Reading sports betting lines becomes easier with practice and experience with different sporting events. What looks like a jumble of letters and numbers actually gives a lot of information in a tiny amount of space. Different sports have different types of wagers available, such as the run line in baseball or the puck line in hockey, both of which replace the money line found in our football example. The more experience you have watching and gambling on different sports, the faster you’ll be able to read betting lines.

Oddsmakers do more than pick the winners and losers of each game. They weigh myriad factors to determine which team is favored by how many points. They set an early point spread on each game, then adjust it up or down based on betting patterns. If the Dallas Cowboys are 6-point favorites over the New York Giants, they must win by seven or more points to pay off winning bets. If you wagered on the Giants, you win your bet if New York either beats Dallas outright or loses by five points or fewer.
A wager on the Giants on the spread does not mean that New York has to win the game in order for you to win cash. All the G-Men have to do is come within 8 points of the ‘boys, and you’re a winner. You determine a winning or losing point spread by adding or subtracting 7.5 from the final score, depending on which side you laid your bet. If you’re confident that New York will at least come within a touchdown of beating the Cowboys, or beating them outright, then you’d wager on the spread in favor of New York.
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Once you understand all the fundamentals of football betting, and have an account with a suitable gambling site, you're pretty much ready to go. There's still a lot more you need to know, but most of this can be learned as you go along. Indeed, learning as you go along is the best approach. Trying to become an expert before actually getting started is a futile exercise, as so much of what's involved only really starts to make sense once you have some real experience to draw on.
Since more people wager on football than any other sports it’s usually the easiest game to figure out how to bet. If you don’t know what to do, you can probably ask anyone in the sports book for instructions. The people visiting the casino might not know everything but they can give you the basics. Here’s a fairly thorough look at the different ways you can wager on football in Las Vegas.
Jeff Gordon has been reporting and writing since 1977. His most recent work has appeared on websites such as eHow, GolfLink, Ask Men, Open Sports, Fox Sports and MSN. He has previously written for publications such as "The Sporting News" and "The Hockey News." He graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism in 1979 with a bachelor's degree.

If you want to predict what will happen when Team A meets Team B, your best stats to analyze are those generated in their most recent head-to-head matchups at the same venue. The habits of the betting public are fairly constant, so ATS results in general have a longer shelf life, but don’t bother going too far back in time. The 2009 New York Yankees are going to look a lot different than the 2008 Yankees or the 2000 Yankees. (Source: The Sports Bookie Blog)


A parlay basically combines several different wagers into one. For example, a parlay could be made up of five point spread wagers on five separate games. The payout for such a wager could be very attractive, but only if ALL the wagers were correct. Just one wrong pick would mean the whole wager failing. That's why these are considered quite risky. They're a bit more complex than the previous wagers mentioned, but we won't go into any more detail here. We do on the following page though.

It is important to note the difference between spreads in sports wagering in the U.S. and sports spread betting in the UK. In the U.S. betting on the spread is effectively still a fixed risk bet on a line offered by the bookmaker with a known return if the gambler correctly bets with either the underdog or the favourite on the line offered and a known loss if the gambler incorrectly bets on the line. In the UK betting above or below the spread does not have a known final profits or loss, with these figures determined by the number of unit points the level of the final outcome ends up being either above or below the spread, multiplied by the stake chosen by the gambler.
Another way to beat football point spreads is to shop for off market prices. For example, let's say you're shopping online betting sites and see every site is offering Vikings +7.0. Then, you stumble upon one site that's offering +7.5. There's a good chance that this is a +EV wager, simply because it is out of sync with every other site. Please note that this strategy isn't quite the same as simply shopping for the best lines. Here, you're specifically looking for wagers that are +EV because they're against the market.

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In general, the betting public tends to gravitate towards favorites when betting the games regardless of the actual pointspread. This is especially true with high-profile teams such as Dallas and Green Bay in the NFL and Golden State and Cleveland in the NBA. The sportsbooks are well aware of this phenomenon and often times they will adjust the betting spreads accordingly. This, in turn, actually adds some value to the underdog when you consider that a pointspread is nothing more than a handicapping tool that is designed to even out the match.
In today's world, patience is a virtue that very few people have left in them. We live in a world with lightning quick internet, instant message and in a world where fast food reigns supreme. People love getting instant gratification. In the sports betting world, that also holds true. It's one thing to sit through a three-and-a-half-hour football game between two mediocre teams only to suffer a bad beat on a completely meaningless last-minute touchdown that does nothing but affect the point spread and burn your ticket. Read More >>
*Betting $110 to win $100 obviously is not an even bet. The extra $10 (or 10%) is the sportsbook’s commission, also known as the vigorish or juice. This commission is reduced to 5% with 5Dimes and other reduced juice books, but this commission is found everywhere. You are given this back when you win, but is obviously kept by the house when you lose.
The basic principle of point spreads and totals is that you have roughly a 50% chance of winning, so technically a "fair" return on these types of wagers should be equal to the amount staked. However, they are usually priced up by bookmakers at odds of -110 (1.91 in decimal odds format, 10/11 in fractional odds format), which means for every $110 staked you stand to win $100. You don't have to stake as much as $110 of course, but the point is that a successful wager will only return 90% of the amount staked (plus the initial stake of course).
Betting on sporting events has long been the most popular form of spread betting. Whilst most bets the casino offers to players have a built in house edge, betting on the spread offers an opportunity for the astute gambler. When a casino accepts a spread bet, it gives the player the odds of 10 to 11, or -110. That means that for every 11 dollars the player wagers, the player will win 10, slightly lower than an even money bet. If team A is playing team B, the casino is not concerned with who wins the game; they are only concerned with taking an equal amount of money of both sides. For example, if one player takes team A and the other takes team B and each wager $110 to win $100, it doesn’t matter what team wins; the casino makes money. They take $100 of the $110 from the losing bet and pay the winner, keeping the extra $10 for themselves. This is the house edge. The goal of the casino is to set a line that encourages an equal amount of action on both sides, thereby guaranteeing a profit. This also explains how money can be made by the astute gambler. If casinos set lines to encourage an equal amount of money on both sides, it sets them based on the public perception of the team, not necessarily the real strength of the teams. Many things can affect public perception, which moves the line away from what the real line should be. This gap between the Vegas line, the real line, and differences between other sports books betting lines and spreads is where value can be found.

One important assumption is that to be credited with a win, either team only needs to win by the minimum of the rules of the game, without regard to the margin of victory. This implies that teams in a winning position will not necessarily try to extend their margin—and more importantly, each team is only playing to win rather than to beat the point spread. This assumption does not necessarily hold in all situations. For example, at the end of a season, the total points scored by a team can affect future events such as playoff seeding and positioning for the amateur draft, and teams may "run up" the score in such situations. In virtually all sports, players and other on-field contributors are forbidden from being involved in sports betting and thus have no incentive to consider the point spread during play; any attempt to manipulate the outcome of a game for gambling purposes would be considered match fixing, and the penalty is typically a lifetime banishment from the sport, such is the lack of tolerance for gambling in sport.

The general purpose of spread betting is to create an active market for both sides of a binary wager, even if the outcome of an event may appear prima facie to be biased towards one side or the other. In a sporting event a strong team may be matched up against a historically weaker team; almost every game has a favorite and an underdog. If the wager is simply "Will the favorite win?", more bets are likely to be made for the favorite, possibly to such an extent that there would be very few betters willing to take the underdog.

Especially in major tournaments, some sports books offer odds on unusual golf propositions, such as the over/under on the winning score, the over/under on the lowest round by any golfer or the over/under on the finishing position by a particular golfer. For example, the over/under on Woods' finishing position may be 3 1/2. If he finishes first, second or third in the tournament, the "under" wins; if he finishes fourth or worse, the "over" tickets cash.
Parlays - these might be the most popular bets out there, especially among novice and amateur bettors, perhaps because of the lure of betting a small amount for a potentially big payoff. But they are fool's gold at best. Parlays involve wagering on two or more games on the same bet following the casino's pre-determined payout scale. Each game on a parlay must win for the bet to be a winner.

To show how this can be exploited, take a point spread of -8.5 at odds of -110. This is a 50/50 proposition. Let's assume you've purchased enough points to move the spread to -6.5 at odds of -150. Now, you'd win instead of lose 6.24% of the time they win by 8, and 6.59% of the time they win by 7. Add these together with the 50% from the original proposition, and we get 62.83%.

If you follow football at least reasonably closely, have some idea about the relative strengths of all the players and teams, and have absorbed the information provided on this page, then you should be able to become a competent football bettor. You don't really need to know much else should the aim be to simply have some fun and win some money every now and then.
For example, in NFL wagering you’ll have a pool of 12-14 quarterbacks, running backs, etc. and you can choose who will have the most fantasy points, 2nd most fantasy points, 3rd most fantasy points. Each player starts the week with certain odds that change as money wagered on different players. Your payout is based on the closing odds like parimutuel horse wagering.

The moneyline works differently. With this type of wager whichever team wins outright pays off. There is no spread. How does the line work? The favorite is listed with a minus sign and a number. That number is the amount of cash that must be bet in order to win $100. The underdog is posted with a plus sign in front of a number. The number is how much a sports bettor wins on a $100 wager.
Once you understand how odds in college football are expressed, you can use them to start to determine where your money should go. Be sure to see our college football odds page that connects you with the top sportsbooks on the Internet. The odds makers are trying to even out all bets. Your job is to determine on which side of the point spread, line or over/under it goes.

The first number in the listing pertains to the order this game appears on a sportsbook’s board. The next NFL game would be listed as #103 for the road team and #104 for the home team. You can think of these numbers in the same way that each horse in a race has its own betting number. The next big takeaway from this listing is that the top team is always the road team (thus the odd number) and the bottom team is playing at home.


Sports bettors place their wagers either legally, through a bookmaker/sportsbook, or illegally through privately run enterprises. The term "book" is a reference to the books used by wagebrokers to track wagers, payouts, and debts. Many legal sportsbooks are found online, operated over the Internet from jurisdictions separate from the clients they serve, usually to get around various gambling laws (such as the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 in the United States) in select markets, such as Las Vegas, Nevada, or on gambling cruises through self-serve kiosks. They take bets "up-front", meaning the bettor must pay the sportsbook before placing the bet. Illegal bookies, due to the nature of their business, can operate anywhere but only require money from losing bettors and don't require the wagered money up front, creating the possibility of debt to the bookie from the bettor. This creates a number of other criminal elements, thus furthering their illegality.
The Jets are favored by 7 points. When you wager on the Jets -7 points, they have to win by 8 or more for you to get paid. A win by exactly 7 points would be a push and you get your money back. If you wager on the Giants +7 points, you’ll need them to win or lose by 6 points or less to win your bet. The Giants can win the game and you’ll win the wager because they didn’t lose by 7 or more. A loss by exactly 7 points would be a push and you get your money back.
For example, a negative value (-11.5) next to a team indicates that they are favored by that many points. So you must deduct 11.5 points from their score to determine if they won the game or not. On the other hand, a positive value on the same game (+11.5) means the underdog starts with an 11.5-point lead before the game even begins. In NFL betting, the favorite must win by 12 points or more to cover the NFL spread. The underdog is able to lose by 11 points and still cover the spread.
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