In sports betting, you’ll often see numbers like -7, +7, and even -3 and +3 used to describe the strength of a team’s or an individual’s odds. What do those numbers mean exactly? Let’s take a closer look.
When two teams are set to play each other, the first thing that happens is they each spread the ball to their respective strengths. That is, the number -7 team might send seven players to the field, while the number +7 team sends only six. Similarly, the number -3 team might have three receivers and two running backs on the field, while the number +3 team has only two wide receivers and a running back.
What happens is the oddsmakers’ favor the spread. For example, if you’re betting on the Reds to win the game, even if the Browns score a touchdown, the point total will most likely be lower than the total set by the oddsmakers because the Browns’ odds are lower than the Reds’ odds. That is, the point spread is in your favor because the number of points is lower than the number of players on the field. (Note: The number of points might also be lower than the number of players because of fouls and turnovers in the game.)
Odds are often used in conjunction with point spreads to create synthetic betting markets, which in some cases can be profitable. For example, if you’re betting on the Kansas City Chiefs to win the Super Bowl at +350 odds, you might consider betting on the New England Patriots at +600 odds, even though the Patriots are a long shot to win. (Note: These are just examples, and you might have different odds for different games and different teams.)
Odds and point spreads form the basis of most sports betting, but they aren’t the only tools at your disposal. There are also many variations of wagering, such as totals, prop bets, and teasers, which we’ll discuss in a bit. For now, let’s continue with the basics.
If you’re playing straight up (also known as “fair” odds), you’re matching the odds set by the sportsbooks, regardless of what type of game you’re watching. That is, if you’re betting on the Steelers to win the game at 7:00 p.m. on a Saturday, they’ll either win or lose the game, but your odds of winning will be the same whether the game is played during the day or evening.
This type of wagering is very simple and straightforward. Simply set your line and enjoy your favorite game. You’ll usually see people who use this method of wagering referred to as “traditionalists.”
Totals are simply the total amount of scoring in a game, which makes them a great tool for people who like to analyze games. Sometimes, a team might not score as much as you’d expect given their total number of possessions (i.e., turns over the ball), meaning that your money would be on the verge of being returned, as in the case of the Indianapolis Colts in the 2017 season’s AFC Wild Card game against the Houston Texans. (Note: There’s no question that the Texans were the superior team that day, but the colts’ point total was a major shock.)
Totals can be very useful in predicting the outcome of a game, but they are not perfect. Sometimes, a game might end in a tie, or in a case like the above example, a team might end up losing despite having scored more points. In those cases, you might want to consider using prop bets or teasers.
Prop bets are exactly what the name implies: bets on specific outcomes of games, often with an element of risk. For example, you might want to bet on whether the over or under will be scored in the Lions-Vikings game this year at +100 odds. (Note: This is a risky proposition because the line has shifted in favor of the under so many times this year that the point total is bound to surpass the over in some point-scoring matchup.)
In case you’re curious, the over has won 20 of the 33 games this year in which the point total was predetermined. The underdog is 17-16-2 ATS in those same games.
What are teasers? Simply put, teasers are wagers where the payout is based on whether a game ends in a certain way. For example, if you bet on the Patriots to win the Super Bowl at +350 odds and New England wins the game, you’d get your money back plus some winnings. But if the game ends in a tie, you would only win the money you staked (plus some winnings).
The main difference between teasers and props is that you as the bettor retain the risk in teasers. For example, if you’re betting on the under in the Lions-Vikings game and the over scores, you’ll lose your bet (plus your $100) because the over won the game.
You might want to use teasers on occasion to try and predict the end result of a game that you’re not completely confident will end in a victory. Just remember, you’ll only win if your team wins, and you’ll lose your money if Minnesota wins.
Red Dog And Underdog
One of the most interesting developments in sports betting has been the explosion of red dog and underdog wagers. Essentially, a red dog (also known as a “dog-eat-dog” wager) is where you’re placing a wager that one team will score more points than the other. That is, you’re betting that the underdogs will triumph in the end.
What’s interesting about the red dog is that you’re staking money on the team you deem to be the underdog, and that could arguably be the case in a variety of ways, but it’s most often used when one team is considered to be a weaker affiliate of one of the major football leagues. For example, will the Atlanta Falcons beat the New England Patriots? Or will the Los Angeles Rams defeat the Philadelphia Eagles?
Underdog wagers gained popularity in the 1960s and were mostly used for horse racing. Since then, though, they’ve taken the sports betting world by storm, especially in the NFL.
You’ll often see teams like the Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, and Philadelphia Eagles associated with the underdog moniker because those are the three teams that are typically considered to be the least prestigious of the four major US sports leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL).
Odds on individual players are also prominently featured on the betting slips used in red dog and underdog wagering. For example, will Antonio Brown score more points than Jarvis Landry this year at +1500 or +3000?
It’s always a hassle when you miss a game because of bad weather. Especially when you’re talking about a big game with large wagers on the line. One of the most frustrating things for fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers is waiting out a four-hour snow delay in the late stages of a tight Steelers-Minnesota game in early December. (Note: The officials had to suspend the game for a little more than an hour due to a brief snow delay, but the fans at Heinz Field stuck around, and it was eventually determined that the game would be resumed and would go into overtime. So, it was all good in the end.)
What you want to avoid in situations like this is wagering on games tied due to weather. For example, if you’re wagering on the Super Bowl, you want to make sure that the game is played, and completed, without any interruptions due to bad weather. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait out the rest of the game, including overtime, and possibly a chance at winning the Super Bowl will be denied you. (Note: The odds of winning the Super Bowl will remain +350 even if the game were to be completed in the snow.)
If you find that you can’t avoid wagering on games tied due to weather, then one option would be to use odds such as -110 or +110 to split the weather-related risk, as in the case of the Indianapolis Colts against the Houston Texans mentioned earlier in this article. (Note: These are sometimes referred to as “enhanced odds” or “hypothetical odds,” which is self-explanatory; they’re not actual odds that can be found in the bookmakers’ odds columns.)