What Is a Pick’em in Sports Betting?

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May 13, 2020, 12:30 PM EDT

To understand what a pick’em is, you should first be familiar with point spreads — the amount of points by which a team is projected to win.

Spreads can vary greatly, and especially so depending on the sport. An elite college football team like Alabama, for example, can be as much as a 50-point favorite against a lowly opponent like UTEP.

Against a more closely-matched conference rival, however, Alabama’s spread may be within a touchdown or even a field goal.

And then there are pick’ems.

What Is a Pick’em in Sports Betting?

A “pick’em” (often shortened to just “pick” and denoted as “PK”) is a game in which neither team is favored. In other words, there is no point spread (the spread is zero) and/or the moneyline for each side is the same, so the bettor simply must choose which team will win the game in order to win his/her bet.

A pick’em — like any spread bet — has juice, however, so in a true pick’em, you’d still be laying -110 ($11 wins $10) on the side you choose to win.

A pick’em doesn’t necessarily imply that oddsmakers see both teams as equals, though, since home-field/court advantage is worth a few points to the spread depending on the team and sport.

Rather, it means that oddsmakers see both teams as having an equal chance to win that particular game.

How to Bet a Pick’em

As mentioned, betting a pick’em is as simple as taking the team you expect to win. That’s not to suggest that winning a pick’em bet is easy, though.

And given the sharpness of the sports betting market these days, there’s really no reason to think betting on a pick’em is going to be any easier than a normal spread bet.

Some tips to consider when making a bet on a pick’em:

  1. Don’t blindly take the team with the better record. Because there usually will be one, and you aren’t outsmarting any oddsmakers by simply going off wins and losses (in college basketball pick’ems since 2005, the team with the better record has gone 190-189).
  2. Consider home-field/court advantage. If you see a pick’em that seems to make no sense, look at which team is at home. Check out that team’s home record and remind yourself that oddsmakers know what they’re doing.
  3. Consult any power ratings you have access to. Power ratings are values assigned to each team to signify that team’s strength (the difference between two team’s rating is the projected spread on a neutral site). Sometimes you’ll find that the team you were surprised to see in a pick’em is actually still being undervalued.
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