You may have heard the term “covering the spread” or the phrase “betting against the spread.” This means that if the favorite team wins an event with the point spread taken into account or that the underdog team wins with additional points, they have covered the spread. If the Packers win that game by more than 7 points, they have covered the spread.
Point Spread – This is the margin of victory for a game determined by the oddsmaker. Sportsbooks use this to create action on both teams. The favorite will have to win by more than the margin the oddsmakers set. If the Broncos are favored by 2.5 against the 49ers, they must win by 3 points or more for a win. If they only win by 2, they didn’t cover the spread and those who bet the 49ers will win.
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.
If bettors were quick to jump on the Atlanta line at +4.5 when it first came out, they would have a distinct advantage over those who waited closer to kick off and were stuck with +2.5. The opposite holds true for Carolina. Bettors that were quick to pull the trigger are now laying two more points than they would if they were patient and saw the line movement before making their move.
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.
For beginning sports gamblers, moneylines (sometimes called money lines or American odds) can be confusing. Unlike point spreads, which are concerned with who wins and by how much, a moneyline is solely dependent upon who wins. Moneylines are used most commonly in low-scoring games like baseball or hockey, but they may also be used in boxing and other sports.
When reading college football odds, the first thing you will see on the left is the time and date of the game. Next, you’ll see two numbers and the team names. Each team is assigned a rotation number. These numbers are standard on all sportsbooks and do a few things. First, it creates a certain order for the games as each matchup is listed in numerical order. The other thing the number does is it allows bettors to refer to the game and team without having to mention the team name or anything else.
If you're just getting started with NFL betting, the most important thing you need to do is learn how the lines work. But this is easier said than done because NFL lines can seem like learning Greek to new bettors. Fortunately, learning football betting lines won't take you nearly as long to master as the Greek language. In fact, you should have a good understanding of the matter just by looking at the following information on how NFL betting lines work.
How the point spread works - When two teams meet on the playing field or on the basketball court, one team is typically better than the other or in a more favorable position because of factors like playing at home. If all you had to do were pick the winning team in a game, everybody would simply wager on the best team or the home team in a even matchup and bypass all the lines and collect their winnings at a high rate.
Once you understand all the fundamentals of football betting, and have an account with a suitable gambling site, you're pretty much ready to go. There's still a lot more you need to know, but most of this can be learned as you go along. Indeed, learning as you go along is the best approach. Trying to become an expert before actually getting started is a futile exercise, as so much of what's involved only really starts to make sense once you have some real experience to draw on.
I’ve titled this Sports Betting For Dummies. It’s a tutorial for those who want to start betting on sports or those who want to gain a better understanding of some of the terminology and theory behind it. We’ve all been in the position of learning something new, so please don’t be embarrassed if you don’t grasp these concepts. Instead, contact me via the form at the bottom of this page, and I’ll help you in any way I can.

Identify the type of line you are looking at. All online sports books offer you the chance to have your lines in an "American" or "Money line" version. If I were you, I would use this as my standard. An "American" line uses either a + or - before a number to indicate odds. So a -120 and a +120 are two very different odds on a team… I will explain the differences shortly. Two other less common variations exist: decimal odds and fractional odds.


With NFL odds the over/under can vary but usually it’s somewhere between 35 and 47 points. Let’s say in the Colts and Bengals game that the total is posted at 37.5. If Indy scores 27 and Cincy gets 13 points, the total would be at 40 and the over would win. But if the Colts rack up 35, and they shut out the Bengals, the total of 35 would be under.
The -110 listed is the actual odds given for these bets, and the odds determine how much you win based on the amount of your wager. This is why the odds are often called the price of a bet. When you see -110 odds, you need to bet $110 to win $100. Of course, you don't need to literally bet $110; that is just the ratio of the amount bet to the amount won. You can bet $11 to win $10, $20 to win $18.18, etc.
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.
For reading the fraction odds, I strongly recommend converting them to a decimal. This will make figuring out your potential win much much easier! To do this, just like in 2nd grade, you take the first number and divide it by the second. So if your odds read 7/4, you simply divide (7) by (4), which equals 1.75. That is the decimal form odds, now you simply multiply (1.75) by whatever your wager amount is to figure out your potential profit. In this case, if you were to risk $100, then your potential win would be $175 profit if you are correct! Also, you will receive your initial bet amount of $100 as well, for a total of $275 in your hand.
It's also important to consider whether or not there's any correlation between the point spread and the betting total. If they are, a parlay wager is a good way to get maximum value. For example, a college football point spread +24.5 parlayed with under 48 points in the same game might be a great parlay bet. If the +24.5 team covers the point spread, then there's an increased chance that the game also goes under the posted total of 48.
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).
When reading college football odds, the first thing you will see on the left is the time and date of the game. Next, you’ll see two numbers and the team names. Each team is assigned a rotation number. These numbers are standard on all sportsbooks and do a few things. First, it creates a certain order for the games as each matchup is listed in numerical order. The other thing the number does is it allows bettors to refer to the game and team without having to mention the team name or anything else.
In addition to the spread bet, a very common "side bet" on an event is the total (commonly called the over/under or O/U) bet. This is a bet on the total number of points scored by both teams. Suppose team A is playing team B and the total is set at 44.5 points. If the final score is team A 24, team B 17, the total is 41 and bettors who took the under will win. If the final score is team A 30, team B 31, the total is 61 and bettors who took the over will win. The total is popular because it allows gamblers to bet on their overall perception of the game (e.g., a high-scoring offensive show or a defensive battle) without needing to pick the actual winner.
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.

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.
×