How Accurate is a Sportsbook’s Projection of Spreads and Totals?

A sportsbook is an establishment that accepts wagers on a variety of sporting events. These wagers are most commonly placed on whether a team or individual will win a particular game. A sportsbook must be licensed and regulated in order to operate legally in many states.

A key challenge facing the astute sports bettor is to understand how accurately a sportsbook’s proposed spreads and totals delineate the possible outcomes for the bettor. To address this question, a statistical framework is developed that employs the distribution of the relevant outcome as the model. Then, by analyzing the statistical properties of these models, upper and lower bounds on wagering accuracy are derived. To connect these theoretical findings to a real betting market, an empirical analysis of more than 5000 matches from the National Football League is performed. The results instantiate the derived propositions and shed light on how far the average sportsbook price deviates from its theoretical optima.

Most online sportsbooks offer a range of different betting options, including point spreads, moneylines and Over/Under totals. In addition, some offer parlays, which allow bettors to place multiple bet types and outcomes in a single stake. Parlays can be very profitable if all of the selections are correct, but they are also much more difficult to get right than straight bets. To minimize the risk of large losses, sportsbooks often offer layoff accounts, which balance bets on both sides to maintain a balanced book and reduce financial risks.