Obviously, the first three letters on the top two lines of the three-line package of symbols represents a team in the game you’re wagering on; NYG stands for the New York Giants, while DAL stands for the Dallas Cowboys. The number next to each team’s name is known as the spread or the point spread. Wagers on the point spread are among the most popular sports wagers in the world. The reason this wager is popular is that it doesn’t matter which team wins or loses; what matters is the amount of points the teams score, and whether or not the team you place your money on beats the difference in points (the ‘spread’) or not.
There are several very important terms and phrases you need to know if you have your sights set on becoming a sports bettor who has even the slightest idea of what you are about to bet on. Doc's Sports "How To" section has you covered for everything you need to know, but this may be one of the most important phrases to know when betting on sports that use a point-spread. Sure, money line, juice, totals, covering the spread and bad beat are all important words and phrase to know, but "laying the points" is something the general public loves to do. Read More >>
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.

A listed odd with a + sign in front of it, such as the +120 in our example above, shows us how much money you would win on a $100 bet. Using the +120 odds, it shows us that a $100 bet on that outcome would pay out $120 in profits. Again this can easily be converted into smaller or larger size bets. A $10 bet on +120 odds would pay out $12 in profits.
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:
For beginning sports gamblers, moneylines (sometimes called money lines or American odds) can be confusing. Unlike point spreads, which are concerned with who wins and by how much, a moneyline is solely dependent upon who wins. Moneylines are used most commonly in low-scoring games like baseball or hockey, but they may also be used in boxing and other sports.

The spread - The point spread is used in high-scoring sports like football and basketball. It is basically a handicap used to make all games competitive in the eyes of bettors. The spread gives one team an advantage of a few points. Standard notation for the point spread shows the favored team first, followed by a negative number (the actual spread). The home team is shown in capital letters. So if Buffalo was playing against Green Bay in Green Bay, and they were favored to win by seven points, it would look like this:
Sports betting has resulted in a number of scandals in sport, affecting the integrity of sports events through various acts including point shaving (players affecting the score by missing shots), spot-fixing (a player action is fixed), bad calls from officials at key moments, and overall match fixing (the overall result of the event is fixed). Examples include the 1919 World Series, the alleged (and later admitted) illegal gambling of former MLB player Pete Rose, and former NBA referee Tim Donaghy.
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.
Essentially, a moneyline bet is a bet on which team is going to win the game. There is no point spread or other handicap for either team, so if you pick a team and it scores more points than the other team then you win. Obviously there has to be a catch, though, or the bet would be way too simple. The sportsbooks balance their risk by setting different prices on each team. You win a smaller amount than you bet if you pick the favorite, and you generally win more than you bet if you pick the underdog. The stronger the favorite the less you will win, and vice versa.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Most online sportsbooks will list their odds in what is called “American Odds”. There are a couple different versions of sports betting odds, but these American Odds are the most common odds used. Reading and understanding sports betting odds can bet a little confusing to beginners, so we have provided an example below using two NFL football teams:
Chicago is the NFC North champion for the first time since 2010, which was the franchise’s last trip to the playoffs. These franchises haven’t met in the playoffs since January 2002. They played in the 2017 regular season and the Eagles rolled to a 31-3 home victory. This Bears team is miles better than that one. Philly’s QB situation for this one is a bit unclear at the moment because Carson Wentz has missed the past three with a back injury and Nick Foles left Sunday’s win with a chest injury. Read our full betting preview of this Wild Card game here.
There are several very important terms and phrases you need to know if you have your sights set on becoming a sports bettor who has even the slightest idea of what you are about to bet on. Doc's Sports "How To" section has you covered for everything you need to know, but this may be one of the most important phrases to know when betting on sports that use a point-spread. Sure, money line, juice, totals, covering the spread and bad beat are all important words and phrase to know, but "laying the points" is something the general public loves to do. Read More >>
If the Cowboys are 6-point favorites, their odds are -6. If the Giants are 6-point underdogs, their odds are +6. From the oddsmakers' perspective, the Giants are starting the game with a 6-0 lead, while from the Dallas side, the Cowboys are starting with a 0-6 deficit. If you bet on the Cowboys and they win 34-30, they failed to cover the spread by two points. If you bet on the Giants, they beat the spread by two points.
The over/under in this example has been set at 42.5.  If you project the Jets and Patriots to combine to score more than 42.5 points, you would place a wager on the over.  If you think they will score less than 42.5 points, you would bet the under.  Let’s say the final score of this game is Patriots 27, Jets 24.  Which bet would lose and which bet would win?  The sum of all points scored is 27 + 24 = 51, so an over bet wins and an under bet loses.
In a different study released by FDU’s PublicMind in October 2011, results showed that New Jersey voters thought legalizing sports betting in New Jersey was a good idea. Half of New Jersey voters (52%) said that they approved the idea of legalizing sports betting at Atlantic City casinos and racetracks, 31% opposed it. In addition, there was a significant gender split: a majority of men approved of the idea by a wide margin (65-21), while only 39% of women approved and 41% opposed.[9] The October results were stable, reflecting an earlier poll in April 2011 where New Jersey voters approved the legalization of sports betting in the state by a margin of 53%-30%. However, nearly two-thirds (66%) of voters were not aware of the upcoming statewide referendum on the issue. Age proved to be a divide: voters between the ages 18 and 34 were more likely to approve of sports betting than were older voters. Dr. Woolley commented: "But... younger voters... are far less likely to vote than other voters... As always, a lot depends on who actually shows up to vote."[10]
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.
Who will win the next Super Bowl? You can place futures bets at any time on the upcoming Super Bowl champion. Oddsmakers set lines and change them throughout the entire season, depending on a team’s success or lack thereof. For example, a first-place team in October may be +300 to win the title. This means a $100 bet would pay out a $300 profit if they go on to win the title. However, a 1-8 team may be set at +2000, where a $100 wager would pay $2,000 as a long shot. They can be profitable and it’s always fun to predict the winner so early in the season. Be careful, though — wagering a large amount on an NFL futures bet ties up your money for a long time.
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