What Does the ‐ and + Mean in Sports Betting?

The + and ‐ signs have always been a source of confusion for even the most seasoned bettor. While the meaning of the plus sign is fairly self‐explanatory (it’s a measurement sign), the significance of the minus sign is less clear. Don’t get us wrong, we love using these signs in sports betting  because it makes comparisons much easier. If you spot a team or a player that is performing well against the majority of the other matchups, you can bet with confidence that they will keep up the good performance.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of the ‐ and + signs in sports betting, it’s important to understand what they mean. Let’s take a look at a few examples and see how these measurements work in practice.

Over vs. Under

This is a topic that we get asked about more than almost any other in sports betting. The general rule is this: if the total is higher than the number of points you’ll need to overcome, you’re likely to win the bet; if it’s lower, you’ll lose the bet. For example, if you bet $100 on the Detroit Lions +3 to win the game and they score 30 points, you’ll win $300 since the over/under was set at 3 points. If the Lions score 20 points or less, you’ll lose your $300 wager as the under/over was set at 3 points.

So how does this work? Take a look at the following example:

  • The Cleveland Browns are listed as +3.5 underdogs in a game against the San Francisco 49ers.
  • The total is set at 42.5 points.
  • You decide to back the underdogs and lay $100 on it.
  • The Browns prevail by a score of 17-3.
  • Your $100 bet will return $150 since you won 3.5 points under the over/under.
  • Your $100 is now $150 in profit, or you can say that your initial investment was repaid with interest.

Man‐to‐Man Coverage

Another common question we get asked has to do with man coverage. In this scenario, you are asked to choose one side or the other in a head-to-head matchup. For example, you might be told to pick the Michigan Wolverines minus the Ohio State Buckeyes. Or the other way around. The important thing to keep in mind is that you are choosing a winner or loser based on who wins the battle on the field, not who covers the most amount of real estate. More often than not, the bet will come down to who has the better QB. For example, if you are offered the choice of picking either the Colorado Buffaloes or the Washington Huskies, you should go with the Huskies since they boast the better QB – Jake Browning vs. Sefan Watson. In this case, you’ll win or lose based on who has the better QB, not who has the better defense or special teams.

Dueling Quotes

Another situation that crops up quite often in sports betting is when you are given the opposing team’s strong or weak statement and asked to choose one. For example, if you are told that the Detroit Lions quote, “We are a team,” and the Chicago Bears respond with, “Lions never winners, we are a dynasty,” you’ll need to choose which team is the bigger mouth. Once again, you are not choosing the team with the better defense or special teams, you are picking the winner based on how they speak and what they say. In this case, you’ll lose since the Bears are the ones with the better quote.

Head‐to‐Head Action

There isn’t a scenario in sports betting that crops up quite as often as head‐to‐head action. This is where you are given two teams or players and are asked to choose one to win, with the other being a tie. For example, if you are told that the Tennessee Titans are +1 to defeat the Houston Texans and that the spread is set at 10 points, you’ll need to decide which team is the better of the two. If you choose the Titans, you’ll win $100 since they are a +1 underdog against the favored Houston Texans. If you go with the Texans, you’ll lose since the 10 point spread means that your team has to win by more than 10 points to win the bet.


Last but not least, let’s discuss the combinations or props. This is where you’ll find odds that are combined or stacked together. There isn’t a definite set of rules for combinations, but generally speaking, you are either winning or risking winning based on how the odds stack up. If you want to find out more, we recommend checking out this post by Chase Jarvis that dives into combinations in more detail.

With all this information in mind, you should be able to have a good idea of how the + and ‐ signs in sports betting work. This will undoubtedly come in handy as you navigate this sometimes tricky and complicated world of betting. If you want to be able to make the right choices easily, knowing the rules and how they work is definitely key.