Hello! I'm Stephen and am the creator of Fast Break Bets. I'm a young Chicagoan with a huge passion for sports betting and analytics. My interest in betting started back in 2011, and I have been studying models and strategies ever since. Fast Break Bets launched in 2015 to primarily help others become a successful sports bettor and share my models' projections. So browse around, follow @FastBreakBets on Twitter, and feel free to ask me a question!
Here in this point spread example for the NFL, the Falcons are playing the Panthers. Atlanta has been set as a three-point favorite on the betting line. That means that for Atlanta to cover the spread that has been set, they will need to win by at least four points. And for Carolina to cover the point spread, they can do so with a loss by two points or less, or obviously a win straight up. If the Falcons win by exactly three points, the bet would result in a push with no payouts.
The general purpose of spread betting is to create an active market for both sides of a binary wager, even if the outcome of an event may appear prima facie to be biased towards one side or the other. In a sporting event a strong team may be matched up against a historically weaker team; almost every game has a favorite and an underdog. If the wager is simply "Will the favorite win?", more bets are likely to be made for the favorite, possibly to such an extent that there would be very few betters willing to take the underdog.
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.

As soon as time runs out on the Super Bowl game this year, there are odds available on who will win next year. Wagers on a future event are known as NFL futures. Oddsmakers adjust lines during the year, depending on the strength or weakness of teams, then offer wagers on each team to win. For example, a league's top team may be +150 to win the championship. That means a $100 wager would pay $150 profit. However, a poor team might be +3000, indicating it is not expected to win and a $100 wager would pay $3,000 as a huge longshot. They can be profitable but also take a long time to settle the bet.
That’s easy to understand because of the payouts. If a team is heavily favored, that means they’re perceived as having a better chance of winning. If that’s the case, then you would win less money betting on them. The opposite is true for the underdog: they’re deemed as having a smaller chance of winning, which means you would get a bigger payout if you bet on them (and they won).
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.
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.
It’s common knowledge among bettors that the online gambling industry pays close attention to Las Vegas Sports Consultants, a private company that handles the odds for casinos and newspapers. But the totals I set have to reflect our customers’ preferences for betting the over or under on certain teams in certain situations. Also, because LVSC lines are published early, I have to keep on top of injuries and potential changes in coaching strategy leading up to the game in question before I release any totals. This is doubly important in basketball, where pace determines how many shots will be taken in 48 minutes.
Sportsbooks also offer wagering on the total or Over/Under – the cumulative number of points scored by both teams in a game. You can bet on if the final score will go either Over or Under that set total. For example, in a game pitting Team A vs. Team B, the total is 48. A wager on Over wins if the total points scored exceeds 48, and a wager on Under wins if the total points scored falls below 48. If the total lands on 48, it’s a push and wagers are refunded.

The -110 listed is the actual odds given for these bets, and the odds determine how much you win based on the amount of your wager. This is why the odds are often called the price of a bet. When you see -110 odds, you need to bet $110 to win $100. Of course, you don't need to literally bet $110; that is just the ratio of the amount bet to the amount won. You can bet $11 to win $10, $20 to win $18.18, etc.
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.
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