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When Bets Get The Hook: Hook In Sports Betting Explained

Explore the intricacies of the "hook" in sports betting and how it influences wagers.

Published on 03 Mar 2022

The half-point of a non-whole number spread in sports betting is called the hook. The hook can be added to a handicap, spread betting, and over/under markets, and its objective is to ensure that there’s a winner in each bet.

The concept of the hook existed to the benefit of sportsbooks, which doesn’t want to refund stakes as much as possible. Bookmakers would rather price a market that lures fair betting on both sides, so it profits from the event regardless of the result, and a refunded stake equals no profit.

With the presence of the hook, the over/under three goals market in soccer is replaced by over/under 2.5 goals, which now makes it impossible for the stake to be refunded.


It is, in the US-spread betting where the hook originated, while UK bettors know it as handicap betting. Marquee matches between popular teams in the NFL and the NBA where a favorite is picked often have hooks in spread betting.

For example, sportsbooks will give a handicap to Golden State should the Warriors play the Los Angeles Lakers, as most bookies will find it difficult to attract interest with the Lakers since the Warriors are most likely to win due to their more consistent play and winning record. Sportsbooks will then give a head start to the Lakers.

With the Lakers given a 14-point head start based on the previous example, bettors can now take a risk on LA, while stakes are refunded if the Warriors win by 14 points exactly. The hook has since been introduced with this situation, making the new market look like this:

*Golden State Warriors (-14.5%) @1.95
*Los Angeles Lakers (+14.5)@1.95


In bets involving NFL matches, bettors buy the hook to get their money back. A punter who wants to bet on the Miami Dolphins +3.5 against the New York Jets will move the line to +3 to get assurance that he gets his money back even if the Dolphins lose by three points (or by a field goal.).

Another example would be if a bettor placed his money on the New England Patriots -7.5, or seven and a hook, against the Buffalo Bills, he would buy the half-point and turn that into -7. If a punter takes the Patriots bet at -7.5 and they win by seven points, he’s out of luck.

Buying a hook can be an effective strategy in NFL matches, where spreads are near the common numbers like 3,7, 10, 13, or 14. A bettor buying the hook raises their chances of getting their money back despite the reduction of the payout.


High rollers are often going to buy the hook because they are capable of dealing with the risks of losing money, as they must be ready to pay a premium price to get a better line.

This strategy is not advisable to upcoming punters, who might not afford to waste some money in their bankroll if they lose by the hook. Risk-taking bettors must pick their spots wisely and shop around before making a commitment to buying the hook.

Creative bettors can also create accounts on three of the top five sportsbooks of their choice before finding the best numbers to place their money on. It may be a tedious process, but there’s less risk for conservative bettors compared to buying the hook on almost every game with fewer guarantees of winning.

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