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Gambling 101: What is Home Field Advantage?

Our Sports Gambling 101 series continues with a look at the sports betting term “home field advantage." Why should it be considered and how does playing at home affect betting odds?

From the roar of a partisan crowd, to avoiding lengthy travel time, plus playing in familiar surroundings, teams enjoy advantages when playing in their hometown. Venues and weather are also key factors. Sportsbooks recognize this and home field advantage is carefully weighed by bookmakers before they post any betting odds. Also known as home ice advantage in hockey, and home court advantage in basketball, the benefits of playing at home vary depending on the sport.

How Does Home Field Advantage Affect Betting Odds?

Home field advantage usually translates to three points in the NFL. If New England is a -5 point favorite against the Bills at a neutral venue, the Patriots would be -8 point chalk if the game was played at their home stadium. The Bills would be closer to a +2 point underdog if Buffalo hosted the match. Home court advantage is often worth between 2 and 7 points in basketball, while moneylines and juice prices get adjusted slightly on baseball, soccer and hockey betting odds.

While the impact isn’t equal, across all sports, venues and teams, home field advantage affects betting odds on every competition. Looking at major sports, soccer matches are most influenced by home field advantage followed by basketball, football, hockey and baseball. The Los Angeles Lakers versus Oklahoma City Thunder 2019 NBA home-and-home series offers a prime example. Played just two days apart - the point spread odds were vastly different.

  • November 19, 2019: Thunder (+11) @ Lakers (-11)
  • November 22, 2019: Lakers (-4.5) @ Thunder (+4.5)

Both teams sent out the same five starters in both contests and they all played close to equal minutes. That left home court advantage, plus the Lakers going through the rigors of travel, as key reasons for the -6.5 point spread swing. Bettors shouldn’t bet blindly on point spread swings that are due to a venue change. While the Lakers -4.5 odds in the second game looked like a gift to some, sharp bettors knew OKC was one of the best NBA teams against the spread.

What are Key Considerations When Betting on Home Teams?

Some cities, sports and stadiums produce a more tangible home field advantage than others. Take an NFL game in the middle of December as an example. Indianapolis visiting New Orleans doesn’t give the Saints the same advantage the Packers would have hosting Arizona. That is due to the Colts and Saints playing in a climate-controlled stadium. Meanwhile, the warm weather Cardinals are at a disadvantage playing a cold weather game outdoors in Green Bay.

Travel is a key when considering home field advantage. Teams on a long homestand gain a slight advantage when they host squads that are closing out a long road trip. Since it can disrupt circadian rhythms, traveling across several time zones can be a disadvantage to visitors. That may be a factor when west coast teams travel to the east coast to play an early game on Sunday in the NFL. Proper research reveals which teams possess the best home field advantage.