Learn to Bet on Sports: What is a Pick’em?

Imagine the excitement when the sports world opens back up this summer and fall. Bettors will be flocking to sportsbooks in search of the ultimate score.

That might be you. You check the NBA and NCAA football point spreads, or maybe even the NFL, and you come across something that you see from time to time. The pick’em.

What is a Pick’em?

What exactly is a pick’em? When it comes to betting terminology, pick’em is one of the most commonly questioned.

In order to understand the term, you need some knowledge of point spreads. 

Points Spreads 101

A point spread is set by oddsmakers to establish a favorite and an underdog and provide an advantage or disadvantage based on the margin of victory or defeat for a given team to try and even out the action.

Let’s take a trip back to more beautiful times when there actually was a college basketball season.

Right before the whole coronavirus thing, Gonzaga was a 25.5-point favorite over West Coast Conference foe San Diego. It would have looked like this:

Gonzaga            -25.5

San Diego          +25.5

Most bettors understand that Gonzaga, signified with a “-“ sign, is the favorite and San Diego, with its “+” sign, is the underdog. In this case, with the spread so large, Gonzaga is a huge favorite. Learn more betting lingo in our Sports Betting Slang article.

In order for your bet on Gonzaga to win, you would have had to follow Coach Rick’s advice on February 27 when San Diego at Gonzaga was center stage. I took the Bulldogs to win by at least 25.5 points.

Gonzaga won by 35, and covered the spread.

Higher point spreads indicate huge favorites and, likewise, huge underdogs. Closer point spreads indicate presumably closer matched teams.

The Pick’em

As you look through the lines, when you see a pick’em it simply means that oddsmakers believe both teams have the same chance to win.

It’s not that both teams are equal.

It’s just that on that given day oddsmakers cannot determine a favorite and an underdog.

Learn to Bet on Sports: What is a Pick’em?

Betting a Pick’em

Many of the sharps will stay away from betting on pick’em games. As a professional bettor, there will be better games on the schedule to wager on that given day. Still, if you want to hedge your bets or if you’re a fan of a certain team, you may be inclined to bet on a pick’em.

Betting a pick’em is easy. Pick the team you think is going to win, it’s essentially a moneyline bet. Now, winning that bet is not that easy. In fact, it is just as difficult as betting on a game with a point spread.

If you do bet on a game with evenly matched opponents, you will want to do some homework.  

Who’s the home team?

If the college basketball game you are betting on happens to be played at Allen Fieldhouse on the campus of the University of Kansas, you might give the advantage to the Jayhawks who have won 23 straight at home. They also have 11 different 20-plus-game winning streaks at home.

Who has the better record?

Don’t let this one fool you. Just because one team has a better overall record than the other doesn’t mean you bet on them. Sticking with the college basketball theme, since 2005 in all college basketball “pick’em” games, the team with the better record is 190-189.

Did you read the injury report?

Coach Rick read the injury report when Gonzaga was a four-point favorite over BYU on February 22. The Cougars’ Yoeli Childs was back in the lineup. He scored 28 points and grabbed 10 rebounds leading BYU to a 91-78 upset of then No. 2 Gonzaga. Coach Rick bet on BYU. It pays to read the injury report.

What about head-to-head matchups and recent history?

Syracuse versus Colgate probably wouldn’t result in a pick’em from oddsmakers, but if it did their head-to-head history would point you in one direction – the Orange. Syracuse has beaten Colgate in 51 straight meetings.