How to Bet on 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 the teams. 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 the eyes of bettors. 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 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 Seahawk 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 Seahawks 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.


The second most popular method of football betting involves wagering on totals, also known as over/unders. 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 wagering 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.

The money line odds on a game will look something like:
Seattle Seahawks -400
Arizona Cardinals +300

This means 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.

The payouts you receive on your parlay wagers are determined by the number of teams you select in your parlay, and making matters worse is that the house advantage tends to get higher as you select more teams. The house advantage on a three-team parlay that pays 6-to-1 is 12.5%, while the house advantage on a six-team parlay that pays 40-to-1 is a hefty 35.94%. A ten-team parlay at 600-to-1 odds, which are probably the best odds you will find, is a little bit more than 40%.

Parlay Cards

Parlay cards are extremely popular during football season and are nothing more than parlays that have all of the games and the totals printed on a little card. The key here is that the odds do not change once the cards are released. If Team A moves from a 10.5-point to a 12-point favorite during the week, they still may be 10.5-point favorites on the parlay card. For this reason, parlay cards often pay slightly less than a parlay wagered at the sportsbook’s window.

Football Teasers

In exchange for the points allowed by teasers, bettors receive much lower odds than they would if wagering on a parlay. While a three team parlay will pay 6-1, a three team, 6-point teaser pays 9-5.

The typical odds for football teasers are as follows:

6-point Teasers:
Two teams = 10/11
Three teams = 9/5
Four teams = 3/1
Five teams = 9/2
Six teams = 6/1

6.5-point Teasers:
Two teams = 10/12
Three teams = 8/5
Four teams = 5/2
Five teams = 4/1
Six teams = 11/2

7-point Teasers:
Two teams = 10/13
Three teams = 7/5
Four teams = 2/1
Five teams = 7/2
Six teams = 5/1

Some sportsbooks will offer three-team, 10-point teasers at odds of 10/13 (risk $13 to win $10), although not all offer them. Others will offer different types of specialty teasers. When you see odds listed in this manner, the first number is the amount you will win, while the second number is the amount of your wager. For example, a 6.5-point, four-team teaser is listed as 5/2, which means you stand to win $5 for every $2 you wager. A six-team, 6.5-point teaser is listed as 11/2, meaning you would win $11 for every $2 you wagered.

Specialty Football Bets

There are several other bets that are offered on almost every football game and one of those are first half bets, which as the name implies, are wagers that are made on the first-half outcome. There are first-half point spreads and first-half totals that you can choose to wager on and the outcome of your bet is decided by the halftime score.

Somewhat related to first-half lines are halftime lines and these are lines that are released at halftime of a game. These bets are concerned with only what transpires in the second half of the game. There isn’t much time for the oddsmakers to create point spreads and totals for the second half and also give bettors an opportunity to make wagers on the them, so halftime bets are popular among sophisticated bettors under the belief that there is a greater chance a bad line will be posted.

Some sportsbooks will offer first-quarter lines and totals on the nationally televised games and these work in the exact same manner as first-half wagers, but are just concerned with the first quarter.

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