The busiest season of the year in the sports book is upon us. Betting on football makes up more than half the money wagered on sports every year in Nevada. The Nevada Gaming Commission doesn’t break down the wager money by the level of football. However, it’s widely discussed that there’s more money wagered on the NFL than college football. Canadian and Arena football are really just available to pass the time for fans until the fall.
Firstly you really need to understand the basics of what sports betting is all about, and what's involved with placing wagers. These basics are relatively straightforward, so thankfully it doesn't take long to get up to speed. It's definitely advisable to familiarize yourself with them though. Our beginner's guide to sports betting is the perfect resource for this. Here's a selection of some of the topics it covers.
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.
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.

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.


Understand that negative odds indicate how much money your must spend to make $100. When betting on the favorite, you take less risk, and thus earn less. When betting on a favorite, the moneyline is the amount of money you need to spend to make $100 profit. In the previous example, in order to make $100 of profit betting for the Cowboys, you would need to spend $135. Like positive odds, you earn back your bet when winning.
NFL odds do not stop at the point spread and OVER/UNDER. There are numerous ways to bet on football these days, including the NFL moneyline, futures (odds to win the Super Bowl), and first-half and second-half betting lines. Throw in fun fantasy-style prop bets (will Tom Brady throw for 300+ yards this week) and live NFL betting (where you can wager on the next play and on odds that change all game long) and the importance of understanding how NFL odds work has never been greater. Check out the lines and bookmark for more updates and football lines enhancements in the coming weeks and months.
What's the difference between an oddsmaker and a bookie? A bookie's job is purely mechanical. He gets the line from Vegas or another source, offers bets at those odds, then collects money from the losers, pays out to the winners and keeps the vig. Oddsmakers don't actually take bets -- they study the games and set the lines. Bookies often adjust the spreads for their games, so they do a little oddsmaking, and oddsmakers work for casinos, which operate sports books that take bets.
Another popular form of golf betting involves matchup propositions, in which two golfers are paired against each other in a head-to-head wager, with a betting line on each golfer set by the oddsmaker. The golfer with the better (lower) score wins the matchup. (If one golfer continues play in the tournament after his opponent misses the cut, the golfer who continues play wins the matchup.)

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.
“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.”
In Asian betting markets, other frequently used formats for expressing odds include Hong Kong, Malaysian, and Indonesian-style odds formats. Odds are also quite often expressed in terms of implied probability, which corresponds to the probability with which the event in question would need to occur for the bet to be a break-even proposition (on the average).
There's another reason to bet the underdogs on the moneyline as well. If your handicapping has made you feel very strongly that a poor team is due for a big win then the moneyline allows you to profit much more handsomely from your conclusion than a point spread bet does. The moneyline, then, is a powerful situational tool for people who closely follow the NBA.
Another way to beat football point spreads is to shop for off market prices. For example, let's say you're shopping online betting sites and see every site is offering Vikings +7.0. Then, you stumble upon one site that's offering +7.5. There's a good chance that this is a +EV wager, simply because it is out of sync with every other site. Please note that this strategy isn't quite the same as simply shopping for the best lines. Here, you're specifically looking for wagers that are +EV because they're against the market.
The New England Patriots are currently the favorites to win Super Bowl 53. The point spread opened with the Rams installed as a one-point favorite following the AFC Championship Game, but before the end of the night, the Patriots were a two-point favorite at most sportsbooks. The line has climbed to 2.5 points at most sportsbooks, with a couple going up to three points.
For example, if you want to bet that -140 favorite, you’ll need to risk $140 in order to win $100. To bet on the +120 underdog we mentioned above, you’ll need to bet $100 to win $120 if the dog wins outright. In many cases, betting moneylines offers better value and can provide a bigger profit for less risk. Check out our NFL Betting Guide to learn more about when you should bet a moneyline instead of a point spread.

As an illustration, let's look at Super Bowl futures. Sports books list each NFL team with corresponding odds to win the Super Bowl. For example, the Ravens may be 5-1, the Redskins 12-1, the Cardinals 100-1, etc. If you place $10 on the Redskins and they go on to win the Super Bowl, you collect $120 plus your $10 back for a total payoff of $130. It does not matter whether your team covers the point spread in the Super Bowl. For the purposes of future book betting, the team has to win only the Super Bowl.


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 the Cowboys are 6-point favorites, their odds are -6. If the Giants are 6-point underdogs, their odds are +6. From the oddsmakers' perspective, the Giants are starting the game with a 6-0 lead, while from the Dallas side, the Cowboys are starting with a 0-6 deficit. If you bet on the Cowboys and they win 34-30, they failed to cover the spread by two points. If you bet on the Giants, they beat the spread by two points.

Sometimes a line will move far enough to create a “middle” opportunity. Say the Texas Longhorns end up facing the Wisconsin Badgers in the first round of March Madness. If you have Texas early as a 5-point favorite, and I move the line to Texas –7 later in the week, then you can also place a bet on Wisconsin +7. If Texas happens to win by six points, both your bets cash in. Texas winning by either five or seven gives you a win and a push. Any other result creates a win and a loss, so you’re only risking the vigorish.


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.
Total – also widely referred to as the over/under is the predicted number of points oddsmakers believe will be scored in the game by both teams combined. The concept is simple – handicap how each team stacks up against each other on offense and defense and predict whether there will lots of scoring or not much. In totals betting, you are predicting whether the combined total score will be more than or less than the total.
×