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.
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.
The point spread is essentially a handicap towards the underdog. The wager becomes "Will the favorite win by more than the point spread?" The point spread can be moved to any level to create an equal number of participants on each side of the wager. This allows a bookmaker to act as a market maker by accepting wagers on both sides of the spread. The bookmaker charges a commission, or vigorish, and acts as the counterparty for each participant. As long as the total amount wagered on each side is roughly equal, the bookmaker is unconcerned with the actual outcome; profits instead come from the commissions.
We hope this short beginner’s guide to understanding and interpreting odds will give you the confidence to get out there and start making winning bets. Our experts are here to help you on this journey, so do not hesitate to contact us with any questions you have about sports betting! We have only scratched the surface on reading betting lines, but this is an excellent place to start.
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.
Since betting on point spreads in the NFL is the most popular bet that people make, it is probably pretty important that you know what you are doing. The point spreads in the NFL are always alot closer then college football because you are dealing with the best of the best. You will almost never see a team favored by more then two touchdowns in the NFL, and most of the NFL point spreads are less then one touchdown. So, here is are best try at helping you understand how to read point spreads in NFL games.
Once you understand how odds in college football are expressed, you can use them to start to determine where your money should go. Be sure to see our college football odds page that connects you with the top sportsbooks on the Internet. The odds makers are trying to even out all bets. Your job is to determine on which side of the point spread, line or over/under it goes.
As always, beware of sites offering paid or free NFL betting picks in connection with a varying unit betting system. If you are using their pro football betting picks to gamble on NFL football games, you might consider that some of these sites are providing money tips which are likely to drain your NFL sportsbook account. Earning gambling profits long term takes discipline to know there is always another game to bet on. Most free sports pick sites don't understand that it requires more than winning football predictions to earn a living betting on sports. So for anyone living in an area where NFL gambling is legal, keep in mind that relying on "bet the house" free NFL picks could seriously reduce your NFL betting success.