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NFL Betting Basics

NFL Betting 101

Check out what you need to know before placing your first bet in our NFL betting basics below. If you just wants the picks check out our best bets every week.

What are the odds?

The first thing to understand about betting is how odds work. Odds tell you how much your bet could win. They come in three formats: American, decimal or fractional.

American odds show how much you could win for a $100 bet (e.g. bet $100 at +400 and you will get $400 profit on your stake). If the sign is negative it shows how much you have to stake to win $100 (e.g. bet $150 at -150 you get your stake back plus $100).

Decimal odds show how much you could get back for every dollar you bet (including getting your stake back), while fractional odds show the amount you get back excluding your stake.

Online sportsbooks often let you choose your preferred format. Have a look at the table below.

StakeAmericanDecimalFractionalPayout (including $100 stake)
$100-4001.251/4$125
$100-2001.51/2$150
$100-1101.911/1.1$191
$100+1102.11.1/1$210
$100+2003.02/1$300
$100+100011.010/1$1100

Game betting basics

There are three main ways to bet on the outcome of a game: money line, spread and totals.

Money line is the most straight forward. This is betting on a team simply to win the game. The odds will vary by team and game according to the likelihood of success.

Spread moves things on a step. You still bet on the outcome of the game but you must decide which team will come out on top after points have been deducted from the favored team. The points on the spread vary by game. The aim is to level the field and give both teams an equal chance of paying out.

A spread of +/-5.5 means the favored team would have to win by 6 points or more to cover the spread. If you bet the outsider they could lose by up to five points and your bet would still win. Spreads typically pay at -110 on either team. 

Totals are slightly different in that you are betting on the total amount of points to be score by both teams combined. The sportsbook predicts a number and you can bet on the actual total being over or under that prediction. Totals typically pay at odds of -110.

Other bet types

Props are bets on things which happen within a game. This could be anything from a team or player to score first, a quarterback to pass an interception or even the result of the coin toss.

Parlay is a wager on more than one event or game. Parlays can be done using spread or money lines but to receive a payout all selections have to win. Payouts are calculated by multiplying the decimal odds of all selections.

For example if you parlay teams at -200 (1.5 decimal) and -125 (1.8) a winning bet would be paid at 1.5 x 1.8 = 2.7 (+170).

Futures are long term bets typically placed on the outcome of the season. Examples include a team winning their division, total wins achieved in regular season or a player to become the MVP. 

Ready for the next step? Read out NFL betting strategies here.