When wagering against the spread, you bet on the team that will cover the betting line, and not necessarily win the game. Obviously by taking the favorite, a bettor believes that team will not only win the game, but also win the game by a certain number of points to cover the betting line. But when wagering on the underdog, that team does not necessarily have to win the game to cover the line. For examples of point spreads and how those bets are won, please keep reading below where we explain betting odds for the spread in detail.
The divisional round of the NFL playoffs concludes on Sunday, and we’ll know which four teams have a chance to win Super Bowl LIII after two must-watch games. Tom Brady and the Patriots will try to earn their fourth consecutive AFC Championship berth, but is it finally Philip Rivers’ year? In the NFC, Nick Foles led the Eagles to a stunning upset of the Bears, but can the defending Super Bowl champions take down the No. 1 Saints?

All this means to someone betting on New England is that in order for them to win their wager the Patriots must win by more than four points. For another bettor placing his money on Seattle, the Seahawks must either win the game outright or lose by less than four points. If the outcome of the game were to be decided by exactly four points, it what result in what is called a “push” where both bettors would neither win or lose their wager.
The team that has the minus sign, which is the favorite, has points deducted from its final score, while the dog, with the plus sign, has points added. The favorite must beat the spread, which means they have to win by more than the negative number to pay off. The underdog pays off in two instances—if they win outright or if they lose by less than the spread.

Understand that negative odds indicate how much money your must spend to make $100. When betting on the favorite, you take less risk, and thus earn less. When betting on a favorite, the moneyline is the amount of money you need to spend to make $100 profit. In the previous example, in order to make $100 of profit betting for the Cowboys, you would need to spend $135. Like positive odds, you earn back your bet when winning.


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]
Here you can see that the Rams are +3.5, while the Cowboys are -3.5.  So for this example the Cowboys are 3.5 point favorites, while the Rams are underdogs of 3.5 points.  If you were to bet on St Louis you would need them to lose by 3 or fewer points or just win the game outright.  If you were to bet on Dallas you would need the Cowboys to win by 4 or more points.
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:
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:
Money Line: More common in baseball and hockey, pro football moneylines are growing in popularity. There is no spread, so your team just needs to win the game, not win by a certain number of points. The negative value means a favorite (-190) and a positive one indicates an underdog (+170). Picture the number 100 sitting in between these two values. Example: if you want to pick a -190 favorite, you must risk $190 in order to win $100. To back a +170 underdog, you put up $100 and win $170 if the dog wins. In some cases, betting moneylines is actually better value and can provide a bigger profit for less risk.
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