Betting on the NFL is extremely popular, but not everyone is aware of how to wager it or how many different types of bets are available to make.
For the uninitiated, all of this information can be a bit overwhelming and even a little confusing. This article serves as a great tool to reference whenever you have a question about certain types of NFL bets.
NFL Odds & Betting Basics: Most Common Types of Wagers
Point spreads (also known as lines, spreads or sides) are the most common type of NFL wager. Every game has a favorite and an underdog of a certain amount of points.
This number is determined by an oddsmaker (or bookie). A negative number (-) will always represent the favorite, while the positive (+) number shows which team is the underdog. Let’s look at an example:
Miami Dolphins +7.5
New England Patriots -7.5
Teams are always listed with the home team on the bottom and the visiting team on top. In the example above, the Patriots are favored by 7.5 points at home against the visiting Miami Dolphins, who are 7.5-point road underdogs.
If you were wager on the spread for the Patriots, they would need to win the game by 8 points or more. If you played on the Dolphins, they could either win outright or lose by 7 points or less. Point spreads will be listed as whole numbers (-3, +4, etc.) or in half-point increments (e.g. -7.5, +10.5).
Under typical circumstances you will need to add at 10 percent “vig” or “juice” to the amount you want to win on your wager. This increased risk is the house edge.
For example, if you want to profit $100 on a spread wager, you would need to wager $110. When the odds are listed as American odds, this is represented by a number after the spread (e.g. -110 = 10%).
Some books will adjust these numbers slightly, but the concept remains the same. A vig of -108 equals an 8% house edge, meaning to profit $100 you would need to wager $108.
If you look for multiple places to wager online, you can find lower juice on many of the games you want to wager. Our NFL odds feed provides side-by-side comparisons from a variety of top sportsbooks.
Our favorite book for betting point spreads is 5Dimes because they offer reduced juice, meaning you lay -105 instead of -110. Read our full review of 5Dimes to find out why it’s such a great choice for NFL betting.
If you are more interested in simply betting who you think will win the game outright, you want to make a moneyline wager.
Of course, moneyline bets don’t come without their own kind of risk. Wagering on the favorite will require you to risk more money. On the flip side, however, betting on the underdog will pay you out at a higher rate. Here is a sample moneyline:
Seattle Seahawks +270
San Francisco 49ers -330
Keep in mind that you are simply picking the winner of the game, regardless of what the point spread is, it will not factor into the result of your wager. Using the example above, you would need to wager $330 for every $100 you want to profit on the 49ers.
Now, if wanted to back the Seahawks, you would risk whatever amount you wanted to risk and if they were to win the game outright, you would be paid 2.7 times that risk amount. For example, a $100 wager would pay $270 on Seattle if they won the game outright. If they lost the game, you would only lose your original $100 wager.
Obviously, you are taking a risk by taking the favorite on the moneyline, however, without a point spread, the most likely outcome is that the favorite will win. With betting the moneyline on the underdog, your risk is somewhat diminished because of the potential return, but the likelihood of that team winning the game outright is not as likely.
If you are going to wager on money lines, then it’s important to handicap a team’s chances of winning the game and then compare it to the money line conversion chart here to see if it’s a smart wager.
Totals (sometimes calle “over/unders”) are second only to the spread in terms of popularity. They are also one of the easiest types of wagers to understand. A linesmaker sets a number for the total points that will be scored in a game and you simply bet if you think the final score will be more (over) or less (under) than that number. A total would look something like this:
Buffalo Bills vs. Kansas City Chiefs
So, the total here is 45.5 points. If you think the two teams will combine to score 46 points or more, you’d bet the over. If you expect them to score less than 45 points, you would bet on the under. The same as with betting point spreads, you will pay a vig (usually -110) on totals, unless you have an account with a reduced juice book like 5Dimes.
Exotic Pro Football Wagers: How to Bet Parlays, Teasers, Props & More
If you group two or more plays together for an increased payout it is called a parlay. What makes parlays popular is the fact that the payoff is greatly increased if all of your wagers win.
The downside is that if just one of the games in the bundle loses, your entire parlays loses. You could hit five out of six of your parlay wagers and still lose money.
Note that books have calculated these odds in their favor, meaning you are playing at a disadvantage.
The house always has the advantage, so this is not meant to keep you from betting parlays, just be aware that you are definitely increasing your risk of losing by wagering on them. For your information, here is a typical payout table from a popular online sportsbook:
# of Teams
*$10 Wager Payout
*Parlay Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes
However, if you bet on any game that isn’t a straight -110 bet, you might need our free parlay calculator to see what you can actually expect for a return.
Teasers are a form of parlay in which you “buy” additional points on a point spread or total. For example, if the Ravens are listed at -10 and the Chargers are listed at -14, you could bet a two-team 7-point teaser that would give you the Ravens -3 and Chargers -7 at -120 vig (bet $120 to win $100).
You must win every bet in your teaser for it to be a winning bet. In the NFL you can typically bet 6, 7 and 10 point teasers on just about any number of teams. If you want more information on which situations are typically best for this type of bet check our NFL teasers guide.
Certain books have slightly different teaser payouts. Bookmaker is my favorite book for teasers and here is a look at their teaser table:
|POINTS||6 pts||6½ pts||7 pts|
|* TIE + LOSS = LOSS * TIE + WIN = PUSH|
*Teaser Odds Courtesy of Bookmaker
Prop bets (short for proposition bets) are normally bets on how a certain player will perform or what will happen at a certain point in a game. A prop can basically be anything a book decides to put out.
You might bet on whether Tom Brady has more passing yards than Aaron Rodgers this week, or whether the coin flip in the Super Bowl will be heads or tails. Both of those wagers would be considered prop bets.
Betting on futures is typically going to be betting on a team to win a championship or division or conference. The most popular of course are the Super Bowl odds.
You might see something like the San Francisco 49ers at 9/1 (or +900) to win it all. This means if you take San Francisco and they win your bet pays out at 9 to 1 ($100 to win $900).
Of course if you make the bet and the 49ers don’t win the title you lose the original bet. It seems like Bovada has the widest range of futures bets and prop bets to choose from.
Season Win Totals
Betting NFL season win totals means betting over or under a certain amount of wins in the regular season for a given team.
For example, odds makers may set the season win total for New England at 12. If you think the Pats will win more than 12 games this season, you would bet the over, less than 12 games, you would be the under.
Typically these bets are only available before the season starts, but occasionally you will find updated win totals around the half point of the season.
Halftimes & Quarters
You can also wager on the point spread or total for the first half, second half, or individual quarters of a game at many sportsbooks. These bets work the same as full game spread and total bets, but are adjusted for a smaller sample of the game.
For more tips and advice on this topic including halftime wagers, if-bets, reverses, pleasers and more, check out Lootmeister’s how to bet on football page.