Since more people wager on football than any other sports it’s usually the easiest game to figure out how to bet. If you don’t know what to do, you can probably ask anyone in the sports book for instructions. The people visiting the casino might not know everything but they can give you the basics. Here’s a fairly thorough look at the different ways you can wager on football in Las Vegas.
Even if you’re brand-new to betting on football, you’ve probably seen NFL spreads published in the paper or talked about on TV. The point spread levels the playing field, making betting on either the favorite or the underdog equally attractive. Either the favorite has to win by the margin listed, or the underdog has a buffer to lose the game by that margin, or win it outright.
Pools, cards, and parlays - A parlay is just a combination bet. Instead of making five separate bets on five different games, the bettor places a single parlay bet, hoping he or she can predict the outcome of all five games. If any one of the games is a loser, the entire parlay is a loser. The payout is better for parlays, because the odds of successfully picking multiple winners are much tougher to beat [ref]. Most people are familiar with parlays through office betting pools or football cards. If you've ever paid $5 to select your winners from a list of that week's football games (sometimes using the spread, sometimes using the straight scores) in hopes of winning the weekly prize, then you have made an informal parlay bet. Office pools don't usually involve actual bookies beyond the person who organizes the pool, and no one takes juice from the pool. All the money is distributed to the winner or winners.

The basic principle of point spreads and totals is that you have roughly a 50% chance of winning, so technically a "fair" return on these types of wagers should be equal to the amount staked. However, they are usually priced up by bookmakers at odds of -110 (1.91 in decimal odds format, 10/11 in fractional odds format), which means for every $110 staked you stand to win $100. You don't have to stake as much as $110 of course, but the point is that a successful wager will only return 90% of the amount staked (plus the initial stake of course).
As an illustration, let's look at Super Bowl futures. Sports books list each NFL team with corresponding odds to win the Super Bowl. For example, the Ravens may be 5-1, the Redskins 12-1, the Cardinals 100-1, etc. If you place $10 on the Redskins and they go on to win the Super Bowl, you collect $120 plus your $10 back for a total payoff of $130. It does not matter whether your team covers the point spread in the Super Bowl. For the purposes of future book betting, the team has to win only the Super Bowl.
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.
The NFL spread (betting point spreads is also known as betting ‘sides’ since you are picking one side to win the game) acknowledges that not all teams are created equal. If they were, we wouldn’t need NFL point spreads at all – teams would be so evenly matched that every game was a toss-up (or a pick em in football parlance). Simply picking the winner would be enough of a challenge.

You may often notice that the spread is sometimes set at an even number such as 3, 6 , 10, etc. In this case if the favored team won by the exact amount set for the spread the bet would be pushed, and all bets would be returned. For example, if the Patriots were 3 point favorites and they won by a FG (3 points) than this would results in a push, meaning no matter which side you bet on you would get your money returned to you.
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.
A point spread (or line) is a tool used by sportsbooks to attract wagers on both sides of a game. The line is most commonly used in football and basketball games. Because it’s rare for two teams in a pro sports game to be completely evenly-matched, one team will have an advantage, another will be seen as the underdog. The point spread is the handicap offered to the underdog to level the playing field, so to speak.

A favorite (e.g. Patriots -280) on the money line works just like our bet price example above.  In our new example, the Patriots are listed at -280, meaning you would need to risk $280 for a return of $100 on them.  It follows that a winning bet on the Pats pays $100 (plus your initial investment of $280 back).  This added risk is why betting the spread is usually more popular, especially on favorites.
Proposition bets are wagers made on a very specific outcome of a match not related to the final score, usually of a statistical nature. Examples include predicting the number of goals a star player scores in an association football match, betting whether a player will run for a certain number of yards in an American football game, or wagering that a baseball player on one team will accumulate more hits than another player on the opposing team.
Last week, we went over how to read sports betting odds and covered the most common items you'll see on a betting board inside a sportsbook (or on your screen with your online sportsbook). These included point spreads and totals. When betting these choices, you will almost always see -110 listed with them. If you don't know what that means, don't worry - we're covering that today and it's not nearly as complicated as it looks. Whether you're brand new to betting, have placed some bets but have disregarded the -110, or live outside the United States and are unfamiliar with American odds, you'll be an expert in no time after reading.

For all the talk of new forms of wagering, the good old point spread remains the bet of choice for most NFL fans. Also known as the line or spread, the myth is that Las Vegas sets the point spread as its predicted margin of victory for one team. In reality, it's a number chosen by oddsmakers that will encourage an equal number of people to wager on the underdog as on the favorite. The negative value (-3.5) indicates that team is favored by 3.5 points. The positive value (+3.5) indicates that team is the underdog by 3.5 points. Betting on the favorite means the team must win by at least four points to cover the point spread. The underdog team can lose by three points and still cover the spread. You will also notice a moneyline value associated with the point spread (such as -3.5, -115). This indicates how much you must risk in order to book the bet (also known as the vig or juice). It means you have to risk $115 to win $100. The underdog may see a value such as +3.5, +105. This means you risk $100 to win $105 if your team covers the spread. The spread is not a static number, so you will notice line moves during the week. Team A may be favored by 3 points on Tuesday and by 4.5 points on Friday. This indicates more people are betting on them, so Las Vegas increases the underdog value hoping to encourage more wagers on the underdog.


Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned NFL spread? Not only does the point spread remain the king when it comes to wagering on pro football, it is a favorite among pro sports bettors and beginners alike. Also known as the line or spread and as betting “sides,” a common misconception is that sportsbooks set the spread as a predicted margin of victory. It’s actually the number oddsmakers predict would be a good balance between people who want to bet the underdog and those who want to bet the favorite.
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