Identify the favorite. Lines with a - before the number (i.e. -200) indicate the favorite. A -200 should be read as: "For every $200 wagered, I win $100." When there is a negative sign, the line should always be read with relation to 100. That does not mean you have to bet that much, it's just easiest to understand! When a + sign is present, just reverse the reading, always keeping reference to 100:
Another thing to consider is popular winning margins, which are particularly applicable to football. Consider that many tight games may finish with either a three point or a seven point margin. If the point spread is around either of these marks, make every attempt to be the right side. For example, if you were to back a team that is either 2.5 or 3 point favorites, you’d want to back them at the 2.5 mark, as if they were to win by 3 you’d win as opposed to a push.
In general, the betting public tends to gravitate towards favorites when betting the games regardless of the actual pointspread. This is especially true with high-profile teams such as Dallas and Green Bay in the NFL and Golden State and Cleveland in the NBA. The sportsbooks are well aware of this phenomenon and often times they will adjust the betting spreads accordingly. This, in turn, actually adds some value to the underdog when you consider that a pointspread is nothing more than a handicapping tool that is designed to even out the match.
Betting against the spread - In the sports betting industry the acronym ATS is used to label a team's record when betting against the spread. ATS records are a valuable tool in sports handicapping. A team may be playing great straight-up, winning a lot of games but at the same time they could have a dreadful ATS record because they are overvalued by the general public and the oddsmakers. And, conversely, a team could be losing a lot of games but playing in a lot of close games as underdogs and have a good ATS record going.
These bets are extremely popular and a lot of fun to make. They allow you to bet on teams that you want to root for, but you know they aren't going to win the game outright. It all comes down to betting on how you think the team will perform in regards to what the sportsbook thinks. If you can find teams that you think the sportsbook is undervaluing or overvaluing, you can make a lot of money by betting on your findings.
For example, imagine a game where the odds were -550 for the favorite and +450 for the underdog. A bettor shopping around for lines might be delighted to see the same favorite offered at -490 and enthusiastically back the team at those odds simply because those are the best odds available. However, if we removed the vig from -550 and +450, we'd see that the fair odds are actually -466 and +466. So, placing a wager at odds of -490 doesn't actually offer any value.
Handicap league bets are quite similar to the bets we've already talked about except you are now betting on a team's performance across the entire course of the season. Bets are made at the beginning of the season before the first game is played and are not paid out until the last game of the season has been played. Here is a screenshot of some handicap league bets on Premier League soccer.
If you are betting on a sport where there are multiple entrants, like in a race or tournament, you may find that every entrant is paying out at favorite odds. This is because it’s much more challenging to pick a winner from a large field, and the sportsbook will be rewarding you for that. Just know that when you see the plus sign, you will be getting paid better than even money for a correct pick.
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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.