When it comes to sports, there are many reasons we are enthralled by the product. The talent, the skill, the sense of community, and -- of course -- the opportunity to gamble.
Sports gambling is deeply entrenched in American culture. Stemming from the explosion of horse tracks following the American Civil War of the 19th century, what was once a hobby for only the affluent began to spread across the country to the common man.
Controversy followed shortly thereafter, with the 1906 betting scandal between the Massillon Tigers and Canton Bulldogs. Two of the top teams in professional American football in the early 1900s, this controversy led to the demise of "big-money" professional football for several years. Modern research has suggested that the claims of betting were unsubstantiated.
Around this time, the popularity of baseball with bookmakers was beginning to rise as well. Until, of course, the famous 1919 "Black Sox" scandal in the World Series, resulting in nine lifetime bans from the sport. Betting controversy remained largely out of baseball's spotlight until Pete Rose was caught and subsequently banned for life as well.
In 2016, the options for betting on sports are abundant, thanks to the wonders of the Internet. For the uninitiated, odds are generally presented in three forms -- a "spread," a "moneyline," and a "total."
The spread is the goal difference expected. For example, if the spread for Orlando City is +1.5, you'll want them to win, draw, or lose by one goal to win the wager. Losing by two or more goals would result in losing the wager.
The moneyline is my personal favorite, and the only odds we'll use for soccer. I'm not a fan of spreads with this sport, as the margin for error is very small. A moneyline is simple -- odds are presented, and you select the outcome you expect -- Team A win, Team B win, or Draw.
The total is the total number of goals scored this game. This can be tough to predict in soccer, and is generally something I recommend staying away from -- though it can be a useful moneymaker for both hockey and basketball.
Odds are presented with a number preceded by either a + or a -. When the number is presented after a +, this means that selection is an underdog. The number following the + is the amount of money the odds pay out for every $100 risked. When the number is presented as a -, this means that selection is a favorite. The number following the - is the amount of money you will need to risk for odds to pay out $100.
To improve your odds, you can always play what's called a "parlay." A favorite of mine, with this option you can select winners across multiple games, and watch your payouts soar. The risk, however, is if you miss any one contest on your parlay, you've lost the entire bet.
Now that we've worked our way through that lengthy introduction, who is ready to make some money?
(Note: These odds were pulled from Bovada and may not reflect odds presented from your book)
Let's talk about the games that are the easiest to pick out as wallet-lining giveaways.
First up, the LA Galaxy (-215) host D.C. United (+575) in a prime time Sunday night match, where they won't have to worry about the road woes that plagued them in 2015 against a United club that simply can't match the talent the Galaxy bring to the table. Hell, most teams on this continent can't, following the off-season additions of Nigel de Jong and Ashley Cole to add to a roster already featuring Steven Gerrard, Gyasi Zardes, and Giovani dos Santos.
With Omar Gonzalez now plying his trade in Mexico, it will be interesting to see if United designated player Fabian Espindola can punish the Galaxy back line, but I can't imagine enough to overcome the Galaxy firepower at home. The Pick: LA Galaxy.
When looking at the Canadian match of the Vancouver Whitecaps (-130) hosting the Montreal Impact (+350), I have to think this is an easy line to jump on. The Impact were not a strong MLS club last season before the arrival of the one and only Didier Drogba, and with the recent speculation that he'd be spending a month in Miami and avoiding artificial turf at all costs, you need to jump on this line. The Pick: Vancouver Whitecaps.
The other lock this week comes in the form of FC Dallas (-220) welcoming the Philadelphia Union (+600) for the biggest odds differential of the week. The 2015 Western Conference champions play host to a team whose own blog feels they'll be missing the playoffs at a 5-3 margin.
While hopes are high for a big year from C.J. Sapong in Philadelphia, this visit to Dallas will not be where the hype train picks up steam. The Pick: FC Dallas.
If you're looking to make some money off some underdog plays, this week has some sweet options for you to dance on the wild side. Start out by looking at the New York Red Bulls (-170) hosting Toronto FC (+450), with a draw line of +295. There's a lot of talent on both clubs, with the Red Bulls winning the Eastern Conference last year and Toronto featuring names like Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore. That +295 for a draw jumps off the page at me. Go ahead and make a risk to win triple. The Pick: Draw.
This pick likely won't be popular, but I believe when Sporting Kansas City (+310) travels to CenturyLink Field to kick their season off against the Seattle Sounders, we'll see an opening day upset to remember. The Sounders were strong at home last year, sporting an 11-4-2 record in front of their raucous fans, while Kansas City posted a mere 4-9-4 record on the road, so, you probably think I'm insane.
With Obafemi Martins earning the big bucks in China, and Seattle coming off a CCL letdown against Club América, I'm looking for the stars of KC to steal one. The Pick: Sporting Kansas City.
Two plays I'll surely make this weekend are FC Dallas and the LA Galaxy. Those matches look like locks -- feel free to parlay if you're worried about the smaller payouts.
As for (moderate) risks, I'll be taking Orlando City (-105) over Real Salt Lake (+275), the Portland Timbers (+110) over the Columbus Crew (+240), and a draw (+230) when the San Jose Earthquakes (+105) host the Colorado Rapids (+265).
Check out Sportility's Parlay Calculator before deciding on your bet slip -- as an example of the payout increase when parlaying, playing the picks in this subsection with those odds turns a $10 risk into a $278.34 return. Let's all get rich!