The most famous historic example of this is Super Bowl III when the New York Jets stunned the football world and upset the Baltimore Colts. The Jets were 18-point underdogs, still the largest point spread in Super Bowl history. They won 16-7, and people wondered what the oddsmakers had been thinking. Noted oddsmaker Bob Martin was later asked if he was embarrassed making the Colts such huge favorites. He said he was not because in what was then one of the heaviest bet sporting events ever, his number drew a fairly even amount of bets on both sides. This guaranteed a profit for the house.
Like many high scoring sports, NFL wagering is dictated by the point spread. The spread, or line, is a type of side bet that equalizes the chance of winning a wager. The line offered for any given team will be accompanied with a – or + symbol to indicate whether a team is a favorite or an underdog. The example below displays the spread from the Sports Insights archives at the time of kickoff:
Some people refer to sportsbooks as a sanctuary; a place they can go where they do their best thinking and enjoy the games and atmosphere. Some people refer to them as utter chaos and other than placing their bets at one, do everything in their power to get out before the games actually start. Whether you are one side of the fence, or the other, as long as the sportsbooks have your money tied up with them, they have you right where they want you. Sportsbooks are here to stay, so I suggest getting used to all the chaos. Read More >>
That was all before Charles McNeil, a math teacher from Chicago, invented the concept of the point spread. An avid gambler, McNeil created what he called “wholesaling odds” and started his own bookmaking operation in the 1940s. He started out offering this new style of betting on football, but his business model grew to include basketball.  McNeil changed the way sports betting was done, and his legacy lives on today in what we now call the point spread.
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.

First, however, a word of caution: Sports betting can be a fun and profitable venture. However, like most good things in life there are pitfalls to be aware of. You should be able to enjoy many positive experiences as long as you bet in moderation and under control. We know you have heard this before but it definitely bears repeating: don’t bet money you can’t afford to lose, either emotionally or financially. If you or someone you know shows signs of compulsive gambling, one place to find help is Gamblers Anonymous.


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).
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.
If you bet on sporting events, you must be able to read odds and understand what they mean. Furthermore, you need to quickly calculate the potential winnings for different bets, especially if the odds are changing while the event unfolds. Odds tell you the likelihood that an event will occur (a team wins, a boxer makes it a certain round) and how much will be paid out if you win. There are, however, multiple ways to convey this information.
Once you understand how the NFL point spread works, you can make smarter choices when it comes to your NFL picks. The most important takeaway: It’s not you against the bookie. Think of NFL spread betting in terms of a marketplace, where customers tend to overvalue some teams and undervalue others. Figure out which teams those are, and you’ll find where the profit margin is.

As you can see above, the combined score for Superbowl XLV was 56, and since this line was offered at reduced juice, a wager on the over at 44.5 of only $105 would yield a profit of $100. This line closed at a high of 46 points at some books, demonstrating how the public, who tend to show a proclivity for high scoring games, can increase an O/U line.
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If you're an amateur bettor that's just starting out and are in desperate need of a quick betting terminology lesson, you've come to the right place. For starters, I would like to believe that you are starting out by picking teams that you believe will win the game outright. That would be known as a money line bet. If you are a bit more advanced then that, you would probably be looking at betting the "line" on a particular event. To some, this is known as the spread and that's completely fine, but if you ever come across a conversation involving the "line" this article will prepare you for what it actually means. Read More >>

For example, a negative value (-11.5) next to a team indicates that they are favored by that many points. So you must deduct 11.5 points from their score to determine if they won the game or not. On the other hand, a positive value on the same game (+11.5) means the underdog starts with an 11.5-point lead before the game even begins. In NFL betting, the favorite must win by 12 points or more to cover the NFL spread. The underdog is able to lose by 11 points and still cover the spread.

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