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.
Several additional states such as Louisiana, Connecticut, Mississippi,[30] Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, California, South Carolina, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Ohio, New York, and West Virginia,[31] began drafting bills to legalize sports betting soon after New Jersey and Delaware. Pennsylvania,[32] Rhode Island,[33] and West Virginia were able to pass legislation legalizing sports betting within their states.[34]
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.
As an example, let’s consider a matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and the Cincinnati Bengals. In our scenario, the Bengals are the home team, which means they will be listed last and the Colts, as the visitors, will be on the odds slip first. If Indy’s rotation number is 101, then Cincy’s rotation mark would be 102. When you place a bet live at a Vegas sportsbook or over the phone, you would say the number of the team on which you want to wager and not the name.

If you wanted to place a $10 wager on the USA at 2.40 you would simply need to multiply your $10 wager by the 2.40 odds (10 x 2.40) to find out that the payout is $24. It is important to realize that with decimal style odds it includes the amount you wagered, so to find out profits you would need to subtract your wager ($24 – $10) to find out your potential payout is $14 in profits.

Wagering on the NFL revolves around the point spread in which one team is designated the favorite and the other team is called the underdog. The NFL point spread sets a specific number of points that the favorite must win by in order for a person betting that particular team to win their wager. Lets use an example from last week's NFL slate to demonstrate the art of NFL point spreads. This past weekend the New England Patriots played the Seattle Seahawks. The Patriots were four point favorites in that game. So in your local newspaper, you might have seen something similar to this illustration.
Sports betting would be easy — or maybe just easier — if all that was required was to correctly pick the winning team. Gambling institutions, sportsbooks and bookies fall back on point spreads to make the process a little more difficult and to create the ultimate wagering challenge. You'll need a solid understanding of the point spread system if you hope to have a profitable season.

Have you ever skimmed through the baseball or hockey results and thought to yourself "wow the 'over' was the play of the night since it hit in 10 games?" If you have and are kicking yourself for not playing every one of those games, this Grand Salami bet is the bet for you. The Grand Salami is not a massive delicatessen but rather a bet in which you must correctly guess the 'over/under' of the total number of runs or goals produced in every single game combined on any one given day. Read More >>


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.

A point spread, or “the line,” is a number set by oddsmakers to give an advantage to one team and a disadvantage to another team based on the margin of victory or defeat for the two teams. The favorite team is giving up points for purposes of the wager, meaning they not only have to win, but they have to win by X amount of points. The underdog team is getting points for purposes of the wager, meaning they can still lose the game, but they must lose by less than X amount of points.
The Jets are favored by 7 points. When you wager on the Jets -7 points, they have to win by 8 or more for you to get paid. A win by exactly 7 points would be a push and you get your money back. If you wager on the Giants +7 points, you’ll need them to win or lose by 6 points or less to win your bet. The Giants can win the game and you’ll win the wager because they didn’t lose by 7 or more. A loss by exactly 7 points would be a push and you get your money back.
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.
This might be the most unlikely playoff matchup in NFL history. Why? Houston started the season 0-3 and Indianapolis began 1-5. Texans coach Bill O’Brien is probably fired if his team doesn’t win 37-34 in overtime at Indy in Week 4. The Colts won 24-21 in Houston in Week 14. The Texans claimed the AFC South title with Sunday’s 20-3 win over Jacksonville to reach the playoffs for the third time in the past four seasons. The Texans have won at least one postseason game in three of their four all-time trips.
Without a points handicap, it would not make sense to pay both sides of a wager the same amount when it's clear that not all teams are on equal footing. In fact, it is entirely possible for a team to lose the game in real-life but still win a bet if they only lose by less than a set number of points. Vice versa, a team can win a game, but lose the wager if they do not win by more points than what was predicted.
While the National Basketball Association (NBA) was once active in preventing sports betting law relaxation, current NBA Commissioner Adam Silver became the first major sports leader to break from previous administrative opposition to gambling. In 2014 he stated in a New York Times op-ed, "I believe that sports betting should be brought out of the underground and into the sunlight where it can be appropriately monitored and regulated."[44] In 2017, with support for legalization growing, he confirmed his belief that "legalized sports betting is inevitable".[45]
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:
How the point spread works - When two teams meet on the playing field or on the basketball court, one team is typically better than the other or in a more favorable position because of factors like playing at home. If all you had to do were pick the winning team in a game, everybody would simply wager on the best team or the home team in a even matchup and bypass all the lines and collect their winnings at a high rate.
For example, the Golden State money line above is listed at -340 odds. Using the same principles we just discussed, $340 needs to be bet in order to win $100. Again, this is just the bet to winnings ratio - $34 will win $10, $17 will win $5, $20 will win $5.88, etc. This may seem unfair at first but it is logical. The Warriors are by far the best team in the league and have a much better chance of winning the game. Therefore, sportsbooks even this out by placing the odds at a high price for bettors to win a little.

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.
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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