top of page

Betting 101

Sports betting can be intimidating! We get it.  There are many options when it comes to oddsmaking but the key is understanding the odds used by bookmakers in order to be successful.

Using this understanding of odds and how they work, in conjunction with the proper strategy, can be a powerful strategy in winning big.  Read below the common betting 101 strategies that can help you win in the long run. 

Bet Type

1. Point Spreads


A handicap that adds or subtracts to a team's score to make betting even on both sides.


Dolphins +7/Packers -7 (-110)


Pick a side. If betting on the Packers they would need to win by more than 7. Winning by exactly 7 would be a push.

Bet Type

2. Moneylines


Straight wager, no point spreads


Giants +250/Packers -300 


If the Giants win the game, every $100 bet will win $250 + your original $100 principle bet.

Bet Type

3. Totals


A bet on the total score of the game (Over/Under)


Seahawks/49ers 49.5 o/u (-110)


Pick your side, if betting the over, the total score would need to be over 49.5 (or 50)

Bet Type

4. Parlays


Combination of several bets 


Packers +250 +

Dolphins +330


The pack and phins would both need to win for you to collect.

Bet Type

5. Futures


A bet far into the future


Patriots +1100 to win the AFC Championship


The Patriots would need to win the AFC Championship.

Point Spreads

Even non-bettors are familiar with the term “point spread”, as spread betting is one of the most popular forms of football wagering. Sometimes referred to as “the line”, point spreads are used to represent the predicted margin of victory, and oddsmakers attempt to set a line that will get an equal number of bets on each side.


In the world of sports betting, a negative value next to a team means that they are favored in the matchup and the bettor is being asked to subtract the negative number, or spread, from the final score to determine if the team still out scored their opponent after the point spread was deducted.


If so, then the favorite team “covers the spread” and any bets on them would pay out as a winner. If the margin of victory is less than the spread, than the underdog “covers the spread” as they managed to stay within the suggested margin of victory.


Occasionally a matchup will end where the final score is tied once the spread has been deducted, and sportsbooks commonly refer to this as a “push”. In these situations, neither team covers the football point spread and all wagers are refunded given that neither side managed to beat the line.


To better explain the concept of NFL point spreads, lets imagine the Dallas Cowboys are -3.5 favorites over the Philadelphia Eagles. Knowing that if the favorite is listed at -3.5, bettors now know that the underdog would have a line of +3.5, or “will they lose by fewer than 3.5 total points?”


If the final score saw the Cowboys win with a score of 24-20, one could quickly subtract the 3.5 points from their score line to give us 20.5-20, meaning that they covered the spread. Had the final score ended as 23-20, the Cowboys would have failed to cover the spread, as the margin of victory was less than the predicted line.


NFL point spreads often use half points to avoid situations where pushes occur, and spreads in 3 point and 7 point range are extremely common given that those values represent the points associated with a touchdown or field goal.


When shopping for point spreads on an NFL odds board, bettors will notice a number next to the actual spread, which is used to reflect the payout associated with a winning bet. Also known as the “juice” or “vig”, this indicates the how much needs to be wagered to win a specific amount.


For the sake of simplicity, lets think of calculating payouts in terms of $100. A point spread of -3.5 (-115) would mean that the favored team has to win by a margin great there than 3.5 points, and the minus sign next to the 115 tells us what we would need to risk to net $100 in profit, in this case $115.


A spread of -3.5 (+105) works slightly differently, as the plus sign represents what a $100 wager would payout, and in this example a bettor could expect a $105 payout for placing a winning $100 wager.


As mentioned earlier, oddsmakers attempt to keep a balanced amount of money on each side of the spread, and when an influx of bets comes in on a particular side the line will move in hopes of restoring balance on the action. These line moves can be particularly helpful to sharp bettors who are more interested in shopping for an extra half point or more, and experienced bettors can identify which line moves are due to public pushes or sharp action.

Money Line Bets

A moneyline bet simply ask a bettor to predict which team will ultimately win the matchup, and a line similar to the one used to calculate point spread payouts is used to identify the favorite and the NFL odds associated with their chance of coming out on top.


Much like point spreads, the minus sign identifies the favorite and the plus symbol is used to represent the underdog in the event. Also, just as we saw when calculating payouts, a minus symbol means that the number listed is how much must be wagered to profit $100 (-180 means $180 must be bet to win $100). A plus sign tells us the amount a $100 bet will yield in winnings when backing the dog (+250 means that a $100 bet will pay out $250 plus return the initial $100 bet).


When looking to back an underdog, the moneyline can often prove to be more profitable than betting the spread, so learning to understand how to read football odds and calculate payouts is a necessary skill for any bettors looking to maximize their chances of the largest return possible.

Total Bets

Totals bets ask the bettor to decide if the combined final score will fall over or under the line listed on the NFL odds board. While the most popular form of wagering on totals involves betting on the full game, online sportsbooks also offer over/unders for the 1st half, 2nd half, individual quarters and periods, as well as individual team totals.


NFL total betting has grown in popularity, especially in situations where factors such as weather can become a factor and suggest a certain type of play. If the forecast calls for rain or high winds, teams might look to run the ball more than normal, leading to a lower scoring game.

Parlay Bets

A parlay or combo bet is a single bet that will link together two or more individual bets and is dependent on all of those wagers winning together. If any bets in the parlay lose, the entire parlay loses. Higher risk and reward. 


NFL Futures betting involves predicting which teams will either win the Super Bowl, the division or even the individual conference. These NFL odds are often released long before the season gets underway and requires the entire season to play out before the final result is determined.


Super Bowl odds are commonly released moments after the previous Super Bowl champion is crowned, but divisional and conference odds tend to trickle out later as offseason moves become clearer. Given that these are all season long bets, many of these markets will remain open as long as the winner is still undecided, but the lines will move to reflect and increase or decrease in a team’s chances to win the market in question.


Another popular form of futures betting involves NFL Win Totals, where bettors are asked to bet the over/under on how many victories a particular team will have over the course of the regular season. NFL odds for win total markets work the same as total markets, with a single number set, and the bettor simply predicting if the team will over perform or fall below the bar set by sportsbook oddsmakers.

Prop Bet

NFL odds are also available for a variety of propositional options, such as total yards or touchdowns to be recorded by the team or an individual player. Sports bettors will find NFL odds available for over/unders for quarterback passing yards, wide receiver receptions, total field goals, and much more depending on where they shop.

bottom of page