How to Understand Betting Lines

A betting line shows the the margin of victory and dollar amounts assigned by sportsbooks to handicap a game where, usually, one team is the favorite and one team is the underdog. A betting line comes in various forms, though they are pretty consistent across all major sports.

For the most part, most betting lines show the point spread, the moneyline, and the point total. Here we will break down how betting lines work and how they differ in various sports.

Betting Lines

There are three main parts to a betting line.

The first is the point spread, which is the margin of victory a favorite must win by in order for your bet to win. So if the Lakers are a -7 point favorite, they must win by 8 or more points for your bet to win. Or if the Clippers are a +7 underdog, they can win or lose by as many as 6 points and your bet would still win. This is done to even the playing field and incentivize betting on the underdog.

Another part is the moneyline. Instead of using the point spread, you can make a straight up bet. Here, sportsbooks will even the playing field by paying out much less to heavy favorites. So if the Jets are a -200 favorite, a $200 wager would net you $100 in winnings. But if the Bills are a +150 underdog, your $100 bet would earn you $150.

The other part is the point total. Here, you can bet on whether the final result will be “over” or “under” the combined score projected by each sportsbook.

NFL Betting Lines

NFL betting lines are pretty straight forward. Let’s take a game where the Titans are favored over the Jaguars.

The Titans are a -120 favorite while the Jaguars are a +110 underdog on the moneyline. That means a $120 bet on the Titans would win you $100 while a $100 bet on the Jaguars would net you $110.

The Titans are also a -3 favorite. If you bet on the point spread, the Titans must win by 4 or more points for your bet to hit while the Jaguars can lose by as many as 2 points and still win your bet.

The game has a 42 over/under. That means the game must have at least 42 points for the “over” bet to hit and under 42 for the “under” bet to hit. If the game ends at 42 combined points, the result is a push and your money is refunded.

NBA Betting Lines

NBA betting lines look exactly like NFL betting lines. There is a point spread that varies from game to game based on team strength, a moneyline that also fluctuates depending on the matchup, and a point total.

MLB Betting Lines

MLB betting lines are similar to the NFL and NBA except they don’t have a point spread listed because every baseball game has the same “run line.” A run line essentially sets the point spread for each MLB game at 1.5 runs, so every favorite must win by 2 or more points while every underdog must either win or lose by no more than 1 run to win your bet.

NHL Betting Lines

NHL betting lines work exactly like MLB betting lines. There is no point spread because every game has a “puck line,” which sets the spread of every hockey game at 1.5 goals. The favorite must win by 2 or more goals while the underdog can win, draw, or lose by up to 1 goal to win your bet.