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Gambling 101: What is a Betting Favorite?

Our Sports Gambling 101 series continues with an explanation of “favorite” as a sports betting term. How do bettors read favorite lines and is it wise to load up on "chalk?"

Unless the odds are EVEN, two-sided sports betting options have a favorite and an underdog. Point spread favorite odds range from as low as 0.5 goals in soccer, hockey and baseball, to upwards of 17 points or more in high-scoring sports like basketball and football. Also referred to as “chalk,” point spread favorites always have negative odds and begin a match with a deficit. When betting on moneyline chalk, odds start at (-101) and can go as high as (-10000) and beyond.

What are Football and Basketball Favorite Odds?

Favorites in football and basketball are always posted with negative odds. In the NFL example below, Philadelphia is chalk with a -6.5 point spread and bettors need to wager $115 to earn a $100 profit (-115). The Eagles moneyline price is (-290) so players must bet $290 to collect a $100 return. While not as common, the game total line also displays a favorite. That is due to the OVER odds being tagged with a (-115) favorite price while UNDER has (-105) underdog juice.

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What are Baseball and Hockey Favorite Odds?

Just like football and basketball favorites, moneyline and game total odds work the same with hockey and baseball chalk sides. There is however one major difference with puck line and run line favorites. In sports like the NHL and MLB, juice usually favors the chalk side when giving up pucks or runs. Bettors received positive juice (+116, or win $116 on a $100 bet) when laying the -1.5 run line to bet on the Kiwoom Heroes as the favorite in this Korean Baseball Organization odds example.

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Keys to Consider When Betting on Chalk Options

To gain value, on high-priced moneyline favorites, bettors can tie two or more sides together on a parlay ticket. Using the NFL odds below, if a player splits $200 on the Kansas City and San Francisco moneylines they would earn a $49.45 net profit if both favorites win outright. If the same $200 is invested in a Chiefs + 49ers parlay, the return jumps to $111.11 if both teams win. Bettors can also look to alternate lines and teaser cards to reduce the spread on heavy favorites.

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As with all sports betting options, bettors need to perform proper research prior to betting on chalk odds. That’s especially true when laying a large number with a point spread favorite. Solid research includes looking at the current form of both sides plus examining their overall offense and defense. Key scenarios, such as venue, player injuries, recent travel and weather should also be reviewed. If research points to a possible blowout – jump in and place a bet on the favorite.