What does "Push" Mean in Sports Betting?

by Big Al Staff

What does push mean in sports betting?

In this world, we all have goals and ambitions that we're reaching for.  One person might give his all to become a successful business owner, while another might strive to become the President of the United States.  This extends to the sports betting industry, as well, as it offers great opportunities to achieve financial success.  Any bettor knows that if you wager successfully for an extended period, you will see your bankroll grow substantially.  Slowly but steadily, you'll achieve the milestones you set for yourself.

To go on a sizzling-hot streak in sports betting, you not only need to do thorough research, and bet into good numbers, but you also need to have some luck.  With any bet you make, there’s always a chance that it will go down to the wire, and may even result in a tie.  When a wager ends in a tie, that’s referred to as a push.  When a bet pushes, the bookmaker returns the stake to the gambler, and no money is won or lost on the wager.  Certainly, after watching an NFL game for three hours, it can be pretty frustrating to wind up in the same situation as you started.  But given that the standard wager is at -110 odds, bettors will welcome a push more than bookmakers. 

In this betting guide, we'll take you through push bets.  It might be weird at first, but when you understand the logistics behind a push bet, you can even use it in your favor. 

How does a push work?
It might sound straightforward:  when a wager results in a tie, it's a push.  Now, just because a wager results in a tie doesn't mean the game, itself, also finished in a tie (although that’s possible, too).  Most often, a push occurs when the final score of a matchup has the same differential as the listed point spread, or the aggregate score equals the listed over/under line.  But in rare instances, an NFL game might result in a tie, so moneyline wagers would push in such cases, or a hockey, soccer or baseball game might push against the goal-line or run-line.

One thing should be clear.  When a bet pushes, it's not a very big deal since the bookmakers don't charge an extra fee when your bet pushes.  There's no vigorish (vig) charged on pushed bets.  Let's take you through the exact logistics of a push bet by showing you an example of what happens with a push in a spread bet and an over/under wager. 

Push in spread bets and over/under bets
We'll use a basketball game between the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers to illustrate the possibilities of a point spread bet ending in a push. In our example, the betting lines are:

  • New York Knicks -4
  • Los Angeles Lakers +4

In this example, the point spread favorite is the Knicks, while the Lakers are the underdog. To cover the spread, the Knicks need to win by at least five points.  On the other hand, the Lakers need to either win the game, straight-up, or lose by less than four points to cover the spread.  However, should the Knicks win the game by exactly four points -- say, 98-94 -- then this bet would end up as a push.  At that moment, the bookies will refund all monies placed on the wager. 

With an over/under bet, it works the same way. Recall the AFC Championship game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts in January, 2015.  That game’s over/under line at BookMaker was 52 points.  When New England won, 45-7, the total pushed, and the monies wagered on the over/under were refunded.

Generally speaking, bookies would prefer that wagers do not push, as tied bets mean they don’t earn any vigorish for those wagers.  There are specific strategies employed by sportsbooks to avoid pushed bets, but we'll dive into that later. 

Push in parlays
When a bet pushes in an individual bet, it's evident that you get a refund, and nothing further happens.  However, what if a gambler made a three-team parlay bet, and one of the three wagers pushed.  For the uninitiated, a parlay bet consists of multiple wagers grouped together as one bet.  And each wager needs to succeed for the parlay to win.  Obviously, if any of the individual wagers lose, then the parlay would also lose.  But what if you have a three-team parlay, and one of the bets ends up in a push, while the other two bets win.  In this case, your parlay bet is still valid, but it's now converted into a two-team parlay, and the bet that pushed is, in effect, null and void.  When this happens, your odds also change to reflect the fact that you won only two bets instead of three.  Thus, your payout odds could be reduced from, say, 6-1 on a three-team parlay to 13-5 on a two-team parlay.

How to avoid a push
A push should not be viewed as an unfavorable outcome by bettors.  At the end of the day, your stake is refunded by your bookmaker, and you can reinvest the money into other wagers.  However, when you're anticipating a win, and you've just spent a couple of hours watching a game, sometimes a push can be pretty frustrating.  On the other side of the fence, sportsbooks truly don't want bets to push as they might be in a position to make money (if their action is balanced) regardless of which side covered the spread. The question, thus, arises:  how can one avoid a push?  There are several ways to avoid a pushed bet, but the easiest way is for a sportsbook to install a point spread or over/under line on a half-point number. 

With a regular point spread wager, you will see the lines either offered as whole numbers or half-point numbers.  With whole numbers, there will always exist a chance that the wager will end in a tie, thus pushing.  But with half-point numbers, that possibility is erased, since the scoring in football, basketball, baseball, hockey and soccer games operates on a whole-number basis.  Many sportsbooks might be incentivized to post a half-point number on a game (e.g., UCLA -3.5 vs. USC) to ensure they won't have to refund anyone. 

Because a bookie establishes the line, a bettor has less control over whether a bet pushes.  But that doesn’t mean a bettor is out of options.  Say you absolutely don't want to push a bet.  What can you do?  One option is that you can bet on the moneyline rather than a point spread.  Let’s say you wanted to wager on the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 54.  But when you logged in to your account at MyBookie, you saw the Chiefs were favored by 1 point.  However, MyBookie also offered the Chiefs on the moneyline at -125 odds, so that would be a very good alternative.  Besides betting on the moneyline, another option for a bettor is that you can choose to buy a half-point.  Generally speaking, most books have standard -110 odds.  But say you’re playing at GTBets Sportsbook, and your over/under line for Super Bowl 54 is 53 points.  If you liked the under, you could buy a half-point, and move the line from 53 to 53.5 points.  Instead of laying -110 odds, you would now be laying -120 odds.  But your bet would be under 53.5 rather than under 53. 

How do sportsbooks handle push bets?
As we mentioned before, sportsbooks prefer that bets do not push.  They are in the business to make money, not allow people to wager and then refund them afterward.  The most effective way is to utilize half-points in combination with line movement at the right moment. When you're taking a close look at the lines offered by sportsbooks, you'll notice that they frequently move.  However, as a sports bettor, the point spread movements also offer the opportunity to shop lines, and find value. 

What are the best sportsbooks for shopping point spreads?
It goes without saying that every half-point matters in sports betting.  Getting that extra half-point is what often turns a loss into a push, and a push into a win.  Therefore, when you are considering the sportsbooks at which to open up accounts, you need to focus on ones with unique lines -- that is, the ones that publish THEIR OWN numbers, and don’t just COPY the numbers of other major sportsbooks.  And if you stop to think about why this is the case, it will make sense to you.  

The most important thing to understand is that all sports bettors need at least three sportsbook accounts in order to shop the lines to get the best numbers.  One of the biggest mistakes made by gamblers is that they will only use one bookie.  If you do that, then you will always be held hostage to that bookie’s numbers.  And your win percentage will be about 2% lower than it would be if you had multiple sportsbooks.   When you commit to joining three to five online sportsbooks, it’s best to focus on the ones that offer unique point spreads because you want to have different numbers -- you want to have choices so you can always get the best number whether you like the favorite or the underdog.  It does little good, for example, if you have an account at, say, BookMaker, and your other sportsbooks just copy BookMaker’s numbers (which many sportsbooks do).  It eliminates the advantage you seek by having accounts at multiple sportsbooks.  

With that in mind, the best sportsbooks to join for the purpose of getting the best odds are BetAnySports (our current #1-rated sportsbook), BetNow (#2), Bovada (#3), BetOnline (#4), BookMaker (#5), and BetUS (#10).  Not surprisingly, these sportsbooks dominate the upper tier of our Top 10 Sportsbooks for 2020.

Of course, when you’re comparing sportsbooks, a lot of factors will come into play in addition to the lines.  Perhaps you value a modern website or a juicy sign-up bonus.  And when you're playing at an online sportsbook, its trustworthiness is also important.  Let’s take a look at various considerations:

  • Licensing and certificates - You should join a sportsbook that is in possession of all the required licenses and certificates issued by the jurisdiction in which it operates. When this is taken care of, you know the bookie is legit, and you can trust them with your money.  Indeed, all the sportsbooks in our Top 10 rankings have pristine payout records over decades.

  • Bonuses and promotions - When you sign up at many sportsbooks, you will be given an initial sign-up bonus, and then also given reload bonuses down the road.  BetNow has the best sign-up and reload bonuses, and is currently our #2-rated sportsbook, overall.  If free money is your most important consideration, then join BetNow

  • Modern user interface - In today’s fast-moving world, we want to do things lightning-quick.  And this is no less desirable in the sports betting world where every second counts when you’re fighting to get the best number, or place a bet in a live game during a time out.  For many gamblers, it’s critical to have a modern website which works well for both desktops and mobile devices.  If this is important to you, then Bovada should be your top choice as its website is head-and-shoulders above the rest. 

  • Competitive Odds -  Most sportsbooks offer standard -110 odds for football and basketball games, but some will offer reduced juice, so the odds might be -105, or -107, or -109, depending on the sportsbook.  So, if you want to bet on the Lakers/Celtics game, and each of your sportsbooks had the Lakers favored by 5 points, but one of your sportsbooks offered the odds at -105 rather than -110, then you would place your bet with that reduced juice sportsbook.  Our current #1-rated sportsbook is BetAnySports, which offers -105 reduced juice on football and basketball games.  If you’re betting on sports, BetAnySports is a “must join” sportsbook. 

As you can see - it is critical to have accounts at multiple sportsbooks.  Feel free to browse our sportsbook reviews to see which ones best fit your needs. 

How can sports handicappers help you get the best numbers?
When you're in the betting industry, it's all about finding value.  It's a numbers game where every single decision you make matters. Not just the matchup you pick to wager, but also the sportsbooks with which you work, and the type of wager you place.  There's a ton to think about, which might feel overwhelming at times.  If you don’t have the time to do all the proper research, it might be smart to ask for help by a professional. 

One of the best benefits of using a professional sports handicapper is that you will often get the best number before the market moves the numbers.  Let’s explain why.  The sports betting world is a marketplace.  The bet shops open for business when they first publish the odds on a game.  After that, and right up until game time, the numbers are in constant flux, as gamblers across the globe place their wagers.  Most gamblers don’t have the time to stay fixated on the market -- to watch the line moves, and stay abreast of the volume of bets going on one side, or the other.  But professional handicappers are in tune with the marketplace, and the best ones will have a very good feel for which way the market is heading.  Moreover, their research will point them to situations where the odds are off, so they’ll be able to take advantage of soft lines and distribute this information to their clients.  Thus, when you subscribe to a professional handicapper’s service, you can get the benefit of this knowledge, and will often be given selections on games in advance of major line movement.  So, hiring a handicapper is generally a very good idea. 

After digesting all the information above, you should understand that pushing a bet is not a big deal at all.  Indeed, in many instances it’s a welcome outcome -- especially when you fought for that extra half-point by having multiple sportsbook accounts, and was able to avoid a loss because of those multiple accounts!  Good luck, and have fun in your sports betting career!

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

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