How to Read Sports Odds

How to Read Sports Odds

Sports betting is a multi-billion-dollar industry that continues to expand in scope and reach every single year. It has gained wide-scale appeal with any number of diverse demographics from young adults reaching the legal age to actually place sports bets to an aging population of Baby Boomers that have been betting on the games for years.

A good starting point for anyone who is looking to place a little action on this week’s big game is gaining a basic understanding of how to read sports betting odds. When it comes to the two most popular betting sports, football and basketball. The common betting line would be the point spread.


Most people believe that the point spread of a game tries to predict the actual margin of victory between the favorite and the underdog. That is because many of the spreads in football revolve around scoring such as three points for a field goal and seven points for a touchdown.

The point spread is basically an Oddsmaker’s tool for shifting money equally on each side of a bet. The Bookmakers make their money on the commission charged for booking that bet, which is normally 10 percent. A $100 bet wins $100 if it is a winner. A $100 bet that is wrong loses $110.

For example, the Oddsmakers have made the Philadelphia Eagles three-point favorites against the New York Giants. The game would be listed as follows:

#115 New York Giants (+3)

#116 Philadelphia Eagles (-3)

The number in front of each team corresponds to the same rotation number on the betting board. You bet by number, not by team name. The number following the team name is the betting spread. The Eagles are the favorites designated by the minus sign in front of the three and they would have to beat the Giants by four or more points to win that bet.


Another highly popular way to bet on a number of different sports is on the total line. With this bet, you can money on the OVER or UNDER on a games combined total score. Using the same example above, a total line listing would look as follows:

#115 New York Giants Over 46

#116 Philadelphia Eagles Under 46

In this case, you are betting on score going OVER a combined 46 points or staying UNDER that same amount. If the Eagles would go on to win this game 28-24, a bet on Philadelphia minus three points would pay off as would a bet on the over 46 on the total line.

One of the most popular ways to bet on sports such as baseball and hockey is with the use of a money line. These are also posted for football and  basketball and it would look as follows:

#115 New York Giants +145

#116 Philadelphia Eagles -165

In this scenario, you are betting on the game straight up. The minus sign in front of the 165 designates the Eagles as favorites and this means you would have to risk $165 to win $100 on a straight-up win. If you were to bet the Giants as underdogs and they do go on to pull off the upset, you would stand to win $145 for that $100 bet. If you bet the underdog on the money line and you lost, you would lose the amount of your initial bet.

These are the three most basic ways that you bet on a game and the three most basic ways odds are listed for the games. Depending of which online sportsbook you work with, there might be some subtle differences in how a betting odd is posted, but the numbers all mean the same thing. The whole listing would read as follows:

ROT       TEAM               SPREAD   MONEY LINE    TOTAL LINE

#115 New York Giants       +3                 +145           OVER 46

#116 Philadelphia Eagles   -3                 – 165           UNDER 46

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