Sports Betting 101

This example applies to most sports but we used football as an example. 

  1. One way to bet is on the spread. The spread is the number sports books think a team will win/lose by. 
    • For example, if the Patriots are -3 (favored by three points) vs Broncos. Favored teams always have a minus in front and the underdogs have plus. This means the Patriots would have to win by three or more points for you to win. Conversely, Broncos can lose by three points and you would still win.
  2. Another way to bet is to go with the money line bet, meaning you bet on a team to win straight up, without a spread. This is beneficial if you think the underdog will win as the payouts are bigger. (The favorites are more likely to win so payouts are less).
    • For example, the Broncos are +140 money line bet, meaning they would have to win the game for you to win the bet. If you put $10 on them and they won, you would win $14.
    • Patriots are -160 favorites therefore the odds in a money line bet are not as good. If you put $10 on them, you would only win $6.
  3. Then there’s the under/over bet which means you are not betting on any specific team but the final score of the game.
    • Let’s say the Cardinals vs Panthers over/under is 48. If you take the over, you’re betting that the two teams will score at least 48 points. The under means you bet on them scoring less than 48 total.
  4. Another option to bet is a parlay, which is making two or more bets on a single ticket. Parlays have higher payouts because the likelihood of winning decreases with more bets put on a parlay card. Each bet must win for you to win your bet.
    • An example according to William Hill mobile betting app, if you put $10 on a four team parlay it would look like this: 
      • Broncos +3 (spread – can lose by three points and you still win)
      • Broncos/Patriots Over 44 (over/under – total score will consist of 44 points or more)
      • Cardinals +3 (spread – Cardinals can lose by three points and you still win)
      • Cardinals/Panthers Over 48 (over/under – total score will consist of 48 points or more)
      • If you win all four bets, your winnings would equal $118.35
  5. Last but certainly the most fun, is a proposition or prop bet. Prop bets are bets on individual things that will happen throughout the game. They are very popular during the Super Bowl. Here are some popular prop bets in Super Bowl:
    • Over/under of the length of the national anthem
    • Who will win the opening coin toss?
    • What color Gatorade dumped on the winning coach?
    • Will there be a safety in the game?
  6. A few last minute pointers
    • A push means you tie your bet and get the money you bet back. Say you bet over 44 for Patriots/Broncos and they score exactly 44. You will get your money back because they met the over points, but didn’t actually go over.
    • Backdoor means team score a meaningless points at the end of the game to cover a spread 
    • A sports book makes money by taking a cut of each bet, which typically is 10 cents on spreads and over/under. Therefore, if you wanted to bet $10 on the Broncos at +3 odds (win by three or more) would be -110. Which means you would need to put down $11 to make it even money
    • Lastly, the people who set the points on each game are smart and there’s a reason it's their job. They’re good at making the casino money. Enjoy it but gamble responsibly.


Want more? Here’s a guide to sports betting for newbies.