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Key Numbers (Sports Betting’s Most Common Margins)

Dave Friedman

by Dave Friedman

Updated Aug 3, 2022 · 4:01 PM PDT

Key numbers in sports betting can help you gain an edge over the sportsbook. You just need to know which ones to look for.

Certain numbers like 911 and 666 have nearly universal meaning. Maybe a friend of yours was born on 7/11, and that is easy to remember.

There are meaningful digits in sports as well, whether they be milestones, records, or famous jerseys. Sports betting has its own key numbers. Recognizing and being able to utilize them will help improve your handicapping and bottom line.

In this guide you’ll learn:

  1. What makes a number a key number
  2. Why key numbers are important in sports
  3. How to use key numbers to your advantage betting on them

What Are Key Numbers in Sports Betting?

Sports betting often focuses on the point spread. If the Cowboys beat the Eagles 24-21 and the spread is Dallas -4, then a bet on Philly is a winner and on the Cowboys is a loser. Conversely, if the spread was Dallas -2 then a Cowboy bet would be profitable while an Eagle wager would lose.

24-21 is a pretty common final score. If the game is tied late, even if the Cowboys could score a touchdown to win, they would likely play it safe and opt for a field goal as time expires.

The margin of victory in sports often comes down to the increments in which teams can score points.

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For example, soccer games are frequently won by a single goal, since each score is worth one and teams rarely light up the scoreboard. In football, three and seven are key numbers. That’s because field goals and touchdowns are the most common ways of scoring.

To a smaller degree, six and eight can be key in football because of missed extra points and two point conversations. Think about how many games finish 24-21 or 27-20 or 28-0 or 23-17 as opposed to the number that are 29-20 or 25-20.

If you have ever bought squares for the Super Bowl, you know that zero, three, and seven are the most valuable digits with four, six, and eight next. Getting stuck with two, five, and nine probably means you will not see that cash ever again.

Key Numbers Sport by Sport

Sport Key Numbers
Soccer 1, 2, 3
Hockey 1, 2, 3
Football 3, 7
Baseball 7, 9, 11
Basketball 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 ,7, 8, 9

Soccer and hockey key numbers are simple. Every goal is huge and therefore one, two, and three are the most frequent margins of victory.

As mentioned, in football three and seven are the big boys, though four, six, and eight are also common margins of victory.

Baseball is rather interesting. Since most people bet using the moneyline rather than the spread, the key numbers are most applicable to betting baseball totals.

Teams often play for one run late in tied games. Walk-offs most frequently come on a run scoring hit that plates a single run rather than a multiple-score home run resulting in a more lopsided score.

The most common tied scores to have late in a game are 3-3, 4-4, and 5-5. Therefore, the most likely final scores are 4-3, 5-4, and 6-5. Hence the key numbers for baseball totals are seven, nine, and 11. Roughly 30% of games end with seven, nine or 11 total runs tallied. These are the three most frequent totals for baseball games.


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In basketball, key numbers are a little harder to identify. You can score in one, two, or three point increments, and teams regularly hit 100 or more points. However, the margin of victory in most games falls between one and nine points.

Interestingly, seven is a key number because it represents a three possession game. If a game is at a seven point margin very late, teams often pass on fouling if they are trailing, or don’t worry about scoring if they are on offense. A six point game, two possessions, often prompts a last gasp effort for a steal, or a foul, and that leads to more points. That said, just under 10 percent of NBA games land on a seven point margin, which is the most likely of any number.

Are Key Numbers Really that Big a Factor?

How important is sports gambling to you? If you bet for fun and are comfortable with occasional losses that should have been wins, then we’re discussing a minor issue.

If getting good sports betting ROI and winning more than 52.4% of your wagers so that you beat the juice and come out ahead is important, then key numbers in sports betting are a detail seriously worth considering.

If you think a pitching match-up is going to produce a low scoring game, the difference between a total of 7 and 7.5 may change a bet from a push to a win. Getting four points in a football game is a substantial difference from getting three.


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Interestingly, not all numbers are made equally. There are lots of football games that finish 21-17 or 24-20, and plenty that are 24-17 or 27-20. However, we almost never see 27-22 or 25-20, and 27-21 and 26-0 are fairly rare. The difference between three and four is big, the difference between four and seven is huge, but the enormity of five and six is negligible, because those numbers just don’t pop up that much.

How Do I Use Key Numbers to Make Smarter Bets?

Key numbers are a good handicapping tool, but not a reason by themselves to make a bet. Our guides provide a lot of helpful advice on various strategies and this is a good one to have in your Swiss Army Knife of ways to attack lines and totals.

As you would expect, key numbers in sports betting are more important in parlays and teasers than in straight wagers. The chances that a single game ends on a key number is significant. But when you take a series of contests, having one of them hit a common margin is much more likely.

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While the drawback of teasers is the decreased odds, it can be worth it if you go over multiple key numbers. A six point teaser that goes from two to eight crosses two key numbers and has a lot more value than a similar move like +3.5 to +9.5, which only crosses over one key number, seven.

When it comes to straight bets and totals, timing and line shopping can be more worthwhile.

Spreads move. If you know what side of a wager you prefer, be ready to pounce. Sometimes the line that is best is the initial spread, other times you need to wait for a shift. Once you know what number you are willing to bite at, do not hesitate when you see it.

The More You Know

Blindly betting on key numbers is not a winning formula.

However, it pays to know that some numbers come up in sports betting more frequently than others. It’s often worth factoring these numbers in when placing a bet. Particularly with teasers and parlays, the more games that are involved, the more likely you are to reap the rewards of utilizing a key number, or pay the price for playing against them.

The bottom line is that successful handicapping takes many forms. Being aware of key numbers will be helpful as you weigh choices.

If you’re looking for more sports betting concepts and fundamentals, explore the rest of the articles in our Sports Betting 101 series.

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