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Sports Betting Odds Explained

For beginning sports bettors, the odds that are listed at an online sportsbook can be confusing. In reality, the basic concepts aren't too difficult to understand and grasp. After a short duration of time, novice bettors can have no problem reading the various odds and lines at a sportsbook. Our tutorial will help you to quickly ramp up to common sportsbook verbiage.

The Basics of Sports Odds

The odds for a typical football or basketball game will usually contain several common elements. Here is an example of how the odds for a football game might appear at an online sportsbook:

7 P.M. E.S.T.
301 Team A +4 (-110) +170
41 302 Team B -4 (-110) -200

For a standard day of action in either sport, the schedule will be listed in the order of the original start times of the contest. Most sportsbooks will go by either Eastern or Pacific time zones when listing a lineup of games. If there has been a time change, this will usually be reflected. Next to the start times, the two teams that are involved in a particular game will be listed. In the listing, the visiting team will be outlined above the home squad.

Next to each club, the bettor will notice that there is a number listed. These betting numbers are usually three-digit figures. At an online sportsbook, these betting numbers can be easily calculated and read by the bookmaker's computer program. To the right of each team, a point spread number will be listed. The favored team will have a minus figure while the underdog club will have a plus number. To understand this process, the bettor must simply add or subtract the point spread number from the team that is wagered on. If the bettor places a wager on a team that is favored by four points, he must deduct four points from the amount that his choice scores in the contest. After the four points are subtracted, the favored squad still must have more points than the other team for the bettor to cash in. To be more direct, the favored team must win the contest by at least five points. When backing the underdog squad in this scenario, the same concepts are applied with points being added instead of subtracted.

Next to each point spread, the bettor will also notice another number. Most of the time, both of these figures will be listed as -110. This particular number is the vigorish or juice that a bettor must lay when making a wager. If the standard ten percent vigorish is listed, the bettor must risk $110 to win $100. For some football lines, the vigorish number might actually be listed a little higher than -110 for one of the particular sides. Instead of moving the spread by a half or full point, the bookmaker will list a team that is drawing more action at -120. When this occurs, the bettor must wager $120 to win $100. As one side is listed at -120, the opposing club will be shown at +100. When the bettor sees this number, it is an even wager. At +100, the bettor can win $100 by wagering $100.

Money Line Odds

In addition to the point spread, the bettor will see another set of plus and minus numbers for each team. In the above example, there is a -200 for Team B and a +170 for Team A. These two figures are the money line odds in the game. A money line or straight up wager involves no points. With this type of wager, the bettor is simply picking a team to win. To determine the appropriate money line for each squad, there is a standard point spread conversion chart that bookmakers can reference. In the example, the bettor would have to wager $200 on Team B to win $100. For a Team A wager, a $100 bet would yield $170.

Over / Under

Finally, there is the total or over/under figure for the game. In the above example, the number of 41 is the total. The bettor can either place a wager that the two clubs involved in the game will combine to score 42 or more points (over) or that the contest will yield 40 or less combined points (under). Like point spread bets, most total wagers have a vigrorish of -110 for either the over or under option. The above example contains the main elements that are associated with the odds for a football or basketball matchup. The third most popular betting sport has some listings that are a little unique. Here is an example of how a typical baseball game might be listed at a sportsbook:

7 P.M. E.S.T.
401 Team C (Smith) +120 +1.5 (-200)
9 402 Team D (Jones) -140 -1.5 (+170)

For a baseball line, there is not a point spread. The main odds are money lines. Because of the importance of starting hurlers in baseball, each club's pitcher will be listed in the odds. Next to the money line odds, the bettor will notice that the number 1.5 is listed next to each team. This figure is known as the run line. With the run line, the bettor has another option to choose besides the money line. For run line bets, the favored team will be listed at -1.5 runs while the underdog will be indicated at +1.5 runs. In the above example, the +170 figure for Team D is the price attached to the run line. For a Team D run line wager to be successful, the bettor will need the club to win the game by at least two runs. Once again, there is a standard conversion chart that is used to convert the money line odds into the appropriate run line prices.