The NFL spread (betting point spreads is also known as betting ‘sides’ since you are picking one side to win the game) acknowledges that not all teams are created equal. If they were, we wouldn’t need NFL point spreads at all – teams would be so evenly matched that every game was a toss-up (or a pick em in football parlance). Simply picking the winner would be enough of a challenge.
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. Financial spread betting (see below) can carry a high level of risk if there is no "stop". In the UK, spread betting is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority rather than the Gambling Commission.
Ideally, the lines I release will balance the action equally, so that the winners get paid out from the pockets of the losers and we take the vigorish. That’s an ideal that rarely happens – especially in sports without a pointspread, like NASCAR and golf. If Team A is getting too much action, I’ll move the line toward Team B to try to achieve that balance. My personal preference is to tweak the vig from –110 to –105 or +100 before taking the bigger step of moving the spread a half-point or more.
Although the odds on a spread bet are often listed as being even at 1:1, the fact is they are 0.90:1, which is a bit less than even. How does this work? Often in the point spread you’ll see next to each spread number -110. This tells you how much you have to wager to make $100. Thus, with the point spread -100 will always be listed, which means if someone wagers $110, they will make a $100 profit if they win. (If betting $11.00, the payout would be $10.00)
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.
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.
Here you can see that the Rams are +3.5, while the Cowboys are -3.5. So for this example the Cowboys are 3.5 point favorites, while the Rams are underdogs of 3.5 points. If you were to bet on St Louis you would need them to lose by 3 or fewer points or just win the game outright. If you were to bet on Dallas you would need the Cowboys to win by 4 or more points.
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.
The New England Patriots are currently the favorites to win Super Bowl 53. The point spread opened with the Rams installed as a one-point favorite following the AFC Championship Game, but before the end of the night, the Patriots were a two-point favorite at most sportsbooks. The line has climbed to 2.5 points at most sportsbooks, with a couple going up to three points.
In this example the Jets are listed as four-point favorites (-4) over the Bills and the 49ers are three-point underdogs (+3) against the Seahawks. So, if you bet $110 on the favored Jets, they must defeat the Bills by more than four points in order to win $100. If you bet $110 on the underdog 49ers you will win $100 if they win outright or lose by less than the three-point spread. If the final score happens to end up exactly on the number it's a tie, or 'push,' and you get your money back.
Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner Rob Manfred has also advocated the league changing its stance on sports betting, with both Manfred and Silver noting that the scale of illegal sports betting makes opposition to betting meaningless. He also stated a willingness to "try to shape" any future legislation at federal level. This was noted as a marked contrast to former Commissioner of the MLB Bud Selig, with Manfred going beyond tacit approval and stating, "There is this buzz out there in terms of people feeling that there may be an opportunity here for additional legalized sports betting."
In 2012, despite federal law preventions, the state legislature of New Jersey and Governor Chris Christie signed a law that would allow sports betting to take place in New Jersey race tracks and Atlantic City casinos. In August 2012, Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind conducted a study on the issue. Voters were asked whether New Jersey should allow sports betting even if federal law prevents it from doing so, or wait to allow sports betting until federal law permits it. Results showed that nearly half (45%) of voters wanted to allow sports betting, while (38%) decided to wait and allow sports betting once Congress allows it. Krista Jenkins, director of the poll, commented, "Although support is not overwhelming, these numbers suggest the public is cautiously behind the goal of moving forward with legalized sports betting."
Bookmaker's interest - In order to guarantee a profit for the house, a bookie needs to create even action on both sides of a particular game. In a perfect world the bookie would have 50 percent of the handle come in on the underdog and 50 percent on the favorite. This ensures that the sports books are guaranteed a profit because of the 10 percent commission or "vigorish" charged on most sports wagers. This is why there is "movement" on the point spread. If one side on a game is being bet more heavily, the bookie must move the number in order to attract interest on the other side in order to balance action.
While most football fans have seen a point spread before, not everyone understands how they work. There’s a common misconception that the oddsmakers are trying to outsmart their customers by posting the spread and getting people to bet on the wrong side. At the same time, many bettors think that their goal is to “beat the bookie.” This is false; as mentioned, the sportsbook is incentivized to keep the action on either team as balanced as possible, in order to limit exposure.
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.
Teasers are similar to parlays except the point spread on each game moves a certain number of points in the player's favor. In football the player gets 6 to 7 points, and in basketball, 4 to 5 points. The player pays for this in the form of much lower winnings. For example, if the Vikings were part of a 6-point teaser, then they would only need to win by more than 4 points to cover. If the Rams were part of a teaser, they could win, or lose by less than 16, and cover.
The concept of betting on totals, or Over/Under (O/U), is quite simplistic. The bettor wagers on whether the TOTAL points scored in a game will fall over or under a pre-determined number set by the sportsbook. Much like the point spread, game totals can be swayed by public opinion. The example below, from the SI Archive, shows the opening totals line for Superbowl XLV: