How to Start Betting on Football

Below we cover the most common football bets. What are the bets and what are the strategies you need to know to get started betting on the NFL & College Football.

  1. What is a point spread?
  2. What is a money line?
  3. What is a game total?
  4. What is a parlay bet?

What is a Football Point Spread?

The theory with point spreads is that you’re not actually betting on which team will win the game, you’re betting on which team will “cover the spread”. The favorite has to win by at least a certain number of points for a wager on them to payout and the underdog can lose the game but still cover the spread.

To put it simply. The favorite will have points deducted from its final score and the underdog will have points added to its final score. Once the points are added/removed, the winner will be decided.

Here’s an example of a point spread on an NFL game between the Raiders and the Bronco.

The Raiders are 6 point underdogs. This means that they will be getting 6 points added to their final score. The Broncos are -6 points which means that they will have 6 points deducted from their final score. You can choose to bet on the Raiders and get the points or on the Broncos and give the points.

Most point spread bets have odds set at -110. This means that you will need to bet $110 to win $100. This is how the sportsbooks make their money. If you have two people betting on opposite sides. One bets $110 on the Raiders +6 and the other bets $100 on the Broncos -6. The Broncos win by 7. This means the guy who bet on the Raiders loses his $110. The guy who bet on the Broncos wins $100 & gets his $110 back for a total of $210. Since both guys bet $110 the total bet was $220 & the total payout was $210. The profit for the sportsbook was $10.

Why Football Point Spreads?

Some games are expected to be close. However, there are also games that are expected to be blowouts. The point spread has a way of leveling out the expected outcome of a game. In a college football game Alabama might be playing Tulsa. Everyone knows Alabama is the better team and will easily win so why watch the game? What if I gave you Tulsa and 42 points? Now are you interested? This is the essence of the point spread. To make as many games as possible interesting to football fans. The more games that are interesting the more action on the games.

Some Tips for Point Spread Betting

Handicapping does not require a degree in mathematics. If you watch the  games and get a feel for how teams will perform that gut instinct can payoff. I am not dismissing math. Some basic research can help. How do teams do on the road vs at home. How have they done against the spread so far. The sportsbooks aren’t perfect but they are good at what they do. If you are betting on 15 or 20 games each week you are not betting on football you are playing the lottery. We will go over some basics in parlay betting later that might help you out if you like to bet on a lot of games.

Never buy into the hype. The most obnocious hype machine in sports is ESPN. They have an endless amount of talking heads. Every week they will try to out do each other in sucking up to whoever is hot and castigating whoever is down. The only reason to listen to them is to get an understanding of what the public will hear.

Look at betting on college football. The NFL gets the most attention and the most action. This means a sportsbook manager can take a big loss if he puts out a bad NFL line. However, in college football there is less bet so a lose line will not create the same risk. Winning a bet on San Jose State vs San Diego State counts just as much as winning the Monday Night Football game. I am not saying to ignore the NFL. I just like that there are 50+ college football games up each week and I only have to find two or three soft lines to make money.

What is a Football Money Line Bet?

The money line is the easiest wager in sports. Betting the money line for a football game is simply betting on which team you think is going to win. There is no point spread involved. Whichever team you select has to win outright for a wager to be successful. In the unlikely event of a tie, your bet will be returned.

In most football games there is a favorite and an underdog. Very occasionally there are games where the two team are completely evenly matched, but for the most part one team is favored over the other to win.

Why Bet on the Money Line?

Why not just bet on the favorites? Well, the sportsbooks reduce the payouts or odds for a favorite. When we went over point spreads the odds were set at -110 for both teams. On money line bets it is rare for both teams to be at -110. The favorite will usually take more money bet to get the $100 win.

Money Line Bet Example

For an example lets have the Cowboys playing the Giants. The Cowboys are -6 points so they are the favorites. The Giants are +6 points so they are the underdogs. Instead of betting on the points I decide I want to bet on the Giants to win the game outright. The money line odds for this game are the favored Cowboys -400 and the underdog Giants +300. This means a $100 bet on the Giants would win $300 & get my $100 bet back. On the other side if I took the Cowboys at -400. A $100 bet would only win $25. You can see the advantage of betting on the underdogs money line. Of course if the Cowboys win the game by 3 points. I would lose a bet on the money line that I would have won if I had taken the points. So, be careful. They are a dog for a reason.

Money Line Betting Tips

There is one spot I like to bet the money line on NFL games. That is if the point spread is less than 3 points. If a team is an underdog getting 2.5 points I will take them on the money line. The reason is that most games in the NFL are decided by 3 points or more. Instead of taking a team at +2.5 at -110. I will take them on the money line at +105.

Be selective and only bet when you have justified reasons to do so. If you like several favorites but do not like the low payouts of a money line bet. Take a look at our parlay betting section to see how you can make more money betting on favorites on the money line.

What is a Football Totals Bet?

The most common bets on the NFL are point spread and total wagers. You’ll want to consider other wagers, however there is money to be made from sticking to just these two. Regardless of how many different types of wager you end up betting on. These are the two you should begin with.

Totals wagers are also known as over/under bets, which is perhaps a better description of what they are. Quite simply, they involve betting on whether the total number of points scored in a game will be over or under a posted number.

An example of a totals wager on an NFL game.

Lets say the Rams are playing the Saints. The sportsbook has a total of 44.5 points. This means the combined score of BOTH teams is added together to make a total and decide who won the bet. If the final score is Rams 28 & Saints 24. The total combined score is 52 points and it will go over the total.

Totals are like point spreads in that the odds are usually -110 on each side. It is not uncommon to see odds at -120 because heavy action on one side forces the sportsbook to adjust the odds.

Totals Betting Tips

One good thing about totals betting is that every NFL game will have a totals number posted. That in itself helps out. If you like a game then you know there will be a bet available. Just like betting on the point spread there is room for a gut reaction in totals betting. If you look at the line and you think it is completely wrong. This is a chance to make some money. Maybe the sportsbook has 39.5 points listed and you like both offenses to score a lot. Then there is a chance to bet the over.

Time to do a little shopping. Not for clothes but for the best line. It is not uncommon for one sportsbook to have a total of 40.5 and another might have 39.5. If you’ve decided to be the under, then there’s a clear advantage in betting under 40.5 rather than 39.5.

What is a Football Betting Parlay?

A parlay bet combines several bets for a bigger payout. The more teams you take on a parlay bet the bigger the payout. The problem with this is the more teams you have the more likely you are to lose. In most parlay bets you only need to get one wrong to lose the whole bet.

The most common type of parlay bet is the points spread with a totals bet on the same game.

Simple Parlay Example

An example of this bet would be a game between the Rams and Falcons. The Falcons are 7 point favorites and the total is set at 39.5. If you like the Rams and the over. Then the parlay bet would bet Rams +7 & over 39.5. If you are right on both and each has odds of -110. Then your win on a $100 bet would bet $260 plus your $100 bet back. Not bad. betting $100 and winning $260. Of course if either bet is wrong the parlay is a loser. This means the final score could be Rams 23 & Saints 14. This would be a loser because the total is only 37 points.

Money Line Parlay

As I mentioned earlier. Betting on the money line favorites can produce winners but not a lot of money. Remember betting on the Cowboys at -400 on the money line means that a $100 bet on them would only win $25. Now, money line parlay bets can bump this up. What if two favorites were both -200 on the money line. Then betting them on the parlay would win $125 on a $100 bet. Of course if either favorite loses then you lose the bet.

Football Round Robin Parlay

What if you like 6 games? Betting them all on a parlay would have a big payout. However, if just one team did not cover then the whole bet is lost. I have seen many parlays go down in flames when a bettor got 4 out of 5 or 5 out of 6 right. There is a way to bump up the return and minimize the risk. It is called a round robin parlay. A round robin breaks down the parlay bet into several smaller bets.

If I like 6 games and I round robin my parlay by 2’s. I am making 15 different bets on one betting ticket. I would be taking every two team combination of parlay bets. By breaking it down like this it will minimize the losses because all I need is for 2 teams to cover to get some of my money  back. Of course, the down side is that if I am right on all 6 games I will not win as much. But, remember if I am right on all 6 games. I will still win 15 two team parlays. The same thing can be done for round robin parlays on 3, 4, 5 teams. A good insurance move is to bet the 6 teams on a round robin of 5. This would mean you are making 6 five team parlay bets so if one team does not cover. You would still win with 5 out of covering.

To see more about football betting:

How to bet on Football Online

Learn about Football Prop Betting

Top Online Sportsbook Bonus Offers