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How to Read Betting Lines

How to Read Betting LinesSports betting has really taken off in the U.S. as more and more states have made the practice legal in some form. More people are placing sports bets and if success is desired it helps to have an understanding of the basics.

It’s important to understand what a betting line is and how to read one. The better understanding one has of sports betting the more success is possible.


What Is a Betting Line?

Oddsmakers at a sportsbook establish betting lines based on the likelihood of an outcome in a given sporting event. The betting line determines a favorite and an underdog, creates a margin between the two teams, and sets the parameters for wagering on a given sporting event.


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Betting Line Example

Let’s take a look at an example. We will use two NBA teams that will play each other. The oddsmakers have determined that they like the Cleveland Cavaliers to beat the Orlando Magic. The oddsmakers also feel like the Cavaliers are 7.5 points better than the Magic. Thus, a betting line can be created.

                        Cleveland Cavaliers    -7.5 (-110)

                        Orlando Magic            +7.5 (-110)

This is the typical format for a sports bet. Both teams are listed along with the betting line. Cleveland is a 7.5-point favorite as indicated by the “-7.5” above. Orlando, at +7.5, is the underdog.

The “-110” in parentheses is the odds on the bet. Odds can be expressed in decimal, fractional, or American form. Whole numbers like -110 are American Sports Odds.

These odds tell us what our payout will be on a winning bet. In this case, we must wager $110 in order to win $100. Your online sportsbook takes 10 percent ($10) of the bet and pays out the rest ($100) to the winner. That fee is called the “vig” or “juice” and is the sportsbook’s commission for taking the bet.

Typically, odds on a point spread bet such as this one are always -110. They can vary though and will influence a winner’s payout. Keep that in mind when looking at betting lines.

Betting Moneylines

Point spread bets, like the example above, and moneyline bets are two of the standard bets on sporting events. Moneyline bets are very simple for new bettors to understand. When placing a moneyline wager, a bettor is simply betting on one team to win. The best bookie to bet on sports will have great moneyline odds. 

Like the example above, moneylines also indicate a favorite and an underdog. If we used the same two NBA teams we might read a moneyline bet like this:

                        Cleveland Cavaliers   -270

                        Orlando Magic            +265

Once again, Cleveland is the favorite as indicated by the -270. Orlando is the underdog. If we wager on Cleveland and the Cavs win, we win regardless of the final score. The odds of -270 indicate that we must wager $270 to win $100 or $2.70 to win a $1.

Here is where new bettors can really see the value of picking strong underdogs. The Magic is the underdog and if they pulled the upset in this case - again regardless of the score - a $100 bettor would win $265. Our sports betting tutorials can help you understand more.

The bigger the underdog; the larger the payout. Finding strong moneyline underdogs takes some time and research but can lead to bigger profits. It all starts with an understanding of betting lines and how to read them.

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