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How to Read Odds: Sports Betting Odds Explained

Last Updated on May 9, 2020

How to Read Odds

A lot of sports fans are familiar with the teams and the players, but when they see betting lines for the first time, they don't understand how to read odds. There is a bit of an art with reading betting lines but it’s really quite simple. From moneylines to point spreads to props, it becomes quite easy to understand odds once you get the hang of it.

If you’re new to sports betting and online sportsbooks, in this article we’re going explain how to understand odds:

How to Read a Point Spread

One of the most popular types of sports betting wagers is the point spread. The betting meaning of a point spread is a number established by the sportsbooks in an effort to provide a balance to a given matchup. The team that is favored to win the game will have a point disadvantage assigned to them, which will be labeled with a “-“ symbol. At the same time, the team expected to lose the game will have a negative point disadvantage assigned to them, which will be labelled with a “+” symbol. Here is an example of what a point spread might look like at MyBookie for an NFL game:

NFL Game Point Spread
Dallas Cowboys +4.5 -110
N.E. Patriots -4.5 -110

In this situation, New England is listed as a 4.5-point favorite. This means that the Patriots need to beat the Cowboys by five points or more in order to cover the point spread and be considered a winner on the point spread. At the same time, Dallas is listed as a 4.5-point underdog. This means that if the Cowboys win outright or lose by four points or less, they would be considered a winner on the point spread.

Point Spread Betting

How To Read a Moneyline

In this section, we’ll look at another very popular bet across all sports: the moneyline. Unlike the point spread, a money line wager requires picking the winner straight-up rather than betting on teams to cover a spread or a margin. As is the case with the point spread, each team is assigned a betting value. Keep in mind that moneylines are used across all sports – not only the NFL. You’ll see moneylines for NBA games, MLB, NHL, NCAAF, etc. To give you a better idea of how to read sports betting lines here’s an example of an MLB moneyline you might see at a sportsbook like BetOnline:

MLB Game Moneyline
Baltimore Orioles +160
New York Yankees -200

In this situation, the Yankees are the favorite as indicated by the “-“ sign. If you bet New York on the money line, you would need to risk $200 to win $100. At the same time, the Orioles are the underdog as indicated by the “+” symbol. In this situation, you could bet $100 to win $160 betting on Baltimore to win outright.

Of course, in these cases you aren’t tied to betting in $100 amounts. What this does is it allows you to quickly read the odds and calculate how much you’d win if you bet either side. You can bet whatever amount suits you.

Moneyline Betting

How To Read a Total (Over/Under)

If you aren’t interested in betting on either side, you can opt to bet on the total instead. Betting the over-under is when you attempt to predict the combined total points scored by the two teams involved in a given contest. With this type of bet, you’re looking more at how the game flow will play out. Will it be a shootout (and go over the number)? Or will it be a defensive struggle (and go under the number)? Let’s use an NBA game as an example and look at a possible over-under that you might see at MyBookie:

NBA Game Totals
Houston Rockets 184.5 -110
Los Angeles Clippers 184.5 -110

In this scenario, the total for a game between the Rockets and the Clippers is set at 184.5. This means that if you bet on this game, you need to figure out if you think the teams will combine to score 184 points or less. If you think the teams will combine to score 185 points or more, then you would take the over in this one. If you think the teams will combine to score 184 points or less, then you would bet the under.

Over/Under Betting


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How to Read Runlines Or Pucklines

A run line or a puck line is similar to the point spread in that there is an assigned number that the teams need to cover in order to win. However, unlike the point spread the run line or puck line is almost always set at 1.5 points. The run line and puck line are used solely in baseball and hockey. The main way to bet in those sports is on the moneyline, so the runline and puckline offers bettors a spread option.

Here is a look at what an NHL puck line might look like at Heritage Sports:

NHL Game Puckline
San Jose Sharks +1.5 -150
Colorado Avalanche +1.5 +120

In this situation, the Avalanche are the betting favorite on the puck line at -1.5. This means that Colorado needs to win by two goals or more in order to cover the puck line. Since you now are risking that they will win by two, you will be rewarded with a payout as they’re at +120.

At the same time, the Sharks are listed as the betting underdog at +1.5. That means that as long as they either win outright or lose by one goal, they will cover the puck line. In this case, instead of betting the moneyline (and having the Sharks to win outright), you are now getting the benefit of having an extra goal. They can lose by a goal and you’d still win your bet. You’ve increased your chances of win but you’ll have to pay for it as the Sharks are -150 on the odds here.

How To Read Futures

Sports betting futures are any type of wager in which you are betting on a future result that won’t immediately be determined. For example, if you want to bet on which team you think will win the Super Bowl at the start of an NFL regular season, that would be considered a futures bet. Some other examples are regular season win totals, odds to win a division or if a team will win their conference.

Here is a look at what that type of NFL futures bet might look like at Bookmaker:

Super Bowl Odds Futures
Kansas City Chiefs +300
Green Bay Packers +1000
Carolina Panthers +2500

In this scenario, you can bet on the various teams to win the Super Bowl and they each have their own odds. If you bet the Chiefs to win the Super Bowl at +300 odds, that means you would win $300 on a $100 bet if they do, in fact, cash in. For Green Bay, the payout would be $1000 and for Carolina, the payout would be $2500.

The odds for a Super Bowl winner future will vary from team to team and from one year to the next. They’ll also vary through the season as it becomes clearer who’ll win the championship.

While you will usually get some decent value betting on Super Bowl futures, there is an obvious risk with betting on a winner before the season even starts with so much that could change the outlook of that team throughout the year. Factors like injuries, upsets, bad breaks, coaching changes and other things can come into play. The key to betting Super Bowl futures is finding value. If you can find a line that you really like that offers excellent value, don’t be afraid to lay it down on a futures bet.

How To Read Prop Bets

A prop bet, or proposition, is any type of wager based on something that happens in a sports betting event irrespective of the final score. While they aren’t as popular as the main wagering options (moneylines, point spreads), they offer an excellent alternative where you can pick out a few spots and find some value. Examples of prop bets could range from how many points an NBA player scores in a game to how many touchdowns an NFL quarterback throws in a game, or even how many hits an MLB player slugs in a game. Here is a look at what an NFL player prop might look like at 5Dimes for a quarterback’s passing yards:

Tom Brady Passing Yards Yards
vs Tennessee 288.5

In this hypothetical situation, the line for Tom Brady’s passing yards in a game has been set at 288.5. Therefore, if you bet on this line, you are attempting to predict whether Brady will throw for 289 passing yards or more, or 288 or less. If you study the matchup, track Brady’s history versus the team, take weather and injuries into account, you might see value one way or the other.

There are a whole host of prop bets like this from each game to each sport. And Super Bowl time is the best time for props as there are thousands of props to bet on for the game ranging from how long the anthem will take to sing to what color Gatorade will be dumped on the winning coach to in-game player performance props.

Prop Bets