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Football Betting Strategy for Buying Points

Most people who bet on football know a thing or two about buying points. And many of them have very strong views on how effective or hindering buying point can be. Some bettors believe that you should never buy points under any circumstances, while others believe that regularly buying points is a great approach that can significantly improve your chances of winning money.

We don’t agree with either of these viewpoints. We certainly don’t believe that buying points should be avoided at all costs, and we’re very reluctant to believe that it’s something anyone should do regularly. We do, however, think that it can be the right thing to do in SOME circumstances.

For those of you not familiar with buying points, it’s an option that’s widely available at bookmakers and betting sites. In very simple terms, this option allows you to adjust point spreads in your favor. So when backing the favorite, you benefit from having to give away fewer points. And when backing the underdog, you benefit from getting more points. In exchange for moving the spreads, a fee is charged by the bookmaker in the form of reduced odds: or higher vig, depending on how you want to look at it.

We explain more about how buying points works below. We also look at the main advantages and disadvantages of buying points, and explain how to decide whether or not it’s something you should do. We’ve provided some strategy advice too, based around WHEN to consider buying points. Then we finish up with a couple of extra important pieces of advice. After reading this article you’ll know pretty much everything you need to know about buying points when betting on football. And, hopefully, you’ll be able to use the technique effectively.

How Buying Points Works

Our goal here is to provide you with an overview of the process of buying points so that you know exactly what you’re dealing with. We’re going to keep this as simple as possible, so that even someone new to football betting can get a clear picture of what’s involved. If you’re already familiar with the basics of buying points, you can probably skip this section and move straight onto the next one.

As we briefly explained in the introduction to this article, buying points allows you to influence the point spread to your advantage. Bookmakers and betting sites obviously aren’t going to let you do this for free, so they effectively charge a fee. That’s where the phrase buying points come from. You get the points in your favor, but you have to pay for the privilege. This is why some people feel that buying points is a bad idea. Their opinion is that the cost of purchasing them is too great to make it worthwhile. Although their view is understandable, it’s also flawed. Things are just not that clear-cut, as you’ll soon discover.

Generally speaking, the cost of buying points is 10 cents per half-point. This doesn’t mean that you literally have to hand over 10 cents to buy half a point though. Rather, the odds are adjusted accordingly. So assuming the original odds for a point spread are the standard -110, buying half a point will see them move to -120. Buying a full point will see them move to -130.

The best way to illustrate how this works is through an example. Let’s say we’re looking to place a wager on an upcoming game between Washington and Atlanta. Our preferred betting site is currently offering the following line.

Washington Redskins vs Atlanta Falcons
Point Spread
Redskins (-5) -110
Falcons (+5) -110

The Redskins are the favorites here: giving away five points. This means they’re going to need to win by six or more points for a wager on them to be successful. We think that’s a likely outcome, but we’re not completely sure. So we decide we want to buy a point at the cost of 20 cents. They’re now -4, and only need to win by five points or more. The odds have moved to -130 as a result. We’ve got a slightly better chance of winning our wager, but will be getting a reduced payout in exchange.

Here’s another example. This time we’re looking at a game between Carolina and Baltimore, and the line is as follows.

Carolina Panthers vs Baltimore Ravens
Point Spread
Carolina +1.5 -115
Baltimore -1.5 -105

For the purposes of this example, we’re going to back the underdog. Carolina is being given one and a half points, which means they can lose by a point and backing them will still pay off. However, we feel like we want an extra half point here. It will give us the safety net of a push if Carolina ends up losing by two points. So we decide to purchase half a point at a cost of 10 cents. This makes Carolina +2. As the odds were originally -115, they now move to -125.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? That’s really all there is to buying points. You just have to decide which team to back and how many points to buy. The line is then moved accordingly. There’s one slightly more complicated aspect of buying points to mention though, and that’s dealing with spreads of three or seven points.

If you know the key numbers in football, you’ll know that three points is the most common margin of victory and seven is the second most common. As such, bookmakers treat these spreads a little differently when it comes to buying points. When the spread is +/-3, you can expect to pay 25 cents per half point bought. When the spread is +/-7, you can expect to pay 15 cents per half point bought. The reason for the extra cost is simply that there’s a bigger advantage to the bettor when moving a spread off three or seven. The bookmakers compensate for that bigger advantage by charging a bigger price.

Let’s use one more example to show the effects of this bigger price in practice. Here’s the line for an upcoming game between Detroit and Pittsburgh.

Detroit Lions vs Pittsburgh Steelers
Point Spread
Lions +3 -110
Steelers -3 -110

We want to back the Steelers here, but we want to give away just two and a half points rather than three. So we’d buy half a point. The cost for this would be 25 cents, so the odds would move to -135. This is obviously quite a significant adjustment, but we’ve gained a notable advantage too. The most likely outcome here is probably that Steelers win by three. Backing the Steelers on the original would mean a push with that result. Having bought half a point, though, we’d win this wager. So taking the lower odds would be worth it.

A final point to mention here is that the exact rules of buying points, and the associated costs, can vary at different betting sites. Some sites limit the amount of points you can buy to one and a half points, while others allow you to buy more. Some sites charge a fixed cost per half point, while others increase the cost as you buy more. Costs can also vary between NFL and college football. With this in mind, you should always check the terms for buying points before you get started.

The Pros and Cons of Buying Points

The pros and cons of buying points when betting on football are probably already apparent to you. Let’s explore them briefly though, for the sake of clarity.

The biggest advantage of buying points is that it improves your chances of winning a wager. Giving away fewer points when backing the favorite, or gaining extra points when backing the underdog, puts you in a better position. It can prevent you from losing against the spread by a very small margin, which is one of the biggest causes of frustration when betting on football.

The main disadvantage of buying points is, of course, the fact that potential payouts are diminished. By accepting reduced odds, the money you stand to win is automatically less than it could be. This is obviously not a big deal when the extra points help you win wagers that you would otherwise have lost. But there will be times when the extra points weren’t necessary for a wager to win, in which case you’ve given up some of your return for no reason. That’s the downside.

So should you buy points or not?
You’ll have to answer this question yourself.

There’s no right or wrong answer to this question. As we’ve already mentioned, some people are completely against the idea of buying points. They would advise you to NEVER buy points. Others see the merit in buying points, and they would offer different advice. Neither set of opinions is more correct than the other. What you need to do is to establish your own view on the subject.

Something that we try to make very clear in our football betting strategy guide is that we don’t ever want to tell you exactly what to do. We don’t think that will be very beneficial to you in the long run. What we prefer to do is give you the information you need to work out what to do for yourself. We offer plenty of advice to assist you, but we never provide a precise set of instructions for you to follow.

With that being said, we believe all serious bettors should consider buying points. Regardless of whether you’re a recreational bettor or someone who takes things more seriously, it’s something that CAN work out well if approached in the right way. You certainly shouldn’t look to buy points every single time you bet the spread, but there will be occasions when it’s a sensible course of action. The hard part, of course, is knowing when that’s the case. The next section of this article should help you with that.

When to Buy Points

We view buying points as a tool for risk management. It’s essentially a way to balance the risk versus reward ratio of a wager. We can increase our chances of winning a wager (or reduce the risk of losing it) in exchange for taking a lower payout if we do win. The key to buying points effectively is to make sure that we get the balance right. This varies from person to person. We all have different attitudes to risk, so it’s about finding the balance that works for you.

If you are going to consider buying points, the first thing to think about is when you’re going to do so. Your goal, of course, is to only purchase points when it will put the odds in your favor. This means considering value and probability. Basically, you’re looking for spots when the value you give up by taking lower odds is less than the value you gain from the increased probability of winning.

Now, we can’t tell you exactly how to find these spots. To some extent you have to rely on your past experiences and your intuition. It’s not easy to make an accurate judgement about exactly how beneficial the extra points will be. There are just no absolutes in football betting unfortunately.

With that being said, we can tell you about one broad situation where buying points is usually a financially rewarding decision.

When the probability of a push is likely at the initial spread.

Take +3/-3 as an example. We’ve already explained how three points is the most common margin of victory in football games. So whenever there’s a +3/-3 spread, there’s automatically a good chance that a wager on that spread would result in a push. Therefore, it’s entirely logical to purchase a half point as this should dramatically increase your chances of winning. Taking the underdog at +3.5 and -135 is probably a better bet than taking them at +3 and -110: simply because it means a victory for the favorite by three points will be a win and not a push.

The same principle applies when the spread is seven points too, as this is also a very common margin of victory. But let’s be clear here. We’re not suggesting that you should blindly purchase half points every time you see a spread of three or seven points. That approach is just too simplistic. You still need to assess the opposing teams, and other important factors, and make a judgement about how a game is likely to play out. It’s no good assuming that there’s a high probability of a push just because the spread is on a key number. You have to actually reach that conclusion based on some proper analysis.

It’s also important to note that there can be a high probability of a push on any spread. This theory is not just limited to the key numbers. There’s a case for purchasing half a point any time you feel that a push is likely at the initial spread. And, in fact, it’s BETTER if you can identify opportunities outside the key numbers. The cost for buying points will be lower, and so it should be easier to improve the overall value of a wager.

So, to summarize, there’s no definitive strategy to use for determining when to purchase points. You have to decide on the optimal balance of risk and reward and then act accordingly. Whenever you feel that you can get better overall value by buying points, then you should go ahead and do so.

Two Final Tips

Before we conclude this article, there are two final tips that we’d like to offer.

  • Don’t buy points SOLELY to make it easier to win.
  • Shop around for the best deals when buying points.

We’ve already covered the first tip to some extent, but we want to make it abundantly clear here. Your goal when buying points isn’t simply to improve your chances of winning the wager. It’s to give yourself a more favorable position overall. Just buying points every single time you bet the spread, hoping that you’ll improve your win rate, will almost certainly cost you a lot of money in the long run. This is NOT a good strategy. You’ll win more wagers, yes, but the amount sacrificed in payouts will hurt your total return significantly.

That’s why it’s important to be selective, and only buy points when there’s a genuinely valid reason for doing so. And making a win more likely is not a valid reason by itself. Not when there’s the tradeoff of reduced odds. There might be times when you lose several wagers by the smallest of margins, and are tempted to buy points on subsequent wagers just to avoid the continued frustration. But you have to learn to deal with that frustration and keep on doing your best. Suddenly purchasing points all the time is NOT the right solution.

Our second tip is something that few bettors bother to do. They just buy points at their preferred betting site without a second thought. This is a potentially costly mistake. Remember how we said earlier that different betting sites have different rules and costs for buying points? With that being the case, it makes perfect sense to shop around and make sure that you get the best deal.

Note that this is not a simple case of picking one betting site though. The best site to use will vary, depending on how many points you’re buying and what spread you’re buying off. So you really need to shop around each time you’re looking to purchase points. This can be a little time consuming, but it’s not hard to do if you have accounts at a few different betting sites. Just please stick to the reputable sites, such as the ones we recommend on the following page.


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