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.
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.
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.
Essentially, a moneyline bet is a bet on which team is going to win the game. There is no point spread or other handicap for either team, so if you pick a team and it scores more points than the other team then you win. Obviously there has to be a catch, though, or the bet would be way too simple. The sportsbooks balance their risk by setting different prices on each team. You win a smaller amount than you bet if you pick the favorite, and you generally win more than you bet if you pick the underdog. The stronger the favorite the less you will win, and vice versa.
A quick word on that annoying half point in the point spread – most lines you’ll come across will use half points, but it’s not standard practice across the board. When you see a line with a full number instead of a number with a half point, your wager could end up as a push. In our example, if the line were 7 instead of 7.5 and the final difference in points was exactly 7, your wager is returned to you, and neither you nor the book makes money.

This is where you simply wager on which team will win the game outright, no point spreads, no BS…just the straight up winner. Although this may appear to be easier, you will pay for it as the odds (payout) will reflect the lack of a point spread. If you wager on a favorite, then you will win less than with a point spread, but if you wager on the underdog…and win…you will receive and even greater win amount based on the higher risk taken.


Two possibilities existed for Seahawks backers at this point – either the team would win the game by at least three points or not. There was no possibility for a push, thanks to the use of a half-point. It’s impossible to score a half-point in football, so thanks to the magic of rounding, there’s no room for a tie outcome. Those who backed the Patriots were looking at two possible outcomes, too – either New England would pull off the upset or they would lose by just a point or two. Both would turn out in a win.
Odds for different outcomes in single bet are presented either in European format (decimal odds), UK format (fractional odds), or American format (moneyline odds). European format (decimal odds) are used in continental Europe, Canada, and Australia. They are the ratio of the full payout to the stake, in a decimal format. Decimal odds of 2.00 are an even bet. UK format (fractional odds) are used by British bookmakers. They are the ratio of the amount won to the stake - the solidus "/" is pronounced "to" for example 7/1 "seven to one". Fractional odds of 1/1 are an even bet. US format odds are the amount won on a 100 stake when positive and the stake needed to win 100 when negative. US odds of 100 are an even bet.

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