What does "PK" Mean in Betting?

by Big Al Staff

What does PK mean in betting?

PK is short for pick'em, pk’em, or pick.  Pk'em happens when both teams are graded by the oddsmakers to be even in strength --  there's no clear favorite.  Let's take an NFL betting line, for example.  The New York Jets might host the New England Patriots, and the line could be pk’em.  In this case, the winner of the game, straight-up, would cover the spread.  It doesn't happen too often.  In fact, in the NFL’s 9944 games from 1980 to 2019, there were only 114 pk'em lines (1.14 percent).

But to answer what pk'em means, appropriately, we should zoom in on point spread betting, in general.  Some of you might be overwhelmed with the previous terms, and might find it hard to get started with sports betting.  We're assuming here that you're aware of the very basics, and thus can place a moneyline wager.  However, the next step in your wagering career is the point spread bet.  When you master the point spread bet, you'll be able to become a real handicapper and attain great profits.

How to get started with point spread betting

When you're into the NFL or the NBA, it's a wise decision to get familiar with point spread bets.  It's by far the most popular form of betting.  Anyone who’s been around the sports betting industry for a while enjoys point spreads.  Here, we're going beyond betting on which team will win the game.  Instead, we have to determine what is the likely margin of victory, so a lot of factors need to be considered to arrive at an informed decision.

Since you usually have a clear favorite and a clear underdog in any matchup, the point spread was created by Charles McNeil (an ex-math teacher-turned-bookmaker) before World War II as a means to level the playing field, and induce more money to be wagered on the games.  Instead of wagering on which team wins, you're wagering on the margin of victory.  Both teams have a set number of points which will be added to, or subtracted from their final score to determine the game’s point spread winner.  When we dive into the numbers, everything will become more evident.

Reading betting odds and understanding the point spread payout
The best way to illustrate the way point spreads work is to use an example.  We'll use a quick example of an NBA match between the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers.  It's an exciting match with the Spurs being the favored team.  The bookmaker assigns points to both teams, giving the bettors the following betting lines:

  • San Antonio Spurs -7.5 (-110)
  • Los Angeles Lakers +7.5 (-110)

The first thing you'll notice is the fact that there are two different numbers alongside each team.  The first indicates the number of points which will be added to, or subtracted from a team’s final score to determine the winning ticket.  In this example, the Spurs are the favorite, and need to win the game by more than 7.5 points to cover the spread.  The Lakers, on the other hand, are the underdog, and would have to win outright, or not lose by more than 7.5 points, to cover the point spread.

The second number alongside each team are the betting odds.  You'll find these associated with any wager type.  But unlike a moneyline wager, they are much closer to each other in a point spread bet.  When you would bet straight-up on the Spurs to win the game, your odds might be -340, meaning you need to wager $340 to win $100.  That's a lot of money to risk for many bettors, so a point spread might be a better alternative.  To win $100 on the Spurs at -7.5, you need to wager $110.  For the Lakers at +7.5, you would also have to wager $110 to win $100.  Most sportsbooks have standard -110 odds for football and basketball games.  But some, like our #1-rated sportsbook, BetAnySports, offer reduced juice, which is a huge benefit for gamblers.  Then, the two teams in a football or basketball game would have odds of just -105.

As you can see in the example above, the point spread numbers carry a half-point rather than a round number.  Bookies came up with this to more easily balance their books, so they can have equal action on both sides, and earn their vigorish with less risk.  Additionally, half-numbers remove the possibility of a bet resulting in a push, which could always happen if the point spread is a whole number (like +/- 7).  When a wager ends in a tie, bettors get a refund of their stake, as no team covers the spread.  In those games, the bookmakers don’t earn any vigorish.

Run lines and puck lines
We're continually talking about the NFL and the NBA.  The reason for this is because football and basketball are the most popular sports for the point spread bet.  Nevertheless, you can bet against the spread in hockey, baseball and soccer, as well -- but because there is a lot less scoring, most bettors in those sports still favor betting on the moneyline.  Of course, because there’s a lot less scoring, it's also harder for oddsmakers to come up with competitive spreads.  The bookies have solved for this problem by generally fixing the run-line (MLB), puck-line (NHL) or goal-line (soccer) to be +/- 1.5, and adjusting the moneyline from there.  This allows bettors to wager on baseball, hockey and soccer without having to deal with games of -200 (or higher) odds.

How to use point spreads in your sports betting strategy

As you can see, with a little research, and a little experience, point spread betting can be easily mastered.  It's the most popular form of wagering for a reason.  Now, with anything popular, there comes a lot of competition.  In sports betting, though, it’s all up to you.  Of course, you're betting against the house, but every bettor has the opportunity to do as much research as he wants to gain an edge.  We've been at this for a long time, and have gained tons of experience over the years.  Indeed, even though we’ve been doing this longer than most of our clients are alive, we still learn new things every sport season.  To give you a headstart over other bettors, we're sharing some of these lessons with you.

Use line movement to your advantage
The moment a sportsbook publishes the betting lines for any matchup, bettors can start wagering.  Bear in mind that not every sportsbook will publish its initial odds at the same time.  Some, like BetOnline, BetAnySports, or BookMaker, are extremely early in their publication, while others will come to market later, after the early odds have been bet into, and settled a bit.  Sharp bettors will have accounts at many of the early books.  That means you don’t have to wait to start wagering.  If you notice a soft line, you can get down before it moves.  Remember, you always need to have accounts at multiple sportsbooks to shop the lines, to get down at the best numbers.  Moreover, if you get down early, you may set yourself up for an opportunity to hedge your bet and/or middle a game later, should there be a major line move.

Once a betting market opens on a particular game, you will notice that the spread numbers change over time.  Let's imagine a sportsbook opens up its wagers on Sunday night for the following week with the following lines:

  • San Francisco 49ers -5.5 (-115)
  • Denver Broncos +5.5 (-105)

Over the following days, thousands of sports bettors will start to place their wagers favoring one team or the other.  Additionally, there’s always the chance that an essential player for either team could have his playing status changed.  Thus, the lines will move in concert with any of these factors.  By Thursday the lines could look like this:

  • San Francisco 49ers -3.5 (-115)
  • Denver Broncos +3.5 (-105)

As you can see, the spread numbers have moved significantly -- by a full two points.  To use this line movement to your advantage, you need to be on top of things.  And that’s because the only way to be able to take advantage of it would be if you happened to bet on the Denver Broncos at +5.5.  But that’s what sharp bettors do.  They understand value, so they’ll get the best number more often than not.  And they also follow the injury reports for all the key players so they will know whether or not to bet early, or wait for possibly a better number later.

Take your research seriously and gain experience
To become better at handicapping, you need to combine two factors:  knowledge and experience.  Over time, you'll notice what works for you, and what makes an effective sports betting strategy in your case.  We can't stress enough how important it is to do the research necessary for any matchup to make a proper decision.  We know emotions and excitement might get the better of you, but we'll give you a few factors to consider when starting your research:

  • Home field advantage:  Playing in your own trusted environment is always a nice feeling, but it's no guarantee for success.  Some teams will have a bigger advantage from playing at home than others.  Still, oddsmakers assign a variable number of points based on the home field advantage.  If your estimate of a team’s home field is different (and more accurate) than the oddsmaker’s, you can use this to your advantage!

  • Statistics:  This is a broad term, and it differs for every sport.  But it's important to know what you want to search for.  In football, you'll be looking at yards per play, points per yard, red zone success, and turnover differential as a couple of examples of statistics.  With basketball, you're looking at 3-point shooting percentage, rebound success, turnovers, pace of play, and efficiency rating.  Every sport has different statistics, but the more you take in, the better you can make a decision.  Besides that, always look at the most recent form of both teams.  A team could be mired in a losing streak, or on a red-hot roll.  But beware:  oftentimes, teams playing exceptionally well run into a proverbial brick wall, and lose!

  • Power rankings: ​​​​ Many sports betting websites offer insights on each team and rank them based on their statistics.  These “power rankings” are very useful as a base from which you can do research and adjust the numbers accordingly.

Ask for the help of a professional
Some people are sports fanatics.  They have been going to the stadium since they were little and can easily talk, eat, and dream sports every day.  Others aren’t rabid sports fans, but are in the sports betting industry to make money.  If you are one of those who only want to win money, it might be hard to put in the long hours to do research.  You want the excitement of placing wagers and betting, but you don't want to deal with the hard work.  Then, a viable option would be to hire a professional.

There are many professional handicappers with a proven track record dating back years that offer their services to the betting public.  Generally, you'll be able to try their services by using some free picks before you make a purchase.  Buying picks is not for everyone.  If you prefer to gamble purely for entertainment, then that's your way to go.  However, if you want to make serious cash through sports betting, it's often a smart choice to find an excellent handicapper to provide you with expert advice!

The world of online sports gambling is an exciting arena that surprises you every day.  With the right strategies, nothing will hold you back from earning big profits, and enjoying a cocktail in the Bahamas.  Enjoy yourself, and always remember to have fun along the way!

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

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