A point spread in sports is a figure set by oddsmakers to provide an advantage or disadvantage based on the margin of victory or defeat for a given team. The “favorite” team (labeled with a “-” sign) would be at the disadvantage as they would need to win the game by a set number of points while the “underdog” team (labeled with a “+” sign) would be given an advantage to not lose the game by a set number of points. The reason oddsmakers do this is to provide betting interest for both sides due to one team typically being better than the other.
The rule against gambling in baseball is known as "Rule 21," which is publicly posted on dugout walls and states: "Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever on any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible." People permanently banned from Major League Baseball are also forever banned from entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame, although most such people have been reinstated a few years later by a later Commissioner of Baseball. For instance, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays were both banned from baseball in 1983 after taking jobs as casino greeters (which would have expelled them from the Hall of Fame had it been allowed to stand); they were reinstated two years later. Only Rose has yet to be reinstated.
Odds for different outcomes in single bet are presented either in European format (decimal odds), UK format (fractional odds), or American format (moneyline odds). European format (decimal odds) are used in continental Europe, Canada, and Australia. They are the ratio of the full payout to the stake, in a decimal format. Decimal odds of 2.00 are an even bet. UK format (fractional odds) are used by British bookmakers. They are the ratio of the amount won to the stake - the solidus "/" is pronounced "to" for example 7/1 "seven to one". Fractional odds of 1/1 are an even bet. US format odds are the amount won on a 100 stake when positive and the stake needed to win 100 when negative. US odds of 100 are an even bet.
Anybody who wagers on the 49ers would need them to win by 7 points or more for a winning bet. Those betting on the Rams (+6.5) would need them to lose by 6 points or less (or win) for a winning wager. It's also worth mentioning that a half point is used in many point spreads (such as the -6.5/+6.5) to prevent pushes because no team can score half a point.
In 1919, the Chicago White Sox faced the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series. This series would go down as one of the biggest sports scandals of all time. As the story goes, professional gambler Joseph Sullivan paid eight members of the White Sox (Oscar Felsch, Arnold Gandil, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Fred McMullin, Charles Risberg, George Weaver, and Claude Williams) around 10,000 dollars each to fix the World Series. All eight players were banned from playing professional baseball for the rest of their lives.[56] Pete Rose, the all-time MLB leader in hits, was similarly banned from baseball in 1989 for betting on games while he was an MLB manager.
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.

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.

Marc grew up on the mean streets of the South Bronx. He's the rare combination of Yankees and Jets fan which explains his often contrarian point of view. He learned about gambling at a young age working down the street from a bookie who took action on anything from the mainstream sports to the last three digits of the purse for certain horse races. Yeah, that's a thing. Today Marc is a freelance writer and social media consultant which allows him to work anywhere there's a wifi signal. This allows him to work from the sportsbook at Red Rock Resort or the food court at The Venetian where you’ll find fast and free wifi. Writing about steak, booze, gambling and Las Vegas is a tough job but somebody has to do it.


As you can see, understanding the -110 in sports betting is pretty basic once you realize what it represents. You can also apply this knowledge to other odds as well, such as the money line. This kind of bet is different because you are betting who will win the game straight-up, which causes the odds to be different for each game (instead of -110 for everything).
Financial spread betting is a way to speculate on financial markets in the same way as trading a number of derivatives. In particular, the financial derivative Contract for difference (CFD) mirrors the spread bet in many ways. In fact, a number of financial derivative trading companies offer both financial spread bets and CFDs in parallel using the same trading platform.
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.

Let’s start with the basics: what do sports bettors mean when they talk about a ‘line?’ The word line, in the language of a sportsbook, can refer to either the odds and/or a point spread in any sports contest. Let’s take a look at an imaginary line the way you’d read it off the board sitting in a Vegas sports betting lounge or on the screen at your online book. Let’s imagine a game between the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys. Your book’s NFL betting line might look something like this:
Nothing says "summer" better than a trip to the racetrack and several ice-cold drinks while basking in the sun and skimming through the dailyracing program. Unfortunately, only a small amount of the betting public actually knows how to dissect the program properly which gives them a bit of an edge when it comes to placing their wagers. Most amateurs or leisure bettors stick to the simple bets like win, place or show despite the potential of a massive payout when playing the exotic bets. The exotic bet I will teach you about today is the popular trifecta bet, also known as a "triactor" at some tracks. Read More >>
Pools, cards, and parlays - A parlay is just a combination bet. Instead of making five separate bets on five different games, the bettor places a single parlay bet, hoping he or she can predict the outcome of all five games. If any one of the games is a loser, the entire parlay is a loser. The payout is better for parlays, because the odds of successfully picking multiple winners are much tougher to beat [ref]. Most people are familiar with parlays through office betting pools or football cards. If you've ever paid $5 to select your winners from a list of that week's football games (sometimes using the spread, sometimes using the straight scores) in hopes of winning the weekly prize, then you have made an informal parlay bet. Office pools don't usually involve actual bookies beyond the person who organizes the pool, and no one takes juice from the pool. All the money is distributed to the winner or winners.
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.
If you like favorites, you're going to be betting a lot to win a little. The money line will always be listed to the right of the point spread on the odds board in a sports book. In the above example, the money line would probably be Chicago -250 and Detroit +200. To bet Chicago simply to win, you must wager $250 to win $100, while a $100 bet on Detroit would pay $200 if the Lions come through.
To understand what a trifecta wheel is in horse racing and sports betting we first obviously need to understand what a trifecta is. Luckily, that's simple - a trifecta is a bet you can make where you bet on the horses that will finish first, second and third in a race. In order to have a winning bet you not only have to pick the correct three horses, but also correctly pick the order in which they will finish. Because it involves three horses the trifecta is more difficult to win than a win bet or an exacta, so it usually has a much more attractive payoff as a result. Read More >>

As already mentioned, there have been sports bets since the first sports events. There is evidence that bets were placed on the first Olympic Games in ancient Greece. The bet was placed on the winner of a race or the winner in wrestling. The more matches there were to the games, the more bets there were. The Romans made bets on almost everything that was possible. Among them also the bloody gladiator fights and chariot races. From the very beginning, fraud and manipulation were a means of winning a competition. The Roman Emperor Nero even bribed so much at the Olympic Games in his own country that he won in six different disciplines. One of them was the car race and that although he fell off the car, which normally leads to disqualification. The Olympic Games were then discontinued, but not the sports betting. In the last century there was again a time when sport, especially boxing and horse racing, fell into the hands of criminal gangs. The image of sports betting had to suffer a lot from this bad influence, also because Hollywood used the topic as the basis for many films, as a result of which perception in society drifted further into the negative.


Oftentimes you’ll see a point spread that has a half-point added to the number. Of course, there’s no such thing as half a point in a football game, so why do we so often see point spreads with a (.5) attached to the score? Sportsbooks do this to make sure there isn’t a chance of a push.  Let’s take another look at our game from above with the half point added.

Once you understand how odds in college football are expressed, you can use them to start to determine where your money should go. Be sure to see our college football odds page that connects you with the top sportsbooks on the Internet. The odds makers are trying to even out all bets. Your job is to determine on which side of the point spread, line or over/under it goes.
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.
If you like favorites, you're going to be betting a lot to win a little. The money line will always be listed to the right of the point spread on the odds board in a sports book. In the above example, the money line would probably be Chicago -250 and Detroit +200. To bet Chicago simply to win, you must wager $250 to win $100, while a $100 bet on Detroit would pay $200 if the Lions come through.
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.
Jeff Gordon has been reporting and writing since 1977. His most recent work has appeared on websites such as eHow, GolfLink, Ask Men, Open Sports, Fox Sports and MSN. He has previously written for publications such as "The Sporting News" and "The Hockey News." He graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism in 1979 with a bachelor's degree.
The -110 on either side is like paying a tax or commission to the sportsbook. Bettors would pay 10 percent (aka juice) to the sportsbook, which is essentially a fee for brokering the wager. So, the -110 indicates that a bettor must risk $110 to win $100. Some sportsbooks will even reduce the juice for you which means you can earn the same $100 payout but risk less money to do it.
Now for American Style Sports Odds. Typically, when you are betting on the point spread, as in topic #1 above, the odds are displayed or implied to be (-110), which is known as American Style odds. The American Style odds format is based on $100. When the number, is displayed as a negative number (-110), it indicates how much money you must risk to realize a profit of $100. In our scenario, you must wager $110 to win $100 profit. If you do, you will receive $210 when you cash in…the winning amount PLUS your initial wager amount.
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.
Ideally, the lines I release will balance the action equally, so that the winners get paid out from the pockets of the losers and we take the vigorish. That’s an ideal that rarely happens – especially in sports without a pointspread, like NASCAR and golf. If Team A is getting too much action, I’ll move the line toward Team B to try to achieve that balance. My personal preference is to tweak the vig from –110 to –105 or +100 before taking the bigger step of moving the spread a half-point or more.
If the Cowboys are 6-point favorites, their odds are -6. If the Giants are 6-point underdogs, their odds are +6. From the oddsmakers' perspective, the Giants are starting the game with a 6-0 lead, while from the Dallas side, the Cowboys are starting with a 0-6 deficit. If you bet on the Cowboys and they win 34-30, they failed to cover the spread by two points. If you bet on the Giants, they beat the spread by two points.
Marc grew up on the mean streets of the South Bronx. He's the rare combination of Yankees and Jets fan which explains his often contrarian point of view. He learned about gambling at a young age working down the street from a bookie who took action on anything from the mainstream sports to the last three digits of the purse for certain horse races. Yeah, that's a thing. Today Marc is a freelance writer and social media consultant which allows him to work anywhere there's a wifi signal. This allows him to work from the sportsbook at Red Rock Resort or the food court at The Venetian where you’ll find fast and free wifi. Writing about steak, booze, gambling and Las Vegas is a tough job but somebody has to do it.

Many novice bettors fail to understand the impact of home advantage when wagering on sport events. When looking at the board for potential wagers, these bettors tend to get excited and bet on lots of superior teams favored on the road against weaker opponents. The betting market is so much more advanced than this, and for the most part point spreads are always going to be 50/50 propositions.


In an effort to have equal money on both sides of a wager, the sportsbook operator will move the point spread to attract money on the side that customers aren’t betting on. The odds for a point spread might change before the actual point spread. There are certain point spread numbers, like 3 and 7 in football, the sportsbook operators would like to avoid moving away from since they final score margin falls on these two numbers most often.
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.

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.

Generally, the number next to the spread is “-110”. This is what’s known as the juice, vig or odds. The juice is a fraction of the wager taken from the bettor if the bet wins. In this instance, a winning wager of $110 will yield a profit of $100.The example above demonstrates that, although Indianapolis won the contest, Tennessee covered the spread by losing by less than nine points. An important aspect of sports betting is capturing the best line possible. A great way to achieve this is by shopping for the best line.


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.
We hope this short beginner’s guide to understanding and interpreting odds will give you the confidence to get out there and start making winning bets.  Our experts are here to help you on this journey, so do not hesitate to contact us with any questions you have about sports betting!  We have only scratched the surface on reading betting lines, but this is an excellent place to start.
A wager on the Giants on the spread does not mean that New York has to win the game in order for you to win cash. All the G-Men have to do is come within 8 points of the ‘boys, and you’re a winner. You determine a winning or losing point spread by adding or subtracting 7.5 from the final score, depending on which side you laid your bet. If you’re confident that New York will at least come within a touchdown of beating the Cowboys, or beating them outright, then you’d wager on the spread in favor of New York.
Nothing says "summer" better than a trip to the racetrack and several ice-cold drinks while basking in the sun and skimming through the dailyracing program. Unfortunately, only a small amount of the betting public actually knows how to dissect the program properly which gives them a bit of an edge when it comes to placing their wagers. Most amateurs or leisure bettors stick to the simple bets like win, place or show despite the potential of a massive payout when playing the exotic bets. The exotic bet I will teach you about today is the popular trifecta bet, also known as a "triactor" at some tracks. Read More >>
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.
×