*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 the bookmaker was only confident enough to give Seattle a field goal’s lead on the Patriots, it was clearly going to be a tight game. Oddsmakers aren’t often that wrong about flagship games like the Super Bowl. All things being equal, it’s likely the betting public would have taken the Seahawks to win the game and have been done with it. But throw in the point spread that gave the Patriots 2.5 points, and the proposition seems more equal.__

The team is now 6-1 since rookie Lamar Jackson, the former Heisman winner, took over as the starting quarterback. Jackson is only the fifth rookie quarterback in the Super Bowl era to win six of his team’s final seven games. Baltimore won at the Chargers in Week 16, 22-10. The Ravens defence completely dominated, holding L.A. to just 198 yards and forcing three turnovers. Our complete preview of this game can be read here.

*If you're seeing 15 or 25 instead of 15/1 or 25/1, you're seeing a decimal form of odds, as opposed to fractional. Multiplying your stake by decimal odds gives your total return, not your profit(which is total return -stake). To get to fractional from decimal, add 1. So 3/1 fractional = 4 decimal (just 4). 4/6 frac = (4/6+1) dec = 10/6 = 5/3, or 1.666, which is rounded to 1.67 by bookies. To go from decimal to fractional, subtract 1(which makes sense from profit = total return - stake) So 15 dec = 14/1 frac. 2.33... dec = 1.33/1, or 133/100.*

*The second number in our example (-110 for both teams) tells you how much you have to wager in order to win $100. It’s an easy way to calculate how much you’ll win if your bet pays off, presented in units of $100 at a time for simplicity’s sake. Most of the time, these two numbers will be the same, because oddsmakers want to set lines so that they get as much action on the underdog as on the favorite, guaranteeing them a profit. If a book gets a single bet of $110 (by a customer hoping to win $100) on the Cowboys and a single bet of $110 on the Giants, it will have taken in $220, but will only have to pay back $210 to whichever customer wins the bet. That’s a guaranteed profit of $10, and since sportsbooks take far more than a single bet in either direction, they stand to earn that seemingly small amount of profit many times over. The $10 difference between what you wager and what you win is known as juice or vig in the sports betting industry, and it’s the way books earn their bread and butter.*

*A point spread, or “the line,” is a number set by oddsmakers to give an advantage to one team and a disadvantage to another team based on the margin of victory or defeat for the two teams. The favorite team is giving up points for purposes of the wager, meaning they not only have to win, but they have to win by X amount of points. The underdog team is getting points for purposes of the wager, meaning they can still lose the game, but they must lose by less than X amount of points.*

`If bettors were quick to jump on the Atlanta line at +4.5 when it first came out, they would have a distinct advantage over those who waited closer to kick off and were stuck with +2.5. The opposite holds true for Carolina. Bettors that were quick to pull the trigger are now laying two more points than they would if they were patient and saw the line movement before making their move.`

`When betting off the board a calculation will be made according to the odds on each event in the parlay. You will win the same amount as if you bet each event separately and parlayed all winnings as you went. An exception is if every event you pick is at -110 odds, in which case predetermined nice round odds will be used. Except for a three-leg parlay, these preset odds are not as generous as if the calculation method were used. For this reason, it is a good idea to have at least one event in the parlay that isn't -110, which will force the calculation method to be used.`

^{Using an online sports betting site is far and away the best way to bet on football, or any sport for that matter. It's the most convenient and accessible option, and there are several other advantages too. Best of all, it's legal in the United States. There are some laws against online gambling in the US, but these mostly apply to companies and individuals providing gambling services. There's no law that states it's illegal to use a gambling site of any kind, so Americans are at liberty to place football bets online if they so choose. We've written the following page explaining things in more detail for those interested, or you can just keep reading for a quick guide to getting started online. }

_{Oddsmakers do more than pick the winners and losers of each game. They weigh myriad factors to determine which team is favored by how many points. They set an early point spread on each game, then adjust it up or down based on betting patterns. If the Dallas Cowboys are 6-point favorites over the New York Giants, they must win by seven or more points to pay off winning bets. If you wagered on the Giants, you win your bet if New York either beats Dallas outright or loses by five points or fewer. }

**Point spreads are used since most recreational bettors prefer to wager even money propositions. In the above example, if there was no point spread, only moneyline betting would exist. So, if odds makers are giving the New England Patriots a 73% chance of winning a game, then in order to take bets and still have a small profit margin, the bookmaker would have no choice but to require Patriot bettors to stake $3.00 or more for each $1.00 they want to win.**

**The level of the gambler’s profit or loss will be determined by the stake size selected for the bet, multiplied by the number of unit points above or below the gambler’s bet level. This reflects the fundamental difference between sports spread betting and fixed odds sports betting in that both the level of winnings and level of losses are not fixed and can end up being many multiples of the original stake size selected.**

There are many ways that you can bet on football and I will go over all of the different options below. The first and most common bet is the straight bet, which simply means the team wagered on must win by the point spread given at the time of the wager. Most of the time the odds on a straight bet is -110, which means for every $110 bet, you win a $100 back. An example of a straight bet is if the team you bet on is a 6 point (-6) favorite, also known as giving up 6 points. Then in order for you to win, the team taken in the wager must win by more than 6 points in order to collect your winnings. If they win by 6, then this will be called a push and your original bet will be refunded to you. You can also bet on the totals, which is also known as the over/under bet. The totals bet is The combined score of both teams for games wagered on, all totals pay out at -110, which is $110 dollar bet makes you $100, no matter if you bet on the over or the under. If the total score equals the line, then the bet is a push and you get your original bet back. Another type of bet is the money line bet. This bet is simply that team wagered on just has to win the game. The odds on these games vary depending on the disparity between the favorite and the underdog. You obviously will win more betting on the underdog; however there is a reason why these bets pay more because the odds of the underdog winning are decreased. Although betting the moneyline can sometimes return a big sum, it is wise to know that the bookmakers hold percentage is much larger than a typical straight bet on the side or total of a game. A classic straight wager on the point spread is almost always dealt at -110 on both sides which is 20 cents of vigorish. Compare that to a double digit favorite in college football with a money line of -600/+450 and you can see the extra 130 cents of vig added in.

This is where you simply wager on which team will win the game outright, no point spreads, no BS…just the straight up winner. Although this may appear to be easier, you will pay for it as the odds (payout) will reflect the lack of a point spread. If you wager on a favorite, then you will win less than with a point spread, but if you wager on the underdog…and win…you will receive and even greater win amount based on the higher risk taken.

**In most cases, the favorite will be the team with a negative moneyline (in some cases both teams can have a negative moneyline if they are both closely matched). A line of -160 means that you would have to bet $160 to win your base amount of $100. A team with a moneyline of -130 wouldn't be favored nearly as strongly as a team with a moneyline of -330.**

# When betting the point spread, there is almost always a winner and a loser. However, in some instances sportsbook decide to put out a whole number such as -3 for bettors to bet on. If the final score ends with a differential of three points - no matter who wins - the bet is considered a "push" and all money is refunded to both sides since neither team covered the 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.`

`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.`

### For reading the fraction odds, I strongly recommend converting them to a decimal. This will make figuring out your potential win much much easier! To do this, just like in 2nd grade, you take the first number and divide it by the second. So if your odds read 7/4, you simply divide (7) by (4), which equals 1.75. That is the decimal form odds, now you simply multiply (1.75) by whatever your wager amount is to figure out your potential profit. In this case, if you were to risk $100, then your potential win would be $175 profit if you are correct! Also, you will receive your initial bet amount of $100 as well, for a total of $275 in your hand.

But what if the basement-dweller team was spotted 24 points? That's the concept behind the point spread. When two teams meet on the football field or a basketball court, one team is typically better than the other. If all bettors had to do was to pick the winning team, everybody would simply wager on the best team and collect their money. Gambling institutions, sportsbooks, and bookies would soon go broke.

Odds for different outcomes in single bet are presented either in European format (decimal odds), UK format (fractional odds), or American format (moneyline odds). European format (decimal odds) are used in continental Europe, Canada, and Australia. They are the ratio of the full payout to the stake, in a decimal format. Decimal odds of 2.00 are an even bet. UK format (fractional odds) are used by British bookmakers. They are the ratio of the amount won to the stake - the solidus "/" is pronounced "to" for example 7/1 "seven to one". Fractional odds of 1/1 are an even bet. US format odds are the amount won on a 100 stake when positive and the stake needed to win 100 when negative. US odds of 100 are an even bet.

^{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. }

`The point spread will list one team in the negative and the other in the positive. (Unless neither team is favored, then they will be listed as EVEN or PICK). The club posted in the negative with a minus sign is favored and so the bookies take points away from them, which means that team must win by at least a certain number of points to cover the spread. The underdog will have a plus sign and will cover if they win outright or lose by less than the posted number.`

**The concept of betting on totals, or Over/Under (O/U), is quite simplistic. The bettor wagers on whether the TOTAL points scored in a game will fall over or under a pre-determined number set by the sportsbook. Much like the point spread, game totals can be swayed by public opinion. The example below, from the SI Archive, shows the opening totals line for Superbowl XLV:**

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.

**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.**

Anybody who wagers on the 49ers would need them to win by 7 points or more for a winning bet. Those betting on the Rams (+6.5) would need them to lose by 6 points or less (or win) for a winning wager. It's also worth mentioning that a half point is used in many point spreads (such as the -6.5/+6.5) to prevent pushes because no team can score half a point.

*Point Spread: The point spread remains the favorite way to wager on pro football, regardless of how many new forms of wagering come on stream. ItÂ’s called the line or spread and itÂ’s known as betting Â‘sides.Â’ The common misconception is that Las Vegas sets the spread as its best guess at the margin of victory. But really, it's a number they feel that is a perfect balance and will see an equal number of people to bet the underdog as on the favorite. A negative value like -6.5 means that team is favored by 6.5 points. So deduct 6.5 points from their total score. A positive value on the same game would be +6.5 (add 6.5 points to their final score) and would make that team an underdog of 6.5 points. The favorite must win by at least seven points to cover the spread. The underdog can lose by six points and still cover.*