The most common way to bet football is against the pointspread (ATS), often called a side bet. This involves making a wager on either the favorite or the underdog. For example, Team A is a 7-point favorite (-7) against Team B, making Team B a 7-point underdog (+7). If you bet on Team A, it must win by more than seven points for you to win your bet. Conversely, if you bet on Team B, it must lose by less than seven points for you to win your bet. Of course, if Team B wins outright, you also win your bet. If Team A wins by exactly seven points, your bet pushes and your wager is refunded.
Once you understand how the NFL point spread works, you can make smarter choices when it comes to your NFL picks. The most important takeaway: It’s not you against the bookie. Think of NFL spread betting in terms of a marketplace, where customers tend to overvalue some teams and undervalue others. Figure out which teams those are, and you’ll find where the profit margin is.

Sports spread betting began in the United Kingdom in the late 1980s to offer an alternative form of sports wagering to traditional fixed odds, or fixed-risk, betting. With fixed odds betting, a gambler places a fixed-risk stake on stated fractional or decimal odds on the outcome of a sporting event that would give a known return for that outcome occurring or a known loss if that outcome doesn’t occur (the initial stake). With sports spread betting, gamblers are instead betting on whether a specified outcome in a sports event will end up being above or below a ‘spread’ offered by a sports spread betting firm, with profits or losses determined by how much above or below the spread the final outcome finishes at.

The most important takeaway is the actual pointspread, which is seven points in this example. The plus sign is always in front of the spread for the underdog and the minus sign is used to signify the favorite. Next to the pointspread in this example is (-110). This number reflects the actual commission (or juice) that the sportsbook is charging to book this bet. If you wager $100 on New England as the favorite and the Patriots go on to win my more than seven points, you would win $100. If they won by fewer than seven points or lost the game outright, you would owe this betting outlet $110. If New England wins by exactly seven points, the bet is considered to be a PUSH and no money exchanges hands. You only pay the 10 percent commission on losing bets.


Like many high scoring sports, NFL wagering is dictated by the point spread. The spread, or line, is a type of side bet that equalizes the chance of winning a wager. The line offered for any given team will be accompanied with a – or + symbol to indicate whether a team is a favorite or an underdog. The example below displays the spread from the Sports Insights archives at the time of kickoff:
This might be the most unlikely playoff matchup in NFL history. Why? Houston started the season 0-3 and Indianapolis began 1-5. Texans coach Bill O’Brien is probably fired if his team doesn’t win 37-34 in overtime at Indy in Week 4. The Colts won 24-21 in Houston in Week 14. The Texans claimed the AFC South title with Sunday’s 20-3 win over Jacksonville to reach the playoffs for the third time in the past four seasons. The Texans have won at least one postseason game in three of their four all-time trips.
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.
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For example, if you want to bet that -140 favorite, you’ll need to risk $140 in order to win $100. To bet on the +120 underdog we mentioned above, you’ll need to bet $100 to win $120 if the dog wins outright. In many cases, betting moneylines offers better value and can provide a bigger profit for less risk. Check out our NFL Betting Guide to learn more about when you should bet a moneyline instead of a point spread.
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.
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.
The wager is that the two teams will combine to score more or less than 43 points. If the total score is 43, then the wager is a push and you get your money back. It doesn’t matter which team scores the points. It could be 24-20 for either teams and “Over” wins the wager. Likewise, the final score could be Jets 45-0 (Yeah!) and the “Over” wins. On the flip side, the score can be 21-20 and the “Under” wins. Likewise, the Jets could win 42-0 (Yeah!) and the “Under” also wins.
When wagering against the spread, you bet on the team that will cover the betting line, and not necessarily win the game. Obviously by taking the favorite, a bettor believes that team will not only win the game, but also win the game by a certain number of points to cover the betting line. But when wagering on the underdog, that team does not necessarily have to win the game to cover the line. For examples of point spreads and how those bets are won, please keep reading below where we explain betting odds for the spread in detail.
A parlay basically combines several different wagers into one. For example, a parlay could be made up of five point spread wagers on five separate games. The payout for such a wager could be very attractive, but only if ALL the wagers were correct. Just one wrong pick would mean the whole wager failing. That's why these are considered quite risky. They're a bit more complex than the previous wagers mentioned, but we won't go into any more detail here. We do on the following page though.
In this example, we have a favorite to win, and an underdog. The Packers are the favorites, and that is shown by the (–) value in front of the 6. Underdogs are represented by the (+) value.  The 6 point value is how many points either team could win, or lose by. If you think the Packers will win by MORE than 6 points, then you’d bet on the favorite in this case, meaning that the Packers have to win by 7 or more points in order for you to win your bet.

A spread is a range of outcomes and the bet is whether the outcome will be above or below the spread. Spread betting has been a major growth market in the UK in recent years, with the number of gamblers heading towards one million.[1] Financial spread betting (see below) can carry a high level of risk if there is no "stop".[2] In the UK, spread betting is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority rather than the Gambling Commission.[3]
Like many high scoring sports, NFL wagering is dictated by the point spread. The spread, or line, is a type of side bet that equalizes the chance of winning a wager. The line offered for any given team will be accompanied with a – or + symbol to indicate whether a team is a favorite or an underdog. The example below displays the spread from the Sports Insights archives at the time of kickoff:
When you’re looking at over under bets, what you need to know is that that’s the combined score of the two teams for a game. In this case, it doesn’t matter who wins the game. All that matters is the final score. For example: let’s say that the New York Yankees are playing the Boston Red Sox and the total is 9.5. It doesn’t matter who wins the game but if the two teams combine for a total score of eight runs, say with a final score of Boston winning 5-3, then the game goes under. Or if the two teams combined for 10 runs – no matter who wins – then the game goes over. So when you’re looking at the odds and you see a total next to the moneyline or point spread, that tells you the over-under that is set for the game and you have to decide whether it will go over that set amount or under.
The divisional round of the NFL playoffs concludes on Sunday, and we’ll know which four teams have a chance to win Super Bowl LIII after two must-watch games. Tom Brady and the Patriots will try to earn their fourth consecutive AFC Championship berth, but is it finally Philip Rivers’ year? In the NFC, Nick Foles led the Eagles to a stunning upset of the Bears, but can the defending Super Bowl champions take down the No. 1 Saints?
Because the spread is intended to create an equal number of wagers on either side, the implied probability is 50% for both sides of the wager. To profit, the bookmaker must pay one side (or both sides) less than this notional amount. In practice, spreads may be perceived as slightly favoring one side, and bookmakers often revise their odds to manage their event risk.
The Packers were the designated home team for Super Bowl I, so they’re listed at the bottom. They were also the favorites in this game, representing the mighty NFL; the –14 you see above indicates that Green Bay was a 14-point favorite, meaning they had to win by more than 14 points to cover the spread. The Chiefs, representing the upstart AFL, were 14-point underdogs. If they had won the Super Bowl, or lost by fewer than 14 points, they would have covered instead. A Packers win of exactly 14 points would have resulted in an push, with all monies returned. In the end, Green Bay won the Super Bowl 35-10 and covered the spread.
The busiest season of the year in the sports book is upon us. Betting on football makes up more than half the money wagered on sports every year in Nevada. The Nevada Gaming Commission doesn’t break down the wager money by the level of football. However, it’s widely discussed that there’s more money wagered on the NFL than college football. Canadian and Arena football are really just available to pass the time for fans until the fall.
NFL point spread lines and odds differ from sportsbook to sportsbook so it is important to always try to line shop for the best prices and spread. Regularly betting into spread odds of -115 (1.87) or -110 (1.91) compared to -105 (1.95) can make a big difference come Super Bowl time to your bankroll, so to can getting on the right side of a spread number particularly where key point spread numbers like 3, 7 and 10 are concerned where a half point or full point can make the difference between a winning wager and a losing one. To give yourself the best opportunity with your NFL Spread Betting you need to obtain the best point spread line and at the best price and to do that effectively it is a good idea to have accounts with multiple sportsbooks.
If you want to predict what will happen when Team A meets Team B, your best stats to analyze are those generated in their most recent head-to-head matchups at the same venue. The habits of the betting public are fairly constant, so ATS results in general have a longer shelf life, but don’t bother going too far back in time. The 2009 New York Yankees are going to look a lot different than the 2008 Yankees or the 2000 Yankees. (Source: The Sports Bookie Blog)
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.
The Patriots are set to take on the Rams in the greatest show on turf and money has been flowing into both sides of the Super Bowl 53 point spread. The Patriots are -3 for SB LIII according to most legal online sportsbooks but some have them listed only at -2.5. The Rams and Patriots are both offensive minded, and capable of scoring quickly; therefore, the winner will likely be whoever scores last in the game (-180). There is still no discussion of whether the roof will be open or closed at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, so weather may or may not play a factor here. Either way, make sure to get in your bet on the spread for Super Bowl 53, whether you choose the Patriots or Rams, before the 6:30 EST kickoff on Sunday, February 3rd.
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.
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As you can see, understanding the -110 in sports betting is pretty basic once you realize what it represents. You can also apply this knowledge to other odds as well, such as the money line. This kind of bet is different because you are betting who will win the game straight-up, which causes the odds to be different for each game (instead of -110 for everything).
To achieve this balance, the book can move the spread and/or the juice at any time after the first lines hit the NFL odds board, all the way up until kick-off. If there had been too much action on the Packers at Super Bowl 1, the oddsmakers could have made Kansas City a 15-point underdog (+15), in order to encourage more people to bet on the Chiefs. They also could have kept the spread at 14 points and moved the juice, perhaps to –105 for Kansas City and -115 for Green Bay. You’ll often see the books adjust the juice first when the spread is three points; since so many NFL games end in a winning margin of three points (roughly one in six games), moving the spread from 3 to 3.5 points is a pretty big deal, and it might tilt the balance too far in the other direction.

As the numbers grow larger each way – the small numbers get smaller or the positive numbers get larger – that indicates that those options are bigger and bigger favorites, or bigger underdogs. That’s particularly relevant when you’re looking at something like the odds to win the Super Bowl. The teams with smaller numbers are deemed as having a better chance of winning and then as the numbers grow larger, those teams are deemed bigger and bigger longshots.


In June 2017, the Supreme Court of the United States announced that it would hear New Jersey's case, Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, in the fall of 2017, contradicting the position of the US Acting Solicitor General, Jeffrey Wall, who asked that the case not be heard in May 2017.[18] In September 2017, a poll conducted by the Washington Post and the University of Massachusetts Lowell shows 55% majority of adults in the U.S. approve of legalizing betting on pro sporting events.[19]
The spread on offer will refer to the betting firm’s prediction on the range of a final outcome for a particular occurrence in a sports event e.g. the total number of goals to be scored in a football match, the number of runs to be scored by a team in a cricket match or the number of lengths between the winner and second-placed finisher in a horse race.

This is a very common occurrence in sports betting and sportsbooks have the full right to shift the spread or odds for any given match prior to it starting. Many factors can influence a change of the spread such as injuries, the number of bets coming in for either team or the weather, to name a few. Depending on the timing of placing the bet, the bettor can also have an advantage or a disadvantage depending on which way the spread has shifted.
Donald Hoover, FDU professor in International School of Hospitality and Tourism Management and former casino executive commented on the results, "Betting on sports is not an uncommon practice for many New Jerseyans, but for the most part, the state doesn't supervise it, doesn't tax it and doesn't take any revenue from it."[12] In 2010 a national poll showed that voters opposed sports betting in all states by a margin of 53-39. Woolley commented on the results, "If some states allow sports betting and profit by it, other states will want to follow."[13] Yet by December 2011, after New Jersey passed its sports betting referendum, the national measure shifted to 42-42.[8] In January 2012, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed legislation allowing sports betting in the state after it was approved in a nonbinding voter referendum in 2011. He announced on May 24, 2012 that he planned to go ahead and set up a system of wagering at the state's racetracks and casinos that fall, before the National Football League season ended.[14]
For each NFL game the oddsmakers set a number of points in which the favored team is favored by. Bettors can then either choose for the favored team to win by more than the number of points set, or bet on the underdogs to lose by less than the number of points they are underdogs by or win the game straight up. For example, the spread could be set on the favored team at 6.5 points. This would mean in order for a bet on the favored team on the spread to win they would need to win by more than 6.5 points (7 or more) in order to win the bet. It also means that a bet on the underdog team would win if the underdogs lost by less than 6.5 points (6 or less) or won the game outright.
This is because bookmakers are in business to make a profit, so they effectively charge a commission for taking wagers. This commission is known as the vig, short for vigorish, and it's one of the ways that bookmakers stay profitable. They don't charge it just for points spreads and totals either, as it's built into the odds for every wager that they offer.
If both bets are correct you would win approximately 2.5 to 1. The odds for parlays are different at different sports books. If you make a parlay with 10 teams you might get paid around 70 to 1 or better depending on the sports book. Winning one game is difficult enough and parlays are very difficult to win. There’s a reason the payouts are so high.
Straight bet - Amid all the fancy and lucrative-looking bets that are available, never lose sight of the value in a standard straight bet. You probably should learn and practice this bet often before learning any others, and it should be noted that people who bet for a living or a large portion of their income place straight bets almost exclusively.

The first number (56.5 in our sample line) is the book’s predicted total score, while the second number (110 in our Giants/Cowboys rivalry game) is how much a punter has to bet in order to win $100. If you were to bet the over-under on this game, you’ll have to decide whether you think the combined score of both teams will be higher or lower than the number put up by the book. Let’s say you bet the over, assuming the game will be a shootout between two talented offenses, you’re hoping that the final score will be anything that totals 57 or more. It could be Dallas 54, New York 3, or any other point combination that adds up to 57 or more and your bet will win. Betting the under means that the two teams cannot score more than 56 points combined, or else you lose your bet.
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.
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.

Firstly you really need to understand the basics of what sports betting is all about, and what's involved with placing wagers. These basics are relatively straightforward, so thankfully it doesn't take long to get up to speed. It's definitely advisable to familiarize yourself with them though. Our beginner's guide to sports betting is the perfect resource for this. Here's a selection of some of the topics it covers.


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).
On June 11, 2018, New Jersey became the third state to legalize sports betting, after Nevada and Delaware, with Gov. Phil Murphy signing the legislation into law.[21][23] Sports betting in New Jersey began when a sportsbook opened at Monmouth Park Racetrack on June 14, 2018.[27] Following this, sportsbooks opened at the casinos in Atlantic City and at Meadowlands Racetrack.[28][29]
NFL point spread lines and odds differ from sportsbook to sportsbook so it is important to always try to line shop for the best prices and spread. Regularly betting into spread odds of -115 (1.87) or -110 (1.91) compared to -105 (1.95) can make a big difference come Super Bowl time to your bankroll, so to can getting on the right side of a spread number particularly where key point spread numbers like 3, 7 and 10 are concerned where a half point or full point can make the difference between a winning wager and a losing one. To give yourself the best opportunity with your NFL Spread Betting you need to obtain the best point spread line and at the best price and to do that effectively it is a good idea to have accounts with multiple sportsbooks.
When you bet on the money line, you are betting on one side to simply win. Any time you see a money line, the minus sign (-) indicates the favorite while the plus sign (+) indicates the underdog. For example: Chicago Bears –240 vs. Minnesota Vikings +210. Using $100 as the base, it will take $240 wagered on the Chicago Bears to win $100. For a bettor wagering on the underdog Minnesota Vikings in this scenario, $100 will win $210. With the money line you just have to hope your team wins rather than cover a point spread. Of course, the one downside is having to risk more money to return the same amount that a point spread bet would net you.

With the over/under or total, bets are being made on what the total score may be. In our example which features two solid defenses and good offenses, the total might be around 41. If OSU scores 24 and Wisconsin 20, the total would be 44 or over the 41. If the Buckeyes scored 21 and the Badgers 14, then the total would be 35 so the under would win. Once again sometimes, if the total is a whole number, the result may be a push. That results in all bets simply being returned.

Point Spread – This is the margin of victory for a game determined by the oddsmaker. Sportsbooks use this to create action on both teams. The favorite will have to win by more than the margin the oddsmakers set. If the Broncos are favored by 2.5 against the 49ers, they must win by 3 points or more for a win. If they only win by 2, they didn’t cover the spread and those who bet the 49ers will win.
There might be some movement when injury reports come out, but barring any kind of shocking news development (Tom Brady suspended for the game!), the line likely will not change all that much. The point spread is currently sitting at 2.5 points. I could see sportsbooks dipping into three points to level out the money on each side, but that might not happen until later next week after the teams are wrapping up their practice week. My prediction is the line settles at a field goal heading into kickoff.
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