When betting on football, all the different bets and the terminology might seem confusing. But rest assured–it’s not rocket science. In fact, even those who never laid a bet before are no more than a few minutes away from having a solid understanding of how football betting works. Here is a explanation of some of the different things you will have to contend with in order to learn how to bet on football.

Straight Bets: (aka: Sides) The bread and butter of football betting. You pick which of two teams will “cover the spread.” What is this “spread?” Well, if this year’s leading Super Bowl contender were to play the worst team in the league, it wouldn’t be a very even match-up, would it? So the point-spread is brought into the mix to make both sides of the bet attractive. Here is an example:

Kansas City Chiefs +8
Baltimore Ravens -8

You see each team listed with a point-spread, an equal number given to both teams, with one team “giving” 8 points and one team “getting” 8 points. Baltimore at -8 is an 8-point favorite, with Kansas City an 8-point underdog at +8. The (-) sign always indicates a favorite, with the (+) sign indicating an underdog.

If you were to bet on Baltimore at -8, you could only win if Baltimore won the game by a number exceeding 8. For a win to be registered on the Chiefs, they could either have to win the game outright or lose by under 8 points. If Baltimore were to win by exactly 8, it would be a “push,” resulting in everyone having their money returned.

Either side of the bet generally pays -110, which means you have to bet $110 to win $100. Or you would have to bet $11 to win $10. Or you would have to bet $22 to win $20. This is how the book guarantees that they stay ahead and make a profit. They’re not in this business for our entertainment purposes, obviously. This is called “vig” and it’s a main reason why the book is in business year after year. If you keep your eyes peeled, however, you can cut that “vig” in half and get a -105 line for betting football against-the-spread. For more information on this wager, check out my article: The Point Spread.

The Money Line – This is basically the same as a straight wager except for you’re eliminating the point spread and paying more to win less on favorites OR betting less to win more on underdogss, both to make up for the probability/odds of your team winning. To clarify, you’re simply picking which team will win the game straight up (SU). There is no point spread involved with this wager.

NFL Totals: Other than straight bets, betting on totals is probably the next most popular form of football betting. It’s the bet that is probably the easiest to understand. For each football game, a number is posted and you merely predict if the total combined score will go “over” or “under” that number. Here is an example:

Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints
Over 44.5 (-110)
Under 44.5 (-110)

You have 2 choices, whether to take the “over” or the “under.” Just like with betting on point-spreads, you have to generally bet $110 in order to win $100. Betting on totals, while usually done for an entire game, can also be split into quarters and halves, where you bet on the combined score for just certain periods of the game.

NFL Parlays: This is a bet that gets a lot of play, especially for those looking to notch the big win. On a parlay, you put multiple bets on the same ticket. They all have to win for the bet to be a success, but the rewards can be quite robust. Let’s say you made a college football parlay. You take Oklahoma -17, Tulsa +3, and San Jose State -2. If you made a $100 parlay and all 3 of those teams covered the spread, you would pocket $600 in winnings. Again, they all have to win or it’s all for naught. For another great read on this bet, check out our piece on how parlays work.

NFL Teasers: Sort of like parlays, in that you pick multiple teams on the same ticket and they all have to win for the bet to be successful. The main difference is that you get to move the point-spread in your favor. Let’s say you like UCLA +10, Oregon -14, and Michigan State -4. You could make a 3-team/7-point teaser and now look what happens to the point-spreads of the 3 teams. You get 7 points off each game and now have UCLA +17, Oregon -7, and Michigan State +3. They must all beat the adjusted spread or the bet doesn’t win. And in exchange for the extra points, you have to pay somewhat dearly, as teasers don’t pay nearly as much as parlays in the event that you win. For another great read on this bet, check out: How Teasers Work.

Pleaser Bets – These crazy bets are just the opposite of a teaser. You’re giving points instead of receiving points. As you can imagine, giving points makes a bet harder to hit, hence the gigantic payouts. This wager is for the true maniac. We’ve yet to see a football gambler who can hit these consistently. If it’s you, please drop us a line and we’ll do a feature article on your picks each week!

First Half Betting and Halftime Betting: Sometimes, you may have a better read on a game from a quarter or half standpoint than an entire game. Perhaps you think a powerful college team will really unload in the first half before pulling starters and easing up off the gas pedal. So you would perhaps make a first-half bet on that team. There are many scenarios that make these bets worth a look.

NFL Prop Bets: A good way to look at props is that they focus not so much on the game itself, but rather on details that lie within the game. We’re not worried about the score here, but on other aspects of the game, like whether a quarterback will throw for a certain number of yards or which of the team’s running backs will gain the most yardage.

NFL Futures: These are bets where you make wagers far in advance. You can bet on things like which player will be the season MVP or win the Heisman Trophy. You can bet on team performance, like what team will win the championship or even just their conference or division. You can get a lot of mileage off futures, being that you will have a season-long vested interest in whatever it is you bet.

If Bets – A great option for placing bets using money that is already tied up in another wager. If wagers are also a great alternative to parlays where if your second bet loses, you don’t lose everything.

Reverse Betting – A variation of an “if” bet. Check out this article to learn more.