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A spread, or, point spread, is one of the most popular forms of sports betting. Many of the most popular sports that are wagered upon like football and basketball use point spreads. The spread is created to basically level the playing field of a specific game or matchup. Let’s take an NBA game, as an example. If the Los Angeles Lakers are playing the Chicago Bulls, it’s no secret the Lakers are by far the better team and will win the game at a much higher rate than the Bulls. The better team is considered the “favorite,” which makes the worse team the “underdog.”

If we opened up our favorite sportsbook, let’s say we found the line as:

Chicago Bulls (+12.5) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (-12.5).

The Bulls are the underdog and the Lakers are the favorites. The spread of this game is 12.5 points, which means if you wagered your money on the Lakers, they would be required to defeat the Bulls by more than 12 points in order for you to cash your ticket. So, on the flip side, if you wagered on the Bulls, you have two avenues to cashing your ticket: 1) Win the game outright; 2) Lose by a margin of 12 points or less.

The moneyline bet is the most simple form of sports betting. Chances are, you’ve probably had about 200 of these types of wagers with your Uncle Frank on the Thanksgiving NFL games over the years, and you didn’t even know it. Unlike betting on a point spread, a moneyline bet is simply a wager that is placed on a team one believes will win the game outright. There are no points a team needs to cover, but there are, however, still favorites and underdogs.

Merely picking the winning side is quite easy. Understanding how the moneyline is set and will pay out is a bit of a different story for some. Let’s take one of those Uncle Frank Thanksgiving NFL games for example. Let’s say the Dallas Cowboys are hosting the New York Giants. The moneyline might look something like this:

New York Giants (+200) vs. Dallas Cowboys (-200)

The Giants are represented as the underdog by having the plus next to their number (+200). The plus number indicates how big of an underdog a team is, so if they were +300, +400, or +500, they would be more sever underdogs to win the game. The number also indicates how much money would win in comparison to every $100 you wager. So, the Cowboys are the favorite at (-200). That number also tells you how much money you need to wager in order to win $100.

If you were make a $100 moneyline bet on the Giants to upset the Cowboys and the G-Men won the game, you would receive $300 in return ($100 for your original wager, plus the additional $200 profit for the 2:1 odds). If you made a $200 bet on the Cowboys to win and they did, you’d receive the same $300 in return ($200 from your original wager, plus the additional $100 for the profit).

Most wagers are single bets placed on single games, only requiring a single outcome to cash your ticket. A parlay, however, is when a bettor makes one wager on two or more games. The parlay requires all parts of the bet be won in order for the bettor to paid out. What’s enticing about a parlay is the larger payout if all parts of the bet are, indeed, won; whereas a single-game bet generally offers a much smaller return. A larger payout doesn’t come without more risk, as selecting multiple winners is difficult.

Let’s say you’re looking at the Sunday NFL lines at your favorite book and you stumble upon two games you think are winners:

Pittsburgh Steelers (+4.5) vs. New England Patriots (-4.5)

Chicago Bears (+6.5) vs. Green Bay Packers (-6.5)

You see the Patriots are only 4.5-point favorites and think the Patriots will cover that spread and win by 5 or more. The Bears are 6.5-point underdogs and since Aaron Rodgers is dealing with a shoulder injury, you think the Bears can either win or lose by 6 or less. Instead of betting each game individually, you roll them together in a parlay to get better odds. For this example, let’s say the Patriots (-4.5) and Bears (+6.5) pays out 2:1. You wager $100, so if the Pats and Bears both cover, you’d receive $300 ($100 for your original bet, and a $200 profit). With two games, the odds aren’t giant, but if you add more games, the odds goes up. Just remember, the odds may look great the more games you add, but the actual chances of winning the wager become exponentially harder with each game you add.

A bankroll is one of the most important things to not only have, but understand, before you even think about attempting sports wagering. Your bankroll is defined as: the amount of money an individual has to gamble with. Let’s say the NFL season is beginning and you’re planning to wager throughout the season. You have put away $500 heading into Week 1 and claimed that as your “NFL betting money.” Thus, your bankroll is $500. It’s a simple concept, but many — especially newer, inexperienced — bettors fail to stay within their allotted bankroll.

Here is a short list of common bankroll mistakes:

  • Betting more on games you love
  • Betting less on games you dislike
  • Doubling down because you’re on a heater and overconfident
  • Chasing to try to win large sums back after a losing streak
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