Betting on the NFL and NCAAF is similar when it comes to the basics of betting. You have spread betting, money line betting, total betting, prop bets, futures, etc. When it comes to advanced betting methods, the two leagues start to separate themselves a bit. For the purpose of this guide, we will stick to the basics and explain how to bet as a beginner in either league or what exactly it is you are betting on.
This is the most common form of betting. The “spread” is the number of points your team must win by, or “cover”, depending on which team it is you are betting. A possible example would be a line you see that says: Green Bay Packers (-6.5) vs Pittsburgh Steelers. What this means is that this specific sportsbook where you got the line expects the Packers to win by 6.5 points.
Now, obviously, a team can’t win by 6.5, but rather by six or seven. You may not think it, but a half of a point makes a huge difference. So, at that line, if you bet on the Packers, you would need them to win the game by seven or more points to win your bet. On the other hand, if you bet the Steelers, you would need them to either win the game or lose by six or fewer points to win your bet. The team with the (-) on their side is the favorite, while the other team is the underdog.
Money Line Betting
This is the second-most common form of betting and is also the simplest. Betting on the “money line” is essentially just betting for either team to win. There is no spread involved in this, betting the money line is just picking the outright winner of the contest. Using the Green Bay-Pittsburgh reference from before, you would possibly see a money line that says: Green Bay (-180) vs Pittsburgh (+160). A team that was as big as a favorite as Green Bay was, 6.5 points, the money line payout will be smaller on this team, as they are expected to win the game. The -180 is the odds you will be getting on your bet. So, you would need to bet $180 to profit $100. A (-) odds means you would have to bet that amount in order to win $100. So, a team with (-255) odds, you would need to bet $255 to win $100. The (+) money teams show how much you would win if you bet $100. So, the Steelers (+160) would net you a profit of $160 if you bet $100. All your team has to do is win the game in order for your bet to win. For favorites, money line bets always pay out less than spread bets, and for underdogs, they pay out more.
For a sport like MMA, the money line isn’t that much different. You are still betting on the outcome of the event by just picking the straight-up winner of the event. In MMA there are a number of ways to win a fight (TKO, Submission, Unanimous Decision, etc.). By betting the money line, your fighter can win by any means and you bet will cash!
A teaser can be an effective way to bet on the NFL if you follow certain guiding principles, and of course, if you pick your spots right. If you don’t know what a teaser is, the “tease” is the book allowing you to change the spread of the game in your favor. The catch is twofold: one, you need to pick two games correctly to win, and two, the book will charge you extra juice.
What I mean by extra juice is taking the vig of -110 and moving it up to -120. Some books will charge even more juice for teasers, so make sure to shop around for the best prices. Typically, a 6-point teaser is standard, but you can tease a game up to 7-points or higher. You’ll just be charged even more juice in order to do so. For this NFL week one teaser and future plays, we’ll stick with the 6-point teaser.
When teasing a game, always remember these principles:
- Never tease the total.
- Tease through multiple key numbers.
- Primarily tease home teams
- Pick low-variance games.
You don’t always have to tease home teams, but those will be the first I’m looking at in my teasers. The reason for never teasing the total is that there is simply too much variance in game totals that it’s not worth the extra ten cents of juice that the books will charge. You may find yourself hitting on some totals teasers, but long term, it’s not likely to be a profitable use of your bankroll.
Variance is to be avoided at all costs in a teaser. The reason for this is that high-variance games are more likely to be unpredictable, and therefore less likely to hit over a large sample size.
Teasing through key numbers is self-explanatory. An example of this would be if you want to tease a team that’s getting +2 points in a game. On a 6-point teaser, you can bring that number up through the biggest key numbers of 3 and 7. While not as important as 3 and 7, 4 is another key number, and 6 has become more key recently with the NFL moving back extra points. As kickers miss more extra points, games are beginning to land on 6 more often.
If a team is -7.5 you want to tease through the 7 and the 3. So, a 6-point teaser becomes -1.5.
Another popular form of betting is “total betting”. What this means is that you bet on the total number of points scored in a particular game. You will notice an “O/U” on a particular game betting line. This “Over/Under” is the total amount of points projected to be scored in the game. The total of the Packers-Steelers game could possibly be 45. What this means is that the books expect there to be 45 points scored combined between the two teams. Total betting doesn’t involve betting on a particular team to win. Instead, it involves betting on the two teams combined to score as many, or as few points, depending on what you bet. An “Over” bet would involve you placing a bet on the total points scored in the game to go above, or “over” the projected total. So, if the total is 45, you would need Green Bay and Pittsburgh to score more than 45 combined points. A 35-21 final would get you a win on your over bet, regardless of the winning team, because the total points (56) is more than the line set at 45. The “Under” works the exact opposite. If you bet the “Under”, you would need the total combined score of the two teams to be less, or “Under” the 45 points set by the books.
MMA Total Betting
In MMA, the total betting is a completely different animal. There is no “score” to bet the Over/Under on. Instead, they offer “round betting”. Round betting is when you bet on which round the fight will end. An example would be if you see a fight between Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic, you will see an option to bet on the Over/Under on what round the fight will end. For example, a regular fight will only feature three rounds, so you can expect to see a line like 2.5. If you bet the Under, you are betting that the fight will end in the first or second round.
The Over means you expect the fight to go a full three rounds. Championship fights feature five rounds, so the line could be dramatically different, like 3.5 or 4.5 rounds. Make sure to check how many rounds a fight is before placing your bet! Some sportsbooks also feature MMA bets where you can bet on exactly what round you expect the fight to end. These provide higher payouts but are tougher bets as your fight must end in that exact round for your bet to win.
All of the betting types listed above are based on the final outcome of the game. However, an increasingly popular form of betting involves just betting on a particular quarter or half of a specific game. Bettors can place money line, spread, or total bets on just a specific quarter or half as opposed to an entire game. In college basketball, there are only half bets, as there are no quarters in college basketball.
For example, if the UCONN Huskies are a (-9.5) favorite over the Pittsburgh Panthers for the entire game, you could see a first-half line that would say: UCONN (-4.5). That means that once the first half is over, the Huskies would need to be winning by at least five points for the Huskies first-half spread bet to cover. Lines for the spread, money line, and total points are set for each half, giving bettors the option to bet on one specific half as opposed to the entire game. The same works for NBA and NFL, and they also feature quarter bets, which require you to bet on a specific quarter as opposed to an entire half or game.
Future bets are some of the more fun bets to place and they can also provide some HUGE payouts. An example of a “future bet” would be betting on a particular team to win the Super Bowl of College Football Playoff Championship before the season even starts. A team like Clemson, who is the favorite, may only have a +200 odds of winning the title (meaning a bet of $100 wins you $200 if Clemson wins the College Football Playoff Championship). Longshot underdogs such as Army provide odds at around +50000, meaning a $100 bet would win you $50,000!
Prop bets are fun ways to place a bet without betting on the outcome of the game, but instead on the outcome of particular plays or players. In the NFL or NCAAF, a possible prop bet would be: Will the Home Team Rush for More Than 150 Yards? So instead of betting on the outcome of the game, all you would need is for the home to rush for more than 150 yards (if you bet “yes”) or less than 150 yards (if you bet “no”). Prop bets can help make every play of a game more interesting as a bettor is not focused on small aspects of the game as opposed to the entire game as a whole. Other prop bets examples include: Will (a specific player) (catch, rush, throw) for a (specific amount) of yards? Will (a specific player) score a touchdown? Will (a specific player) record a sack? You can find a bunch of different prop bets on any particular game.
Now that you know the Betting Basics, head over to our Free Picks page and find a play you like.