The WagerTalk Guide to Football Betting

How to Read Football Odds and Win Money

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Football Betting: Getting Started

Wagering on college and pro football has never been easier and more enjoyable for the casual bettor. The olden days of having two options – a winner and the over-under – are in the past. Most oddsmakers are now providing wagering options on everything from the first quarter spread, to the quarterback's passing yards, to the player that scores that game's first touchdown. Here are a handful of helpful tips for first-time football bettors:

  • Timing: Most ticket writers and sports book employees love talking with first-time bettors... Just not at noon on a Saturday or Sunday. Plan your visit accordingly.
  • Apps: If the sports book that you are visiting has an app, get familiar with it before you go. You'll have a head-start on what types of bets they offer.
  • Cash: Sports books are a cash-only operation. You don't want to wait in line, then make your bets at the counter only to realize you don't have any cash on you. It happens more than you think.

Terminology You Need to Know

Juice (or Vig) – It's how the sports books keep their lights on, the charge for making your bet. When making an individual bet on a football game, most sports books set the juice at -110. That means that you need to lay $110 to win $100 (collect $210). You need to lay $11 to win $10 (collect $21).

Push – Your wager ended in a tie. If you bet on a 7-point favorite and they won the game by seven, you're getting your initial wager back. If you bet on the game going over 40 points and it finished 23-17, you're getting your initial wager back.

Future Wager – Betting on a long-term event. Future wagers can be team-related, such as winning a division, conference, or league championship. Or, they could be for an individual to win an MVP award, lead the league in passing, etc.

Parlay – A parlay is a multi-wager bet that requires all of the legs to win in order for you to cash your ticket. The more teams you include, the more money you can potentially win.

Teaser – A teaser is a special kind of parlay where the bettor gets assistance on the point spread for a decreased payout. The most common football teaser is a 6-point, two-team teaser. The bettor selects two teams, and gets six points added or subtracted from each of their point spreads. If you are looking at a 3-point underdog, a 6-point teaser would now give them nine points in the game. If you are looking at an 8-point favorite, a 6-point teaser would now require them to win the game by more than two points instead of eight. Each leg of the teaser has to hit in order for the ticket to cash.

The Hook – Winning or losing your bet by a half-point. In football, games finishing with a final margin of 3 or 7 are most common. If you bet on an underdog at +3.5 and they lose the game by three points, you won your bet “by the hook.” Conversely, if you bet on a favorite -7.5 and they only win by seven points, you lost “by the hook.”

How to Read Football Betting Odds

When looking to bet on a football game, there are four key pieces of information that you need to focus on: The rotation number, the point spread, the total, and the moneyline.

The rotation number is a 3-digit number that you'll see in front of the team names. Ticket writers speak in numbers, not team names. They rely on that rotation number to eliminate all confusion between themselves and the bettor. Know the rotation number of the game that you are interested in betting.

Football Betting 101 Point Spreads and Odds

The point spread: When looking at the odds board, the favorite will be displayed with a minus sign in front of the spread. That is the number of points that team has to win the game by in order to cover the spread. You won't see a number for the other team, the underdog, because it's understood that they are receiving the same number of points. The underdog can lose the game, as long as it's not by more than the points they are being given.

The total: You can wager on the “over” or the “under” in regards to how many total points will be scored in the contest between both teams.

The moneyline: Moneyline bets are displayed on a $100 scale, with the favorite having a minus displayed in front of their number, and the underdog having a plus in front. Betting on the moneyline means that your team just needs to win the game. There are no point spreads involved.

Spreads and Football Betting

The point spread is the great equalizer. Who would want to bet on a football game between the best team in the league and the worst? The outcome gets a lot more interesting when you give the bad team a 20-point head start. Betting on the favorite with the point spread requires that team to win the contest by a certain amount of points. Betting on the underdog with the point spread will allow that team to lose the contest, as long as it's not by more than the posted number.

What Does Over/Under Mean in Football Betting?

You are wagering on how many total points both teams will score in the contest. College football totals can range anywhere from the upper 30's through the low 80's. Pro football totals are a lot more stable. Pro football totals are typically in the mid-to-upper 40's. You are placing a wager on whether or not the total points scored between both teams in the contest will go “over” or “under” that number.

The Moneyline in Football Betting

Some casual bettors don't want to worry about the point spread or the over-under, they just want to pick a winner. Betting on the moneyline means you're just picking the winner of the game, with no point spread or other factors involved. Since there is no point spread involved, betting on the favorite requires you to bet more to win a desired amount on the moneyline. Conversely, betting on an underdog on the moneyline will earn a larger profit.

If you are looking to play the favorite on the moneyline, the number that you see is the amount that you need to lay in order to win $100. If you are betting on a -200 favorite, you need to lay $200 to profit $100, and you would collect $300. If you are betting on the underdog, the number that you see is the amount that you would win off a $100 bet. If you are looking to play a +175 underdog on the moneyline, you would lay $100 to profit $175 and collect $275. Again, there are no point spreads involved, you are simply picking the winner of the game.

Parlay Bets in Football

A parlay is a multi-wager bet that requires all of the legs to win in order for you to cash your ticket. The more teams you include, the more money you can potentially win. But if any of your selections fail to win or cover the point spread, your ticket is toast. Each oddsmaker has their own individual rules for what events can and cannot be parlayed, so make sure that you are familiar with your book's house rules.

Football Betting FAQs

What does against the spread mean in football?
How do football betting cards work?
What is the moneyline in football betting?
What does against the spread mean in football?

Betting on the favorite with the point spread requires that team to win the contest by a certain amount of points. Betting on the underdog with the point spread will allow that team to lose the contest, as long as it's not by more than the posted number.

How do football betting cards work?

Some sports books offer pre-made teaser and parlay cards that you can fill out prior to getting to the betting window. The most common type of these betting cards is the half-point parlay card. Each game is assigned a half-point spread (i.e. -3.5, -7.5, etc.) to prevent ties. Bettors can choose to wager on as many games as they'd like, usually up to 15 selections depending on the provider. The more games that you choose, the more you can potentially win. In addition to the half-point parlay cards, some oddsmakers offer pre-made teaser offerings as well.

What is the moneyline in football betting?

Betting on the moneyline means that your team just needs to win the game. There are no point spreads involved. Moneyline bets are displayed on a $100 scale, with the favorite having a minus displayed in front of their number, and the underdog having a plus in front. If you are betting on a -200 favorite, you need to lay $200 to profit $100, and you would collect $300. If you are looking to play a +175 underdog on the moneyline, you would lay $100 to profit $175 and collect $275. Again, there are no point spreads involved, you are simply picking the winner of the game.