What is Point Shaving? Explained With Examples

Point shaving is when a player (or multiple players) on a team that is favored intentionally makes mistakes to make the final score closer than expected.

This helps ensure that the underdog covers the point spread and that the people orchestrating the scheme make money.

Let’s take a fictional example where the State University is favored to beat College Tech by 12 points in basketball. This is how it works:

  1. The person running the point-shaving operation reaches out to John Smith on State University and offers to pay him money in exchange for shaving points.
  2. John Smith agrees.
  3. In the game, John Smith “just happens” to miss a few shots extra shots and make a few more turnovers than usual.
  4. Because of this, State University (John’s team) only beats College Tech by 6 points, meaning College Tech covered the spread.
  5. The person who bribed John Smith makes money because his bet (College Tech +12) wins and John Smith is paid.

Point shaving isn’t anything new. It’s happened for a long time in both college and professional sports.

It’s most popular in basketball since it’s easier for a single player to influence the outcome of the game (as long as the coach doesn’t pull them, that is!), but it does happen in other sports.

In football, a QB could intentionally throw an interception or fumble a ball.

In baseball, a pitcher could intentionally throw more pitches right over the center of the plate than usual.

Real point shaving scandals

Arizona State Men’s Basketball 1993-94

Arizona State’s Steven “Hedake” Smith and Isaac Burton shaved points in 4 games during the 1993-94 season in collaboration with local bookmaker Benny Silman.

Sportsbooks in Vegas noticed unusually large bets coming in against ASU, causing them to alert authorities. This eventually led to the FBI getting involved which uncovered the scandal.

The perpetrators eventually confessed, and Smith was sentenced to 1 year in prison, Burton was sentenced to 6 months, and Silman got 46 months.

Two NFL players suspended in 1963

In 1960, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozell suspended Packer’s RB Paul Hornung and Lion’s DT Alex Karras for betting on the NF.

This came as a huge surprise, especially since both were star players.

Hornung set the single-season scoring record in 1960—a record that wouldn’t be broken for 46 years—and was later inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. Karras, a great player in his own right, went on to star in the ‘80s sitcom “Webster.”

The players were only suspended for a year, though, with a new investigation finding that neither had bet on their teams, so they weren’t point shaving.

1919 World Series

Point shaving isn’t new—it dates all the way back to the 1919 World Series.

Several Chicago White Sox players were accused of accepting money for losing on purpose, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The players later dubbed the Black Sox, agreed to throw the series in exchange for $100,000.

The players were eventually acquitted in court because of lack of evidence, but all 8 players were suspended permanently.

Dave Rathmanner

Dave Rathmanner is the Founder & CEO of Odds Assist. After struggling to find helpful sports betting resources and honest reviews when he first started betting, he decided to create the site he always wished he had. Dave has been betting on sports since NJ legalized it in 2018 and regularly analyzes sportsbooks to find the best options for bettors. Aside from creating new content for OA readers, Dave is also passionate about researching betting markets, creating models, and developing profitable betting strategies.