Basics of Betting on Football
by T.O Whenham - 01/09/2008
When it comes to betting on sports in North America, nothing is nearly as popular, or as entertaining, as football. Many prefer the NFL while others like the college game more, but there are few sports bettors out there who don't play one or the other. If you're one of those few who doesn't yet bet on football, or you are struggling a bit and need to tighten your game up, here are the basics of betting on football to get you going.
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There are many different ways that you can bet on football, but for the sake of an introduction we will just stick to three - the money line, the total, and the point spread.
The money line isn't the most common by any means, but it's probably the easiest to understand, so that's where we will begin. Betting on the money line merely means betting on which team will win the game. The team doesn't need to win by a certain amount, they just have to win. That seems pretty easy, and in many cases it is. Don't get too excited, though - this isn't necessarily the path to quick riches that it may seem to be. The more likely a team is to win a game, the lower the return on your investment when you bet that team on the money line, and vice versa. The odds for a money line are expressed as a negative number less than -100 if the team is a favorite, and a number greater than 100 if the team is an underdog. For example, if the odds on a team are -240, that means that it is a fairly significant favorite. If you were to bet $240 you would receive a profit of $100 if you were correct. On the other hand, a team that is +240 is a fairly significant underdog. If you were to bet $100 on that team and you were correct you would receive a profit of $240.
The most common way to bet on football is the point spread. Oddsmakers will set a spread for almost every game played. The easiest way to understand a point spread is to see an example. Let's say that the spread between Chicago and Minnesota is seven points, and that Chicago is the favorite. That means that if you bet on the Bears they not only have to win the game in order for you to win the bet, but they have to win by more than seven points. If the Vikings win, or if they were to lose by less than seven points, then those who bet on them would win. If the Bears won by exactly seven points then the game is a push and all bets are refunded. To bet the point spread effectively, you have to change how you think about games just a little bit - you have to think beyond who is going to win the game and focus instead on how much they could win by. Quite often you will find that the best bet to make is to bet on a team that you are pretty sure isn't going to win the game because you are confident that they will lose by less than the spread. The cost of making this bet can vary, but typically it is -110, which means that you have to bet $110 to make a profit of $100 if you win.
The third common way to get some football action is the total. The oddsmaker will set a total for almost every game played. The total is an estimate of the combined number of points that the two teams will score. You have two possible bets you can make - over or under. If you feel that the teams will score more points than the posted total then you would bet the over, and vice versa. Like the point spread, the typical price for this bet is -110.
Regardless of which type of bet you decide to make, there are a few factors that you will want to take a look at as a basic starting point for successful football betting. A basic list of things to compare between the two teams in a game would include: the overall offensive rankings of both teams, the separate run and pass offensive rankings, the defensive overall rankings, as well as the abilities to stop the run and the pass, recent matchups between the two teams, home and away records of the two teams, recent form of the two teams, and any key injuries facing the teams. If you were to make your betting decisions based solely on which team had the advantage based on those factors then you won't necessarily be a superstar handicapper, but you also won't be making too many bets that are completely disastrous and regrettable.