What does "Off the Board" Mean in Sports Betting?

by JP Sio

What does "off the board" mean in sports betting?

The sports betting industry consists of many different parties, and they're not just located in Las Vegas.  You have millions of bettors throughout the United States, and worldwide who place their wagers at online sportsbooks.  These bettors do their research by reading up on websites, watching television shows, and listening to radio programs and podcasts.  All these media outlets have journalists who dig deep into everything about a single matchup.  Each game is different, and the journalists and bettors know that information is the way to get an edge over others.

There are hundreds of thousands of sporting events every year.  And the sportsbooks try to make sure that every game that's being played is available for wagering.  However, sportsbooks also want to limit risk, and make money.  That's why sportsbooks, on their end, have a lot of professionals to do research as well.  When they determine there’s enough uncertainty surrounding the odds on a game, they will take measures into their own hands.

That's when the term 'off the board' comes into play.  Off the board refers to a sporting event where the sportsbook refuses to take any bets on that particular event.  Since sportsbooks and bookmakers operate on their own terms and conditions, they are allowed to take any bet off the board when they feel the need.  We'll dive into several reasons why this could happen, and what kind of bets can be taken off the board.

Why do games or events go off the board in sports betting?

The reasons why a game can be taken off the board can vary, but it all comes down to the sportsbook not wanting to assume undue risk.  They like to be in control of the situation and guarantee some sort of profit for any betting line available on their site.  After all, they're a business which needs to generate profit to stay afloat.  To make a profit, they need to foresee what's coming in and what's going out.  The moment they start to lose control and find it challenging to set betting odds for an individual sporting event, it could lead to a game taken off the board.

Imagine you have an exciting match in the NBA coming up between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Dallas Mavericks.  Both teams are in great shape, and there's no clear underdog or favored team.  It's time for the sportsbooks to list the betting lines, but rumors have it that key player LeBron James might be suffering from an injury.  They're not sure whether LeBron James will be able to play or miss the game entirely.  It's hard to set a betting line at this point.  So, a sportsbook has three options;

  1. Don’t post an opening number, and keep the matchup off the board entirely to avoid any uncertainty.
  2. Post odds on the game, but perhaps with lower betting limits, at least until there is clarity about LeBron James’ health.
  3. Don’t post an opening number, and keep the game off the board until there is clarity about the injury and playing status.  Only when there is clarity does the sportsbook publish its line.

When a game is taken off the board, it might be that people already placed their wagers.  In that instance, those bets are valid, and at the odds at the time of the wager.  However, anyone who still wants to bet on the game has to wait until it comes back on the board, and the odds at that point could be different.

What kind of bets can go off the board?

The most common games to be delisted from sportsbooks are football and basketball games.  Although injuries also occur in baseball and hockey games, a single player -- especially a star player -- will usually have more of an impact in a basketball or football game.  Thus, the odds will change more in football and basketball when a key player’s status changes.  

To take one step back in the sports betting process, we'd like to give you some explanation as to what kind of bets there are, and which bets might be taken off the board.  We'll provide a quick description per bet type.  And also note that each bet type can be taken off the board at any time when the sportsbook has uncertainty.

The moneyline wager is the most straightforward bet you can make.  All you do is pick which team will win the sporting event of your choice.  It's also referred to as a straight bet.  For example, sports bettors can bet the Patriots to win straight-up over the Bengals, which means the sports bettor predicts the Patriots will win the game.  The typical moneyline betting lines might look something like this:

  • New England Patriots -165
  • Cincinnati Bengals +145

There's always an underdog and a favored team that you can tell by the minus and plus sign alongside the odds.  The underdog carries the plus sign, while the minus sign is associated with the favored team.  This is common in most bet types, not just straight bets.

The over/under wager is also referred to as the totals bet.  Instead of picking a winning team, you're betting on whether the final score of the match will be relatively high-scoring or low-scoring.  The sportsbook sets a number, and you have to predict whether the final score will be over or under that number of points.  To give you an example, we'll take an NBA match between the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers. The betting lines might look like this:

  • Knicks/Lakers Over 210
  • Knicks/Lakers Under 210

You have to decide whether both teams will score enough to bring the final score over or under 210 points.

Point spread
One of the most common and popular bets is the point spread. When you're doing a little digging in sports betting, you've probably seen the terms 'against the spread,' 'cover the spread,' and ‘ATS’ thrown around a lot.  They all come down to spread betting.  With a point spread bet, you bet on the margin of victory in a game between two teams.  We'll illustrate this with an example:

  • New England Patriots -3.5
  • Cincinnati Bengals +3.5

Similar to a moneyline wager, there is a point spread favorite and an underdog. The Patriots are the favorite, and the -3.5 number means that they need to win by at least 4 points to cover the spread.  On the other hand, the Bengals need to either win the game straight-up, or lose by 3 points or less to cover the spread.

Spread betting is most popular for football and basketball, but it's also possible for other sports like baseball, hockey and soccer.  However, because scoring is much, much less in a baseball, hockey or soccer game, sportsbooks usually fix spreads in those sports at +/- 1.5, and adjust the associated moneyline odds from there.  Also, in those sports, this bet type is referred to as run-line (baseball), puck-line (hockey) or goal-line (soccer), rather than point spread -- but it operates the same way.

Prop bets and other exotic bets
Another category of wagers is exotic bets.  A perfect example of this is a prop bet -- short for proposition bet.  Prop bets are made on a wide range of subjects.  It could be on which team will score first in a game, or what color of Gatorade will be poured on the winning coach.  

There are also teasers, futures bets, round-robins, and many other wager types that we cover in other articles thoroughly.

All the bets that we mentioned before are all based on the outcome of one single sporting event.  With parlay bets, you're wagering on the outcome of multiple events in one single bet.  You're creating a multi-legged wager that only succeeds if every single individual bet wins.  So you could have your parlay bet look like this;

  • New England Patriots -165
  • New York Knicks/Los Angeles Lakers Over 210, -110
  • Los Angeles Lakers PK, -115

These are individual straight bets, all with different betting odds.  The parlay bet combines these betting odds and can bring you very lucrative returns.  The risk you're taking is very high, but the return on investment can be tremendous.

How to win at sports betting

​When you're active as a sports bettor, you know there's competition at every turn.  There's a competition among bettors to get down at the best odds; there's a competition between the sportsbooks and the bettors to see who will win the bets; and there's a competition between the teams that are the subjects of the bets.  In the end, the outcome of the matches we're wagering on is out of our control -- you can only watch and hope for the best.  However, when you're looking for trustworthy handicappers, and a reliable, customer-friendly sportsbook, you are in control.

Finding the right sportsbook
When you're shopping around for the best sportsbook that matches your needs, you'll find out that there are a lot of options.  However, not every single sportsbook might offer what you're looking for, and it can be overwhelming to analyze every single one.  We've done the hard work for you and have determined which sportsbooks offer the most to their clients.  We have a long list of factors on which we judge sportsbooks, including:

  • How competitive are the betting odds of the sportsbook?  In other words, what is the vigorish they charge for each wager?
  • Is the sportsbook an established entity, which has a long history of reliable payouts?  How is their reputation?
  • When you sign up, does the sportsbook offer a nice welcome bonus or promotion offer?  And does it have generous reload bonuses?
  • How is the user experience?  Is the website modern, and easy-to-use?
  • Are the wagering limits big?
  • Does the sportsbook have unique odds, which is important for line shopping, or does it copy the odds of other sportsbooks?  

These factors are among the most important for our Top 10 Sportsbook rankings.  We recommend creating accounts at multiple sportsbooks since you want to be able to shop around to find the best lines.  Our current #1-rated sportsbook is BetAnySports, which offers reduced juice (-105 odds, rather than -110).  And other great sportsbooks are BetNow, which has the best sign-up and reload bonuses, and Bovada, which has the best website.  For big players, who want to bet 50,000 dollars on an NFL match, then BookMaker would be the best option.

Find a professional handicapper
Sports betting can be stressful if you're mired in a losing streak.  And proper research takes a lot of time.  So, why not follow someone who handicaps sports events for a living?  Some handicappers sell their picks to allow other bettors to capitalize on their research and expertise.  You could compare it to stock traders sharing their signals, or even famous chefs cooking your food in a restaurant.  When you choose a handicapper, make sure you always look at his track record, and also his analysis to see if his methodology matches your beliefs.  Most handicappers offer free picks to start with, so you can get a feel of his performance before making your first purchase.  The beauty with purchasing picks is that the return on investment is usually way higher than the cost of the picks!

After reading this article, you know the basics of sports betting, and understand why a bet could be taken off the board.  Right now, find a game which is on the board, and walk up to the betting window!

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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