The Spread, the Moneyline and the Total

The bottom line in any American football game is the spread, moneyline and total. These are the most important aspects to the actual game for both experts and novices.

The Spread

The spread works like this:

Team A: +4

Team B: -4

It is only expressed as Team B -4. The points the other team gets are understood. An example would be for your friend to ask, “What number did you get Team A at?” You say, “4.” They say, “Crap, I got Team B at 5.” This is a common occurrence in the sports betting world. The “spread” denotes the number that must be covered by the favorite in order to be considered a winner or beaten by an underdog for the same result: A winner.

If the final score ends with Team A losing by a field goal (3 points) then your Team A bet would have won because you beat the spread. For instance, the final was 20-17, but you were awarded that extra point to produce a winning play. Another outcome, the score might have been 21-17, Team B winning. Then, your bet would have pushed (tied) and there would be no action. No win. No loss. Either way, your buddy would have lost money.

Of course, if Team B wins 30-3, then your friend covered the spread and won money. Ultimately, favorites are always noted with a negative spread. In this example, Team B -4. The other side would be noted by a positive spread of +4.

The Moneyline

Many bettors consider the strength of the moneyline to back the strength of the spread. The moneyline is predicated on multiples of $100. This simply means if a team is -200 on the moneyline then you must bet $200 to win $100. Likewise, the “comeback” on that money line might be +145. Thus, you would bet $100 to win $145 if you took the underdog. The favorite has a negative moneyline and the underdog will have a positive moneyline, like with the spread.

Back to our example of Team A and Team B, where Team B is the favorite.

Team A: +145

Team B: -200

This ultimately means that the team you think will win must win outright because you are not given points.

The Total

The total might be the simplest bet to make. Back to Team A and Team B, the total on the game might be 38. Your options are to bet OVER the total of the combined team scores of 38 or UNDER that same score.

The total is generally not an even number. The “hook” would probably be 38.5. And let me say, gentlefolk, that half point can become a real problem. On the off chance that the total number remains even, you could push the bet, and that happens but usually the bookmakers make that a hard sell.

The Vig and How it Affects the Line

The vig, or vigorish, more commonly known as the “juice” is the amount bookmakers charge to ensure your bet. Theoretically, this “commission” is 10%, but that is rarely the truth. Again, in theory, if a bookmaker has 100 players, then he wants 50 betting on Team A and 50 betting on Team B so he would make that 10% commission. The reality is that bookmakers earn between 5 and 8-percent. If they get heavy action on one side or the other and then get jammed up—they have to eat it. Or, they could have hedged it by laying off some of the action with other bookmakers.

The thing people don’t understand is that betting on sports, if one is competent and does the research, is just like investing in the stock market. Of course, you can “gamble” on it, but to make a living doing it, you must be diligent in terms of knowledge and prowess. Herein lies the reason bookmakers will move the juice before they move the line. That is, in the Team A versus Team B scenario, where B is -4, there might be a slant toward Team B. Instead of moving the line, the bookmaker would probably move the juice to entice more players to bet Team A.

Football is a bet using a standard 20-cent line: Team A is -110 and so is Team B. If you know anything about integers then it is apparent the disparity is 20-cents. Therefore, the bookmaker might move the juice on Team A down to -105, 5-cents, or possibly to even money: +100. In even rarer instances, the juice might be moved to +105 — laying $100 to get $105. Thus, Team B, respectively, would become more expensive to bet. Team A drops to -105, then Team B becomes -115 and so on until Team A is +105 and Team B becomes extremely expensive: -125. That doesn’t sound too bad if you are betting a dollar ($100) where it would be $125 to get $100. But, if you’re betting a dime ($1,000) or ten dimes ($10, 000), then it becomes almost bad business unless you are relatively sure you have a lock, a sure thing. There are never sure things.

A Short Glossary: You Can Be a Novice but Need Not Sound Like One

Price or number: Either terms refers to what the spread is or what someone got whilst betting the game. You stand around the water cooler Tuesday morning. Someone asks, “Did you guys see the last play of the game?” You chime in: “No, my wife wanted to talk about her feelings right when the game was ending. but what was the number?”

Price usually denotes what the juice was, but these terms go hand in hand. Hence, in an ordinary game with a 20-cent line per usual, you risk $110 to get $100. As I’ve said, about the best you can hope for is to get the number at even money which would mean laying $100 to get $100 and still getting 4 points. This is how the price and the number are connected when betting the spread.

Money: This is purely slang but it’s universal. Starting from the bottom a “small” nickel is $50. A dollar is $100. A nickel is $500. A dime is $1000. You absolutely must be specific about this because you don’t want to bet a nickel when you really meant a small nickel. Get it? A bookmaker will gouge you on your own mistake, so don’t make it.

Home or Away: This is a visual. The team that is at the bottom is the home team. In our Team A versus Team B scenario, Team B is the home team. And, a home spread in the pros is usually -3. This denotes the teams are more or less even but because Team B is at home, they will give three.

Pick’em: A pick’em is basically an even call on the winner whether home or away.

Short Hand: If the juice on Team A had been moved to even money just before kickoff, my pad would read: A, $1, EV. Team A for $100, even money—betting $100 to get back the same. No juice in this instance. That’s how I would write it for my own records.

The Three Focus Points of Betting on Football: The concentration revolves around three major factors: spread, location, injury report.

The spread is the obvious concentration because it gives insight into where the market is moving. That is, what action does the general betting public have? As a rule of thumb, the public is usually wrong. Spreads differ wildly between college and pro. A college line might be -40, but a pro line rarely goes above -14. The same holds true for totals. A college total might easily be 75 but a pro total is almost never more than 45.

Location is a second indicator. As I’ve said, the home team, in the pros, generally gives up three points. Yet a “home dog”– the home team as an underdog — will entice bettors to at least examine the situation further because the betting environment is more attractive. Again, the difference between pro and college can be vast. A home dog in the pros might be +3, but a home dog in college could be +10 or greater.

The injury report is also a major component to betting decisions. No single player makes a team, but key players, when on an injury report, can affect the spread and the total of any game whether college or pro. For instance, if a star running back or, God forbid, the quarterback is injured, the lines and totals will go askew. The other side of that is if a major defensive player gets injured and unlikely to play, it could be the same difference.

50 Ways to Leave Your Lover

There are several ways to bet any football game. These bets hold true for spreads, moneylines or totals. The accepted time to place these bets is the key.

You can bet the game/total, which must be done before kick-off.

You can bet the first half, which also must be done before kick-off. You can bet the first quarter. Again, this must be done before kick-off.

Then it gets weird.

The second quarter and the subsequent quarters can be bet just before they begin. E.G. the second quarter can be bet just before it begins.

The second half line/total can be bet during halftime.

The last part of betting on a game is where it gets fast, hard and potentially expensive: Live Betting. This type of wagering moves at an exponential pace and is always evolving. That is, if two minutes into the second quarter, Team A, the underdog, scores a touchdown or even intercepts a pass, then everything restarts from zero but at a price. The original example I gave was Team B -4. Depending on the exact time left in the game, and the underlying action (touchdown, field goal, interception, etc.) then the new “current” spread might be Team B +1; -125. This is what I mean by exponential and expensive.

Exotic Bets

The bets we have been discussing are “straight” bets. Exotics are just variations of straight bets. Three popular examples are parlays, teasers and If-Bets.

Parlays are the most common exotic bet because it’s the easiest to understand. Parlays pay odds. Thus, a parlay is a combination of straights which must contain at least two plays. A 2-team parlay pays 2.6:1; 3-team parlays pay 4:1; 4-team parlay gives 10:1 and so on. Bettors rarely extend beyond a 4-team parlay because of the downside. That is, any loss causes the whole bet to be a loser. Any push reverts the parlay to the lower number team parlay. If you have Team A, Team C, Team E and Team G in a 4-team parlay at 10:1. $100 play pays $1,000. If any of those teams lose, you lose. If one team ties, then it reverts to a 3-team parlay so your payoff goes to 4:1. You just gave up $600.

The odds on the betting spreads come in succinct payouts but the odds with regard to betting moneylines rely on a slightly complex mathematical formula which means they are in no way set.

Trade-offs exist.

The second most popular exotic bet would be the teaser. Teasers pay odds as well but you must pass a number of plays in order to get those odds. The upside here is that you can bet every side of one game because you will be given points above what the spread actually is. The bottom tier football teaser is 6-points. For our Team A/Team B scenario with Team B being -4. This would move the spread to Team B +2. And, you could bet all four sides of this game. Team B +2; Team A +10; The original total is 38 so taking the over drops it to 32 and taking the under becomes 44. The payouts look thusly:

2-Team Teaser: 10:11; 3-Team Teaser: 9:5; 4-Team Teaser: 3:1; 5-Team Teaser: 9:2; 6-Team Teaser: 6:1 ;7-Team Teaser: 10/1; 8-Team Teaser: 15:1; 9-Team Teaser: 20:1;
10-Team Teaser: 25:1.

The third exotic would be an If-Bet, which is conditional action that hedges the position. That is, you bet Team A, Team C and Team E in whatever order, If the first team you have in your betting list loses then your bet stops. It would be like losing one bet. Yet if you win all three then you have won three bets with the risk of only having one on the table. The kissing cousin to the If-Bet is the Reverse. Let us imagine we took the teams in alphabetical order: A, C, E. The Reverse would be E, C, A so you have effectively doubled your risk but also increased your reward by six times the amount.