The Hook

Kukhanya Magubane
Written by:
Kukhanya Magubane
Alicia Butler
Fact checked by:
Alicia Butler
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Updated:
April 15th 2024
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What Is The Hook In Sports Betting?

A hook is simply gambling slang parlance for the last half-point in a betting spread. While most (if not all) of the sports people wager on aren’t actually scored in half-point increments, these half-points serve as a useful, win-win precaution for both the bettor and the house. 
If sportsbooks and oddsmakers didn’t implement these hooks in their betting lines, then wagers could have an exceedingly greater likelihood of falling on push outcomes or ties. These pushes are unfavorable, undesirable, and unfun results for both the bettor and the house; while you won’t lose any money, you also won’t gain any, and the house won’t gain anything either.
Obviously, neither party wants that, so these hooks serve as a useful precautionary measure. But that’s not all that’s worth knowing about them; learn more about hooks, when to avoid them, and when you can take advantage of them for your betting strategy.

Half-Point Hook Betting: How It Works

Even single half points can mean the difference between making or breaking a winning bet. A half-point hook is the potential differentiator between a push or a winning bet, a winning parlay or a doomed leg, and whether or not a spread is ultimately covered. In essence, this can be the potential “hook” that keeps bettors on edge from the moment they place their wager to the very end of the game. 
Some online sportsbooks may offer the option to buy these hook half-point increments and add them to their spread as a contingency plan, albeit at the expense of the final profit. Sometimes line movements are necessary to guarantee a profit, but you should only purchase them if you’re comfortable with losing the profit shares they cut into.
When buying the hook, keep in mind that these half points can just as easily spell your downfall as they can your victory, if you’re not careful. In the gambling world, losing in spite of being dealt a very good hand is known as “bad beats”, and losing by the hook would absolutely qualify as a bad beat. 
For example, say you wanted to place a bet favoring the Baylor Bears 6.5 in their latest matchup against the Texas Tech Red Raiders, breaking the tie around their notorious Big 12 college football rivalry. Baylor could still score a game-winning touchdown in the 4th quarter that winds up breaking their all-time series tie (as of 2020), but if the kicker fails to make the extra point, then the team would fail to make it past the hook and cover your spread.
If you’re thinking about buying the hook to improve the odds of your bet pulling through, and feel confident that it will, know that half-point prices will vary depending on:
  • The sport you’re betting on
  • The line you’re betting on
  • The key number differentials you’re betting on
  • The sportsbook or exchange you’re betting with
The house is well aware of the fact that certain sports are more likely to score higher than others, and that certain sports are more likely to be subject to falling on key number differentiations. As such, they’ll price accordingly. Next up, we’ll run through some of those key number differentiations you should know if you’re considering buying the hook.

Key Numbers In Sports Betting

Beyond half-points, there are many other key point totals you should know, point totals which can be vital in making or breaking the overall success of a wager. Each unique sport has its own unique set of common victory margins, and even those victory margins may have their own unique variations depending on the league the sport is being played in.
For instance, both NFL and NCAA football score margins commonly fall on multiples of 3, 7, and 10, but since college football is generally smaller scale than NFL football (in season length, field size, and ball size), game scores tend to be closer and harder to predict.
As far as basketball goes, score points fall on smaller increments of 2 and 3, but with exceedingly higher final scores than just about any other sport. Consequently, it might seem harder to predict, but with that said, NBA final score point margins most commonly fall on multiples of 5, 6, 8, 3, and 4.
In both basketball and football, 7 remains a lucky number that you may want to buy the hook to cover. These key numbers are less important in lower-scoring sports like hockey, soccer, and baseball, though you can still buy a +1 point to add to your overall spread. When a game can hinge on one goal or home run, then buying the hook can be an important determining factor in making or breaking your wager.

What is Buying “The Hook” in Sports Betting?

Buying the hook in sports betting may sound complicated, but it's actually quite an easy concept once you understand. Depending on which sport you’re wagering on, you can buy alternative spread lines and whole-point increments. This adds "the hook" or a point in your favor, and in turn you'll receive slightly worse (usually 10 - 25 points of juice) odds. 
And some operators may offer the ability to buy even more points -- which is especially useful when it comes to creating parlays or same game parlays. 
You can review the terms and conditions of each one to determine which service is right for you. 

How To Buy the Hook at Online Sportsbooks

It will vary from sportsbook to sportsbook, but in general, all the top sportsbooks will offer the opportunity to buy and sell points on all the top leagues and games.

Some sportsbooks, like DraftKings, provide a scrolling wheel of points that allows you to buy or sell up to 10 points in either direction. This is a huge help as you can seamlessly scroll through key numbers. This is also helpful for buying and selling points in bulk for parlays and same-game parlays.

Other sportsbooks, like Caesars Sportsbook, may have you put the original bet in, and then allow you to buy and sell points through your betslip. This may limit your ability to buy/sell the hook through key numbers. This is done intentionally as sportsbooks are astutely aware of these key numbers.

How to Take Advantage of the Hook

The hook can be the difference between winning and losing. Sports betting is a razor thin margin game, so you need to be aware of the hook at all times.

If you don’t acknowledge the hook, buy and sell points without thinking, you could be costing yourselves hundreds of dollars across your sports betting career.

The hook is most important when it comes to the key numbers – especially in football.

One of the best things you can do to get the most value and optimize using the hook to your advantage is to sign-up for multiple sportsbooks and claiming the sportsbook promotions from those operators.

Not only will claiming sign-up bonuses add to your bankroll,  but some sportsbooks may offer different line depending on their power rankings, money taken on both sides, and sharp action. So rather than buying the hook and paying more juice, you may be able to find another sportsbook with the line at (-110) naturally.

When To Buy The Hook

One of the times you should look to buy the hook and place a bet with worse odds, but a better number – is around key numbers in football.

Let’s say the Chiefs are 2.5-point underdogs at the odds of (-110), and you get them as a 3-point underdog at odds of (-120) – this is a spot where you should buy the hook and if the Chiefs lose by a field-goal, you’ll push instead of lose. The same goes for key numbers of 3, 7, 10, 14, and 17.

With the sharpness of lines from the oddsmakers in the NFL, the NFL is in my opinion the best sport to buy points.

When To “Sell” the Hook

A time when you should consider taking worse odds is when the game does not fall around key numbers or it is a small spread. Even in the example above with the Chiefs, you could make an argument that the “better” bet is to take the Chiefs to win.

This is especially true in sports like baseball and hockey, where you may have to lay some serious juice to get the underdog +1.5. Instead, you could take the moneyline and while it’s less likely that your bet will win – when you do it will come with an increased odds.

Key Numbers In Sports Betting

Beyond half-points, there are many other key point totals you should know, point totals which can be vital in making or breaking the overall success of a wager.

Each unique sport has its own unique set of common victory margins, and even those victory margins may have their own unique variations depending on the league the sport is being played in.

NFL & NCAAF

For instance, both NFL and NCAA football score margins commonly fall on multiples of 3, 7, and 10.

The NFL is especially important to watch key numbers as college football generally is more unpredictable whether it be due to an exploitable mismatch, or the seemingly increased likelihood of “random” plays – long touchdown passes, kick returns, and defensive touchdowns.

NBA & NCAAB

As far as basketball goes, score points fall on smaller increments of 2 and 3, but with exceedingly higher final scores than just about any other sport. Consequently, it might seem harder to predict, but with that said, NBA final score point margins most commonly fall on multiples of 5, 6, 8, 3, and 4.

In both basketball and football, 7 remains a lucky number that you may want to buy the hook to cover.

I don’t necessarily recommend buying points in basketball due to the fast-paced flow of the game. Instead, I would look to sell points in certaint spots or take the underdog money line and increase my payouts in games where I believe the underdog can hang around in games or win.

MLB

These key numbers are less important in lower-scoring sports like hockey, soccer, and baseball, though you can still buy a +1 point to add to your overall spread. When a game can hinge on one goal or home run, then buying the hook can be an important determining factor in making or breaking your wager.

One thing you can do in baseball is to split your action between a 1.5 wager and a money line wager to essentially make the odds (-1).

For example, if the Yankees are a (-150) favorite on the moneyline and (-1.5, +125) on the spread. You could place a $15 bet to win $10 on the moneyline, and a $10 to win $12.50 bet on the spread.

    • If the Yankees win by 1, you’ll break even. 
    • If the Yankees win by 2+, you’d profit $22.5 (making the effective spread of (-1) juiced to around -110 odds). 
    • If the Yankees lose, you’d lose $25.

NHL

You will almost always have to deal with a hook when it comes to NHL betting, as spread lines are usually the favorite (-1.5) and the underdog (+1.5). The difference between basketball and football is that these can be juiced heavily one way or the other.

I rarely find myself buying points in the NHL, and instead opting to taking either the favorite or underdog to win outright or the underdog to cover the spread.

SOCCER

Soccer is an especially unique market for buying and selling points because of the possibility of a tie.

You may see soccer spreads listed at anywhere from just the hook (-0.5/+0.5) up to as high as 4 goal spreads in big mismatches.

You’ll also find that some soccer markets offer three-way action – meaning you can bet on a win, loss or draw – which often covers your bases and negates the advantage you might have when it comes to buying points.

Kukhanya Magubane
Topic Expert
Kukhanya Magubane

Twice the recipient of the Francis Dieng Young African Thinker Award (‘16, ‘17) at the African Leadership Academy & Literature Grad from Yale-NUS, Kukhanya brings both art & artistry to our world of sports writing. "In just over 2 decades of living, I've played every sport under the sun - basketball to waterpolo to football. And while I'm hardly an olympian, if there was zero gravity tennis being played on the moon - I'd be on the next shuttle up! I love sports. I love writing. And I love winning bets. It's honestly that simple."

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