Ideally, the lines I release will balance the action equally, so that the winners get paid out from the pockets of the losers and we take the vigorish. That’s an ideal that rarely happens – especially in sports without a pointspread, like NASCAR and golf. If Team A is getting too much action, I’ll move the line toward Team B to try to achieve that balance. My personal preference is to tweak the vig from –110 to –105 or +100 before taking the bigger step of moving the spread a half-point or more.
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.
As an illustration, let's look at Super Bowl futures. Sports books list each NFL team with corresponding odds to win the Super Bowl. For example, the Ravens may be 5-1, the Redskins 12-1, the Cardinals 100-1, etc. If you place $10 on the Redskins and they go on to win the Super Bowl, you collect $120 plus your $10 back for a total payoff of $130. It does not matter whether your team covers the point spread in the Super Bowl. For the purposes of future book betting, the team has to win only the Super Bowl.
If you place wagers on US sports, then chances are high that you've heard of point spreads. Here's how they work; if a game has Patriots -9.0 and Vikings +9.0, the Patriots are 9.0 point favorites and the Vikings are 9.0 point underdogs. Unless otherwise stated, no matter which team you bet on, you'll be required to risk $1.10 for each $1.00 you want to win. For Patriots bettors to prevail, they need their team to win by 10 or more points. A 9-point Patriot victory would be a push (a tie). For Vikings bettors to take home the victory, they need to either win the game or lose by less than 9 points.
Placing a point spread bet means gambling on how much a team will win or lose by. In our above example, the Cowboys are the favorite. How do we know that? The minus symbol in front of the point spread indicates that the bookmaker thinks the final score will have Dallas winning by 7.5 points or more. The underdog, in our example that’s the New York Giants, will always be indicated with a plus sign. If you wager on the Cowboys on the point spread, America’s Team will have to win by at least 8 points for your wager to pay off. Should the Cowboys win by less than 8 points, your bet is lost.
Another form of futures betting involves the over/under on the number of games a particular team will win in the regular season. This type of wager is typically found on pro football and major league baseball, and sometimes on pro basketball. For example, the over/under on the Yankees may be 93 wins. If the Yankees go on to win 94 or more games, the "over" is a winner. If they win 92 or fewer games, the "under" is a winner. If they win exactly 93, the bet is a push and tickets are refunded.
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.
In today's world, online shopping is all the rave. Sites like eBay and Amazon have taken the world by storm and people do whatever they can to avoid setting foot in a retail store. Unfortunately, there will be times where you receive your order and it's completely wrong or it looks nothing like you saw in the picture. Thankfully, you have the ability to get your money back and try again. To put that situation into sports betting context, let's talk about baseball. Baseball offers a unique bet called "listed pitchers" where your bet only goes live if the listed pitchers start the game. If not, just like Amazon, you will get a refund. Read More >>
For example: If it is universally believed that Alaska State is better than Hawaii Tech, a standard win/loss wager wouldn't work, since most likely people would bet more money on Alaska State. Therefore, the Sports Book could put the point spread on Alaska State at 6.5 points. This would mean if you bet on Alaska State, not only would they have to win the game, they'd have to win by at least 7 points to make you a winner, otherwise a ticket on Hawaii Tech, even though the team might have loss, would be a winner.
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.
Once you understand all the fundamentals of football betting, and have an account with a suitable gambling site, you're pretty much ready to go. There's still a lot more you need to know, but most of this can be learned as you go along. Indeed, learning as you go along is the best approach. Trying to become an expert before actually getting started is a futile exercise, as so much of what's involved only really starts to make sense once you have some real experience to draw on.
Let’s start with the basics: what do sports bettors mean when they talk about a ‘line?’ The word line, in the language of a sportsbook, can refer to either the odds and/or a point spread in any sports contest. Let’s take a look at an imaginary line the way you’d read it off the board sitting in a Vegas sports betting lounge or on the screen at your online book. Let’s imagine a game between the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys. Your book’s NFL betting line might look something like this:

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.


According to an article in The Times dated 10 April 2009, approximately 30,000 spread bet accounts were opened in the previous year, and that the largest study of gambling in the UK on behalf of the Gambling Commission found that serious problems developed in almost 15% of spread betters compared to 1% of other gambling.[7] A report from Cass Business School found that only 1 in 5 gamblers ends up a winner.[8] As noted in the report, this corresponds to the same ratio of successful gamblers in regular trading.[9] Evidence from spread betting firms themselves actually put this closer to being 1 in 10 traders as being profitable, with a high number of clients suffering from the volatility that is supposed to be one of the benefits of spread betting.[citation needed]
If you've never set foot in an actual sportsbook before or logged into an online sportsbook, the chances of you getting overwhelmed when you actually do is very high. In an actual Las Vegas sportsbook, there is typically a lot of commotion and the odds and lines are displayed on a massive digital board for everyone to see. When a novice sports bettor looks at the massive digital signage, they will see a bunch of numbers, both positive and negative, some two digits, some three digits. They also won't have a clue what any of it means. The same can be said for the online sportsbooks. It looks like a massive spreadsheet with negative and positive numbers beside each teams' name.
Last week, we went over how to read sports betting odds and covered the most common items you'll see on a betting board inside a sportsbook (or on your screen with your online sportsbook). These included point spreads and totals. When betting these choices, you will almost always see -110 listed with them. If you don't know what that means, don't worry - we're covering that today and it's not nearly as complicated as it looks. Whether you're brand new to betting, have placed some bets but have disregarded the -110, or live outside the United States and are unfamiliar with American odds, you'll be an expert in no time after reading.

Using the Patriots-Rams Super Bowl matchup as our example, the Patriots are listed by most sportsbooks as a 2.5-point favorite. The Patriots are listed at -2.5, while the Rams are listed at +2.5. If you bet on the Patriots to cover the spread and they win by three points or more, you win. If you bet on the Rams to cover the spread and they lost by less than three points or win the game, you win.
Oddsmakers want you to gamble on underdogs as well as favorites. They set points spreads that encourage balanced betting. They analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each team, factoring in won-loss record, strength of schedule, results against common foes, key injuries, recent performance and previous games between the teams. They also rate the value of home field advantage and consider the game day weather forecast where relevant. If they see heavy wagering on the favorite, they will increase the point spread during the week to spur more betting on the underdog. If more money is going on the underdog, the spread will decrease as game time nears.
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.
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