Sports bettors place their wagers either legally, through a bookmaker/sportsbook, or illegally through privately run enterprises. The term "book" is a reference to the books used by wagebrokers to track wagers, payouts, and debts. Many legal sportsbooks are found online, operated over the Internet from jurisdictions separate from the clients they serve, usually to get around various gambling laws (such as the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 in the United States) in select markets, such as Las Vegas, Nevada, or on gambling cruises through self-serve kiosks. They take bets "up-front", meaning the bettor must pay the sportsbook before placing the bet. Illegal bookies, due to the nature of their business, can operate anywhere but only require money from losing bettors and don't require the wagered money up front, creating the possibility of debt to the bookie from the bettor. This creates a number of other criminal elements, thus furthering their illegality.
The bookmaker functions as a market maker for sports wagers, most of which have a binary outcome: a team either wins or loses. The bookmaker accepts both wagers, and maintains a spread (the vigorish) which will ensure a profit regardless of the outcome of the wager. The Federal Wire Act of 1961 was an attempt by the US government to prevent illegal bookmaking.[2] However, this Act does not apply to other types of online gambling.[3] The Supreme Court has not ruled on the meaning of the Federal Wire Act as it pertains to online gambling.
What may look like a jumble of words, numbers, and punctuation is actually a precise and easy-to-read breakdown of the various odds and point spread details your book is offering. Here is a breakdown of each unit of information given above. Once you understand each part of the jumbled details above, you’ll be able to read a sports betting line with confidence.
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:
Identify the favorite: Lines with a - before the number (i.e. -200) indicate the favorite. A -200 should be read as: "For every $200 wagered, I win $100." When there is a negative sign, the line should always be read with relation to 100. That does not mean you have to bet that much, it's just easiest to understand! When a + sign is present, just reverse the reading, always keeping reference to 100:
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.
You may have heard the term “covering the spread” or the phrase “betting against the spread.” This means that if the favorite team wins an event with the point spread taken into account or that the underdog team wins with additional points, they have covered the spread. If the Packers win that game by more than 7 points, they have covered the spread.
Many of the leading gambling bookmakers from the 1930s to the 1960s got their start during the prohibition era of the 1920s. They were often descendants of the influx of immigrants coming into the USA at this time. Although the common stereotype is that these bookies were of Italian descent, many leading bookies were of eastern European ancestry.[4]
A favorite (e.g. Patriots -280) on the money line works just like our bet price example above.  In our new example, the Patriots are listed at -280, meaning you would need to risk $280 for a return of $100 on them.  It follows that a winning bet on the Pats pays $100 (plus your initial investment of $280 back).  This added risk is why betting the spread is usually more popular, especially on favorites.
Here's an example: Imagine that using the money line above with the White Sox and the Astros, you want to win about $100. If you place your bet on the favored White Sox, you will pay the bookie $120. If you win, you get your $120 back, plus $100 in winnings. If you lose, the bookie keeps your $120 (technically, bookies collect on losing bets after the game most of the time, but for our example we'll assume the bet is prepaid). If you bet $100 on the Astros, you'll get $110 in winnings if they win, and only lose $100 if they lose.
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.

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 last number in the top two rows of our sports line example is known as the money line. If you’re not interested in betting on the point spread, you can wager on a team to win outright. The plus sign next to the underdog (in our case, the Giants) indicates how much money you’ll earn for every $100 you bet on the money line. Conversely, the minus sign next to the favorite’s line tells you how much you have to wager in order to win $100. In our example, a $100 wager on the Giants earns you $300 should they pull off the upset, while a bet of $405 on the Cowboys will net you an extra $100. Representing odds in units of $100 makes placing different size bets easy; if you want to bet $10 on the Giants, you stand to earn $30 if they win, while a $40.50 bet on the Cowboys will net you an additional $10.
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.
One way to make money from sports betting is to open an account at an online betting site and take advantage of their sign up bonus. This gives you extra money to wager with, and since point spreads are so straightforward, it can be relatively easy to meet the associated wagering requirements and still come out ahead. Repeating this process at multiple betting sites will maximize your potential returns! We just ask that you please stick with reputable sites, like any of the ones that we recommend.
There's a full-field wager, which resembles a line you'd see in a horse race. Jimmie Johnson would be 6-1 to win the race, meaning if you bet $1, you profit $6, meaning your ticket would be worth $7. There will be a pool of available participants, with the rest being put into a "field" category, giving you more individual chances to have a winning ticket, but typically with less unexpected winners.
While home field advantage may be a sports term, it can also be linked to your house, your route to work, or even a trip to a familiar grocery store. Think about this for a second. If you've ever hosted a party at your house, you know where everything is and you would have free reign to go into any cupboard, drawer or room you that you please. That would be an example of home-house advantage. If you've ever gone to an unfamiliar grocery store (maybe you weren't around town but you needed to make a pit stop), it is going to take you a while to find exactly what it is you are looking for. Read More >>
Parlays are wagers placed in combination with the spread, moneyline, and totals to increase the payout. A parlay is only a winner when ALL individual plays hit. A teaser is the same as parlay, except you put points down in your favor to help the bet come to fruition. For example, if the proposed line is -13 and you have a 6-point teaser, your new line is -7. A teaser may have reduced some of the risks of the parlay, but you still have to hit each individual play and the payout is reduced significantly. Many sportsbooks let you bet up to 15 times for one parlay, and if all wagers are at -110, that’s a payout of 16,306.94/1!
To understand what the "limit" means in sports betting, you need to think about the limit we follow every day in our life - the speed limit. Speed limits are set in place to ensure the safety of everyone driving on the road. If everyone does the same speed, the less likely it is for a crash to occur. If you go above the limit, you are putting others in danger, not only on the road in cars, but pedestrians as well. They are in place for a reason, which is to control the way people act. The same can be said with the limits set by a sportsbook. They are in place to reduce any potential damage the books may suffer and keep bettors under their control. Read More >>
The true purpose of a pointspread when it is released by any sportsbook is to try and attract an equal amount of betting action on either side of a matchup. If all the early money is flooding in on New England as the favorite with a seven point spread, the betting outlet handling this action is likely to move that betting spread to 7.5 points to try and attract some money towards Miami as the underdog.

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]
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.
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