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How to Bet Football

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Updated May 02, 2013

How to Bet Football

When it comes to sports betting, nothing has caught the fancy of the betting public quite like football betting. Football is made for television, which is an added attraction to many bettors, and the week in between games gives the casual bettor plenty of time to study games. The most common football bets are point spread wagers on sides (teams), as well as over/under betting and we'll look at both.

The most popular method of betting football involves the point spread, which is a handicap the sportsbooks impose on one team to make both teams equal in terms of betting. For a more detailed explanation of the point spread see Introduction to Point Spreads.

With the point spread, the team expected to win will be called the favorite, while the team expected to lose will be called the underdog. The team expected to win the game gives points to the team expected to lose for betting purposes.

If the Seahawks are playing the Cardinals, most bettors would wager on the Seahawks to win the game if all they had to do was pick the winner of the game. But if you make the Seahawks a 10-point favorite that changes everything. What this means is that Seattle has to win by 11 or more points for its bettors to win their bet, while those betting on the Cardinals would win their wagers if Arizona won the game or lost by nine points or less. If the Celtics win by exactly 10 points, the bet is a push and no money changes hands.

When betting against the point spread, bettors are asked to lay 11-to-10 odds, which means that they risk $11 to win $10. This is how the bookies and sportsbooks make their money. If you bet $11 on the Seahawks and I bet $11 on the Cardinals, the bookie collects $22 between us, but only returns $21 to the winner. The extra dollar is essentially the bookie's fee for accepting our wagers.

Totals

The second most popular method of football betting involves wagering on totals, also known as over/unders. For a more detailed explanation of totals see Introduction to Totals.

A total is the predicted combined score of the two teams playing. A number will be posted and bettors have the option of wagering more than the predicted total points will be scored (over), or less than the predicted total points will be scored (under).

In our hypothetical game between the Seahawks and the Cardinals, the over/under number might be 40. Bettors wagering on the over would win their bets if the total combined score was 41 or greater, while bettors wagering on the under would win their bets if the combined total score was 39 or fewer points. Again, if the combined score is exactly 40 points, the bet is considered a push and no money changes hands.

Just as with the point spread, bettors are asked to lay 11-to-10 odds and risk $11 to win $10 on each over/under wager.

Money Line Wagers

While betting against the point spread or on totals make up the vast majority of football wagers, bettors also have several other betting options available to them. One is the money line wager, which is a bet on the winner of the game without the point spread. But because some teams are given a better than 50-percent chance of winning, money line wagers are made using odds, so that if you bet on the team expected to win you will be asked to risk more than you stand to win. More about money line betting can be found at Introduction to Money Lines.

The money line odds on a game will look something like:

Seattle Seahawks -400
Arizona Cardinals +300

This means is those who bet the Seahawks are asked to put up $40 to win $10, while those taking the Cardinals to pull off the upset are asked to risk $10 to win $30.

Parlays and Teasers

Other popular football bets are parlays and teasers, which are sometimes referred to as exotic bets. In parlays and teasers. bettors must correctly predict two or more games. On parlays, bettors have the option of betting against the point spread or using the money line, while with teasers, players adjust the point spread in their favor.

The main drawback to betting parlays and teasers is all of your teams must win or the entire bet is a loss. If you pick four out of five games correctly, your wager is still a loss, as not all of your selections were winners.

Both parlays and teasers are explained more indepth at How to Bet Parlays and How to Bet Teasers.

Betting football isn't difficult and there are many bettors who only come out during football season and take time off when the season ends, only to come back out the following September.

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