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Betting Lines Explained

Betting lines display the odds for each game and assign them a monetary value.

Betting lines typically display a moneyline, point spread, and point total, all of which we will explain below. These may differ from sport to sport but they effectively function the same for every game.

What Are Betting Lines?

Betting lines are typically divided into three parts.

The moneyline is the ratio between your bet and the payout. A minus sign is displayed next to the favorite and a plus sign is displayed next to the underdog. The minus sign means that the payout is lower than your initial bet while a plus sign means the payout is higher than your stake. So you would have to bet $200 on a -200 favorite to win $100 ($100 to win $50, etc) while a $100 bet on a +150 favorite would net you $150 ($50 wins $75, etc).

The point spread displays the margin of victory the favorite must win by in order to “cover,” or win your bet. This is used to even up the matchup and attract betting action on both sides, particularly in lopsided matchups. So a -7 favorite must win by 8 or more points to win your bet while a 7-point win is a push, and you get your money back. A +6 underdog, on the other hand, can lose by up to 5 points and your bet would still win.

The point total is the projection set by each sportsbook for how many combined points there will be in a game. You can bet on whether the actual final combined total will be “over” or “under” the projection set by the sportsbook.

How Do Betting Lines Work in the NFL and NBA?

All NFL and NBA betting lines include a moneyline, point spread, and point total.

For example, you might see a line that looks like this:
Giants vs. Eagles
-120 +110
-1.5 +1.5
52.5 52.5

In this case, the Giants are a slight favorite so you would have to bet $120 to win $100. Meanwhile, a $100 bet on the Eagles would win you $110.

The point spread is 1.5, so the Giants would have to win by at least two points for your point spread bet to win. The Eagles are a slight underdog so if they lose by no more than one point your bet will still win.

The projected point total is 52.5, so you can wager whether the actual combined score will be lower or higher than the projection.

Moneylines are adjusted throughout the week. The point spread and point total also change but they are “even money” bets, so the ratio of the payout does not change. Most point spreads and point totals come with a -110 line, which means you have to bet $100 to win $100 minus a $10 “vig,” or fee that is charged by every sportsbook to facilitate the bet. The vig may be higher or lower, and is usually set at somewhere between -101 to -120.

How Do Sports Betting Lines Work in the MLB and NHL?

MLB and NHL betting lines similarly feature a moneyline and a run or goal total, but they have a different take on point spreads.

Since these sports tend to be lower scoring, the “run line” in every baseball game is set at 1.5, so the favorite must win by 2 or more to win while the underdog can lose by up to 1 and win. Hockey similarly features a 1.5 “puck line” for every game.