Sports Betting 101: What Are The Odds?

Sports Betting 101: What Are The Odds?

nfl odds

Since I’ll be talking about NFL odds and point spreads, I’ll give a rundown of the common terms used in online sportsbooks.

Single Bet

A single bet (sometimes called a straight bet) is a wager on the outcome of a single event or game. Based on the odds you choose, either the outright winner, the point spread, or the combined scores of both teams determines a winning bet. Your payout is determined by the odds posted at the time the bet is placed.

You can place multiple straight bets simultaneously. The bets can be from the same or different sports, leagues, or portions of the game and the wager amounts can be the same or different for each bet. (usually)

Parlay (My Favorite)

A parlay, or combo bet, is a selection of 2 or more bets put together in one wager. Winning the parlay needs all of your individual selections to win. If any bet in your parlay is a loss, the entire wager is graded as a loss. But if it hits, the payoff could reach six digits (depending on what you risk). When you add more bets to your parlay you increase your potential payout.

Let’s say you like the Chargers (+7.5) to keep the score within 8 against the Chiefs. You also like the Bills, straight up against the Jaguars and the Texans to win by 7 or more against the Colts.

Instead of placing three single bets, you could place a three-team parlay to increase your payday. If all games work out in your favor, you’ll win even more with one wager than if you bet each game individually.

Prop Bets

Props, or proposition bets, are wagers placed on outcomes which are not always related to the final score of an event. These can be a lot of fun, depending on the sportsbook you’re using.

NFL Player Props

These props deal with outcomes regarding a specific player, like whether the starting quarterback will throw over or under a certain number of touchdown passes. Or which QB will throw the first interception.

NFL Team Props

Instead of a specific player, you’re now betting on the whole team and their accomplishments (or lack thereof), like how many touchdowns they’ll score.

NFL Game Props

Now you’re betting on something not specific to one team, like whether or not a safety will be scored in the game.

NFL Season Props

Extending the betting range from a single game to the entire season (or the remainder of the season), you can bet on NFL season props like whether a team will make the playoffs or finish the year undefeated. You can also bet on who will be the NFL regular season MVP.

NFL Specials

This term often gets used interchangeably with NFL props, but any prop bet that doesn’t fall into the other categories winds up here; for example, you can bet on who will be the next head coach for a certain team.

You’ll find the most prop bets during the Super Bowl. Anything you can think of there is probably a line for it.

Point Spread

I talked about this in my last post, check it out.


When you make a moneyline wager, you bet on the outright winner of the event without taking the point spread into consideration.

There are still favorites and underdogs, but instead of being handicapped or assisted by a point spread, the competitors are given odds to win the game or event.

A negative number indicates the favorite, and the odds show how much money you must wager to win $100. A positive number indicates the underdog, and the odds show how much money you will win on a $100 wager. The more uneven the contest, the bigger the numbers you’ll see. For example:

In an NFL game where the New England Patriots are favorites against the Los Angeles Rams, the odds might look like this: (NFL Odds)

Patriots -145

Rams +125

If you bet on the Patriots, you’ll have to risk $145 to win $100. However, if you bet on the Rams, you stand to win $125 for every $100 you wager. If the final score of the game is tied, the wager will be graded a ‘Push’ and your money will be refunded.

Totals (Over/Under)

The total is the combined scores of both teams in an event. Rather than betting on which team will win the event, you bet on whether the game will go over (O) or under (U) the combined scores, which is why this type of line is also known as an Over/Under.

The total for the game between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams is listed at 57. If the Patriots end up winning 37-24, the final combined score is 61. If you bet the Over, you win. If the Patriots only won 30-27, the combined score matches the total—the wager will be graded a ‘Push’ and your money will be refunded.

And there you have it! There is a lot more when it comes to online sportsbooks, and each one has their pwn set of rules. But this is a good baseline level of knowledge to introduce you in. I’ll be giving my picks for NFL odds later this week!