How sports betting works in Uncut Gems
Like points along a line, problematic tweets, and goodwill for Tom Hanks, sports betting is, for all practical purposes, infinite. If an act can happen in a competitive environment, you can wager -- and therefore win/lose (but probably win, you've got a good feeling about this one, right???) -- money on it. Sure, if you think LeBron James is going to kiss NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on the lips before the fourth quarter of a game against the Detroit Pistons, you might have to travel far and wide to find someone who will take that bet. But you could do it. You'd probably get great odds. I'm offering 1,000,000:1.
This is why the most common bets are on the most basic outcomes: who will win, how many points will be scored, by whom, etc. and so on. It works for pretty much any sport and can be pared down incrementally as much as you like: by quarter, half, inning, time on the clock, frames, or number of stones remaining.
The key, though, is the aforementioned odds. A sportsbook, which is anyone or any place that takes wagers, makes an effort to ensure every proposition has an equal amount of money coming in on each side of it, and that's what makes gambling truly fun/traumatic/agonizing/joyful/destructive for the whole family. Some teams are clearly better than others. The vast majority of people will bet against the Knicks, a notoriously Bad Team, pretty much every single game, so to even out the amount of money wagered on the Knicks and whoever they're playing, the sportsbooks invented point spreads. If the Los Angeles Lakers played the New York Knicks, the Lakers might be favored by 15 points, for example; that means if you're betting the point spread, the Lakers need to outscore the Knicks by more than 15 points for you to win.
In games where the teams are more closely matched, one might be favored by only 2 or 3 points, which is where the end of games -- basketball in particular -- can turn a dispassionate observer into a rabid fan willing to destroy expensive electronics if the ref doesn't call a foul. If you happen to know a ref who owes a lot of people money, you might even be able to blackmail him into swinging gambling outcomes for you, and you'll make a ton of cash! But that's illegal. And wrong. And the FBI usually gets involved.
If you just thought the Knicks would beat the Lakers outright, you'd get better odds; a better return on your investment in an unlikely outcome. In other words, a $100 bet on the Knicks to win might earn you $500, while a bet on the Lakers to win would only get you, say, $10. All of these concepts more or less apply to individual performances and over-unders; do you think LeBron James will score more or less than 25 points in that Pistons game you bet on? Which brings us to Howard Ratner's first bet.