Using the Patriots-Rams Super Bowl matchup as our example, the Patriots are listed by most sportsbooks as a 2.5-point favorite. The Patriots are listed at -2.5, while the Rams are listed at +2.5. If you bet on the Patriots to cover the spread and they win by three points or more, you win. If you bet on the Rams to cover the spread and they lost by less than three points or win the game, you win.
Sports betting is the activity of predicting sports results and placing a wager on the outcome. The frequency of sports bet upon varies by culture, with the vast majority of bets being placed on association football, American football, basketball, baseball, hockey, track cycling, auto racing, mixed martial arts, and boxing at both the amateur and professional levels. Sports betting can also extend to non-athletic events, such as reality show contests and political elections, and non-human contests such as horse racing, greyhound racing, and illegal, underground dog fighting.
It is important to note the difference between spreads in sports wagering in the U.S. and sports spread betting in the UK. In the U.S. betting on the spread is effectively still a fixed risk bet on a line offered by the bookmaker with a known return if the gambler correctly bets with either the underdog or the favourite on the line offered and a known loss if the gambler incorrectly bets on the line. In the UK betting above or below the spread does not have a known final profits or loss, with these figures determined by the number of unit points the level of the final outcome ends up being either above or below the spread, multiplied by the stake chosen by the gambler.
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]

Sometimes the decimal point is left out, so 120 is the same as 1.20. If you want to bet on the favored team, the White Sox, you have to bet $1.20 for every $1 you want to win. If you want to bet on the underdog Astros, you have to bet $1 for every $1.10 you want to win. This is known as the dime line, because ten cents separate the favorite from the underdog. Most bookies offer a dime line, although it can increase to a 20 cent line or greater if one team is heavily favored.
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.
The moneyline works differently. With this type of wager whichever team wins outright pays off. There is no spread. How does the line work? The favorite is listed with a minus sign and a number. That number is the amount of cash that must be bet in order to win $100. The underdog is posted with a plus sign in front of a number. The number is how much a sports bettor wins on a $100 wager.

The most common way to bet football is against the pointspread (ATS), often called a side bet. This involves making a wager on either the favorite or the underdog. For example, Team A is a 7-point favorite (-7) against Team B, making Team B a 7-point underdog (+7). If you bet on Team A, it must win by more than seven points for you to win your bet. Conversely, if you bet on Team B, it must lose by less than seven points for you to win your bet. Of course, if Team B wins outright, you also win your bet. If Team A wins by exactly seven points, your bet pushes and your wager is refunded.

Also known as NFL OVER/UNDER betting, the total is the number set by sportsbooks that estimates the total number of points scored by both teams combined. Bettors then must predict whether there will be more or fewer points than the NFL “total.” If you bet the 37.5 UNDER, you are hoping for a defensive battle and predicting the offenses to struggle. If you bet the 37.5 OVER, you are hoping this will be a high-scoring game.
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.
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.
Generally, the number next to the spread is “-110”. This is what’s known as the juice, vig or odds. The juice is a fraction of the wager taken from the bettor if the bet wins. In this instance, a winning wager of $110 will yield a profit of $100.The example above demonstrates that, although Indianapolis won the contest, Tennessee covered the spread by losing by less than nine points. An important aspect of sports betting is capturing the best line possible. A great way to achieve this is by shopping for the best line.
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:

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.


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.

In the UK and some other European countries the profit from spread betting is free from tax. The UK and some other European countries tax authorities designate financial spread betting as gambling and not investing, meaning it is free from capital gains tax and stamp tax, despite the fact that its regulated as a financial product by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK. Most traders are also not liable for income tax unless they rely solely on their profits from financial spread betting to support themselves. The popularity of financial spread betting in the UK and some other European countries, compared to trading other speculative financial instruments such as CFDs and futures is partly due to this tax advantage. However, this also means any losses cannot be offset against future earnings for tax calculations.
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As a proud Canadian and a lover of hockey, this article shouldn't really surprise my American counterparts. You already know we like to do things differently here in Canada with our pro sports. A prime example is the CFL. However, hockey is no different. If you bet on hockey, you're usually betting the money line - who you think is going to win the game straight up. But in crazy Canadian fashion, sportsbooks offer something called the "puck line" which is exactly like the American version of the point spread. Read More >>

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.
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