How Do Sports Betting Odds Work?
Effectively betting on sports – turning a profit – requires an understanding of the odds. You can’t win every bet you place. In fact, many great sports bettors lose around 40 percent of the games they play. They don’t have to win them all because over time, if they play the odds correctly, they’ll win.
To help you understand how betting odds work, we created a spreadsheet. The following is based on standard point spread odds. For this example, we’ll use a 2018 Week 17 game between the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings. We’re betting $110 on the Bears to cover.
Example: Understanding Point Spread Odds
||$10 per $100 wagered
In this example, we needed the Bears to win by at least seven points to win the bet. And if that happened, we turned a $100 profit. Fortunately, Chicago came through with a 24-10 victory to cover the spread.
The point spread line (-110) is in place to help the casino turn a profit. If the sportsbook offered even money on this type of wager, they wouldn’t turn a profit. Let’s say $500,000 is bet on the game, half on both sides, the casino would pay $250,000 in profits to one side and collect $250,000 from the other for a break-even game.
That’s where the juice comes into play. When the casino gives less than even-money odds, if they get even bets on both sides, they automatically come out ahead.
Understanding the Different Types of Sports Bets
We’ve already discussed the basics of betting the point spread, which is the most standard form of betting on football and basketball. When you bet the point spread, you don’t care if a team wins or loses, only that they cover the spread.
Betting Over / Under / Totals
Another common wager is the over/under. This one is also simple to understand and, like the point spread, typically has a -110 line, although occasionally you might find a more favorable line. With the over/under, also referred to as the totals, you are wagering on the combined score in the game.
If you bet the over, you need both teams to combine to score more points than the listed totals. If you bet the under, you need the teams to combine to score fewer points than the total. For example, if the over/under in the Chicago-Dallas game is 42.5 and you bet the over, if those two teams don’t combine to score at least 43 points, you lose.
The half point is often added to the over/under or point spread to prevent so many pushes. In the event the total score is a push, you get your bet back but don’t receive any profits.
Other Types of Bets
There are many other ways to get action on a game besides the point spread and betting the totals. You can also place these types of bets on most games.
This is a fun type of bet, usually on something goofy or non-standard. For example, on Super Bowl Sunday, you’ll find hundreds of different bets such as which team will win the coin toss. Prop bets can also require physical demands to accomplish, such as proving to a friend you can hit a half court basketball shot.
When you bet on the moneyline, you’re betting on a team to win the game outright, as opposed to covering the spread. These can be profitable if you are good at predicting underdogs that can win outright. When you’re betting the moneyline on a heavy favorite, you won’t get favorable odds. You might have to risk $500 or more just to win $100. It’s usually not worth it in those cases.
Betting on futures is typically a long-term investment. This type of bet is self-explanatory. You are simply betting on a future outcome such as which team will win the league title or how many regular season games a certain team will win. If you’re good at predicting a season or series outcome, you can making a killing betting futures.
Betting on Parlays
It’s never easy to win a parlay, which is why the odds are so enticing and potentially profitable. Parlays require you to win multiple bets to receive a payout. They range from 2 to 20 teams/games, and you have to win them all to win the bet. The more teams/games you choose for your parlay, the more you can win.
Let’s take a look at a standard four-team football parlay card example, assuming 13-1 odds and a $100 bet (to payout $1,300).
- Chicago Bears +2.5
- Detroit Lions -3.5
- Cleveland Browns +5.5
- New England Patriots/Pittsburgh Steelers OVER 43.5
In this example, we bet on two underdogs and one favorite to cover the spread and one game to hit the over. If all four of those instances don’t happy, we lose. It’s as simple as that. Even the best sports bettors lose parlay bets more often than not. Each sportsbook is different, but here’s a look at the standard football parlay odds up to seven teams.
Example: Understanding Point Spread Odds
||$10 per $100 wagered
As you can see, the potential to win some serious cash is there if you bet the big parlays. A $100 bet on a seven-team parlay pays out $15,000. But there is a caveat…it’s really hard to win one of these. That’s why the sportsbooks offer such enticing odds.
Betting on Teasers
Teasers are similar to parlays except you get a few points each game you bet. They payout less than standard parlays because they are easier to win. Most sportsbooks offer 6, 6.5, and 7-point teasers. Like a parlay, you must win every bet to win the teaser. In a teaser bet, you’re moving the point spread in each game to a more favorable line.
Example: Betting on a 6.5-point Teaser
|Team and Point Spread
Betting on Pleasers
Pleasers are the reverse of a teaser and are much more difficult to win, but payout much more. Instead of getting points, you lose points, meaning if a team is a 6.5-point favorite, the line jumps to -12.5 in a six-point pleaser. See the following chart of standard odds on a six-point pleaser, assuming a $100 bet.
Example: Standard Odds on a 6-point Pleaser Bet
|Number of Teams
Reverse and “If” Bets
These bets are available at most sportsbooks but they aren’t popular because they can be a bit confusing. Still, you can make some money if you understand how to play them correctly. A reverse bet is a series of two “if” bets. You bet on two teams but only lose the full amount of the wager if both teams lose, part of the wager if one team loses, and receive a full payout if both teams win.
Full Cover Bets
A full cover bet is a wager that includes all possible multiple bets, including doubles, trebles and accumulators, for a given number of selections. There are different types of bets within a full cover bet. You don’t need every outcome to come through with you to win, but the more games you win, the higher the payout.
A handicap bet is a form of wager that tries to level the playing field, much like in golf. In handicap betting, the odds account for the difference in perceived strength of each opponent.
Now that you know the different types of bets, you’re ready to take the plunge and start winning some money!