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.

There are very few periods of time throughout the year when there isn't a game or event that is garnering national media attention and bettors are clamoring to lay down a wager. Off the top of my head, the only period I can think of is during the MLB All-Star break, where it's slim pickings to lay down a wager. Sure, the Home Run Derby and All-Star game are closely watched and people do bet on them, but it's done more so to have a little action on the game to make it semi-watchable. However, the rest of the year is littered with massive, high-stakes, high-drama type events. These are what the industry called "hot games" Read More >>

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.
As an illustration, let's look at Super Bowl futures. Sports books list each NFL team with corresponding odds to win the Super Bowl. For example, the Ravens may be 5-1, the Redskins 12-1, the Cardinals 100-1, etc. If you place $10 on the Redskins and they go on to win the Super Bowl, you collect $120 plus your $10 back for a total payoff of $130. It does not matter whether your team covers the point spread in the Super Bowl. For the purposes of future book betting, the team has to win only the Super Bowl.
As you can see above, the combined score for Superbowl XLV was 56, and since this line was offered at reduced juice, a wager on the over at 44.5 of only $105 would yield a profit of $100. This line closed at a high of 46 points at some books, demonstrating how the public, who tend to show a proclivity for high scoring games, can increase an O/U line.
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.

Each week we see the volatility in the pro football point spread market with opening spreads often but not always moving and closing at a different number. In general the movements are caused by the weight of money on one side or the other however injury rumors or confirmation of an injury to a key player, unrest in a particular NFL team's management or any number of other reasons can contribute to a point spread line being reassessed and changed by the sportsbooks. The question is often asked then, is it better to place your NFL point spread wager early on the opening lines or wait until the hour or two before kick off? There are certainly pros and cons for both which are discussed further in The Football Lines .com's When to Place Your NFL Bet article however ultimately there isn't a definitive right or wrong answer as varying NFL betting situations can require a different and flexible approach.
As you can see above, the combined score for Superbowl XLV was 56, and since this line was offered at reduced juice, a wager on the over at 44.5 of only $105 would yield a profit of $100. This line closed at a high of 46 points at some books, demonstrating how the public, who tend to show a proclivity for high scoring games, can increase an O/U line.
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.

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 the player who wagers on San Francisco -5, San Fran must win by more than 5 points for this to be a winning bet. For the player who wagers on St. Louis +5, they must either win the game or lose by less than 5 points for this to be a winning bet. If the outcome falls on the number, the bet is declared a “Push” and your original stake amount gets refunded.

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.
Thanks to the modern language and a constantly updated Webster's dictionary, there is a word for pretty much anything you can think of. Furthermore, every study, no matter the obscurity has its own word to describe the resident expert. You know, words like paleontologist, botanist, astrologer, just to name a few. In the sports betting world, there are a few words that can be used to describe serious bettors who spend most of their time breaking down bets and looking for advantages that give them the best chance at winning their wager. The word I want to focus on right now is "handicapper". Read More >>
For those that live outside the United States, this may look even more strange since -110 is in American odds format. In Decimal odds, which is common in Europe, -110 translates to 1.91 odds. I'm not going to dive into Decimal odds (or other formats) since this article is about American odds, but the Decimal system is pretty straightforward. The odds listed represent a bettor's total return for a winning wager as you simply multiply the odds by the amount you wish to risk. If someone risks $100 at 1.91 odds and win, they receive $91 plus their initial $100 risked ($91 + $100 = $191).
All this means to someone betting on New England is that in order for them to win their wager the Patriots must win by more than four points. For another bettor placing his money on Seattle, the Seahawks must either win the game outright or lose by less than four points. If the outcome of the game were to be decided by exactly four points, it what result in what is called a “push” where both bettors would neither win or lose their wager.
There’s only one DFS style game in Las Vegas casinos today. US Fantasy Sports can be found in about 14 casinos and it continues to grow. In this type of football betting, you wager on which player will rank 1st, 2nd or 3rd from a pool of players in specific positions. The wagering style is similar to horse racing where you can wager on win, place, and show. You can also make exacta and trifecta wagers. There’s also an option to place a $1 wager and pick winners from all pools to win $1,000,000.
Now that you have the basics down, there is only one thing left to discuss – where to bet that is safe. I strongly recommend that you start by wagering on only one pick per day. You don’t want to spread yourself too thin and have your hand in every match available. If you bet that way, you will surely get nickel and dimed out of your bankroll. Spend time studying the teams and choose your best selection available. Decide on a budget of how much you are willing to risk. Now you need a reputable online sportsbook (online sports betting site) to do business.

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.
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).
Many novice bettors fail to understand the impact of home advantage when wagering on sport events. When looking at the board for potential wagers, these bettors tend to get excited and bet on lots of superior teams favored on the road against weaker opponents. The betting market is so much more advanced than this, and for the most part point spreads are always going to be 50/50 propositions.

A listed odd with a + sign in front of it, such as the +120 in our example above, shows us how much money you would win on a $100 bet. Using the +120 odds, it shows us that a $100 bet on that outcome would pay out $120 in profits. Again this can easily be converted into smaller or larger size bets. A $10 bet on +120 odds would pay out $12 in profits.


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).
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.

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.

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. 

Parlay bets are a good and popular way to potentially win big with a small wager. The way they work is the bettor picks two or more events, which all must win or push to win the bet. One or more loss will cause the whole parlay bet to lose. In the event of a push, that "leg" of the parlay bet will be ignored and the win will be reduced to whatever it would pay if that selection were never made.
Like many high scoring sports, NFL wagering is dictated by the point spread. The spread, or line, is a type of side bet that equalizes the chance of winning a wager. The line offered for any given team will be accompanied with a – or + symbol to indicate whether a team is a favorite or an underdog. The example below displays the spread from the Sports Insights archives at the time of kickoff:
The biggest advantage of the moneyline for the NBA is that your team doesn't have to overcome the point spread for you to win your game. If your handicapping leads you to believe that one team is likely to win but you can be less certain that they will win by as much as the point spread then the moneyline may be attractive. You are sacrificing some potential return because the moneyline won't pay as much for the favorite as the point spread will, but it's obviously better to make a small profit than it is to lose a bet. This is particularly attractive in basketball because the favorites can often face large point spreads and teams can win comfortably and effectively without covering the spread. 

But Bevin, a Republican, was one of three governors who signed a legal brief in the Supreme Court case that urged the justices to overturn the federal ban. The brief, written by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, is largely concerned with the federal government commandeering states’ rights and not about people’s ability to wager on sports.
The last number in the top two rows of our sports line example is known as the money line. If you’re not interested in betting on the point spread, you can wager on a team to win outright. The plus sign next to the underdog (in our case, the Giants) indicates how much money you’ll earn for every $100 you bet on the money line. Conversely, the minus sign next to the favorite’s line tells you how much you have to wager in order to win $100. In our example, a $100 wager on the Giants earns you $300 should they pull off the upset, while a bet of $405 on the Cowboys will net you an extra $100. Representing odds in units of $100 makes placing different size bets easy; if you want to bet $10 on the Giants, you stand to earn $30 if they win, while a $40.50 bet on the Cowboys will net you an additional $10.
In North American sports betting many of these wagers would be classified as over-under (or, more commonly today, total) bets rather than spread bets. However, these are for one side or another of a total only, and do not increase the amount won or lost as the actual moves away from the bookmaker's prediction. Instead, over-under or total bets are handled much like point-spread bets on a team, with the usual 10/11 (4.55%) commission applied. Many Nevada sports books allow these bets in parlays, just like team point spread bets. This makes it possible to bet, for instance, team A and the over, and be paid if both team A "covers" the point spread and the total score is higher than the book's prediction. (Such parlays usually pay off at odds of 13:5 with no commission charge, just as a standard two-team parlay would.)
If you place wagers on US sports, then chances are high that you've heard of point spreads. Here's how they work; if a game has Patriots -9.0 and Vikings +9.0, the Patriots are 9.0 point favorites and the Vikings are 9.0 point underdogs. Unless otherwise stated, no matter which team you bet on, you'll be required to risk $1.10 for each $1.00 you want to win. For Patriots bettors to prevail, they need their team to win by 10 or more points. A 9-point Patriot victory would be a push (a tie). For Vikings bettors to take home the victory, they need to either win the game or lose by less than 9 points.
Pools, cards, and parlays - A parlay is just a combination bet. Instead of making five separate bets on five different games, the bettor places a single parlay bet, hoping he or she can predict the outcome of all five games. If any one of the games is a loser, the entire parlay is a loser. The payout is better for parlays, because the odds of successfully picking multiple winners are much tougher to beat [ref]. Most people are familiar with parlays through office betting pools or football cards. If you've ever paid $5 to select your winners from a list of that week's football games (sometimes using the spread, sometimes using the straight scores) in hopes of winning the weekly prize, then you have made an informal parlay bet. Office pools don't usually involve actual bookies beyond the person who organizes the pool, and no one takes juice from the pool. All the money is distributed to the winner or winners.

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.
The sign in front of the number indicates whether placing a wager on that outcome will pay out more money then you have wagered or less money then you have wagered. If the odd is negative (-) it means that outcome is more likely to happen and placing a bet on that outcome would payout less than the amount you wagered, while a positive (+) odd shows that the outcome is less likely to happen and it would pay out more than the amount you wagered.

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.

However, there are some good values with teaser bets if you know how and where to find them. For instance, the six-point teaser is an especially effective bet in the NFL, where most games are tightly contested and six points can make a world of difference. For instance, in our previous example, the Bears would go from laying six points to simply needing to win if you put them on a teaser bet. Conversely, Detroit backers could get 12 points instead of the starting six. (Source: Doc's Sports Service)
As always, beware of sites offering paid or free NFL betting picks in connection with a varying unit betting system. If you are using their pro football betting picks to gamble on NFL football games, you might consider that some of these sites are providing money tips which are likely to drain your NFL sportsbook account. Earning gambling profits long term takes discipline to know there is always another game to bet on. Most free sports pick sites don't understand that it requires more than winning football predictions to earn a living betting on sports. So for anyone living in an area where NFL gambling is legal, keep in mind that relying on "bet the house" free NFL picks could seriously reduce your NFL betting success.
×