Sports Betting 101: Understanding the basics


Sports betting has exploded across America following the 2018 Supreme Court ruling that struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. What was once limited, legally, to Nevada has taken root in states across the country as sportsbooks open up shop wherever legislation allows. Suddenly there’s a new angle to primetime NBA games and NFL Sundays beyond wins, losses, and playoff races.

That can be overwhelming if you’re new to the game. Fortunately, we’ve got you covered with some basics that can offer betting insight beyond smiling and nodding when your friends bring up overs, unders and the spread. Let’s discuss the terms you need to know:

Term 1: Point spread

A number created for every betting matchup; the goal is to have an equal amount bet on each side

This is the bettor’s answer to “how many points would you have to spot this bad team in order for them to beat a better team?” Let’s say the favorite in an NFL game is favored to win by a touchdown; they’d have a -7 distinction on the betting line. Their opponent, the underdog, would be listed at +7.

Since whole numbers leave the possibility for ties, most spreads end in .5 even though there’s no way to score half a point in most sports. In our scenario, the favorite would be listed at -7.5. That means they’d have to win by at least eight points to cash that bet. Betting the underdog at +7.5 means they could still lose on the scoreboard but win at the sportsbook, but only if the final margin is fewer than eight points.

That’s called covering the spread. Great teams do it.

Term 2: Money line

The profit you’d return for betting on straight up wins and losses

Betting the money line is less common since the odds for the favorite are less profitable than the spread. The money line for each team is a three-digit number. For favorites, it tells you how much you’d need to bet in order to win $100. A -400 favorite means you’d have to plunk down $400 to make a $100 profit in victory — much worse odds, but you also don’t have to worry about the spread.

The number is different for the underdog; it’s an indicator of how much you’d win with a $100 bet. A +350 line means not many people think the underdog has a chance, but if they pull it off you’d pocket an extra $350 for your faith. Like in horseshoes and hand grenades, “close” doesn’t count; you’ve gotta win the game outright.

Term 3: Total (over/under)

Betting the amount of points scored

Another simple mechanism. The total is the projected total amount of points, goals, runs, etc., scored in a game. Bet the under if you think the final score will be less than that number. Bet the over if you think the final score will be more.

Both sides will have a money line attached, though they won’t vary nearly as wildly as the money lines for picking winners and losers. The over is the only bet you can cash before the game goes final if the score exceeding the total before the final whistle. The under is a little more low key, but a vital tool if you’re a believer in defense.

Gannett may earn revenue from Tipico for audience referrals to betting services. Tipico has no influence over nor are any such revenues in any way dependent on or linked to the newsrooms or news coverage. See for Terms and Conditions. 21+ only. Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER (NJ), 1-800-522-4700 (CO).

Gannett may earn revenue from sports betting operators for audience referrals to betting services. Sports betting operators have no influence over nor are any such revenues in any way dependent on or linked to the newsrooms or news coverage. Terms apply, see operator site for Terms and Conditions. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, help is available. Call the National Council on Problem Gambling 24/7 at 1-800-GAMBLER (NJ, OH), 1-800-522-4700 (CO), 1-800-BETS-OFF (IA), 1-800-9-WITH-IT (IN). Must be 21 or older to gamble. Sports betting and gambling are not legal in all locations. Be sure to comply with laws applicable where you reside.

Share post:


More like this

Beautiful tiny island off UK coast where bikes are banned for key reason

A tiny island, just 80 miles from the UK,...

Will Southern Illinois cover the spread vs. Evansville? Betting Trends, Record ATS

The Evansville Purple Aces (15-13, 6-11 MVC) are 3.5-point...

US, British forces carry out more strikes against Houthis in Yemen

US and British forces carried out strikes against more...