Beginner’s Guide to Betting on Football

Football betting can be a very fun activity, giving you an extra sweat on the games you’re watching. It can also be intimidating, though, especially for beginners. Casinos can have a lot of bright lights, moving parts, and people throwing around words and phrases you’ve never heard before. Online sportsbooks can display a myriad of numbers with plus and minus signs galore that can confuse the heck out of people.

Don’t worry, aspiring football bettors! Gridiron Gamble is here to help get you started with our Beginner’s Guide to Betting on Football. Below are a few of the often-asked questions beginners to sports betting have and our answers. Plus, you’ll find a few links for further reading to keep you headed in the right direction.

What Is a Favorite?

A favorite is a team or competitor that oddsmakers expect to win, and it is often displayed with a minus sign in front of the odds. This is the team or competitor that is favored over the opposition. When betting a point spread (see below), the favorite will often be laying or giving points to the opposition to make the wager evener. When wagering on the money line (see below), the favorite will have a lesser return on the money that is bet.

What Is an Underdog?

Opposite to a favorite, an underdog is the team or competitor oddsmakers expect to lose. Underdogs are often displayed with a plus sign in front of the odds. Underdogs operate in similar fashion to favorites when it comes to a point spread or a money line, just opposite. When betting a point spread, the underdog will often be receiving extra points versus the opposition to make the wager evener. When wagering on the money line, the underdog will have a greater return on the money that is bet.

What Is a “Pick” or “Pick’em?”

A pick or a pick’em is when a bet is even on both sides in terms of who the oddsmakers expect to win, meaning it’s a 50-50 proposition. You just “pick” who you think is going to come out on top without having to overcome a point spread. In pick’em contests, betting the money line will lend a closer-to-even return.

What Is the Point Spread and How Do Point Spreads Work?

A point spread is used to even a betting matchup between two sides. The favorite will be giving points to the other side, and the underdog will be receiving points. To win against the point spread, the favorite must overcome the number of points given to the underdog. For the underdog to win against the point spread, the underdog can use the points given to overcome the opposition.

For example, let’s say the Cleveland Browns are -4 favorites over the Los Angeles Rams, who are +4 underdogs. After the final score is realized, the Browns would subtract four points or the Rams would add four points, depending on which side you bet on, in order to determine if the bet was won against the spread. In this example, if the Browns won 20-10, all bets placed on the Browns (-4) would win, as they overcame the four-point spread, and all bets placed on the Rams (+4) would lose because the team failed to overcome Cleveland’s total even with the added points. Likewise, if the final score was 20-17 in favor of the Browns, the Browns would lose a point-spread bet and the Rams would win.

Because the point spread is used to even the matchup, the odds you receive on a point-spread bet are much closer to even in terms of your return.

What Is the Money Line and How Does the Money Line Work?

Betting on the money line means you are betting on the two sides straight up with no added or subtracted points.

If the Dallas Cowboys played the New York Giants, you pick which team you would want to win and the odds factor in who is the favorite and who is the underdog. In this example, the Cowboys might be listed at a price of -200 and the Giants listed as +175. This shows us that the Cowboys are the favorite to win the game and the Giants are the underdog (note the minus and plus signs as mentioned before). With these odds, you would need to bet $200 on the Cowboys to win $100. On the other side, a bet of $100 on the Giants would win you $175.

This same game may be listed using a point spread, too, and that can help you determine where you want to make your bet.

What Is a Total?

In a game, a total is the number of points scored. Oddsmakers and sportsbooks will often release lines for the total amount of points scored between both teams in a game, and bettors can wager on if they think the total will be over or under the listed amount. This is often referred to as an “over/under” bet. Oddsmakers and sportsbooks can also put up totals for each side if they would like to.

Totals can also apply to wins in a season. In fact, season win totals are some of the most popular wagers across all major sports, especially in the NFL. An oddsmaker or a sportsbook will determine a line to set for the number of wins a team will get in a regular season. Bettors can then wager on if they think the team will win more or fewer games than the number posted.

Where Can You Place a Sports Bet?

Depending on the jurisdiction, sports bets can be placed in a sportsbook or online, but those interested in placing a sports bet should understand the rules and regulations of the market they are in. Las Vegas is known for its dozens of state-of-the-art sportsbooks that cater to all kinds of sports bettors. If you’re making a trip to Sin City, check out Gridiron Gamble’s reviews of Las Vegas sportsbooks (coming soon).

How Much Should You Bet?

A wise man once said, “Only bet what you can afford to lose.” This applies to can be applied to investing in stocks, playing poker, and especially to betting on sports. Understanding that, only wager in amounts that are comfortable to you and know that each person is different, with varying thresholds.

Oftentimes you’ll hear sports bettors refer to the amount of money wagered in “units.” A unit is a predetermined bet size a bettor will use as an average bet size. From there, a bettor will determine how many units to wager depending on the conservative or aggressive nature of the bet.

It is commonly suggested that bettors risk in the range of 1%-5% of his or her bankroll on each individual bet, depending on the confidence level you have in the bet. The lower end of that range, 1%, is often one unit for a sports bettor. Putting this into an example, let’s say you have $1,000 in your betting bankroll. Each unit would be 1% or $10 and your maximum bet can be 5% or $50. Applying the 1%-5% rule, sports bettors can guard against losing streaks and avoid losing an entire bankroll quickly.

Why Did the Odds Change?

In most cases, the odds are always changing. Oddsmakers and sportsbook are constantly trying to find and keep the best middle ground in a wager and often need to adjust one side of a bet, the other, or both in order to do so. Too much money being bet on one side or the other can cause the odds or point spread to be adjusted, and then there are things like changes in the weather or injury news that can affect how a game will play out and push oddsmakers to adjust.

Odds or point spreads changing is completely normal. Just like the prices in the stock market can and will adjust over time, so will the odds and point spreads at a sportsbook. Odds change and line movement can work for you, but they can also work against you. This is why it’s suggested to study line movements when you are looking to place a wager.

What If There’s a Tie?

A tie in the world of sports betting is often referred to as a “push.” If you bet on the money line and there was a tie as the result, you’ll likely get your money back and that’s it. The same goes for a point spread if the result ends up equating to a tie.