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April 19, 2021

Explained: How To Read Sports Betting Lines

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What does betting line mean and how to read it?

Betting line explained.

Do you find the numbers and symbols on betting lines confusing? Before you part with your hard-earned money, you need to learn how the math behind professional sports betting works.

Whether you’re a sharp or a newbie bettor, SportsBetting.com can give you tips in using the betting line to your advantage to increase your profit potential. 

Challenging the Betting Lines 

Betting lines are set by sportsbooks to represent the odds between the teams competing in a game or event. The odds indicate who the underdog and the favorite are in the matchup, the spread to cover, and the figures in computing your potential payout.

In professional gambling, bookmakers use betting lines to set the parameters for betting on the game and determine the underdog and favorite teams in a match. Handicapping creates a margin (line) between the two teams when there are only two outcomes possible.

On sports betting websites like SporstBetting.com, you will see numbers next to the names of players or teams competing in a match. This is the betting line. 

Betting lines function similarly in most sporting events, such as the NFL, NBA, and college football. 

Let’s use NFL betting to explain how the betting lines work.

Next to the team names, you would see a column for each of the betting types in an NFL betting line, namely the moneyline betting, point spread betting, and totals betting column. 

Here is an example of what a sports betting line could look like for the Super Bowl match of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Teams Moneyline Point spread Totals
Buccaneers +200 +3 (+100) O 46.5 (-110)
Chiefs -110 -3 (-110) U 46.5 (-110)

These numbers may seem complicated, especially to new sports bettors. But trust us when we say that it’s easy to learn how to use the odds to your advantage. 

Allow us to help you understand what betting lines mean and how they work, so you can read sports betting lines and bet with confidence. 

Moneyline Betting

When making moneyline bets, you are betting on which team will straight up win the match. That’s why moneyline bets are also called straight-up bets.

Let’s dissect the betting line example given above. 

Teams Moneyline
Buccaneers +200
Chiefs -110

In American odds, also known as US odds or moneyline odds, there are positive and negative numbers next to the team names. 

The plus sign tells you who the underdog is, while the minus sign indicates the favorite in the match. 

You can quickly tell that it is risky to bet on the Buccaneers to win the Super Bowl 55 against the Chiefs just by looking at the moneyline column.

The Chiefs have a higher chance of winning the game, as indicated by the plus sign. But that doesn’t mean you should automatically bet on the Chiefs to win. 

Betting on the favorites yields a lower payout, while betting on the underdog could give a higher payout. 

For more tips on NFL betting, click here. For the latest odds on NFL games and futures, click here.

Understanding the Math Behind Moneyline Betting

Once you’ve identified the underdog and favorite, you can begin computing your potential payout. 

For every $100 you bet on the Buccaneers, the underdogs in the example, you get $200. You can also use this formula:

Your bet is multiplied by the odds, divided by 100, plus your bet equals your payout.

So if you placed $300 on the Buccaneers with +200 odds, your payout should be $900 if the Buccaneers won. 

Using the formula above,

(Bet ×odds) ÷ 100 = (300 × 200) ÷ 100 = 600

600 + your bet  = 600 + 300 = $900 payout

In betting on the favorite, you need to bet the same amount of money as the negative number to earn a $100 profit. You can also use this formula to compute your payout:

Your bet ÷ odds × 100 + your bet = payout

So if you bet $300 on the Chiefs with a -110 odds and they win, you will earn $573. 

Using the formula above,

Bet ÷ 110 × 100 = 300 ÷ 110 × 100 = 273

273 + your bet = 273 + 300 = $573 payout

Although the Chiefs have a higher chance of winning, betting on the Buccaneers can get you a higher payout for betting the same stake granted that the Chiefs lose the game. 

Other bookies offer to use a different odds format depending on the location of the oddsmaker. 

Online sportsbooks in the United Kingdom use fractional odds. 

Fractional odds are the profit’s ratio to how much you’re betting. Let’s look at this example for the New York Giants against the Miami Dolphins:

Teams Fractional odds
Giants 27/50
Dolphins 33/20

Fractional odds also tell you who the underdogs and favorites are. 

The team favored to win has a fraction where the numerator is lower than the denominator. At the same time, in the fractional odds of the underdog, the denominator is lower than the numerator. 

In the example above, the Dolphins are the underdogs while the Giants are the favored team.

Unlike American odds, there is only one formula for the fractional odds for computing your potential payout:

Your bet × numerator ÷ denominator + your bet = payout

If you were to bet $100 on the Giants, and they won, your payout would be $154. 

Using the formula above,

Your bet × numerator ÷ denominator = 100 × 27 ÷ 50 = 54

54 + your bet = 54 + 100 = $154 payout

If you decide to bet on the Dolphins, and they won, your total earnings would be $265.

Applying the same formula,

Your bet × numerator ÷ denominator = 100 × 33 ÷ 20 = 165

165 + your bet = 165+ 100 = $265 payout

Other countries in Europe, Canada, Australia, and Singapore use the decimal odds. In decimal odds, the favorite’s figure is less than the underdog’s. 

In the example below, the New York Jets are the underdogs while the New England Patriots are the favorites: 

Teams Decimal odds
Jets 2.7
Patriots 1.5

Among the three types of betting odds, decimal odds has the most straightforward formula in computing the payout, which is:

Your bet × decimal odds = payout

If you bet $200 on the Jets and they win, you will earn $540. Meanwhile, if you bet the same ($200) on the Pats, you will get a $300 payout if they win.

Using the formula above,

Your bet × decimal odds = 200 × 2.7 = $540 payout if you bet on the Jets and they won.

Your bet × decimal odds = 200 × 1.5 = $300 payout if you bet on the Pats and they won.

In terms of popularity in the US, American odds beat the other types. SportsBetting.com has streamlined the use of American odds to make your betting experience more straightforward. 

You don’t have to worry about memorizing the formulas and getting confused with all the math. Our betting system uses an online calculator that automatically computes your maximum potential payout. 

We give you a receipt for the bets that you place with us. A bet slip is an electronic receipt that records how much money you have placed on a bet, your potential payout, as well as the odds for those bets.

Point Spread Betting

In point spread betting, bookmakers place a handicap on the number of points in the final score for the teams in a game. 

Betting against the spread disregards which team wins the match. The points cover the spread for you to earn a profit.

Let’s take the points spread from our first betting line example: 

Teams Point spread
Buccaneers +3 (+100)
Chiefs -3 (-110)

The plus sign tells you that the Buccaneers are the underdogs, while the minus sign means that the Chiefs are favored to win the match.

Suppose Tom Brady and his team score 3 touchdowns 18 points at the end of the match. 

But if Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs 3 touchdowns and a safety, they would have a total score of 20.

Yes, the Chiefs may have won the game, but you would have lost your point spread bet. In betting against the spread, you need to consider the point handicap. 

The points work like this: you get the final score, then add or subtract the spread points. 

So if you bet on the Chiefs, their final score would be 20 minus 3. Their score would be 17. You didn’t cover the spread because the Bucwon by a point after applying the handicap points. 

But what if you bet on the ? As their final score is 18, we add the spread, giving us a total score of 21. Their score after the handicap is 2 points greater than the Chiefs’ final score.

Although the  lost the match, you would get your payout if you bet in the spread on the . 

In computing for the payout, the number inside the parentheses indicates the odds. So if you bet on the Chiefs with -110 odds, you need to bet $110 to earn $100 if the Chiefs win.

Sometimes, you can also see a PK in the betting line. PK or pick’em means there is no clear favorite or underdog in the match for the point spread. In such cases, you will be unable to bet in the point spread.

If both teams are tied after applying the point spread, it will result in a push. In a push, your bet is refunded. 

This is why oddsmakers use point spreads with a half point, making half-point additions to whole number-odds. Let’s use this point spread for the Philadelphia Eagles against the Dallas Cowboys game as an example:

Teams Point spread
Eagles -4.5  (-110)
Cowboys +4.5 (-110)

Since there is no such thing as scoring a half point in the NFL, the additional 0.5 can prevent a push from occurring. 

For instance, the game ends with 39-35 in favor of the Eagles. 

If you  on the Cowboys, the score after applying the point spread would be 39-39.5. In this case, you have won as a bettor. 

But if you bet on the Eagles, the score would be 34.5-35. Although the Eagles won the match, you lost your bet because the Eagles’ final score didn’t cover the spread. 

SportsBetting.com offers spread betting options to major sports events. Also, if you sign up with SportsBetting.com, you can use our promos on your first deposit. Click here to learn about our current promotions.

We also provide free bet credits. You can use these credits for games with minimum odds, such as -200 odds. To learn more about free bet credits, click here

What Is a Vig?

You may have noticed the American odds in the point spread in the Eagles vs. Cowboys example above. Since you have to bet $110 just to get $100, wouldn’t it be unfair if both of the odds are for the favorites? 

This is what we call a vigorish or vig. A vigorish, also known as juice, is the amount of money the bookmakers make from your bet. 

If the bookmaker gives a high vig, you’re not getting the most from your bets. To compute for the vig, you need to convert the odds to a probability percentage. Let’s use this formula for the negative odds:

Odds ÷ (odds + 100) × 100 = probability percentage

So if the odds are -110, the probability percentage of the team would be 52.38%. Since we can use the same odds in our Eagles vs. Cowboys, we can simply add the two probability percentages, which is 104.76%. 

After adding both the percentages, we just subtract 100% to get the vig. In our example, we get a 4.76% vig. 

Using the formula above,

110 ÷ (110 + 100) × 100 = 52.38% for the Eagles 

110 ÷ (110 + 100) × 100 = 52.38% for the Cowboys

  1. 38% + 52.38% = 104.76%

104.76% – 100% = 4.76% vig

Here’s another point spread from another bookmaker:

Team Point spread
Eagles -4.5 (-120)
Cowboys +4.5 (-130)

If we apply the formula earlier, the Eagle’s probability percentage would be 54.55%, while the Cowboys’ would be 56.52%. Adding them together and subtracting 100% would give us 11.07%, which is relatively high.

120 ÷ (120 + 100) × 100 = 54.55% for the Eagles 

130 ÷ (130 + 100) × 100 = 56.52% for the Cowboys

  1. 55% + 56.52% = 111.07%

111.07% – 100% = 11.07% vig

Betting on a bookmaker with a high vig leads to a low payout. Before taking action, compare the oddsmakers’ vigs. And try to find the betting sites with the lowest juice. 

SportsBetting.com offers competitive and sharp odds. provide security your deposits and withdrawals. Our SSL encryption ensures that your bankroll is protected. 

To learn more about the terms and conditions for withdrawals and deposits, click here.

Totals Betting

In totals betting, also known as over/under betting, the total amount of points in a game is added. You bet if the total score is higher or lower than the totals line. 

Regardless of which team wins the match, you have the opportunity to earn a profit if your bet meets the margin of the totals line. 

Let’s look at the totals betting section from the first betting line example for the Chiefs and Buccaneers match: 

Teams Totals
Buccaneers O 46.5 (-110)
Chiefs U 46.5 (-110)

The bookmaker set the totals line to 46.5 points in the hypothetical totals line above. 

If the  scored 31 points and the Chiefs scored 9 points, their total score would be 40 points at the end of the game. 

If you bet over, you lost your bet. But if you choose to bet under, you would earn a profit since 40 is less than 46.5 points. 

The number enclosed in the parentheses tells you how much would be added to your bankroll. In this case, you would earn a $100 profit for every $110 you bet if you guessed right. 

Bookmakers also add a half point in the totals line to prevent a push.

Let’s look at another example using a match of the San Francisco 49ers against the Seattle Seahawks:

Teams Totals
Seahawks O 32.5 (+105)
49ers U 32.5 (-110)

The O and U aren’t associated with the teams but with the odds enclosed in the parentheses. 

The minus sign in the odds tells you that the match will likely have a total score lower than 32.5.

For this example, betting on O or over means that the total score should be higher than 32.5 to earn $105 per $100 bet.

Betting on U or under means that you would need to lay $110 to receive $100.

SportsBetting.com provides competitive lines with the help of the Official NFL Data as our NFL stats provider. 

If you want to read more about NFL betting rules and regulations, we provide a detailed explanation here.

Straight Betting vs. Parlay Betting

In straight betting, you simply bet your stake on a single match. It doesn’t matter if you bet on moneyline, point spread, or totals betting as long as you bet only on a single game.

Parlay betting involves betting on a series of games linked together for a higher payout. A parlay may consist of two or more matches. 

A 4-team parlay ticket can look like this: 

Team Moneyline Point spread Totals
Game 1
Ravens -110 -6.5 (-110) O 32 (-110)
Jaguars +140 +6.5 (-110) U 32 (-110)
Game 2
Panthers -120 -4 (-110) O 41.5 (-110)
Saints +130 +4 (-110) U 41.5 (-110)
Game 3
Texans -110 -5.5 (-110) O 38 (-110)
Titans +140 +5.5 (-110) U 38 (-110)
Game 4
Vikings -110 -2 (-110) O 56 (-110)
Lions +120 +2 (-110) U 56 (-110)

Let’s say you made this parlay bet:

  • A moneyline bet on the Ravens to win against the Jaguars
  • A point spread bet on the Saints to win against the Panthers
  • An under totals bet in the Texans and Titans match
  • An over totals bet in the Viking and Lions match

In a parlay bet, all of your picks should win. If one of your choices loses, you lose your bet. In this case, the following should happen:

  • The Ravens should beat the Jaguars.
  • The score of the Saints plus the handicap points should be higher than the Panthers’ total score at the end of the match.
  • The total score in the Texans and Titans game should be less than 38.
  • The total score in the Vikings and Lions game should be greater than 56.

Even if you have the winning bet in the first three games, if the Vikings and Lions game’s total score doesn’t exceed 56 points, you lose the parlay. 

But what will happen if the match is postponed or canceled? Don’t worry, SportsBetting.com has your back.

Instead of a 4-team parlay, it will be reduced to a 3-team parlay. If another game postponement or cancellation happens during the third game, then the second one will become a straight-up bet on the first game.

If parlay bets are hard, why should you play it? In gambling, the bigger the risk, the higher the payout. 

Let’s compute the parlay payout from our previous example.

First, you need to convert each of the American odds in your bet to decimal odds using the formula below for the positive moneyline odds:

(American odds ÷ 100) + 1 = decimal odds 

For the negative moneyline, remove the minus sign, then use the formula below:

(100 ÷ American odds) + 1 = decimal odds

If we use our parlay ticket example above and apply the formula, -110 odds will be 1.91 in the decimal odds for the Ravens vs. Jaguars game. 

Using the formula above,

(100 ÷ American odds) + 1 = (100 ÷ 110) + 1 = 1.91

Afterwards, we simply multiply the decimal odds of each of your bets to get the total decimal odds. 

1.91 × 1.91 × 1.91 × 1.91 = 13.31

Then, we use this formula to calculate the parlay payout:

Total decimal odds × your bet = parlay payout

If you were to bet $440 on a 4-game parlay, and you won, you get $5,856. 

Total decimal odds × your bet = 13.31 × 440 = $5,856 parlay payout

But if you were to place four separate $110 straight-up bets, and all your bets won, you would only receive $840.

Game 1: Bet ÷ odds × 100 + bet = 110 ÷ 110 × 100 + 110 = $210 

Game 2: Bet ÷ odds × 100 + bet = 110 ÷ 110 × 100 + 110 = $210 

Game 3: Bet ÷ odds × 100 + bet = 110 ÷ 110 × 100 + 110 = $210 

Game 4: Bet ÷ odds × 100 + bet = 110 ÷ 110 × 100 + 110 = $210 

Game 1 + Game 2 + Game 3 + Game 4 = 210 + 210 + 210 + 210 = $840

Separate straight-up bets might be safer than a 4-game parlay, but winning a parlay gives a higher payout. 

If we subtract your possible earnings from a 4-game parlay to the possible earnings of 4 separate straight-up bets, there would be a $5,016 difference. 

If you increase the number of games you include in your parlay ticket, the payout will be higher if you win all of your bets. 

But note that while adding more games in your parlay could result in a higher payout upon winning, the risk increases as you add more games to your ticket. 

You may want to avoid parlay betting as it’s risky, but you can still bet with confidence with us!

SportsBetting.com provides parlay protection if your bet loses by one selection. Click here to learn more!

Run Line Betting

Although MLB betting lines include moneyline betting, the run line is different from the spread line. In the MLB run line bet, a 1.5-run is attached to a baseball match. 

When a team is a favorite on the moneyline odds, they have a reduced 1.5 points in their total runs. And the underdog has increased 1.5 points. 

Let’s use this runline for the match between the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers:

Teams Run line Moneyline
Cubs +1.5 (-215) +105
Dodgers -1.5 (+180) -122

The Cubs are the underdog, and the Dodgers are the favorites in this matchup. Unlike in the NFL and NBA point spread, the run line contains positive odds for the favorites. 

Since baseball is a low-scoring sport, the Dodgers have a slimmer chance of winning against the Cubs after applying the 1.5-point handicap. 

If you chose the Dodgers, and they won 7-4, you will earn $280 for every $100 you bet on the Dodgers.

But if you opted to bet in the Dodgers’ moneyline, you have to place $122 to win a $100 profit. 

The run line gives you an additional option for betting. In this case, placing a bet on the run line provides a higher profit than moneyline betting. 

If you need betting tips on MLB betting, SportsBetting.com has you covered. You can visit our comprehensive guide on how to maximize your profits in MLB betting here

Furthermore, SportsBetting.com also provides you the latest MLB odds here.

Puck Line Betting

Like the run line, puck lines also use a set 1.5-point handicap to the game’s final score since hockey is also a low-scoring sport.

In NHL, the highest recorded score for a team is only 16. Most matches in the NHL will be less than 5 per team. 

An example would be a match of the Panthers vs. the Predators that ended with a score of 2-1 favoring the Panthers. 

Here’s an example of a puck line of the match between the Panthers and the Predators. 

Teams Puck line Moneyline
Panthers -1.5 (-175) -140
Predators +1.5 (+150) +130

If you bet on the Panthers in the moneyline, you would receive a payout. But if you  on the puck line, you would lose.

The Panthers’ final score is 2 minus 1.5. That wouldn’t be enough to beat the Predators with a score of 1. 

But if you  on the Predators,  win because 1 plus 1.5 is higher than the Panthers’ score. 

If you’re unsure about betting on a hockey game, SportsBetting.com offers an NHL betting promo. If your chosen team doesn’t score any goals, you can get up to $50. To learn more about this promo, click here

For more strategies on increasing your odds of making a profit, we’ll provide you with helpful guides for choosing a winning team. Click here to learn more.

You can also visit our sportsbook here to see the latest NHL odds.

Betting Line Movement

The betting line is not set in stone. Depending on the bookmaker, the odds of the betting line change. 

Players Being Removed or Added to the Lineup Before Games

in the Miami Heat vs. LA Lakers NBA Finals game, for example, the Lakers are favored to win.

Yes, the Lakers have their prized MVP, Lebron James. But what if James got injured before the game started? Or what if their starting center, Marc Gasol, got suspended?

The players have a crucial role when it comes to betting lines. Oddsmakers make adjustments to the line whenever someone is removed from the lineup before the game. 

Public Perception

The public’s perception of who the winner will be is another reason for line movement. In this example, after the 2 straight wins and a 10-point difference in game 2, people would opt to bet on the Lakers.  

If many people bet on the Lakers to win game 3, the bookies will adjust the odds to entice other people to bet on the Heat for a larger payout. 

Want more NBA action? Check out SportsBetting.com’s comprehensive NBA betting guide here. We also provide the latest NBA odds here

Weather Conditions for Open Stadium Sports

The weather in open-stadium sports, like the NFL and MLB, can also affect the betting lines. 

Weather forecasts can give you an indication of how the betting lines will move. For instance, teams will have a more challenging time scoring points during rain, leading to a lower combined total score. 

If you’re worried about the line movements, we got you covered. At SportsBetting.com, we give you updates whenever there are any line changes.

For the latest sports news and player updates, click here.

Choosing a Reliable Bookmaker

SportsBetting.com covers sports for every bettor. We offer betting options, like live betting and futures betting, on a wide range of sports events, such as NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, and NCAA sports. 

If you encounter an unusual betting term, we provide you with a glossary of terms here

We also advise you to read the betting rules and regulations for every sports event here.

You can also use our 24/7 customer chat service and email service ([email protected]) to help you with any betting concerns. 

Apart from our promotions, we also have contests to make your betting journey more enjoyable, such as a monthly jackpot.

SportsBetting.com also promotes responsible gambling. Our age verification system helps us restrict minors from placing bets. 

Our verification system requires users to upload proof of identification in compliance with the Colorado state regulation and prevent fraud. Find a detailed explanation here regarding the verification process. 

SportsBetting.com also values your right to privacy. Your personal information and card details are protected by our system. Visit our privacy policy here. 

We also provide guides and tools that can help minimize gambling problems. Visit this link to learn more. 

Our tips can help you experience gambling as an enjoyable and safe activity. Click here to find out. 

Use our questionnaire here to assess yourself if you ever feel that you are developing a gambling problem.

Furthermore, SportsBetting.com allows you to set daily, weekly, or monthly bet and deposit limits so you can manage your spending.

You can also set a time limit for your gaming activity. You can limit your time to 3 hours per day, and after the 3 hours, you will be restricted to bet until midnight. 

If you develop a gambling problem, SportsBetting.com also offers a self-exclusion tool to prevent you from accessing the website.

We assure you that SportsBetting.com is a legitimate online gambling site licensed by the state of Colorado. Visit here to learn more. 

With our wide range of sports betting options and services, we guarantee you a quality betting experience. What are you waiting for? Click here and start betting now with SportsBetting.com!

Betting line explained.