The first part of each line tells you who you are betting on. The first line is a bet on Mike Tyson and the second line is a bet on Old Man River. Next, you’ll see a plus or a minus sign. The plus sign signifies the fighter who is an underdog, and the minus sign signifies the fighter who is the favorite. As you can see, Mike Tyson is the favorite and Old Man River is the underdog.
Betting against the spread or ATS, as it's known in the sports betting industry, is among the toughest bets to turn a profit in over the long run. When looking at a team's record, the only thing that matters to them is winning the game outright and moving up in the regular-season standings. Teams like Golden State or the New England Patriots are generally always among the best teams in the league (straight up) but are typically a bad bet to make ATS. The reason for this is because the better the team is, the more public attention they draw and the higher the point spread is. Sportsbook know which teams the public darlings are and as such inflate the spreads in order to take advantage of how overvalued the public makes them. A team like the Patriots could go 14-2 every season but they could be a dismal 7-9 or 6-10 against the spread because they are laying more than 10 points in every game.

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.
If you want to predict what will happen when Team A meets Team B, your best stats to analyze are those generated in their most recent head-to-head matchups at the same venue. The habits of the betting public are fairly constant, so ATS results in general have a longer shelf life, but don’t bother going too far back in time. The 2009 New York Yankees are going to look a lot different than the 2008 Yankees or the 2000 Yankees. (Source: The Sports Bookie Blog)
Straight bet - Amid all the fancy and lucrative-looking bets that are available, never lose sight of the value in a standard straight bet. You probably should learn and practice this bet often before learning any others, and it should be noted that people who bet for a living or a large portion of their income place straight bets almost exclusively.
This is because different bookmakers and betting sites price up games differently. So the odds they offer are not always the same. Remember the Packers versus Cardinals game we showed earlier as an example? We used the actual odds from a real betting site for that example. The following odds were also available for the same game, from various other sites.
If the public comes out and bets really hard on one side, the line is going to move a lot making the odds worse on that side and a lot better on the other side. If you’re planning to bet against the public, you should wait to bet until the line moves as far as you think it is going to. Be careful, though, if you wait too long and some big money bettors bet, they can move the line back.
This means that the people betting the big bucks are going to end up shifting the line considerably. A lot of times, you will see a moneyline released, and then it will quickly shift. Usually, this is a skilled big bettor taking advantage of what they think is an opportunity. Ideally, you’ll want to jump on bets before these skilled bettors get ahold of it.
One of the main reasons that sports bettors like to bet is the action and excitement of winning and losing. Many sports bettors would rather take the risk of winning or losing than having the option of pushing (a tie) on their bets. For this reason, many sportsbooks offer what are called no draw handicap match bets. These are bets on an individual match that are designed so that there is never going to be a tie. In the standard handicap bet examples we used above, you saw that all of the bet options were in whole numbers. This allows for there to be draws.

Having set the point spread, this is the point where the gambling public can influence the line. You might have noticed that a line five days before a game might look very different to the line an hour before the kickoff. Barring some major line-up changes due to injuries or suspensions, the line will most likely be moved by weight of money. If the majority of money is coming in on one side of the point spread, the book will move the line to make the bet a little less attractive, which will help them level the book up somewhat.
Notice that point spreads adjust the score for the favorite team. This is easiest to see with an example: If the New York Knicks are playing the Boston Celtics, and Boston is favored to win by a 4-point spread, then a bet on Boston only pays out if Boston wins by more than 4 points. A bet on New York pays out if New York wins or if they lose by less than 4 points.
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.
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.

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.


NFL games are popular moneyline games because the specific outcomes can sometimes be difficult to predict for casual players.  Moneyline games are also profitable when they win, which is one reason why the NFL is a favorite among sports gamblers.  An example of a money line is: New York Giants (-120) vs. New Orleans Saints (+130).  In this game, a bet of $120 on the Giants is necessary to win $100, while a bet of $100 would win $130 in the case of a Saints win.  The team with the minus sign is the favorite and indicates how much a player must put down in order to win $100.  The team with the plus sign is the underdog and indicates how much a player would win for a bet of $100.

There is no such thing as a half point in sports, but there is in sports betting!  The half point ensures that a side will win and that the match will not end in a push, where the spread equals the actual difference in points between the two teams.  In a push all bettors get their money back, which is no good for the oddsmaker!  Half points also give oddsmakers more control over lines, allowing them to set more specific values.
Understanding NFL betting lines is just the first step towards making profits with football wagering. Once you've got the basics down, it's important to continue learning sports betting strategy to improve your long-term chances of winning. If you're able to win more than 52.4% of the time, you'll be well on your way towards being a profitable NFL bettor.
The betting public as a whole is not very smart. There is a reason it is such a lucrative business to be in for the sportsbooks. The public loves to bet popular teams, great story lines, and trends that don't have a lot of merits. If you think that the public is going to bet a lot and shift the line more in your favor, just wait. In these situations, the worst that might happen is the line doesn't move, and you then take the bet right before the game at the original line that you still thought had value. Yes, there is a possibility of the point spread moving the other direction. If this happens, you just don't make a bet on this game and wait for the next one.
Buying points: Changing the point spread in order to favor your chances of winning. The odds here are proportionally lowered. Buying points allows the option of moving the point-spread on totals in your favor when betting on football or basketball (college and pro). You’re able to move the line up to 2 points. For every ½ point you want to buy, you must risk 10% (10 cents) in extra juice (except when buying on/off of a 3 in NFL).
A wager on the Giants on the spread does not mean that New York has to win the game in order for you to win cash. All the G-Men have to do is come within 8 points of the ‘boys, and you’re a winner. You determine a winning or losing point spread by adding or subtracting 7.5 from the final score, depending on which side you laid your bet. If you’re confident that New York will at least come within a touchdown of beating the Cowboys, or beating them outright, then you’d wager on the spread in favor of New York.
Especially in major tournaments, some sports books offer odds on unusual golf propositions, such as the over/under on the winning score, the over/under on the lowest round by any golfer or the over/under on the finishing position by a particular golfer. For example, the over/under on Woods' finishing position may be 3 1/2. If he finishes first, second or third in the tournament, the "under" wins; if he finishes fourth or worse, the "over" tickets cash.
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