If your sports betting experience consists mostly of office pools during March Madness or a casual wager between you and a friend while you watch the Super Bowl, the transition to serious sports betting means learning how to read betting lines. The biggest difference between making the kind of casual bets mentioned above and placing wagers with online sportsbooks or at brick-and-mortar bookshops is the use of sports betting lines. Casual wagers usually involve each person in the bet picking one team to win, then wagering an equal amount, say $20 or $30. Professional bookmakers, online sports betting exchanges, and sports betting facilities in casinos have a more complex system for offering wagers on sporting events, in part to ensure profit on the part of the book, and in part to present a standardized representation of odds.
Sometimes a line will move far enough to create a “middle” opportunity. Say the Texas Longhorns end up facing the Wisconsin Badgers in the first round of March Madness. If you have Texas early as a 5-point favorite, and I move the line to Texas –7 later in the week, then you can also place a bet on Wisconsin +7. If Texas happens to win by six points, both your bets cash in. Texas winning by either five or seven gives you a win and a push. Any other result creates a win and a loss, so you’re only risking the vigorish.
For UK spread betting firms, any final outcome that finishes in the middle of the spread will result in profits from both sides of the book as both buyers and sellers will have ended up making unit point losses. So in the example above, if the cricket team ended up scoring 345 runs both buyers at 350 and sellers at 340 would have ended up with losses of five unit points multiplied by their stake.
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.

The point spread, which is sometimes referred to as the “handicap”, is the number of points taken from the favorite, or given to the underdog, in order to open up the chances of either team winning the wager evenly. In most games, there’s usually a team that is more likely to win, based on a number of statistical factors. If the only kind of wager available was on who would win between a very strong team and a poor team, it wouldn’t be all that exciting. The point spread was designed to make betting much more interesting, since it allows a bet on the losing team to win you money. How? Let’s break down an example:
While most football fans have seen a point spread before, not everyone understands how they work. There’s a common misconception that the oddsmakers are trying to outsmart their customers by posting the spread and getting people to bet on the wrong side. At the same time, many bettors think that their goal is to “beat the bookie.” This is false; as mentioned, the sportsbook is incentivized to keep the action on either team as balanced as possible, in order to limit exposure.
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.
Future wagers. While all sports wagers are by definition on future events, bets listed as "futures" generally have a long-term horizon measured in weeks or months; for example, a bet that a certain NFL team will win the Super Bowl for the upcoming season. Such a bet must be made before the season starts in September, and winning bets will not pay off until the conclusion of the Super Bowl in January or February (although many of the losing bets will be clear well before then and can be closed out by the book). Odds for such a bet generally are expressed in a ratio of units paid to unit wagered. The team wagered upon might be 50-1 to win the Super Bowl, which means that the bet will pay 50 times the amount wagered if the team does so. In general, most sports books will prefer this type of wager due to the low win-probability, and also the longer period of time in which the house holds the player's money while the bet is pending.
You’ll need to know how the rotation number, point spread, moneyline and over/under are used and what each means. Each of these terms may be called by another name. The rotation number if often referred to as the number or the rotation mark, moneyline becomes line, point spread is called the spread, and over/under becomes the total. When you come down to it, these are the major terms that can be lumped under the heading odds.

So the sportsbooks and bookies created a point spread to make both teams equally attractive in the eyes of bettors. Carolina was installed as a 6-point favorite, which is commonly written as Carolina -6. Denver, the underdog, is commonly written as Denver +6. In other words, Denver would be credited with whatever points they actually scored — plus six. If you bet the favorite, the Panthers would have to win by 7 points or more for you to win your wager. And remember, the Panthers are favored by 6 points, so we have to subtract 6 points from their final score for betting purposes.
As always, beware of sites offering paid or free NFL betting picks in connection with a varying unit betting system. If you are using their pro football betting picks to gamble on NFL football games, you might consider that some of these sites are providing money tips which are likely to drain your NFL sportsbook account. Earning gambling profits long term takes discipline to know there is always another game to bet on. Most free sports pick sites don't understand that it requires more than winning football predictions to earn a living betting on sports. So for anyone living in an area where NFL gambling is legal, keep in mind that relying on "bet the house" free NFL picks could seriously reduce your NFL betting success.