Episodes Gambling Tips

NFL Betting Basics

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from an interview for the previously famous Vegas Fanboy Podcast.

When it comes to stretching your gambling dollar, sports betting is a worthwhile option. But if you’ve never done it before, the process can seem a little daunting. What do those numbers mean? What’s up with the plus and minus signs? What’s a money line? In this episode, Tom from The Vegas Parlay guides us through a standard NFL line step by step, so you can feel comfortable placing a bet on your favorite team. Here is a brief transcript of part of our conversation. We talk about much more in the full-length interview:

(Tom’s responses are in italics and edited for brevity and flow)

Are the lines the same at all the books?

They are not…they all have different lines. It really is a good idea to shop lines. Sometimes it can make a big difference between having a winning ticket and one that you’re going to tear up.

Vegasinsider.com will give you a good idea of the best value and help you shop lines.

Chicago Bears vs Cincinnati Bengals Sample Line:

269 Chicago Bears             +165       +3.5  (-110)     42 O (-110)    

270 Cincinnati Bengals    – 185        – 3.5  (-110)     42 U (-110)

Money Line

Chicago Bears  +165

Cincinnati Bengals  – 185

The money line does not involve the point spread. You’re betting on the team to win. If you have +165 on the board, you’re betting $10 and you’ll win $16.50. It’s like 100. If you bet $100, you’ll win $165. You’ll get a total of $265 back. You get the $165 on top of your original bet.

When your team is an underdog and you feel they can win outright, playing the moneyline can be fun because you get higher odds and a better return on your money.

That -185 means you’ll have to bet more to win less, because they are favored. This basically says you’ll have to wager $18.50 to win $10. Or $185 to win $100.

The Point Spread

Chicago Bears  +3.5   (-110)

Cincinnati Bengals – 3.5 (-110)

That -110, if you’re looking to bet $110, you’re going to win $100. That’s the juice. It’s the sportsbook’s profit. They’re keeping 10%. Their objective is to have the same amount of money bet on each team and keep that 10%.

The Bears are +3.5. If they lose by 3, you’re fine. If they win, you’re good. Basically they get 3.5 points on their side. If they lose by 4, the bet is a loser.

The Total

42 Over/Under (-110)

Again, there’s that 10% that the casino “takes”. If you’re going to bet that, you do it in increments of 11. You can bet $110 to win $100, $55 to win $50. You’re betting on the total points scored in the game, if it goes over the total or under.

Many times you can’t stand either team. Sometimes it’s fun to throw money on an over/under because you’re cheering for the defense or for touchdowns instead of cheering for particular teams.

How do we actually make the bet?

Each team is assigned a number every week. They’re called the Vegas rotation numbers. These numbers are assigned to every team and at every casino or sportsbook you go to.

The Bears are 269, the Bengals are 270. When you go up to the window, let’s say you want to put $100 on the Bears at +3.5, you go up and you say, “$100 on 269”. That’s all you have to say. That way you are just rattling off numbers instead of teams.

That still can be tricky, because with so many numbers on the board you really have to make sure you’re getting the right number. But it makes it easier when you go up, especially if you’re making multiple bets when you’re just using numbers. This way there is no confusion. You know, if you say “$100 on New York”, you could mean the Jets or the Giants, and things like that.

For more sports wagering information, head to Tom’s site, The Vegas Parlay!

Feature photo: “Sportsbook at the Wynn” by Leyla.a via CC by 2.0

About the author


Host of the Vegas Fanboy podcast. A reluctant Millennial. An amateur human.