Placing a point spread bet means gambling on how much a team will win or lose by. In our above example, the Cowboys are the favorite. How do we know that? The minus symbol in front of the point spread indicates that the bookmaker thinks the final score will have Dallas winning by 7.5 points or more. The underdog, in our example that’s the New York Giants, will always be indicated with a plus sign. If you wager on the Cowboys on the point spread, America’s Team will have to win by at least 8 points for your wager to pay off. Should the Cowboys win by less than 8 points, your bet is lost.
One of the biggest factors you will see change the moneyline odds is the news media. The news does a great job of sensationalizing stories as well as reporting changes that may or may not have an effect on an upcoming game. Recreational bettors have a tendency to overreact to news stories, especially ones that pull on the heartstrings. This can create some really awesome betting opportunities for you to jump on. Expert bettors and sportsbook executives always say that if you can be on the opposite side of the general public on a bet, you’re probably in a good spot.
The last number in the top two rows of our sports line example is known as the money line. If you’re not interested in betting on the point spread, you can wager on a team to win outright. The plus sign next to the underdog (in our case, the Giants) indicates how much money you’ll earn for every $100 you bet on the money line. Conversely, the minus sign next to the favorite’s line tells you how much you have to wager in order to win $100. In our example, a $100 wager on the Giants earns you $300 should they pull off the upset, while a bet of $405 on the Cowboys will net you an extra $100. Representing odds in units of $100 makes placing different size bets easy; if you want to bet $10 on the Giants, you stand to earn $30 if they win, while a $40.50 bet on the Cowboys will net you an additional $10.
As we mentioned, moneyline/win bets take into account who the favorites and who the underdogs are and will pay out winning bets accordingly. Here’s a quick example that will make this clear. Imagine that Mike Tyson (one of the greatest boxers of all time) is going to fight against an 80-year-old man. If the sportsbook let you bet on either side of the fight and paid you the same, would that be fair?
Oftentimes you’ll see a point spread that has a half-point added to the number. Of course, there’s no such thing as half a point in a football game, so why do we so often see point spreads with a (.5) attached to the score? Sportsbooks do this to make sure there isn’t a chance of a push. Let’s take another look at our game from above with the half point added.