What may look like a jumble of words, numbers, and punctuation is actually a precise and easy-to-read breakdown of the various odds and point spread details your book is offering. Here is a breakdown of each unit of information given above. Once you understand each part of the jumbled details above, you’ll be able to read a sports betting line with confidence.

We already mentioned how using multiple betting sites allows you to take advantage of multiple bonus offers. That's not the only benefit either. Since point spreads vary between sites, one of the best ways to beat these wagers is to compare the different spreads in order to find which one is the most favorable. This doesn't take nearly as long as you might think, and it will make a huge difference to your bottom line over time.

The simplest way to think about a moneyline is to consider a base bet of $100. A moneyline is a number larger than 100, and it is either positive or negative. A line with a positive number means that the team is the underdog. If the line, for example, was +160 then you would make a profit of $160 if you were to bet $100. Obviously, then, the team is a bigger underdog the bigger the number is - a +260 team is perceived to be less likely to win than a +160 team.
Let’s start with the basics: what do sports bettors mean when they talk about a ‘line?’ The word line, in the language of a sportsbook, can refer to either the odds and/or a point spread in any sports contest. Let’s take a look at an imaginary line the way you’d read it off the board sitting in a Vegas sports betting lounge or on the screen at your online book. Let’s imagine a game between the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys. Your book’s NFL betting line might look something like this:
Parlays are wagers placed in combination with the spread, moneyline, and totals to increase the payout. A parlay is only a winner when ALL individual plays hit. A teaser is the same as parlay, except you put points down in your favor to help the bet come to fruition. For example, if the proposed line is -13 and you have a 6-point teaser, your new line is -7. A teaser may have reduced some of the risks of the parlay, but you still have to hit each individual play and the payout is reduced significantly. Many sportsbooks let you bet up to 15 times for one parlay, and if all wagers are at -110, that’s a payout of 16,306.94/1!
Making money from betting on any sport requires an understanding of how the betting markets work, and an ability to use that knowledge to gain an advantage. No-one makes a consistent profit from simply following hunches or relying purely on statistics and trends. Sports handicapping is something that people often assume is very complicated, but the basics are actually relatively easy to grasp.

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.
As the numbers grow larger each way – the small numbers get smaller or the positive numbers get larger – that indicates that those options are bigger and bigger favorites, or bigger underdogs. That’s particularly relevant when you’re looking at something like the odds to win the Super Bowl. The teams with smaller numbers are deemed as having a better chance of winning and then as the numbers grow larger, those teams are deemed bigger and bigger longshots.

Round robin betting is a creative type of parlay betting that requires making multiple parlay bets at once. Deriving its name from round robin tournaments—where each team in the tournament plays against each other at least once—this type of betting is when you have a number of betting lines (moneyline bets, spread bets, totals bet, etc.) you want to parlay.
Placing a point spread bet means gambling on how much a team will win or lose by. In our above example, the Cowboys are the favorite. How do we know that? The minus symbol in front of the point spread indicates that the bookmaker thinks the final score will have Dallas winning by 7.5 points or more. The underdog, in our example that’s the New York Giants, will always be indicated with a plus sign. If you wager on the Cowboys on the point spread, America’s Team will have to win by at least 8 points for your wager to pay off. Should the Cowboys win by less than 8 points, your bet is lost.
The odds given on the spread are usually -110 unless otherwise noted. It is not uncommon to see one side of the spread being -105, with the other side being -115. If you don’t see any odds listed for each side of NFL spreads you are supposed to assume the odds are -110 on each. Not sure how to read NFL betting odds? Check out our Sports Betting Odds guide.
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.
Many of the leading gambling bookmakers from the 1930s to the 1960s got their start during the prohibition era of the 1920s. They were often descendants of the influx of immigrants coming into the USA at this time. Although the common stereotype is that these bookies were of Italian descent, many leading bookies were of eastern European ancestry.[4]
Parlays - these might be the most popular bets out there, especially among novice and amateur bettors, perhaps because of the lure of betting a small amount for a potentially big payoff. But they are fool's gold at best. Parlays involve wagering on two or more games on the same bet following the casino's pre-determined payout scale. Each game on a parlay must win for the bet to be a winner.
A parlay basically combines several different wagers into one. For example, a parlay could be made up of five point spread wagers on five separate games. The payout for such a wager could be very attractive, but only if ALL the wagers were correct. Just one wrong pick would mean the whole wager failing. That's why these are considered quite risky. They're a bit more complex than the previous wagers mentioned, but we won't go into any more detail here. We do on the following page though.
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.

If you follow football at least reasonably closely, have some idea about the relative strengths of all the players and teams, and have absorbed the information provided on this page, then you should be able to become a competent football bettor. You don't really need to know much else should the aim be to simply have some fun and win some money every now and then.


With the over/under or total, bets are being made on what the total score may be. In our example which features two solid defenses and good offenses, the total might be around 41. If OSU scores 24 and Wisconsin 20, the total would be 44 or over the 41. If the Buckeyes scored 21 and the Badgers 14, then the total would be 35 so the under would win. Once again sometimes, if the total is a whole number, the result may be a push. That results in all bets simply being returned.
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)
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:
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.
If you follow football at least reasonably closely, have some idea about the relative strengths of all the players and teams, and have absorbed the information provided on this page, then you should be able to become a competent football bettor. You don't really need to know much else should the aim be to simply have some fun and win some money every now and then.
Once you have selected the appropriate sport, league and game, the betting options appear. A betting option is, for example, the winner of a game, how many goals will fall or how many fouls, penalties, corners and free kicks there will be. For football matches in the first leagues, there are usually around 40,000 different betting options available for almost every country. The large offer may seem deterrent, but the betting providers solve the problem with a very good overview as well as a function to find the desired betting option quickly and easily. There's a odds on every betting option. This number indicates how likely a betting option is. If the odds are high, the profit margin is also high, but the probability of the event occurring is very low. An example of this would be if a third division team won against a first division team. If the rate is low, the event is very likely. So in terms of the example that the favorite will win the game. The process of a bet reads longer than it is. After the first bets, the process has already turned into flesh and blood and you can place betting options every minute. Of course, only if you have informed yourself about sports and betting in detail beforehand, because this is the only way to make sports betting with responsibility and a good chance of success possible. Find out more on Livewetten
With the over/under or total, bets are being made on what the total score may be. In our example which features two solid defenses and good offenses, the total might be around 41. If OSU scores 24 and Wisconsin 20, the total would be 44 or over the 41. If the Buckeyes scored 21 and the Badgers 14, then the total would be 35 so the under would win. Once again sometimes, if the total is a whole number, the result may be a push. That results in all bets simply being returned.
With some betting sites odds, certain games are priced differently than risking $1.10 to win $1.00 (which is called -110 odds). For example, you might see the Giants priced at -105 and +7 in a game against the Jets. Now, you only have to risk $1.05 to win $1.00. This is obviously better odds, but it's very likely that they will lose by exactly seven to give you a push. Taking -110 and +7.5 with an alternative bookmaker is actually the better bet.
One of the first rules of gambling is that nothing is ever certain. There's one thing that's almost certain though; you will make mistakes as a beginner. This is nothing to worry about, and in fact making mistakes is an important part of the learning process. That doesn't mean you need to make unnecessary ones though. There are a few mistakes that are routinely made by beginners, and it pays to be aware of these.
A point spread (or line) is a tool used by sportsbooks to attract wagers on both sides of a game. The line is most commonly used in football and basketball games. Because it’s rare for two teams in a pro sports game to be completely evenly-matched, one team will have an advantage, another will be seen as the underdog. The point spread is the handicap offered to the underdog to level the playing field, so to speak.

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.
Oftentimes you’ll see a point spread that has a half-point added to the number. Of course, there’s no such thing as half a point in a football game, so why do we so often see point spreads with a (.5) attached to the score? Sportsbooks do this to make sure there isn’t a chance of a push.  Let’s take another look at our game from above with the half point added.
The optimal situation for bookmakers is to set odds that will attract an equal amount of money on both sides, thus limiting their exposure to any one particular result. To further explain, consider two people make a bet on each side of a game without a bookmaker. Each risks $110, meaning there is $220 to be won. The winner of that bet will receive all $220. However, if he had made that $110 bet through a bookmaker he would have only won $100 because of the vig. In a perfect world if all bookmaker action was balanced, they would be guaranteed a nice profit because of the vig.
“In the event that internet gaming is authorized within the State, the State and the Tribe agree that they will reopen good faith negotiations to evaluate the impact, if any, of internet gaming and consider adjustments to the Compact. The parties understand and agree that it is not possible to determine at this time what, if any, adjustments to the Compact would be necessary.”
These are just a very small selection of some props. Many bookmakers offer dozens of different options, particularly on high profile matches. Props are generally considered a fun type of bet rather than a way to make money, but it is possible to make consistent profits from them. We explain more about props on the following page, where we also offer some strategy advice.
Here in this point spread example for the NFL, the Falcons are playing the Panthers. Atlanta has been set as a three-point favorite on the betting line. That means that for Atlanta to cover the spread that has been set, they will need to win by at least four points. And for Carolina to cover the point spread, they can do so with a loss by two points or less, or obviously a win straight up. If the Falcons win by exactly three points, the bet would result in a push with no payouts.
If a team favored by six points wins by exactly six points, the outcome is considered a "push" and the bettors get their money back, minus the bookmaker's commission. To reduce the number of pushes, oddsmakers often set spreads with half-points. So if the Cowboys are 3 1/2- or 3.5-point favorites over the Giants, they must prevail by four or more points to pay winning bets.
Head-to-Head. In these bets, bettor predicts competitors results against each other and not on the overall result of the event. One example are Formula One races, where you bet on two or three drivers and their placement among the others. Sometimes you can also bet a “tie”, in which one or both drivers either have the same time, drop out, or get disqualified.

A point spread in sports is a figure set by oddsmakers to provide an advantage or disadvantage based on the margin of victory or defeat for a given team. The “favorite” team (labeled with a “-” sign) would be at the disadvantage as they would need to win the game by a set number of points while the “underdog” team (labeled with a “+” sign) would be given an advantage to not lose the game by a set number of points. The reason oddsmakers do this is to provide betting interest for both sides due to one team typically being better than the other.


Round robin betting is a creative type of parlay betting that requires making multiple parlay bets at once. Deriving its name from round robin tournaments—where each team in the tournament plays against each other at least once—this type of betting is when you have a number of betting lines (moneyline bets, spread bets, totals bet, etc.) you want to parlay.
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:
All individuals are banned from advertising or promoting any football betting activity in which FA regulations prohibit them from engaging. This, however, only applies to individuals in their personal capacities. For example, if a club is sponsored by a betting company and said company places its logo on the club's kit, the team's players are not in violation of the betting rules.

That was all before Charles McNeil, a math teacher from Chicago, invented the concept of the point spread. An avid gambler, McNeil created what he called “wholesaling odds” and started his own bookmaking operation in the 1940s. He started out offering this new style of betting on football, but his business model grew to include basketball.  McNeil changed the way sports betting was done, and his legacy lives on today in what we now call the point spread.
Sports spread betting began in the United Kingdom in the late 1980s to offer an alternative form of sports wagering to traditional fixed odds, or fixed-risk, betting. With fixed odds betting, a gambler places a fixed-risk stake on stated fractional or decimal odds on the outcome of a sporting event that would give a known return for that outcome occurring or a known loss if that outcome doesn’t occur (the initial stake). With sports spread betting, gamblers are instead betting on whether a specified outcome in a sports event will end up being above or below a ‘spread’ offered by a sports spread betting firm, with profits or losses determined by how much above or below the spread the final outcome finishes at.

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.
Now for American Style Sports Odds. Typically, when you are betting on the point spread, as in topic #1 above, the odds are displayed or implied to be (-110), which is known as American Style odds. The American Style odds format is based on $100. When the number, is displayed as a negative number (-110), it indicates how much money you must risk to realize a profit of $100. In our scenario, you must wager $110 to win $100 profit. If you do, you will receive $210 when you cash in…the winning amount PLUS your initial wager amount.

Head-to-Head. In these bets, bettor predicts competitors results against each other and not on the overall result of the event. One example are Formula One races, where you bet on two or three drivers and their placement among the others. Sometimes you can also bet a “tie”, in which one or both drivers either have the same time, drop out, or get disqualified.

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