Understanding NFL Odds

If you enjoy watching football games, then chances are you would love betting on the NFL. The problem is that a lot of people who are unfamiliar with wagering get scared away by all of the fancy lingo used so I wanted to put something together to explain the difference between futures bets, parlays, spreads, money lines and everything else that goes into football betting. If you are new to the world of sports gambling then hopefully after reading this article you can talk the talk with the experts and feel comfortable putting some bets down.

Who Sets the Line?

The first thing that you need to understand is that all of the odds are set by the lines makers. These guys are very good at what they do, but their job isn’t to pick winners and losers on the games, but rather set a number that will balance the action and allow the sportsbook to make their money off of the vig or juice. For instance, it’s pretty standard to have to bet $11 to win $10 and that $1 is called the vig. If the action is balanced each player who bets $11 on team A will have a corresponding wager of $11 on team B, guaranteeing the book that $1. This is why in the NFL you are gambling as much against the public as you are the house. The casino doesn’t really care if you win, as long as they are paying you with other gamblers money.

What are Line Movements?

Knowing that the books set the line to balance action helps when you see the spread moving during the week. If one side is getting a lot of money poured in on them, the books will adjust their odds to favor the other side in the hopes of getting more money poured in there. If a few key players are injured and their teams announce that they will either be playing for sure or sitting on the sidelines, you can bet that it changes the perception of that team’s chances of winning and the spread will adjust accordingly to keep the action balanced. Once you make your wager, your line is locked in, but if you haven’t made your bets yet, you can only get the current number offered. One of the great things about line moves is that you can “middle” the action. Say you get Chicago at +10 against Minnesota but then Minnesota’s quarterback gets hurt during practice before the game and the line moves to Chicago +1. Well if you bet Chicago early and Minnesota late then you could win BOTH of your bets on the same game if Minnesota wins, but by less than 10 points!

Straight Bets

Almost all of the picks released by our handicappers are on straight bets, which means you pick one team in one game or event. Using the standard bet $11 to win $10 ratio, that means you have to win 52.4% of your games in order to break even. You can use either the point spread or money line if betting straight bets (which we will discuss following).

NFL Point Spreads Explained

Most of the wagering is done using point spreads. This is the number assigned to the team that is either added (underdogs with a + sign) or subtracted (from the favorite whose number has the – sign) to the team’s score after the end of the game. Let’s say Chicago is at +7 and Minnesota is -7. If the final score is Minnesota 31, Chicago 21 then Minnesota covered the seven point spread, if the final is Minnesota 24, Chicago 21, then Chicago covered the seven points even though they lost, since they lost by fewer points than they were getting.

Understanding Money Lines

A money line bet is simply a wager on who is going to win the game straight up. Here you’ll find bigger number like Minnesota -275 and Chicago +200. This means that for every $275 you bet on Minnesota you will win $100 if they win the game outright. If you bet $100 on Chicago then you will win $200 if they come out on top. This is more popular in baseball and hockey than it is in football.

Totals or Over/Unders

Another popular wager for football is to play totals which are also called “over/unders.” This number reflects the odds on the total number of points scored by both teams. If the total is set at 42, then Minnesota and Chicago would have to combine for 43 points or more to win an over wager and 41 or under for you to win an under bet.

Parlay Bets

If you are looking for a bigger return on your wager then maybe the parlay bet is more your style. This is a bet where you take more than one wager and combine them into one single bet, but you have to win all of your selections in order to cash your ticket. Since it’s harder to predict the outcome of multiple events you get paid quite a bit more for parlays, with the amount of your return increasing with the number of events you combine into one ticket. If you know what you are doing then parlay betting can be profitable. You can check our house edge on parlays to see some of the payout tables and how much vig the casino is taking on these bets.

Teasers and Pleasers

A teaser is similar to a parlay in that you have to win more than one of your games in order to win your bet. The difference here is that you get to add points to your team’s odds. If you are taking Minnesota -7, then in a 6-point teaser you reduce the odds down to -1 in exchange for a worse payout. You will win more of these, but you will get less money than if you win a parlay with the same number of teams.

Pleasers are the opposite of teasers. If you really like Minnesota at -7, then in a 6 point pleaser you would end up having them at -13, but here you get much better odds than with a parlay. If you are a high risk, high return gambler then this is the path for you!

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