How to Bet on NFL: Spread Betting Explained Step-by-Step Guide

How to Bet on NFL

When betting on the NFL or college NCAA football, a point spread is almost always involved.  This is called a handicap that the odds makers set on a game to make an unbalanced game more even.

A Spread or Line tells what team is expected to win a the game.

Let’s use the Dallas Cowboys as an example.  They are playing at home against the New York Giants.  The odds maker will decide what team is better.  In this case, the Cowboys are a just a little bit better and also have the home field advantage.  They give the Giants a 3.5 point head start to even out the game.

This would be expressed as Dallas Cowboys -3.5 or New York Giants +3.5.

The line would look like this:

New York Giants +3.5  

@ Dallas Cowboys -3.5  

If you wager on the Cowboys with this point spread, they would need to win the game by 4 or more points in order for your bet to win.  This is known as “covering the spread.”  As the line is a half number, there is no way of a tie, so the bet will either lose or win.

The odds makers sometimes set the line at an even number.  If they set the line at a number like 3, 7, or 10, there will be a chance of a tie.

If the line was:

New York Giants +3

@ Dallas Cowboys -3

And the end of the game had a score of Dallas 24, New York 21, this would be called a “push” and the bet would returned to the person who placed the wager.

Every once in a while, there will be a very evenly matched game.  These evenly matched  games are known as a “pick-em” and there is no spread.

A “pick-em” is expressed as

New York Giants pk

@ Dallas Cowboys pk

Betting on a pick-em game is super simple.  In a pick-em game, whatever team wins also wins the bet.

Sometimes when you look on a sports book, you may see that there is always a number in brackets attached to the line.  For spread betting, this line starts at (-110). This tells sports bettors that they will need to wager $110 to win $100.

It will look like this:

New York Giants +3.5 (-110)

@ Dallas Cowboys -3.5 (-110)

Here is a screen shot from 5dimes for a Pre-season game odds




If the line is (-145) you would need to bet $145 to win $100. Other times you will see a + sign next to the odds, expressed as (+175) the plus sign shows that your payout will be greater than your wager. If you bet $100 at (+175) you would have a payout of $175.

The odds attached to the bet make a huge difference in your ability to earn a profit betting on NFL games in the long haul. If you are betting odds of (+175) you can make a pretty decent profit if you only win 50% of the games you place bets on.

Consider this, if you are betting on lines of (-150) you would need to win 67% of your games in order to break even!

In the past, there wasn’t an option for shopping around for the best lines. If you wanted to place a wager, you would have to go to your local bookie or betting establishment and take the odds they gave you.

Today, you can shop online for the best lines and it is as easy as opening a new window on your browser.  Today, sites like  5dimes or pinnacle sports offer something called “reduced juice” lines.  These lines are usually at -105 and they are only charging 5% as opposed to the normal 10% on bets.

I hold accounts to at least 5 different online sports books. As a professional sports handicapper, I highly recommend that anybody new to the professional sports betting world start with 3 accounts in order to compare lines.  Also make sure you always follow a basic money management strategy.  You don’t want to go blowing all of your money and playing in an irresponsible manner.

I hope this article was helpful to anyone new to NFL betting or NCAA betting.

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