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).

Oddsmakers want you to gamble on underdogs as well as favorites. They set points spreads that encourage balanced betting. They analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each team, factoring in won-loss record, strength of schedule, results against common foes, key injuries, recent performance and previous games between the teams. They also rate the value of home field advantage and consider the game day weather forecast where relevant. If they see heavy wagering on the favorite, they will increase the point spread during the week to spur more betting on the underdog. If more money is going on the underdog, the spread will decrease as game time nears.
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.
Cash Out. Cash Out lets you take profit early if your bet is coming in, or get some of your stake back if your bet is going against you—all before the event you’re betting on is over. Cash Out offers are made in real time on your current bets, based on live market prices. Whenever you are ready to Cash Out, simply hit the yellow button. Cash out is available on singles and multiples, on a wide range of sports, including American football, tennis, horse racing, basketball, and many more! You can Cash Out of bets pre-play, in-play, and between legs.[1]
If you've never set foot in an actual sportsbook before or logged into an online sportsbook, the chances of you getting overwhelmed when you actually do is very high. In an actual Las Vegas sportsbook, there is typically a lot of commotion and the odds and lines are displayed on a massive digital board for everyone to see. When a novice sports bettor looks at the massive digital signage, they will see a bunch of numbers, both positive and negative, some two digits, some three digits. They also won't have a clue what any of it means. The same can be said for the online sportsbooks. It looks like a massive spreadsheet with negative and positive numbers beside each teams' name.
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.
NFL odds do not stop at the point spread and OVER/UNDER. There are numerous ways to bet on football these days, including the NFL moneyline, futures (odds to win the Super Bowl), and first-half and second-half betting lines. Throw in fun fantasy-style prop bets (will Tom Brady throw for 300+ yards this week) and live NFL betting (where you can wager on the next play and on odds that change all game long) and the importance of understanding how NFL odds work has never been greater. Check out the lines and bookmark for more updates and football lines enhancements in the coming weeks and months.
You can also bet straight winners and losers -- with no point spreads involved -- with money line wagers. When there is a minus number you bet that amount to win $100 in profit. When there is a plus number, that is your winning profit for every $100 wagered. So if the Cowboys have a money line of -250, you would have to bet $250 on them to win $100 in profit on any Dallas victory. If the Giants had a money line of +150, you would win $150 in profit with a winning $100 bet. If a money line is posted as even, you would win a $100 profit on a $100 winning bet.
Point Spread: The point spread remains the favorite way to wager on pro football, regardless of how many new forms of wagering come on stream. It’s called the line or spread and it’s known as betting ‘sides.’ The common misconception is that Las Vegas sets the spread as its best guess at the margin of victory. But really, it's a number they feel that is a perfect balance and will see an equal number of people to bet the underdog as on the favorite. A negative value like -6.5 means that team is favored by 6.5 points. So deduct 6.5 points from their total score. A positive value on the same game would be +6.5 (add 6.5 points to their final score) and would make that team an underdog of 6.5 points. The favorite must win by at least seven points to cover the spread. The underdog can lose by six points and still cover.
×