For each NFL game the oddsmakers set a number of points in which the favored team is favored by. Bettors can then either choose for the favored team to win by more than the number of points set, or bet on the underdogs to lose by less than the number of points they are underdogs by or win the game straight up. For example, the spread could be set on the favored team at 6.5 points. This would mean in order for a bet on the favored team on the spread to win they would need to win by more than 6.5 points (7 or more) in order to win the bet. It also means that a bet on the underdog team would win if the underdogs lost by less than 6.5 points (6 or less) or won the game outright.
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.
Often big games will have "proposition" bets on things not directly related to the final score of the game. These are usually abbreviated to "prop" bets. For example, in football whether or not the first score will be a touchdown. In baseball whether a run will be scored in the first inning. In hockey/soccer, whether anybody will score a hat trick. The odds on these are expressed like point spread bets. For example, as I write this the Golden Nugget has the following proposition bet on Super Bowl 49:
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.
NFL point spread lines and odds differ from sportsbook to sportsbook so it is important to always try to line shop for the best prices and spread. Regularly betting into spread odds of -115 (1.87) or -110 (1.91) compared to -105 (1.95) can make a big difference come Super Bowl time to your bankroll, so to can getting on the right side of a spread number particularly where key point spread numbers like 3, 7 and 10 are concerned where a half point or full point can make the difference between a winning wager and a losing one. To give yourself the best opportunity with your NFL Spread Betting you need to obtain the best point spread line and at the best price and to do that effectively it is a good idea to have accounts with multiple sportsbooks.
A listed odd with a – sign in front of it, such as the -140 in our example above, shows us how much money you would need to wager in order to win $100. So using the -140, this would show us that you would need to bet $140 in order to win $100 in profits. You can easily substitute the $100 bet for a $10 bet by moving the decimal place over one spot, showing us that you would need to wager $14 in order to win $10 in profits.
A point spread, or “the line,” is a number set by oddsmakers to give an advantage to one team and a disadvantage to another team based on the margin of victory or defeat for the two teams. The favorite team is giving up points for purposes of the wager, meaning they not only have to win, but they have to win by X amount of points. The underdog team is getting points for purposes of the wager, meaning they can still lose the game, but they must lose by less than X amount of points.
A sharp bettor is viewed as a professional in the world of sports betting. Even the best bettors over time are not going to win more than in the mid-50 percent range, with general public losing more than they win. A sharp bettor is viewed as someone who has a proven record of success, and so when they place a bet on a game, a sportsbook will suspect they know something the general public might not. The point spread can change with a large amount of public money bet on a game, but it can also move with a smaller bet by sharps.
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.
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.)
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.

Say the Bears are a six-point favorite over the Lions and the total is 42. To bet the Bears, you must "lay the points," meaning they must win by seven or more to cover and give you the win. Betting the underdog Lions, you are "taking" six points, and they can lose by five or fewer, or win the game outright, and you have a winning bet. If the Bears win by exactly six, both sides "push" and all bets are returned. It's also a push if the final score equals 42, otherwise the over or under will win.
As already mentioned, there have been sports bets since the first sports events. There is evidence that bets were placed on the first Olympic Games in ancient Greece. The bet was placed on the winner of a race or the winner in wrestling. The more matches there were to the games, the more bets there were. The Romans made bets on almost everything that was possible. Among them also the bloody gladiator fights and chariot races. From the very beginning, fraud and manipulation were a means of winning a competition. The Roman Emperor Nero even bribed so much at the Olympic Games in his own country that he won in six different disciplines. One of them was the car race and that although he fell off the car, which normally leads to disqualification. The Olympic Games were then discontinued, but not the sports betting. In the last century there was again a time when sport, especially boxing and horse racing, fell into the hands of criminal gangs. The image of sports betting had to suffer a lot from this bad influence, also because Hollywood used the topic as the basis for many films, as a result of which perception in society drifted further into the negative.

The most important thing you can teach yourself early on is: "Just because the books assign one side to be the favorite (even large, -200 or -300, favorites), does not mean that they will win." We have all seen favorites get upset, and it is important to avoid the temptation of finding comfort in the fact that the lines makers put one team as a favorite.


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.
There are several very important terms and phrases you need to know if you have your sights set on becoming a sports bettor who has even the slightest idea of what you are about to bet on. Doc's Sports "How To" section has you covered for everything you need to know, but this may be one of the most important phrases to know when betting on sports that use a point-spread. Sure, money line, juice, totals, covering the spread and bad beat are all important words and phrase to know, but "laying the points" is something the general public loves to do. Read More >>
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.[1] Financial spread betting (see below) can carry a high level of risk if there is no "stop".[2] In the UK, spread betting is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority rather than the Gambling Commission.[3]

As you can see, there’s another number in our example above. The –110 in parentheses refers to the juice; this figure is expressed in the same fashion as moneyline odds, with either a negative or positive sign in front of the number. In this case, in order to place a wager on either side, you would have bet $110 to win $100. If the juice on Kansas City had been +110, you would have bet $100 to win $110. Most NFL game lines ask you to pay the standard –110 vigorish. If you don’t see any particular figure attached to the spread, the usual –110 vig applies.


Anybody who wagers on the 49ers would need them to win by 7 points or more for a winning bet. Those betting on the Rams (+6.5) would need them to lose by 6 points or less (or win) for a winning wager. It's also worth mentioning that a half point is used in many point spreads (such as the -6.5/+6.5) to prevent pushes because no team can score half a point.

When wagering against the spread, you bet on the team that will cover the betting line, and not necessarily win the game. Obviously by taking the favorite, a bettor believes that team will not only win the game, but also win the game by a certain number of points to cover the betting line. But when wagering on the underdog, that team does not necessarily have to win the game to cover the line. For examples of point spreads and how those bets are won, please keep reading below where we explain betting odds for the spread in detail.
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 >>
This is a very common occurrence in sports betting and sportsbooks have the full right to shift the spread or odds for any given match prior to it starting. Many factors can influence a change of the spread such as injuries, the number of bets coming in for either team or the weather, to name a few. Depending on the timing of placing the bet, the bettor can also have an advantage or a disadvantage depending on which way the spread has shifted.
Here's an example: Imagine that using the money line above with the White Sox and the Astros, you want to win about $100. If you place your bet on the favored White Sox, you will pay the bookie $120. If you win, you get your $120 back, plus $100 in winnings. If you lose, the bookie keeps your $120 (technically, bookies collect on losing bets after the game most of the time, but for our example we'll assume the bet is prepaid). If you bet $100 on the Astros, you'll get $110 in winnings if they win, and only lose $100 if they lose.

But what if the basement-dweller team was spotted 24 points? That's the concept behind the point spread. When two teams meet on the football field or a basketball court, one team is typically better than the other. If all bettors had to do was to pick the winning team, everybody would simply wager on the best team and collect their money. Gambling institutions, sportsbooks, and bookies would soon go broke. 
Okay, so the other betting option available to you is the total or ‘Over/Under.’ You can choose to bet that the total points between the two teams will either be greater (OVER) or less than (UNDER) the projected total. Again, if you bet either way and the game ends up being 20-21, for a total of 41 points, then you will receive a refund of your wager amount.
The 3-digit numbers to the far right are the listed prices for these bets.  This is also called the odds, vig, or juice.  An easy way to think of it is the amount you must risk to win $100 on this wager.  In our example, -110 means you must risk $110 if you want to win $100.  -110 is pretty standard, but you will find different options.  We will cover those in more depth when we talk about money lines.  The price of the bet has no impact on which team is favored.  Only the plus or minus on the point spread matters.  This is handled differently when you bet strictly on the moneyline.
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]

Apply the money line. It's easiest to think of money lines in relation to $100. A minus sign means you have to bet that much money in order to win $100; a plus sign means that a $100 bet will return that much money. If you bet on Chicago at -110, you'll have to wager $110 in order to get back $100 (plus your original $110). If you bet on Detroit at +145, then a $100 bet will give you $145 (plus your original $100).
Futures – wagers made in predicting an event in the future like next year's pro pigskin title. Oddsmakers produce lines during the year, depending on the strength or weakness of teams, then offer wagers on each team to win. For example, a league's top team may be +150 to win the championship. That means a $100 wager would pay $150 profit. However, a poor team might be +3000, indicating they are not expected to win and a $100 would pay $3,000 as a huge longshot.
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