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this article we review and comment upon the basic and exotic types
of bets available to players who want action on the NFL. First, a
couple of "warnings"
Not all bookies offer all of the bets below.
Not all bookies offer the bets at exactly the same odds. The odds
listed are what I perceive to be the industry standard, and rarely
should you accept worse. Occasionally you'll find shops offering
more generous odds, be it on a week-in, week-out basis or as a
for the purposes of explaining the bets we'll assume the following
first week lines in the NFL. For more info on what a line is (and
isn't), see the first article in the series.
here we go:
involves the smaller number listed by each pair of teams. The team
beside the smaller number is favored by that many points. (So the
Jets are favored over New England by 6.5, Green Bay is favored over
Oakland by 10, Seattle by 7.5, and so on.)
the team you like to win the game, including the handicap. You risk
$11 for every $10 you want to win from the bookmaker. If you choose
Seattle, Seattle must win by more than 7.5 points (so 8 points or
more). If you prefer Detroit, Detroit either has to win on the field
or lose by 7.5 points or less for you to win your bet. So it doesn't
only matter, sometimes, who wins the game, but who wins including
the handicap or "spread".
Detroit wins, Detroit bettors win.
Seattle wins by 8 or more points, Seattle bettors win.
Seattle wins on the field by 7 points or less, Detroit bettors win
because Seattle "didn't cover the spread".
in the Pittsburgh-Cleveland game Pittsburgh wins by exactly 7
points, the line. In that case all bets are considered off, and
risked money is just returned to bettors. This is called a
"push", "wash", "jerk", and other
things I can't print here.
is the most common bet in football. If you're risking $11 to win $10
on each bet, you must be right 52.4% of the time to break even.
involves the larger number associated with each pair of teams. This
is the "Over/Under" number, and it's listed beside the
the total final score of both teams in the Pittsburgh-Cleveland
game. If you think it'll be "OVER" 41.5, risk $11 to win
$10 from your bookie. If you think it'll be 41 points or less, bet
the same amount on the "UNDER". Overtime counts!
the Minnesota-Atlanta game ends 28-20 for a total of 48, that's a
push treated the same way as a side that pushes. Bettors just get
their money back.
common bet, the "TOTAL" can see the bettor cheering both
teams' offenses, or both teams' defenses. At the dorm one year in
university I had the over on the Super Bowl. More than a few people
were confused why I wanted both the Bills AND the Giants to run it
PARLAYS (in Europe, "ACCUMULATORS")
of Teams .......... Odds
a parlay, you pick two or more sides, totals, or a combination of
sides and totals, and if they all win, you win at the odds quoted.
If one or more of your picks loses, your bet loses. A popular bet is
one that parlays the side and the total in the same game often
"favorite and over" or "underdog and under".
in Parlays: If one of your picks pushes, most places use "ties
reduce": that one part of your parlay that pushed was deemed
not to have been played and you now have a parlay with one pick
less. So if you played a 5-team parlay and 4 of your picks won and 1
pushed, you would be credited with a winning, 4-team parlay. Avoid
any shop where ties on parlays lose.
general, multiple team parlays are BAD BETS! The true odds of
hitting a 2-teamer is 3-1 and a 3-teamer 7-1, so the standard odds
above give the bookie a modest edge. The bookie's cut gets big
thereafter though: The true odds on a 4-teamer are 15-1, on a
6-teamer 63-1, and on an 8-teamer 255-1; the payoffs aren't nearly
that good! Some people say "Well it's like the Lottery...maybe
the jackpot should truly be $20 million, but who's going to complain
about winning $7 million?". Take that philosophy if you like,
but take it at your own risk.
bet is so named because it can tease the player into thinking he has
the advantage over the house. We'll discuss 2-team teasers, but
teasers of more teams are also available and work the same way.
two sides, two totals, or one of each. Like a parlay both must win,
but you get to move the line in your favor by 6, 6.5, or 7 points
depending on how much you bet.
you like Seattle and the over in the Pittsburgh game and you choose
a 6-point teaser, then you lay $11 against your bookie's $10 and you
need Seattle to win by (7.5 - 6) only 1.5 points or more and the
total in the Pittsburgh game to go over (41.5 - 6) only 35.5.
you like New England and the under in the Pittsburgh game on a
7-point tease then New England has to win or lose by (6.5 + 7) at
most 13.5 points and the Pittsburgh total has to go under (41.5 + 7)
a score of 48.5.
treat pushes within teasers differently from place to place. Check
out the shop's rules before you bet. Be sure to avoid a place where
the teaser a good bet? A teaser is a lot like a cello recital. Done
properly, with attention to subtleties, it can be beautiful. Done
incorrectly, it's the ugliest thing ever. A future article will be
entirely devoted to teasers.
people prefer to bet on which team will win the game without the use
of the spread. This is called "betting on the money line"
or "betting straight up".
the Patriots-Jets game you might see a money line of:
minus number goes with the favorite. That is how much you must risk
on that team to win $100 of your bookie's dough.
plus number goes with the underdog. That is how much your bookie
would wager against your $100 if you took that team.
there is no favorite, each team is listed at -$110. For either side
you must risk $110 to win $100.
lines can be parlayed; consult a book on sports betting for how to
calculate payoff odds. (All baseball odds are money lines, so a book
on betting baseball would have this for sure.)
shops have a fixed conversion table for spread odds to money line
odds. 3-point favorites are near -$150 on the money line, touchdown
favorites near -$300, and 10-point favorites near -$500. Most shops
won't have a money line on a game where the spread is more than 14
shops have all the above bets available. The following bets are
slightly more "exotic" and are hit or miss. Some books
cover exotics, some don't; those that do may have some and not
1ST HALF and HALFTIME LINES
are very common now. Before the game the book will offer a line on
the first half side and total. Once again you lay $11 to win $10 and
the bet is "finished" at halftime. Similarly, at the half,
bookies will deal a line on the second half of play only (but this
does include overtime, if any).
people beat these lines with great frequency. I haven't figured them
out yet. Worse, they can be abused by dummies like a guy I know in
town: ESPN's Sunday game comes on here at 9pm, and this year MNF has
unfortunately reverted to its old time slot, 10pm. If he has a long
day ahead of him my friend will just best the first half numbers so
he won't "have to stay up to see if he wins".
apologies to Rudyard Kipling, the "if" bet is more about
being a manager of money than about being a man. You call in two
bets at once but the second one only plays "if" the first
one wins. Usually the second bet is on a game that will start before
the bet on the first game is decided. Be very clear with the clerk
that you are placing an "if" bet. (Say "if" a
may decide you like the Jets and Detroit in Week 1, but you want to
limit your risk. So you decide to bet $110 to win $100 on the Jets
-6.5, and then instruct your bookie to put $110 on Detroit +7.5 on
the West Coast game, but only if the Jets win for you in the early
both teams win, you win $200...$100 from the Jets and $100 from
Detroit. Nice. If the Jets win but Detroit loses on you, you're out
$10: The Jets won you $100 but you lost $110 on Detroit. If the Jets
don't win by 7 or more, you lose $110-your Jets bet. The Detroit bet
doesn't happen because the Jets didn't win for you.
you can win $200, or lose pennies, or lose at most $110.
REVERSES (Sometimes called "if-and-reverse")
reverse is two "if" bets on the same two teams, with each
team on the front end once (and so each team is on the back end once
as well). A "Reverse" on the above teams is simply the
addition of a mirror "if" bet: one that puts $110 on
Detroit no matter what, and if Detroit wins, puts $110 back on the
if both teams win, you win $400-two times $200, the total winnings
on a single "if".
one team wins, you lose $120. Lets say the Jets win but Detroit
loses. In the "Jets first" side, you won $100 on the Jets,
but you then lost $110 on Detroit. Down $10. On the "Detroit
first" side, Detroit lost, so you lose $110, and the Jets bet
never happened. So you lose $10 plus $110 for $120.
both teams lose, you're out $220. Both front-ends are losers so both
back-ends are thankfully void!
people like parlays, some prefer reverses. Get opinions on this in
the posting forum. I prefer single bets rather than parlays or
once called this "the crack cocaine of wagering". I wish
people used more creative analogies. It's just another intriguing
not only back a team to cover the right side of the spread, but your
payoff depends on how well they do it. Suppose you like Atlanta -3
over Minnesota. Figure out your unit-bet. Let's say it's $10. For
every point more than three that Atlanta wins by, you win $10. For
every point Atlanta falls short of winning by three by, you lose
Atlanta won by 10, you'd win $70: Take the winning margin (10),
subtract the spread (3), and multiply the result by your unit-bet
($10). If Minnesota won by 3, you're out $66: Atlanta came up six
points short of winning by three, so multiply 6 by your unit bet to
figure out your loss.
shops "cap" a win or loss at 15 or 20 points, and clients
can usually lower the cap number when the bet is placed. So if
Atlanta loses 56-7, you're not out $520. If they win in a rout, in
this example you win a maximum of $200 on a 20-point cap. Most
people who bet action points bet them when they smell a blowout.
Action Points offshore requires a big bankroll because most shops
require you to have in your account enough money to cover an
"absolute loss" of the cap number of unit-bets.
SUPREMACY or SPREAD BETTING (European & some Australian Books)
bet emerged from financial districts in London, Madrid, and likely
other stock exchanges. It's the European version of Action Points.
term "Spread" here is NOT the traditional spread. In the
Atlanta example above, instead of booking Action points on Atlanta
-3 (or Minnesota +3) the bookmaker would list what he calls the
spread here as something like "Atlanta, 1-5".
good news is that winners earn $10 a point and losers lose $10 a
point, not $11/point per action point loss. The bad news is that
it's a split-line: Atlanta-backers have Atlanta at -5 (the higher
spread number goes with the listed team, the favorite), and
Minnesota-backers have Minnesota +1 (the lower spread number). What
happens if Atlanta wins by exactly 2, 3, or 4 points? Everybody
for this reason, is a poor choice for the bettor in comparison to
Action Points. When a game lands splat on the odds-maker's line in
Action Points, all bets are off. In Supremacy, the bookie collects a
small sum from everyone. This is particularly poisonous in pro
football when the number 3 lies within the spread...a
disproportionate number of games are decided by exactly three
you like the Patriots at the quoted line of +6.5, but you
"really" like them +7. If you can't find +7 at another
shop, you can move the line half a point ("buy" a half
point) in your favor by laying $12 to win $10 instead of $11 to win
$10. On a to-win-$10 bet, each half-point move will cost you an
extra $1 of risk. One exception is moving "onto" or
"off" the number 3, which usually costs $1.50 of risk to
move both on and off. (This is because lots of NFL games are decided
by exactly 3 points.) Places that offer point buying will usually
let people buy up to between 3 and 7 points.
can be useful when the line is around the number 3 in football, but
otherwise is of questionable value. Check out opinions on the
subject in our posting rooms.
other strange bet may be referred to as a prop. You may see
something in the Jets game like "Who will pass for more yards,
Testaverde or Bledsoe?" Odds are quoted with each possible
outcome in money line format. These are especially popular for the
props that interest you, but if you're going to play a lot, look for
lines that don't give the bookmaker too much juice-or you may wind
up being squeezed dry.
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