I’ve titled this Sports Betting For Dummies. It’s a tutorial for those who want to start betting on sports or those who want to gain a better understanding of some of the terminology and theory behind it. We’ve all been in the position of learning something new, so please don’t be embarrassed if you don’t grasp these concepts. Instead, contact me via the form at the bottom of this page, and I’ll help you in any way I can.
Odds are basically a way of leveling the playing field and in college football due to the fact that there are hundreds of mismatches per year the field really does need to be leveled. By utilizing odds in various ways bookmakers are attempting to get an equal number of wagers on each team. In doing so, they are able to ensure that they make cash no matter who wins.

Bookmaker's interest - In order to guarantee a profit for the house, a bookie needs to create even action on both sides of a particular game. In a perfect world the bookie would have 50 percent of the handle come in on the underdog and 50 percent on the favorite. This ensures that the sports books are guaranteed a profit because of the 10 percent commission or "vigorish" charged on most sports wagers. This is why there is "movement" on the point spread. If one side on a game is being bet more heavily, the bookie must move the number in order to attract interest on the other side in order to balance action.
Before I go on, let me clarify some terminology. Despite it being probably the most popular way to bet, there is no particular term for a bet against the spread. Many people call this a "straight bet." However, this term can also be used, and is printed on tickets for, money line bets, total bets, and any other bet involving just one game. For purposes of this page, I call such bets a "point spread" bet, and invite the rest of the world to adopt this terminology.
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 those that live outside the United States, this may look even more strange since -110 is in American odds format. In Decimal odds, which is common in Europe, -110 translates to 1.91 odds. I'm not going to dive into Decimal odds (or other formats) since this article is about American odds, but the Decimal system is pretty straightforward. The odds listed represent a bettor's total return for a winning wager as you simply multiply the odds by the amount you wish to risk. If someone risks $100 at 1.91 odds and win, they receive $91 plus their initial $100 risked ($91 + $100 = $191).
What's the difference between an oddsmaker and a bookie? A bookie's job is purely mechanical. He gets the line from Vegas or another source, offers bets at those odds, then collects money from the losers, pays out to the winners and keeps the vig. Oddsmakers don't actually take bets -- they study the games and set the lines. Bookies often adjust the spreads for their games, so they do a little oddsmaking, and oddsmakers work for casinos, which operate sports books that take bets.

This is different from a moneyline, where payouts can vary greatly because there is not point spread that is installed. It is simply picking the winner straight up. Therefore, a bet on the favorite would not profit as high as it would betting the spread since no points are given. Payouts on the point spread are not always the same, but they do not vary like a moneyline.

A lot of betting strategy is very complex, and it definitely helps to learn some of the more advanced concepts if you want to be truly successful. However, trying to get your head around complicated strategies is NOT the right approach as a beginner. There are several simple betting systems that are relatively easy to understand, and it makes much more sense to start with these. They're not guaranteed to bring immediate success, but they can be effective if used correctly.
Above, you can see several numbers to the right of both teams. These all represent the different lines that are available on the San Francisco vs. Los Angeles game. The first set of numbers for both teams is the point spread, the second set is the moneyline, and the third set is the over/under (a.k.a. totals). We'll explain each of these lines more in-depth below.
Sometimes with NFL odds you’ll see a spread posted as a whole number. Decimals or fractions are usually utilized to ensure there won’t be a tie. If in our example the spread was reset to 10 with the Colts favored and they win by 10, then the game is considered to be a tie, which in betting terms is called a push. If there is a push all bets are off and the sportsbooks return all wagers back to the bettors.
In an effort to have equal money on both sides of a wager, the sportsbook operator will move the point spread to attract money on the side that customers aren’t betting on. The odds for a point spread might change before the actual point spread. There are certain point spread numbers, like 3 and 7 in football, the sportsbook operators would like to avoid moving away from since they final score margin falls on these two numbers most often.

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.
It is also widely known as the over/under and, just like the point-spread myth, it is not Las Vegas' guess at how many points will be scored in the game by both teams combined. It's a number it feels will encourage just as many bets on the over as the under. If you picked the under 47.5, you want tough defense and the team running the ball to eat the clock. If you pick the over, you want offensive fireworks and long bombs for TDs. In totals betting, you are predicting whether the combined total score will be more than or less than the total.
If you'd rather not deal with point spreads, you can do a "Money Line" wager, which is whether the team/player you bet on wins or loses. You will see "Hawaii Tech +150 or Alaska Tech -140". This means if you bet on Hawaii Tech, if you bet $100, you would profit $150 (returns $250), while to win $100 on Alaska Tech, you must put up $140. Those ratios work whether you're betting $100, $10, or any other multiple of money.
If you’re going to bet on college football odds, it’s essential to understand each aspect of odds listing, including the rotation number, point spread, moneyline and over/under. You’ll often find different terms used to describe these with the rotation number called the number, point spread shortened to spread, moneyline to line and over/under simply called the total. These are all lumped together under the term odds.
As you can see above, the combined score for Superbowl XLV was 56, and since this line was offered at reduced juice, a wager on the over at 44.5 of only $105 would yield a profit of $100. This line closed at a high of 46 points at some books, demonstrating how the public, who tend to show a proclivity for high scoring games, can increase an O/U line.

If you’re going to bet on college football odds, it’s essential to understand each aspect of odds listing, including the rotation number, point spread, moneyline and over/under. You’ll often find different terms used to describe these with the rotation number called the number, point spread shortened to spread, moneyline to line and over/under simply called the total. These are all lumped together under the term odds.
Generally, the number next to the spread is “-110”. This is what’s known as the juice, vig or odds. The juice is a fraction of the wager taken from the bettor if the bet wins. In this instance, a winning wager of $110 will yield a profit of $100.The example above demonstrates that, although Indianapolis won the contest, Tennessee covered the spread by losing by less than nine points. An important aspect of sports betting is capturing the best line possible. A great way to achieve this is by shopping for the best line.
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!

Making money from betting on any sport requires an understanding of how the betting markets work, and an ability to use that knowledge to gain an advantage. No-one makes a consistent profit from simply following hunches or relying purely on statistics and trends. Sports handicapping is something that people often assume is very complicated, but the basics are actually relatively easy to grasp.
You'll also usually be given the option to wager on the game with the money line in football and basketball. In this case, all you have to do is pick the winner of the contest, but there's one drawback. If you bet on the team that's expected to win, you can find yourself risking much more money than you stand to win. Each team is assigned odds, much like in a horse race where a 2-1 favorite will pay out much less than a 15-1 longshot. This method also evens the playing field for bookies, sportsbooks and other gambling institutions.
Also known as NFL OVER/UNDER betting, the total is the number set by sportsbooks that estimates the total number of points scored by both teams combined. Bettors then must predict whether there will be more or fewer points than the NFL “total.” If you bet the 37.5 UNDER, you are hoping for a defensive battle and predicting the offenses to struggle. If you bet the 37.5 OVER, you are hoping this will be a high-scoring game.
×