Key Numbers That Every Sports Bettor Needs To Know

What Are Key Numbers?

The concept of Key Numbers is very simple to grasp: they are the margins of victory in sports contests that are most common. You have probably noticed that a lot of NFL games end up being decided by 3 points. You might even intuitively think that this is the most common margin of victory, and you would be right. But the crafty handicappers who set the lines or the spreads for games have taken this several steps further. They know the exact percentages and set their lines accordingly.

Let’s begin with a concrete example in the NFL. Over the past three seasons the following results have occurred:

Most Common Margins Of Victory – NFL

Margin Of Victory Occurrence as a %
1 point 4%
3 points 17%
4 points 4%
6 points 5%
7 points 10%
10 points 5.5%
13 points 4%
14 points 4%

Why do Key Numbers matter to you if you want to bet on sports? Like Yoda and other important thinkers (Socrates? – Ed.) we’ll answer your question with a question. Have you ever lost your bet by 0.5 point or 1 point and thought you were desperately unlucky? You weren’t. You were simply outplayed by the Vegas handicappers, and if you had shopped around for the best line you could have prevented this occurrence. When the line is set at 3.5 and you want to bet the favorite, it is important to try and find a line offering that team at 3. If you cannot get that price, you have to question the value of the bet. The same holds true of betting an underdog in the NFL @ +2.5. Those half-points, especially around 3 and 7 can be critical.

Remember that this discussion is only pertinent for the NFL. Key Numbers in the NBA and NCAAB are very different, and play a less important role as a general rule. Hopefully, the above table will help you when you bet on the NFL, and we will continue this discussion next week with a look at Key Numbers in other sports.