Types of Football Bets
by Josh Nagel - 11/01/2007
From the first preseason kickoff in August to the hoisting of the Lombardi Trophy in late January, nothing captures the attention of sports bettors worldwide more than football.
Sports books hire extra staff just for the football season - many of them stay open 24 hours during football weekends - and they draw everyone from hardcore sports bettors to otherwise casual sports fans who annually baptize themselves as gamblers by taking a shot at a football game.
If you are one of the latter, there are a few things you should know before you head to the ticket window. The most important knowledge you can arm yourself with is familiarity with the various types of football bets and odds offered by sports books to satisfy the appetites of football bettors.
Here is a rundown of the types of football bets:
Straight bet - Amid all the fancy and lucrative-looking bets that are available, never lose sight of the value in a standard straight bet. You probably should learn and practice this bet often before learning any others, and it should be noted that people who bet for a living or a large portion of their income place straight bets almost exclusively.
The straight bet is simple: it pays 11/10 and you place one by simply picking a team, also known as a "side" or the over/under for points in game, also known as the "total." So you would bet $55 to win $50, $110 to win $100, and so on.
Say the Bears are a six-point favorite over the Lions and the total is 42. To bet the Bears, you must "lay the points," meaning they must win by seven or more to cover and give you the win. Betting the underdog Lions, you are "taking" six points, and they can lose by five or fewer, or win the game outright, and you have a winning bet. If the Bears win by exactly six, both sides "push" and all bets are returned. It's also a push if the final score equals 42, otherwise the over or under will win.
Money line bet - If you are not interested in betting the point spread - although you should be, because it presents the best long-term value - another option available is the money line, in which you lay or take odds relative to the dollar with respect to your team winning or losing.
If you like favorites, you're going to be betting a lot to win a little. The money line will always be listed to the right of the point spread on the odds board in a sports book. In the above example, the money line would probably be Chicago -250 and Detroit +200. To bet Chicago simply to win, you must wager $250 to win $100, while a $100 bet on Detroit would pay $200 if the Lions come through.
Parlays - these might be the most popular bets out there, especially among novice and amateur bettors, perhaps because of the lure of betting a small amount for a potentially big payoff. But they are fool's gold at best. Parlays involve wagering on two or more games on the same bet following the casino's pre-determined payout scale. Each game on a parlay must win for the bet to be a winner.
Although the potential payouts look tempting - many sports bettors have dreamt of cashing in nearly $10,000 by nailing a $10, 10-teamer at 850/1 - they are a bad bet because they are difficult to hit and do not pay anywhere near true odds. This is how the sportsbooks make a lot of their money. For instance, let's say you want to bet a two-team parlay. For two games, there are four different possible combinations of outcomes, thus the true odds are 4/1. However, the sportsbook is only going to pay you 2.6/1 for your efforts, thus giving them a "juice" or vigorish in their favor. However, if you only have $20 to your name for a football bankroll and really like two games, the two-teamer might be the way to go because you could win $52 for your $20 wager.
The house vigorish - and your chances of winning - get worse with the more teams you add. So while some sportsbooks will let you place a 15-teamer with astronomical odds, you probably have a better chance of being struck by lighting - twice - before winning one. You are much better off sticking to two-team parlays exclusively, if you insist on taking poor odds and placing parlay wagers.
Teaser bets - The teaser is so named because it, too, looks tempting, but if you allow yourself to get too seduced, you'll usually end up on the losing end. The teaser bet gives or takes away extra points from the team you back.
However, there are some good values with teaser bets if you know how and where to find them. For instance, the six-point teaser is an especially effective bet in the NFL, where most games are tightly contested and six points can make a world of difference. For instance, in our previous example, the Bears would go from laying six points to simply needing to win if you put them on a teaser bet. Conversely, Detroit backers could get 12 points instead of the starting six.
This added insurance can come in handy when the game is close but your team doesn't quite cover. Many sportsbooks offer -110 odds on a two-team, six-point teaser bet and this is the bet you should look for. Most places also will offer seven- and sometimes 10-point teasers but the odds will be significantly worse (-140 for a two-team, seven-point teaser, for example), and six is all you'll need to win consistently in football.
Again, it's probably better to stick with a two-teamer most of the time. However, some sportsbooks offer teaser cards with odds such as 300/1 for a 15-teamer. If you are bent on chasing a longshot football bet, you probably stand a better chance to win a 15-team teaser bet than a nine-team straight parlay that has about the same payout.