If your sports betting experience consists mostly of office pools during March Madness or a casual wager between you and a friend while you watch the Super Bowl, the transition to serious sports betting means learning how to read betting lines. The biggest difference between making the kind of casual bets mentioned above and placing wagers with online sportsbooks or at brick-and-mortar bookshops is the use of sports betting lines. Casual wagers usually involve each person in the bet picking one team to win, then wagering an equal amount, say $20 or $30. Professional bookmakers, online sports betting exchanges, and sports betting facilities in casinos have a more complex system for offering wagers on sporting events, in part to ensure profit on the part of the book, and in part to present a standardized representation of odds.
The negative (-) sign indicates that the Cowboys are the favorites, while the positive (+) sign indicates that the New York Giants are the underdogs. With the spread set at 2.5 points, a bet on the Cowboys would mean that they would have to win by more than 2.5 points (3 or more) in order for you to win that bet. A bet on New York would mean that the Giants would have to either lose by 2.5 or less points (2 or less) or win the game outright in order for your bet to win.

Total: Also called the over/under, it is a number set by the sportsbooks that proposes a number of points that will be scored in the game by both teams combined. Then, fans predict whether there will be more points or less points than the ‘total.’ If you bet the under 41.5, you are hoping for a tough defensive battle with lots of running game. Pick the over, and presumably you feel this will be a high-scoring game. In short, you are predicting whether the combined total score will be more than (over) or less than (under) the total.
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