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.

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.
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:
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:
In most cases, the favorite will be the team with a negative moneyline (in some cases both teams can have a negative moneyline if they are both closely matched). A line of -160 means that you would have to bet $160 to win your base amount of $100. A team with a moneyline of -130 wouldn't be favored nearly as strongly as a team with a moneyline of -330.
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.
Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned NFL spread? Not only does the point spread remain the king when it comes to wagering on pro football, it is a favorite among pro sports bettors and beginners alike. Also known as the line or spread and as betting “sides,” a common misconception is that sportsbooks set the spread as a predicted margin of victory. It’s actually the number oddsmakers predict would be a good balance between people who want to bet the underdog and those who want to bet the favorite.
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.
Simply, bigger returns. On a point spread bet you would usually have to spend $105 or $110 to win $100. If you bet on the moneyline you may instead only have to spend $50, or even less, to win $100. You won't win as often, of course, because the underdog not only has to cover the spread, but it actually has to win the game outright. Upsets happen, though, and good handicapping will often isolate situations where the likelihood of an upset exceeds the risk of the bet. This is especially relevant in the NBA because the number of games, and the possibility for even the best teams to have a bad night mean that major upsets are far from rare and can be very profitable.
If you bet on sporting events, you must be able to read odds and understand what they mean. Furthermore, you need to quickly calculate the potential winnings for different bets, especially if the odds are changing while the event unfolds. Odds tell you the likelihood that an event will occur (a team wins, a boxer makes it a certain round) and how much will be paid out if you win. There are, however, multiple ways to convey this information.
There are times when moneyline wagering is smarter than point-spread wagering and this is why moneylines are growing in popularity. Typically used in baseball and hockey, pro football moneylines are popular in Las Vegas for picking underdogs. The team you choose only has to win the game, not win by a certain number of runs or goals. The negative value still indicates the favorite (-150) and the positive value indicates the underdog (+130). It's easiest to picture the number 100 sitting in the middle of these two values. For example, if you want to pick a -150 favorite, you would risk $150 in order to win $100. On the underdog, you would risk $100 and win $130 if the underdog wins. It's a simple way to have the risk-reward scenario. In the right circumstance, where you have a small underdog, you can get a very similar bet by risking less and also get a bigger payout by going the moneyline route.
The positions of the four major American sports leagues (representing American football, baseball, basketball, and ice hockey) have become more complex since their decision to embrace daily fantasy sports (DFS) in 2014, which are described by those within the industry as "almost identical to a casino" in nature. With the contention by critics that such activities blur the lines between gambling and fantasy sports, the endorsement of all four major sports leagues and many individual franchises provided a marked contrast to their positions on betting.[43]
Winning a game in a professional sports league of any kind can be difficult for even the best teams. Very few teams have gone through a season undefeated (only NFL Teams) and even then, not every win is as easy as teams hoped they would be - even the margin of victory is sometimes too close for comfort. Unfortunately for bettors, teams don't care how they win or by how many runs, goals or points, as long as they win the game. Read More >>
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 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.
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These are just a very small selection of some props. Many bookmakers offer dozens of different options, particularly on high profile matches. Props are generally considered a fun type of bet rather than a way to make money, but it is possible to make consistent profits from them. We explain more about props on the following page, where we also offer some strategy advice.
The moneyline works differently. With this type of wager whichever team wins outright pays off. There is no spread. How does the line work? The favorite is listed with a minus sign and a number. That number is the amount of cash that must be bet in order to win $100. The underdog is posted with a plus sign in front of a number. The number is how much a sports bettor wins on a $100 wager.
Conversely, in most other countries financial spread betting income is considered taxable. For example, the Australian Tax Office issued a decision in March 2010 saying "Yes, the gains from financial spread betting are assessable income under section 6-5 or section 15-15 of the ITAA 1997".[6] Similarly, any losses on the spread betting contracts are deductible. This has resulted in a much lower interest in financial spread betting in those countries.
When reading college football odds, the first thing you will see on the left is the time and date of the game. Next, you’ll see two numbers and the team names. Each team is assigned a rotation number. These numbers are standard on all sportsbooks and do a few things. First, it creates a certain order for the games as each matchup is listed in numerical order. The other thing the number does is it allows bettors to refer to the game and team without having to mention the team name or anything else.
Since betting on point spreads in the NFL is the most popular bet that people make, it is probably pretty important that you know what you are doing. The point spreads in the NFL are always alot closer then college football because you are dealing with the best of the best. You will almost never see a team favored by more then two touchdowns in the NFL, and most of the NFL point spreads are less then one touchdown. So, here is are best try at helping you understand how to read point spreads in NFL games.
The odds given on the spread are usually -110 unless otherwise noted. It is not uncommon to see one side of the spread being -105, with the other side being -115. If you don’t see any odds listed for each side of NFL spreads you are supposed to assume the odds are -110 on each. Not sure how to read NFL betting odds? Check out our Sports Betting Odds guide.
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.
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 >>
The odds and lines for football games are not always the same at every bookmaker. They don't tend to vary by a lot, but they do vary. It's very much in your best interests to always try to place wagers where you can get the best value. A half point difference on a spread or a couple of points difference on the odds may not seem like a big deal, but over time these small differences can add up. By opening accounts with a few different sites, it's easy to shop around for the best odds and lines. This is one of the best ways to maximize potential profits.

NFL odds do not stop at the point spread and OVER/UNDER. There are numerous ways to bet on football these days, including the NFL moneyline, futures (odds to win the Super Bowl), and first-half and second-half betting lines. Throw in fun fantasy-style prop bets (will Tom Brady throw for 300+ yards this week) and live NFL betting (where you can wager on the next play and on odds that change all game long) and the importance of understanding how NFL odds work has never been greater. Check out the lines and bookmark for more updates and football lines enhancements in the coming weeks and months.
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