The Three Basic Sports Bets: What are a Moneyline, a Spread, and an Over/Under Bet?
So, you want to start using your sports knowledge to make some cash? It’s not as easy as you might think. For those who have never bet on sports before, it can be quite daunting. The first time you walk into a casino and glance at that big screen, you might become overwhelmed. You can’t dive headfirst into sports gambling without at least a small understanding of how it works or you'll end up with CTE like Aaron Hernandez. The first step into the glorious world of sports betting is mastering the three basic types of bets.
What is a Moneyline Bet?
You have probably made this type of bet with a friend and not have even known it. If you are betting on the moneyline, you are betting on which team will win the game, straight up. What’s attractive about moneyline bets is that they are not complicated and easy to understand for new bettors. Although this type of wager is straightforward, there are some things to consider before placing one.
The Odds Associated With the Money Line
If you wanted to make a moneyline bet with a bookie rather than your persistent coworker who claims Jared Golf is a good quarterback (he’s not), you're not going to receive the same 1:1 odds. Depending on the teams that are playing each other, there are three terms associated with the moneyline. There are underdogs, favorites, and the pick’em.
Underdogs: The team that is least likely to win the match is considered an underdog. If you plan on wagering on this side, you'll be welcomed with plus odds. This can vary from +101 to as high as +900 or more. It all depends on how lopsided the match is.
Favorites: This is the team that is more likely to emerge victorious and that's why they are the favorites. If you want to wager on this side, you're going to run into some less desirable odds. You will see odds ranging from -150 to -1000, especially if the two teams are extremely unbalanced.
Pick'ems: This term is used when both teams have equally-skilled players, and it’s a true coin flip. Both teams have the same chance of winning and the odds reflect that. With a pick'em, you will usually see +100 odds or the word EVEN.
It's important to remember that these three dynamics are subjective. Just because a team is deemed a favorite, it’s not a guarantee that they will win. There are plenty of situations where a team was thought to be the underdog but showed up and surprised the public. In situations like this, you will often hear more tenured sports bettors say “the wrong team is favored here” when looking at a line.
What is a Spread Bet?
A lot of the time, a game can be so lopsided and predictable that nobody is going to want to bet on it. This is where the spread comes in. Think of it as the handicap you might see in a golf competition. For example, if you looked at one of my scorecards you would see a +20 next to my name.
The spread is a predetermined number of points given to each team based on the team’s skill level. If you are the favorite to win, you will have to lay a certain amount of these points. If you are the underdog, you will be given points in order to make the bet more balanced. The spread will always be the same number for both teams. Below is an example spread:
This line means that the Packers are favored to win by 10 points. If you bet on the Packers, the Packers would have to win by 10 points or more in order for you to win that bet. If you think the Bengals have a chance to keep it close, they must win outright or lose by no more than 10 points.
Because the purpose of a spread is to counterbalance each team's skill level to their opponent, the odds associated with them usually range from -105 to -125.
Something to Consider with the Spread
The lines are not indicative of who will win the match, but the optimal line to attract money to both sides. The books make money off the vig they collect, so they try to set a spread to entice the same amount of action on both teams. It is important to shop around for the best odds from multiple books. For more information on the vig and other topics surrounding the bookie, visit the Know Your Bookie section of our betting guide.
What is the Over/Under?
It's possible you might not want to bet on either the money line or the spread for certain games. If this is the case, you might want to wager on the third type of basic sports bets, the over/under. Betting the over/under refers to choosing whether or not the total points (or goals depending on the sport) scored by both teams will exceed the line that the books have set beforehand.
The over/under can be affected by multiple factors such as injuries and weather. A situation where injury would affect the over/under line in the NFL is if a star player gets injured. If the Seahawks and Packers were playing each other you would expect a line in the high 50s. If Rodgers or Wilson were to get injured before the game, the line would drop significantly. Same thing goes for bad weather. If the forecast called for heavy snow and wind, the over/under would drop due to the higher probability of both offenses struggling.
Conclusion: The Three Types of Basic Sports Bets and You
Understanding these three basic types of sports bets is the first step towards becoming a profitable handicapper. The next step is determining what games to place your wagers on. This will ultimately depend on how you feel about the lines and odds that the books are offering.