For those who are looking to get started with betting in the NFL, there is a lot to learn if you want to become an expert. Whether you are looking to be an expert bettor or just a casual betting fan, you have to start in the same place. Understanding what NFL odds mean, how to calculate them and what kind of value you are or aren't getting on a bet is a great place to begin learning.
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What Do NFL Vegas Odds Mean?
The very first thing that every sports bettor has to learn is what the odds they are betting on means. What is the difference between (+) and (-)? What does -200 mean compared to -100? These are all common questions for beginner sports bettors, and without knowing the answers to these basic questions, you can't become a successful sports bettor.
Difference Between (+) and (-) in Sports Betting
When a bettor sees a sportsbook or a betting line for the first time, the first thing they will notice is that each team in a particular matchup has either a (+) or a (-) in front of their odds. Sometimes you will even see a (-) in front of both teams. So what exactly does this mean?
When a team has a (-) in front of their odds, that means that team is the favorite to win that particular matchup. A team with a (-) is a team that will payout negative money on your bet. What this means is that if you place a wager of $100 and your bet wins, you will receive your original $100 plus a profit that will be less than that $100. The amount is determined by the number after the (-). If both teams have a (-) in front of them than the sportsbooks consider this matchup to be close to a coin flip and neither team is a favorite to win.
For teams with a (+) in front of their odds, this team or player is considered the underdog in the contest, and a winning wager on one of these bets will return your bet amount plus a profit equal to more than the betting amount wagered. If you place a wager of $100 on a (+) money bet, then you will receive your $100 plus a profit that will be more than $100, depending on what the number after the (+) on the bet is.
What The Odds Numbers Mean in Sports Betting
So we determined that a bet on a (-) team or player will net you your original bet plus an amount equal to less than the bet amount while a win on a (+) team or player will net you your original bet plus an amount equal or greater than your bet amount. The amount paid on top of your original wager is determined by the odds number following the (-) or (+).
For bets with a (-) in front of them, the higher the number, the smaller your payout will be. For example, -100 is set as the standard for "even money". This means that a bet of any amount will return you that bet amount plus a profit of that amount. A bet of $100 at -100 odds will get you a return of $200 if you win the bet. The first hundred is your hundred that you bet, and the second hundred is your profit. The same goes for any amount. A $50 bet at -100 odds would win you $100. Your original $50 bet plus $50 in profit.
Now if that -100 becomes a higher number, such as -200, then the payout will be smaller. The bigger the number behind the (-), the lower the payout percentage for a win. That means that a bet on a team that is -500 would pay out less (a lot less) than a team with -200 odds. -200 is equivalent to half of -100. This means that a $100 bet at -200 will only win you $150. $100 is your original bet and $50 if profit. Therefore, -500 would pay out only 20% of what -100 would. A $100 bet at -500 odds would earn you $120. $100 is your original bet, and $20 is profit.
This works the opposite for (+) money bets. The bigger the number after the (+) in a bet, the higher the payout you will receive. As you can see in the above explanations, -100 is the "even money" standard, and the same goes for +100. -100 and +100 are the same value. So as -200 cuts your profit in half compared to a bet at -100, a bet at +200 doubles your bet compared to that -100/+100.
If you place a $100 bet on a +200 bet and win, you would receive $300. The first $100 is your bet amount, and the other $200 is your profit. That means that a $100 bet on +500 odds would net you $600. The (+) amount is the amount your payout will be on top of your bet amount. A win on a bet of +800 will win you eight times your bet amount in profit. A win on a bet of +950 will win you 9.5 times your bet amount in profit.
While a bigger number of the (-) scale means that a particular bet is more likely to win, a bigger number on a (+) bet means the bet is less likely to win. The bigger the payout, the less likely the bet is to win. So while a +1000 bet looks nice and will pay you out 10/1 on your bet, those bets are a lot less likely to win than a +200 bet.
How are NFL Odds Calculated?
Odds mean the probability that an event will occur divided by the probability that the same event won't occur. Therefore, the formula to calculate odds on a specific event can be written as odds = p/(1-p). So when you hear the phrase 3to1 (or 3in4), that means the odds of the event occurring are three chances out of four or 75% (3/4 =.75).
A probability of .5 (1/2 = .5) is equivalent to the statistical odds of 1 (.5/(1-.5) = .5/.5 =1). In Vegas odds, this would be given as 1to1. One chance for compared to one chance against. When expressed as chance, it would be 1in2, that is, one chance in two of winning.
A table of more Vegas odds and probabilities can be found here at the UCLA report site.
NFL Spread, Moneyline and Over/Under Bets
Spread and moneyline bets are for specific games. An example of this would be the Green Bay Packers taking on the Chicago Bears. If the Packers are a -7 favorite, that means that the Packers are expected to win the game by seven points. If you bet on the Packers spread, you need them to win by more than seven points for your bet to win. If the Packers win by exactly seven points, the bet would be a "push," and your wager would be returned to you.
On the other side of the example, if the Packers are -7 favorites, then the Bears would be a +7 underdog. If you bet on the bears spread, they don't have to win the game for your bet to win. Chicago would just have to stay within seven points for your bet to win.
When it comes to moneyline, if the Packers are a -7 favorite, a moneyline would typically be somewhere in the range of -320 on the Packers. This means you would have to bet $320 to win $100 on the Packers. Unlike the spread, the moneyline determines an outright winner meaning the Packers would just have to win the game outright, not by the spread of seven points. The Bears' moneyline would likely be in the range of +250. If you bet on the Bears moneyline, they have to win the game outright, and you would win $250 for every $100 you bet.
For the Over/Under, a set number of points will be established by the sportsbook for the number of points expected in the game. Let's say the total is set at 47 points. This means if you bet the Under, you need the total combined scored of the two teams to be less than 47. If you bet the Over, you need there to be more than 47 combined points in the game. If the total ends up at exactly 47, both bets push and the bet amount is returned.
Using the Packers/Bears example you could potentially see a line like this at a sportsbook:
Green Bay Packers (-7) -320
Chicago Bears (47) +250
If the final score ends up 28-20, the Packers spread and moneyline would both win and the total would be Over as there are 48 combined points.
NFL Futures bets
Futures bets are calculated differently than standard spread and moneyline bets. Futures bets are just given one simple odd for that player or team to accomplish that particular goal. There is no spread or moneyline for a futures bet.
Super Bowl, Divionsal Champions and Playoff odds
Odds for a team to win the Super Bowl, their respective division or to even just make the playoffs are calculated similarly. The odds are given to each team to accomplish that particular feat and those odds are determined by their likeliness to accomplish that particular feat compared to other teams across the league.
The Green Bay Packers could be +1200 to win the Super Bowl. This would mean that a bet of $100 would win the bettor $1300 if the Packers win the Super Bowl. $100 for the original bet would be returned plus the $1200 in profit for wining the bet.
Teams are also given odds to win their respective divisions. In the NFC North, you could see odds along the lines of Green Bay -110, Minnesota +140, Chicago +220, and Detroit +400. If you bet on the Packers to win and they do, you would have to bet $110 to win $100 in profit. A bet of $100 on Minnesota would net you $140, a bet on Chicago would net would $220 and a bet on Detroit would net you $400.
Playoff odds are similar to super bowl odds. Teams will each be given a set odds amount that will change as the season progresses. All a team has to do is qualify for the playoffs either by winning their division or getting a wild card spot and the bet is a winner.
NFL MVP and other Player Props
Player props such as who wins the MVP are calculated like Super Bowl and other futures odds. Instead of a team given a particular line, a player is given one. An example would be Christian McCaffrey +500 to win the MVP. That means a $100 bet on Christian McCaffrey would win a bettor $500 in profit (plus their original $100 bet) if he were to win the MVP that year.
Vegas Odds FAQ
How do NFL odds work?
NFL odds can be found on a particular game, a prop bet or futures bet. The odds depicted on a specific bet determine the payout for that winning bet. For example, a +200 winning bet would net the better two times their bet amount and a -200 bet would net them their original bet amount plus a half.
What do NFL odds mean?
NFL odds means how likely a specific occur is likely or not likely to happen. Bets with (-) are more likely to occur than bets with (+) according to that specific sportsbook. The higher the (-) number, the more likely the event will occur, the higher the (+), the less likely.
NFL odds to win the Super Bowl.
Odds to win the NFL Super Bowl are calculated at the conclusion of the previous NFL season and are updated as the season progresses. Teams with a better chance of winning the Super Bowl payout less than the team less likely to win the Super Bowl.
NFL odds to win the division.
Odds to win an NFL division are similar to super bowl odds. Instead, these odds are calculated for each individual team to win their respective division. The more likely a team is to win their division according to a sportsbook, the less the payout compared to teams less likely to win.
NFL odds to make the playoffs.
Similar to Super Bowl and division odds, playoff odds are calculated based on how likely a specific team is to make the playoffs. The less likely a team is to make the playoffs, the higher the odds and payout. Teams more likely to make the playoffs offer lower odds and a smaller payout.
NFL odds to win MVP
Odds to win the MVP are calculated the same as Super Bowl, divisional or playoff odds. The difference is that these odds are on a single player to win the MVP Award.
What is an NFL spread?
The spread in an NFL game determines which team is the favorite or underdog by a certain number of points. A team with a -3 is favored to win that particular game by three points. A team with +3 means they are the underdogs by three points. A favorite has to win by at least that many points while an underdog has to "cover" by at least that amount.
What is an NFL moneyline?
An NFL moneyline determines the odds of each team winning the game outright. The team with the (-) is the favorite and the team with the (+) is the underdog. The (-) pays out less than the (+) team on an equal bet amount.
How to Tell the Favorite of an NFL game?
Whichever team has the (-) in front of their odds on the moneyline, or the (-) points in the spread is the favorite. This team is expected to win the game both outright and by the number of points in the spread. These teams pay out less money than underdogs.
What are the odds of recovering onside kick?
In 2017 the onside recovery rate was 21.7 percent. After the rule change in 2018, teams only recovered four of 53 onside kicks for a recovery rate of just 7.5 percent. From nearly one in five recoveries in 2017, that number dropped to nearly one in 14.