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.
Many casinos around the world contain a sportsbook. They usually feature several big screen TVs showing any live sports action currently taking place, and computerized odds boards displaying all the latest odds. There are typically cashier windows where you can place your wagers with a real person, but some books have interactive machines instead. Either way, these are great places to place some bets and watch the games at the same time. The problem for Americans, though, is that they are only legal in Nevada. There are plenty of sportsbooks in Las Vegas casinos, but not in other parts of the country.
The spread - The point spread is used in high-scoring sports like football and basketball. It is basically a handicap used to make all games competitive in the eyes of bettors. The spread gives one team an advantage of a few points. Standard notation for the point spread shows the favored team first, followed by a negative number (the actual spread). The home team is shown in capital letters. So if Buffalo was playing against Green Bay in Green Bay, and they were favored to win by seven points, it would look like this:
Simply, bigger returns. On a point spread bet you would usually have to spend $105 or $110 to win $100. If you bet on the moneyline you may instead only have to spend $50, or even less, to win $100. You won't win as often, of course, because the underdog not only has to cover the spread, but it actually has to win the game outright. Upsets happen, though, and good handicapping will often isolate situations where the likelihood of an upset exceeds the risk of the bet. This is especially relevant in the NBA because the number of games, and the possibility for even the best teams to have a bad night mean that major upsets are far from rare and can be very profitable.
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.
According to an article in The Times dated 10 April 2009, approximately 30,000 spread bet accounts were opened in the previous year, and that the largest study of gambling in the UK on behalf of the Gambling Commission found that serious problems developed in almost 15% of spread betters compared to 1% of other gambling. A report from Cass Business School found that only 1 in 5 gamblers ends up a winner. As noted in the report, this corresponds to the same ratio of successful gamblers in regular trading. Evidence from spread betting firms themselves actually put this closer to being 1 in 10 traders as being profitable, with a high number of clients suffering from the volatility that is supposed to be one of the benefits of spread betting.
There are also half bets, which are a wager placed on the odds posted for the first half or second half of a football game only. All halftime wagers are calculated the same as a straight wager. Another type of bet is a parlay which is a selection of 2 or more teams. All teams wagered on in a parlay must win. If there is a tie on any bet you would be paid out on the next payoff. For example, if you had a 5 team parlay and two teams tied, you would then be paid on a three team parlay if all the other teams won. Another type of football bet is called a teaser, which is a selection of two or more teams in one wager in which the point spread is adjusted in your favor. The number of football teams selected and the number of points selected determines the odds for payout.
If you'd rather not deal with point spreads, you can do a "Money Line" wager, which is whether the team/player you bet on wins or loses. You will see "Hawaii Tech +150 or Alaska Tech -140". This means if you bet on Hawaii Tech, if you bet $100, you would profit $150 (returns $250), while to win $100 on Alaska Tech, you must put up $140. Those ratios work whether you're betting $100, $10, or any other multiple of money.
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.
Conversely, in most other countries financial spread betting income is considered taxable. For example, the Australian Tax Office issued a decision in March 2010 saying "Yes, the gains from financial spread betting are assessable income under section 6-5 or section 15-15 of the ITAA 1997". Similarly, any losses on the spread betting contracts are deductible. This has resulted in a much lower interest in financial spread betting in those countries.
Point Spread: The point spread remains the favorite way to wager on pro football, regardless of how many new forms of wagering come on stream. ItÂ’s called the line or spread and itÂ’s known as betting Â‘sides.Â’ The common misconception is that Las Vegas sets the spread as its best guess at the margin of victory. But really, it's a number they feel that is a perfect balance and will see an equal number of people to bet the underdog as on the favorite. A negative value like -6.5 means that team is favored by 6.5 points. So deduct 6.5 points from their total score. A positive value on the same game would be +6.5 (add 6.5 points to their final score) and would make that team an underdog of 6.5 points. The favorite must win by at least seven points to cover the spread. The underdog can lose by six points and still cover.