line from time to time. When betting on an underdog, buying a half point can be advantageous as bettors can change a +10 (-110) spread to +10.5 (-125) line.