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.
If you want to bet on football, then you have plenty of options. There are not only lots of games you can bet on, there are also lots of different types of wagers you can place. Point spreads and totals are the most popular types, by quite a distance, and many football bettors stick solely to those. This isn't really the ideal approach, as some of the other wagers can be very useful in the right circumstances.
Sports betting is not just about being able to pick out the winner and loser of a game. Because of the various different bet types, there is a lot of different strategies that goes into how you approach them. Point spread bets are no different. One of the biggest tips we can offer is to make sure that you fully understand what you are betting on. A great pick is only great if you actually put your money behind it correctly. Thankfully, this guide should have you fully prepared for that.
One important assumption is that to be credited with a win, either team only needs to win by the minimum of the rules of the game, without regard to the margin of victory. This implies that teams in a winning position will not necessarily try to extend their margin—and more importantly, each team is only playing to win rather than to beat the point spread. This assumption does not necessarily hold in all situations. For example, at the end of a season, the total points scored by a team can affect future events such as playoff seeding and positioning for the amateur draft, and teams may "run up" the score in such situations. In virtually all sports, players and other on-field contributors are forbidden from being involved in sports betting and thus have no incentive to consider the point spread during play; any attempt to manipulate the outcome of a game for gambling purposes would be considered match fixing, and the penalty is typically a lifetime banishment from the sport, such is the lack of tolerance for gambling in sport.
This is different from a moneyline, where payouts can vary greatly because there is not point spread that is installed. It is simply picking the winner straight up. Therefore, a bet on the favorite would not profit as high as it would betting the spread since no points are given. Payouts on the point spread are not always the same, but they do not vary like a moneyline.
As we mentioned in the close of the last section, sportsbooks try their best to get the same amount of total money bet on both sides of a game. If they can accomplish this, then they are guaranteed to make a profit no matter who wins or loses the game. The way a sportsbook goes about doing this is by manipulating the point spread to make the less bet side more enticing.
‘Extra-Time’ wagers apply to 30 minutes of play according to the match officials, plus any added injury or stoppage time. However extra-time and penalty shoot-outs are not included. In ‘Extra-Time’ markets, wagers apply to the result during the extra-time period only. For the purposes of this market the score shall be deemed to be 0-0 at the start of the extra-time period.
We went into detail earlier about what causes moneylines to move. The better you can get about predicting when these movements will occur and in what direction, the more profitable you’re going to be as a sports bettor. If you find a bet that you like, but you predict it’s going to move more in your favor, you can intelligently wait to bet and lock up a potentially much more profitable opportunity.
If you bet $100 on the Magic, you would get $105 in return. If you bet $100 on the Mavericks, you would get $90.91 in return. You might be asking yourself why they aren’t paying out the same amount on both sides of the game. The reason is that the difference is the house rake. Sometimes referred to as the vig or the juice, this is the small percentage that the sportsbook takes off the top for facilitating the action. The percentage that the house takes will vary, and different sides of the bet will pay for it.
This is called line shopping and is an integral part of sports betting, especially with moneyline bets. Most good sports bettors will have accounts on lots of different sportsbooks so they can check the lines on every bet they are making. Whichever book has the best lines for them is where they’re going to place their bet. To be honest, with how easy it is to shop lines online, the only reason you wouldn’t is if you were too lazy and didn’t care enough about your bottom line.
If you were correct though but getting paid at the sportsbooks rate, you would lose the bet 55.6 times (-$5560) and win the bet 44.4 times (44.4 x $250 = $11,100). You would profit over $5,000 for betting on bets that you thought you were going to lose! This is finding value. Value bets are great as a part of a long term winning strategy and are the key to conquering the “simple” moneyline/win bets.
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.
You’ll see on the right-hand side of the teams a number with an “o” or a “u” before it. As you may have already gathered, the “o” stands for over and the “u” stands for under. Even though the over is on the Celtics line and the “u” is on the Mavericks line, it does not matter. They’re written that way for organizational sake and not because either bet is connected to either team. Remember, it only matters that the total score of the game is. One team can score all of the points, and you’ll still win your bet.
Jeff Gordon has been reporting and writing since 1977. His most recent work has appeared on websites such as eHow, GolfLink, Ask Men, Open Sports, Fox Sports and MSN. He has previously written for publications such as "The Sporting News" and "The Hockey News." He graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism in 1979 with a bachelor's degree.
We go in depth on this in the advanced guide on understanding value that we referenced earlier, but we will give you a brief intro on it here. If you’re able to calculate the percentage chance that you have to win in order to break even, and you can figure out the percentage chance that you think you’re going to win the bet, you can figure out very quickly if there is value.
The main goal for each sportsbook is to set the best line possible in order to create even action on both sides of the game. In a perfect world, the book would have 50 percent of the handle come in on the favorite and 50 percent of the action come in on the underdog. If this happens, the sportsbook would be guaranteed a profit because of the 10 percent vig they charge on most point spread wagers. When a book has serious one-sided action, they will attempt to counter that by moving the line in the direction that's taking the most money and try to entice bettors into betting on the other side.

The point spread is a handicap placed on one team for betting purposes only, it has no place in the game itself. It's designed to give both teams an equal chance at winning in the context of wagers. Think of it this way: If last season's Super Bowl champion was playing a basement-dweller team that hadn't won a game all year, that's a shoo-in bet. Of course, you're going to take the Super Bowl champs, and in all likelihood, you're going to win. What's the fun in that? Even your bragging rights would be next to nil.
As you might guess, you’re mainly going to see American odds in American sportsbooks. The other two formats are much more prominent in Europe and Asia. If you’re betting online, most sportsbooks give you the ability to change all of the odds on the site into the format that you prefer. No format is different regarding payouts; it’s just a different way of presenting the information.

When the point spread was invented in Chicago by Charles McNeil the money line took a backseat. When two unevenly matched teams played, the playing field was leveled by having the favorite give points (for example Chicago Bears –7) while the underdog got points (Minnesota Vikings +7). No matter which team the bettor took the bettor would always risk $110 to win $100. The extra $10 needed to win $100 is called the juice or the vig, it is basically the house’s or the bookie’s take. It’s 10-percent of the bet so it would take $33 to return $30 and $440 to return $400 etc. (winning bettors get the vig back).


To counteract this, the sportsbook decides by how many points they think the Mavericks will win. In this case, they think the Mavericks should win by 4 ½ points. On the same token, they think the Celtics should lose the game by 4 ½ points. 4 ½ points is known as the line or the spread. If you bet on the Mavericks with a spread bet, they have to win by MORE than 4 ½ points for you to win your bet. If they win by 5 points, you win. If they win by 20 points, you win. If they win by 4 points, you lose.
The -110 on either side is like paying a tax or commission to the sportsbook. Bettors would pay 10 percent (aka juice) to the sportsbook, which is essentially a fee for brokering the wager. So, the -110 indicates that a bettor must risk $110 to win $100. Some sportsbooks will even reduce the juice for you which means you can earn the same $100 payout but risk less money to do it.
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