The busiest season of the year in the sports book is upon us. Betting on football makes up more than half the money wagered on sports every year in Nevada. The Nevada Gaming Commission doesn’t break down the wager money by the level of football. However, it’s widely discussed that there’s more money wagered on the NFL than college football. Canadian and Arena football are really just available to pass the time for fans until the fall.
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A point spread in sports is a figure set by oddsmakers to provide an advantage or disadvantage based on the margin of victory or defeat for a given team. The “favorite” team (labeled with a “-” sign) would be at the disadvantage as they would need to win the game by a set number of points while the “underdog” team (labeled with a “+” sign) would be given an advantage to not lose the game by a set number of points. The reason oddsmakers do this is to provide betting interest for both sides due to one team typically being better than the other.

Since betting on point spreads in the NFL is the most popular bet that people make, it is probably pretty important that you know what you are doing. The point spreads in the NFL are always alot closer then college football because you are dealing with the best of the best. You will almost never see a team favored by more then two touchdowns in the NFL, and most of the NFL point spreads are less then one touchdown. So, here is are best try at helping you understand how to read point spreads in NFL games.
This arrangement tells us a lot: which team is home (listed on bottom, in this case the Seattle Seahawks), which team is the underdog (listed with a plus sign next to their name, in this case the New England Patriots), we know which team is the favorite (listed with a minus sign next to their name, in this case the Seattle Seahawks), and we know the point spread (2.5 points).
Winning a game in a professional sports league of any kind can be difficult for even the best teams. Very few teams have gone through a season undefeated (only NFL Teams) and even then, not every win is as easy as teams hoped they would be - even the margin of victory is sometimes too close for comfort. Unfortunately for bettors, teams don't care how they win or by how many runs, goals or points, as long as they win the game. Read More >>
Many of the leading gambling bookmakers from the 1930s to the 1960s got their start during the prohibition era of the 1920s. They were often descendants of the influx of immigrants coming into the USA at this time. Although the common stereotype is that these bookies were of Italian descent, many leading bookies were of eastern European ancestry.[4]
In a national poll released in December 2011, Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind asked voters whether they “support or oppose changing the federal law to allow sports betting” in their respective states. Just as many voters approved (42%) as opposed (42%) allowing sports betting. However, voters who already live in households where family members (including themselves) engage in sports betting had a strongly favored legalization of sports betting (71%-23%), while voters in households where sports betting is not an activity, opposed legalization (46%-36%). Peter J. Woolley, professor of political science and director of the poll commented on the findings, “Gambling has become, for good or ill, a national industry, and you can bet that politicians and casinos all over the country are closely following New Jersey’s plans.”[8]
This is because bookmakers are in business to make a profit, so they effectively charge a commission for taking wagers. This commission is known as the vig, short for vigorish, and it's one of the ways that bookmakers stay profitable. They don't charge it just for points spreads and totals either, as it's built into the odds for every wager that they offer.
In this example, we have a favorite to win, and an underdog. The Packers are the favorites, and that is shown by the (–) value in front of the 6. Underdogs are represented by the (+) value.  The 6 point value is how many points either team could win, or lose by. If you think the Packers will win by MORE than 6 points, then you’d bet on the favorite in this case, meaning that the Packers have to win by 7 or more points in order for you to win your bet.

Betting on the point spread is completely different from betting on teams to win a game outright. Known as "betting on the moneyline", instead of using points to handicap each side of the wager, the sportsbook will use greater payouts versus the amount risked to reflect their relative perceptions; teams not expected to win (underdogs) pay more, sometimes exponentially, than when betting on the favorite to win when wagering on moneylines.


Several factors influence a point spread. It starts with power rankings. The media creates power rankings throughout the year, but those can be entirely subjective based more on feelings and emotions than actual raw data. An oddsmaker creates power rankings based on a host of statistics, some more complex than others. The rankings will include record, strength of schedule, and various offensive, defensive, and special teams metrics. They might use Football Outsiders’ efficiency metrics, they might use expected points added, or they might use a host of other internal and external options. The idea being to develop as objective an assessment as possible as to how good or bad a given team is compared to the rest of the NFL.
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.
Total – also widely referred to as the over/under is the predicted number of points oddsmakers believe will be scored in the game by both teams combined. The concept is simple – handicap how each team stacks up against each other on offense and defense and predict whether there will lots of scoring or not much. In totals betting, you are predicting whether the combined total score will be more than or less than the total.

But what if the basement-dweller team was spotted 24 points? That's the concept behind the point spread. When two teams meet on the football field or a basketball court, one team is typically better than the other. If all bettors had to do was to pick the winning team, everybody would simply wager on the best team and collect their money. Gambling institutions, sportsbooks, and bookies would soon go broke. 
Straight bet - Amid all the fancy and lucrative-looking bets that are available, never lose sight of the value in a standard straight bet. You probably should learn and practice this bet often before learning any others, and it should be noted that people who bet for a living or a large portion of their income place straight bets almost exclusively. 

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If a team favored by six points wins by exactly six points, the outcome is considered a "push" and the bettors get their money back, minus the bookmaker's commission. To reduce the number of pushes, oddsmakers often set spreads with half-points. So if the Cowboys are 3 1/2- or 3.5-point favorites over the Giants, they must prevail by four or more points to pay winning bets.

The odds and lines for football games are not always the same at every bookmaker. They don't tend to vary by a lot, but they do vary. It's very much in your best interests to always try to place wagers where you can get the best value. A half point difference on a spread or a couple of points difference on the odds may not seem like a big deal, but over time these small differences can add up. By opening accounts with a few different sites, it's easy to shop around for the best odds and lines. This is one of the best ways to maximize potential profits.


Spreads are frequently, though not always, specified in half-point fractions to eliminate the possibility of a tie, known as a push. In the event of a push, the game is considered no action, and no money is won or lost. However, this is not a desirable outcome for the sports book, as they are forced to refund every bet, and although both the book and its bettors will be even, if the cost of overhead is taken into account, the book has actually lost money by taking bets on the event. Sports books are generally permitted to state "ties win" or "ties lose" to avoid the necessity of refunding every bet.

A point spread - Lets take, for a hypothetical situation on one of the types of football bets (using the point spread), that the Kansas City Chiefs were visiting the Detroit Lions and Detroit was established as a six-point favorite at game time, which is commonly written as Detroit -6. Kansas City would be the underdog and displayed as Kansas City +6. If you bet the favorite, Detroit has to win by more than six points to win your bet. Remember, the Lions are favored by six points, so we subtract six points from their final score on a spread bet. If Detroit were to win 27-20, Lions bettors would win their wager. If the Chiefs were to win the game by any score and you picked the Chiefs you would win not including the extra six points. If the Lions were to win, 20-14, it would be exactly six and a push, so you would get your money back.
In the United States, it was previously illegal under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 for states to authorize legal sports betting, hence making it effectively illegal. The states of Delaware, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon—which had pre-existing sports lotteries and sports betting frameworks, were grandfathered and exempted from the effects of the Act.[6]
You’ll need to know how the rotation number, point spread, moneyline and over/under are used and what each means. Each of these terms may be called by another name. The rotation number if often referred to as the number or the rotation mark, moneyline becomes line, point spread is called the spread, and over/under becomes the total. When you come down to it, these are the major terms that can be lumped under the heading odds.

This is because bookmakers are in business to make a profit, so they effectively charge a commission for taking wagers. This commission is known as the vig, short for vigorish, and it's one of the ways that bookmakers stay profitable. They don't charge it just for points spreads and totals either, as it's built into the odds for every wager that they offer.

This is different from a moneyline, where payouts can vary greatly because there is not point spread that is installed. It is simply picking the winner straight up. Therefore, a bet on the favorite would not profit as high as it would betting the spread since no points are given. Payouts on the point spread are not always the same, but they do not vary like a moneyline.
To achieve this balance, the book can move the spread and/or the juice at any time after the first lines hit the NFL odds board, all the way up until kick-off. If there had been too much action on the Packers at Super Bowl 1, the oddsmakers could have made Kansas City a 15-point underdog (+15), in order to encourage more people to bet on the Chiefs. They also could have kept the spread at 14 points and moved the juice, perhaps to –105 for Kansas City and -115 for Green Bay. You’ll often see the books adjust the juice first when the spread is three points; since so many NFL games end in a winning margin of three points (roughly one in six games), moving the spread from 3 to 3.5 points is a pretty big deal, and it might tilt the balance too far in the other direction.
You may have heard the term “covering the spread” or the phrase “betting against the spread.” This means that if the favorite team wins an event with the point spread taken into account or that the underdog team wins with additional points, they have covered the spread. If the Packers win that game by more than 7 points, they have covered the spread.

Several factors influence a point spread. It starts with power rankings. The media creates power rankings throughout the year, but those can be entirely subjective based more on feelings and emotions than actual raw data. An oddsmaker creates power rankings based on a host of statistics, some more complex than others. The rankings will include record, strength of schedule, and various offensive, defensive, and special teams metrics. They might use Football Outsiders’ efficiency metrics, they might use expected points added, or they might use a host of other internal and external options. The idea being to develop as objective an assessment as possible as to how good or bad a given team is compared to the rest of the NFL.
The National Football League is fully against any sort of legalization of sports betting, strongly protesting it as to not bring corruption into the game. On the other hand, the CEO of the International Cricket Council believe sports betting, in particular in India, should be legalized to curb illegal bookies where match fixing has occurred from nontransparent bookmakers. Many of the illegal proceeds also allegedly go to fund terror, drugs and other illegal activities.[citation needed]

This is a very common occurrence throughout the sports betting industry. Sportsbooks have the right to shift the spread or odds for any given match prior to it starting. Many factors play a huge role in this decision, and they include injuries, weather, the volume of bets on one side, and anything in between. Depending on the time you place your wager, the bettor may also have an advantage or disadvantage based on which way the spread has shifted.
For all the talk of new forms of wagering, the good old point spread remains the bet of choice for most NFL fans. Also known as the line or spread, the myth is that Las Vegas sets the point spread as its predicted margin of victory for one team. In reality, it's a number chosen by oddsmakers that will encourage an equal number of people to wager on the underdog as on the favorite. The negative value (-3.5) indicates that team is favored by 3.5 points. The positive value (+3.5) indicates that team is the underdog by 3.5 points. Betting on the favorite means the team must win by at least four points to cover the point spread. The underdog team can lose by three points and still cover the spread. You will also notice a moneyline value associated with the point spread (such as -3.5, -115). This indicates how much you must risk in order to book the bet (also known as the vig or juice). It means you have to risk $115 to win $100. The underdog may see a value such as +3.5, +105. This means you risk $100 to win $105 if your team covers the spread. The spread is not a static number, so you will notice line moves during the week. Team A may be favored by 3 points on Tuesday and by 4.5 points on Friday. This indicates more people are betting on them, so Las Vegas increases the underdog value hoping to encourage more wagers on the underdog.
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