Once you understand how the NFL point spread works, you can make smarter choices when it comes to your NFL picks. The most important takeaway: It’s not you against the bookie. Think of NFL spread betting in terms of a marketplace, where customers tend to overvalue some teams and undervalue others. Figure out which teams those are, and you’ll find where the profit margin is.
Futures betting also is offered on the major events in horse racing, such as the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup. In horse racing futures, if your horse does not start the race due to injury or any other reason, you lose the bet -- there are no refunds. On the other hand, the odds on your horse racing futures bet also are "locked in," regardless of the horse's odds on race day.
Before I go on, let me clarify some terminology. Despite it being probably the most popular way to bet, there is no particular term for a bet against the spread. Many people call this a "straight bet." However, this term can also be used, and is printed on tickets for, money line bets, total bets, and any other bet involving just one game. For purposes of this page, I call such bets a "point spread" bet, and invite the rest of the world to adopt this terminology.
Sports spread betting began in the United Kingdom in the late 1980s to offer an alternative form of sports wagering to traditional fixed odds, or fixed-risk, betting. With fixed odds betting, a gambler places a fixed-risk stake on stated fractional or decimal odds on the outcome of a sporting event that would give a known return for that outcome occurring or a known loss if that outcome doesn’t occur (the initial stake). With sports spread betting, gamblers are instead betting on whether a specified outcome in a sports event will end up being above or below a ‘spread’ offered by a sports spread betting firm, with profits or losses determined by how much above or below the spread the final outcome finishes at.

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.
This might be the most unlikely playoff matchup in NFL history. Why? Houston started the season 0-3 and Indianapolis began 1-5. Texans coach Bill O’Brien is probably fired if his team doesn’t win 37-34 in overtime at Indy in Week 4. The Colts won 24-21 in Houston in Week 14. The Texans claimed the AFC South title with Sunday’s 20-3 win over Jacksonville to reach the playoffs for the third time in the past four seasons. The Texans have won at least one postseason game in three of their four all-time trips.

If the bookmaker was only confident enough to give Seattle a field goal’s lead on the Patriots, it was clearly going to be a tight game. Oddsmakers aren’t often that wrong about flagship games like the Super Bowl. All things being equal, it’s likely the betting public would have taken the Seahawks to win the game and have been done with it. But throw in the point spread that gave the Patriots 2.5 points, and the proposition seems more equal.


For reading the fraction odds, I strongly recommend converting them to a decimal. This will make figuring out your potential win much much easier! To do this, just like in 2nd grade, you take the first number and divide it by the second. So if your odds read 7/4, you simply divide (7) by (4), which equals 1.75. That is the decimal form odds, now you simply multiply (1.75) by whatever your wager amount is to figure out your potential profit. In this case, if you were to risk $100, then your potential win would be $175 profit if you are correct! Also, you will receive your initial bet amount of $100 as well, for a total of $275 in your hand.

A spread is a range of outcomes and the bet is whether the outcome will be above or below the spread. Spread betting has been a major growth market in the UK in recent years, with the number of gamblers heading towards one million.[1] Financial spread betting (see below) can carry a high level of risk if there is no "stop".[2] In the UK, spread betting is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority rather than the Gambling Commission.[3]
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.

A spread is a range of outcomes and the bet is whether the outcome will be above or below the spread. Spread betting has been a major growth market in the UK in recent years, with the number of gamblers heading towards one million.[1] Financial spread betting (see below) can carry a high level of risk if there is no "stop".[2] In the UK, spread betting is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority rather than the Gambling Commission.[3]


Bookmakers use odds to even out the bets, getting gamblers to wager on both sides of the line by leveling the playing field. Although there is overall parity in the NFL, there are teams that are haves and others that are have-nots. Indianapolis is still superior to Cincinnati but when they play each other the bookies have to get about half of the bettors to put cash on the Bengals. This covers the sportsbooks ensuring they’ll make a decent amount of cash on just about every game.
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. 
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.

When wagering against the spread, you bet on the team that will cover the betting line, and not necessarily win the game. Obviously by taking the favorite, a bettor believes that team will not only win the game, but also win the game by a certain number of points to cover the betting line. But when wagering on the underdog, that team does not necessarily have to win the game to cover the line. For examples of point spreads and how those bets are won, please keep reading below where we explain betting odds for the spread in detail.
For example, if you want to bet that -140 favorite, you’ll need to risk $140 in order to win $100. To bet on the +120 underdog we mentioned above, you’ll need to bet $100 to win $120 if the dog wins outright. In many cases, betting moneylines offers better value and can provide a bigger profit for less risk. Check out our NFL Betting Guide to learn more about when you should bet a moneyline instead of a point spread.

For example: If it is universally believed that Alaska State is better than Hawaii Tech, a standard win/loss wager wouldn't work, since most likely people would bet more money on Alaska State. Therefore, the Sports Book could put the point spread on Alaska State at 6.5 points. This would mean if you bet on Alaska State, not only would they have to win the game, they'd have to win by at least 7 points to make you a winner, otherwise a ticket on Hawaii Tech, even though the team might have loss, would be a winner.
If your sports betting experience consists mostly of office pools during March Madness or a casual wager between you and a friend while you watch the Super Bowl, the transition to serious sports betting means learning how to read betting lines. The biggest difference between making the kind of casual bets mentioned above and placing wagers with online sportsbooks or at brick-and-mortar bookshops is the use of sports betting lines. Casual wagers usually involve each person in the bet picking one team to win, then wagering an equal amount, say $20 or $30. Professional bookmakers, online sports betting exchanges, and sports betting facilities in casinos have a more complex system for offering wagers on sporting events, in part to ensure profit on the part of the book, and in part to present a standardized representation of odds.
A sharp bettor is viewed as a professional in the world of sports betting. Even the best bettors over time are not going to win more than in the mid-50 percent range, with general public losing more than they win. A sharp bettor is viewed as someone who has a proven record of success, and so when they place a bet on a game, a sportsbook will suspect they know something the general public might not. The point spread can change with a large amount of public money bet on a game, but it can also move with a smaller bet by sharps.
If you wanted to bet the underdog Orlando to win the game, their money line odds are +280. Whenever a "+" is listed for odds, the number after it is how much you will win for betting $100. So in this example, a $100 bet would win $280 if the Magic win the game. This definitely seems like a way better deal than betting $340 to win $100, but remember that Orlando has a small chance of beating the best team in the league. Some bettors may see value in this, but you should never blindly bet an underdog - or any side for that matter (just talk to the thousands that bet on Conor McGregor last August).
Identify the favorite: Lines with a - before the number (i.e. -200) indicate the favorite. A -200 should be read as: "For every $200 wagered, I win $100." When there is a negative sign, the line should always be read with relation to 100. That does not mean you have to bet that much, it's just easiest to understand! When a + sign is present, just reverse the reading, always keeping reference to 100:
Much like any business venture you embark on, the most important part of the journey (for most) is the bottom line. We live in a world where cash rules everything around us, so it is vital to turn a profit, not only for living purposes but to feel successful and accomplished. In the sports betting world, turning a profit seems to be a walk in the park for sportsbooks. They keep track of their billions of dollars by using a term called "handle" and nobody is aware of how big the handle is until the sportsbooks tell us. Read More >>
How the point spread works - When two teams meet on the playing field or on the basketball court, one team is typically better than the other or in a more favorable position because of factors like playing at home. If all you had to do were pick the winning team in a game, everybody would simply wager on the best team or the home team in a even matchup and bypass all the lines and collect their winnings at a high rate.
If the Cowboys are 6-point favorites, their odds are -6. If the Giants are 6-point underdogs, their odds are +6. From the oddsmakers' perspective, the Giants are starting the game with a 6-0 lead, while from the Dallas side, the Cowboys are starting with a 0-6 deficit. If you bet on the Cowboys and they win 34-30, they failed to cover the spread by two points. If you bet on the Giants, they beat the spread by two points.
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.
Firstly you really need to understand the basics of what sports betting is all about, and what's involved with placing wagers. These basics are relatively straightforward, so thankfully it doesn't take long to get up to speed. It's definitely advisable to familiarize yourself with them though. Our beginner's guide to sports betting is the perfect resource for this. Here's a selection of some of the topics it covers.
Most online sportsbooks will list their odds in what is called “American Odds”. There are a couple different versions of sports betting odds, but these American Odds are the most common odds used. Reading and understanding sports betting odds can bet a little confusing to beginners, so we have provided an example below using two NFL football teams:
The divisional round of the NFL playoffs concludes on Sunday, and we’ll know which four teams have a chance to win Super Bowl LIII after two must-watch games. Tom Brady and the Patriots will try to earn their fourth consecutive AFC Championship berth, but is it finally Philip Rivers’ year? In the NFC, Nick Foles led the Eagles to a stunning upset of the Bears, but can the defending Super Bowl champions take down the No. 1 Saints?
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