Betting On Football: The Basics
The busiest season of the year in the sports book is upon us. Betting on football makes up more than half the money wagered on sports every year in Nevada. The Nevada Gaming Commission doesn’t break down the wager money by the level of football. However, it’s widely discussed that there’s more money wagered on the NFL than college football. Canadian and Arena football are really just available to pass the time for fans until the fall.
Since more people wager on football than any other sports it’s probably the easiest game to figure out how to bet. If you don’t know what to do, you can probably ask anyone in the sports book for instructions. The people visiting the casino might not know everything but they can give you the basics. Here’s a fairly thorough look at the different ways you can wager on football in Las Vegas.
This is the most popular way to wager on football. The Las Vegas Sports Book will give a point spread in each game and you have two choices on who to wager on. You can choose that the favorite will win by more than the amount of the point spread. The other side is to choose that the underdog will lose by less than the amount of the point spread.
Here’s an example:
NY Jets -7 at NY Giants
The Jets are favored by 7 points. When you wager on the Jets -7 points, they have to win by 8 or more for you to get paid. A Jets win by exactly 7 points would be a push and you get your money back.
If you wager on the Giants +7 points, you’ll need them to win or lose by 6 points or less to win your bet. The Giants can win the game and you’ll win the wager because they didn’t lose by 7 or more. A loss by exactly 7 points would be a push and you get your money back.
Total (AKA Over/Under)
This is the second most popular wager and one of the most simple football wagers you can make. You’re betting on whether or not the final score from both teams will go over or under the number posted by the sportsbook.
Here’s an example:
NY Jets -7 at NY Giants
The wager is that the two teams will combine to score more or less than 43 points. If the total score is 43, then the wager is a push and you get your money back. It doesn’t matter which team scores the points.
The final score could be 24-20 for either teams and “Over” wins the wager. Likewise, the final score could be Jets 45-0 (Yeah!) and the “Over” wins.
On the flip side, the score can be 21-20 and the “Under” wins. Likewise, the Jets could win 42-0 (Yeah!) and the “Under” also wins.
Betting on Football – Money Line
This is the most simple wager to place when betting on football but not the easiest to understand. When you place a moneyline wager you’re simply betting on a team to win the game. That’s it.
However, what you receive in return for the wager isn’t so simple.
Here’s an example:
NY Jets -180
NY Giants +240
In this example, a $180 wager on the NY Jets would win you $100 (plus your original $180 wager). The favorite pays less than the underdog.
On the other side of the wager, a $100 bet on the NY Giants would win you $240 (plus your original $100 wager).
The payouts are a little confusing if you don’t place moneyline wagers often. Here’s an easy(ish) way to remember the payouts: The favorite wins $100 if the wager placed is whatever the number next to the minus sign. A $100 wager on the underdog wins the amount of money next to plus sign.
Big underdog moneyline wagers can pay quite nicely and is a favorite for college football bettors. The point spreads and moneyline for college football games can be much larger than those of NFL games. Parlaying a few big wagers can pay very nicely.
Parlays & Teasers
A traditional parlay is a single wager that links together two or more individual bets. In order to win a parlay, you must win all bets included in the wager.
The payouts for a parlay grow with every team you add. If any of the picks the parlay end as a push, the parlay reverts to a lower number of teams. If any of the teams lose, the parlay is a loss.
Using the same scenario as above here’s an example parlay:
NY Jets -7
NY Jets Over 43
If both bets are correct you would win approximately 2.5 to 1. The odds for parlays are different at different sports books. If you make a parlay with 10 teams you might get paid around 70 to 1 or better depending on the sports book.
Winning one game is difficult enough and parlays are very difficult to win. There’s a reason the payouts are so high. Not coinsidentally, sports book operators make win a larger percentage of parlays than single wagers.
Parlays have become almost as popular as just picking winners. The potential for large payouts is popular with Joe Q. Public. While the potential for a big win is nice, these aren’t the best bets you can make. The casinos make a lot of money on parlays because they’re so difficult to win.
A teaser is a parlay with extra points added. Here’s an example of a 6 point teaser using the point spread example above:
NY Giants +13
Total under 50
Since you’re getting extra points on your parlay, a teaser will pay less than a traditional parlay. A 2 team, 6 point teaser might pay 10 to 11 (wager $11 to win $10). A 10 team, 6 point teaser might pay 25 to 1. This is a far cry from the 70 to 1 parlay, but that’s the price you pay for those extra points.
There’s one more parlay bet called a round robin that isn’t very popular. This is a bit advanced for a novice bettor so I’m not going to get into it. You can learn more here.
These have become more popular in the past couple of years. It wasn’t long ago when betting on football prop bets were only available for the Super Bowl. Their popularity has made them available for nearly every game. Prop bets are made for specific games, seasons, and even awards.
During a game, you’re betting on whether something will or won’t happen. Here’s an example of a prop bet you might see for the fictional Jets game.
Sam Darnold (NY Jets) will throw 1 interception versus the NY Giants
The odds here favor that Darnold will throw more than 1 interception in the game. If you remember from the moneyline section, a $1,000 wager on the “Over” will win $100. If you think that Darnold won’t throw an interception you’ll be paid $1,500 for a $100 wager.
Season-long prop bets can be available for individual players, teams, and awards. Here are a few samples:
The NY Jets will win 10 games:
Odds to win MVP
Sam Darnold – 1000 to 1
Le’veon Bell – 100 to 1
Prop bets continue to grow. The best way to find the available options at a Las Vegas sports book is to use the mobile app. The layout is often easier than watching the screens rotate in the casino.
Note: Revised 4 September 2019, Originally published 11 October 2016
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