Sports Betting Lines

Sports betting lines are obviously a key component to your betting, so it’s important that you fully understand what they look like and what they mean.

Essentially, betting lines are just a ‘price’, similar to a price that you would have to pay for any goods or services, only a betting line relates to sports teams or contestants.

Sports betting lines are displayed in different ways, depending on the market market and the country.

In the US, the popular format is the money / line which has a number preceded by a ‘plus’ or a ‘minus’.

Moneyline Bets

We’ll take a moneyline market as an example in the NBA. Moneyline markets are simple. There is no points spread (we’ll look at these later) or other numbers to concern yourself with. Moneyline bets are just simple bets on who will win the contest.

In this market, the betting line might look like this.

Cleveland Cavaliers -155

Indiana Pacers +135

So what does it mean?

US sports betting lines are shown as a return relevant to 100 units. The simplest way of looking at this, is as $100. If there is a minus sign in front of the number, then you have to bet that amount to win $100. If there is a plus sign in front of the number, then that is the amount that you will win for a stake of $100

In order to win $100 on the Cavaliers, you would have to bet $155. The moneyline odds are highlighted. (You can also see points spreads and totals markets which are covered later).



If you placed a bet for $100 on the Pacers at +135, then you could win $135.



If you placed a bet for $100 on the Cavaliers at -155, then your profit would be just $64.50 because the odds are shorter.

Note: This sportsbook (Intertops) shows the profit and the stake return in the ‘win’ section, whilst other sportsbooks only show the clear profit (next example). In both examples above, the stake return is included in your winnings. With Cleveland, your clear profit would be $100 + your stake return of $155 ($255 total).  With Indiana, your clear profit would be $135 + your stake return of $100 ($235 total).

Of course, you can bet whatever stake amount your sportsbook will allow. The betting lines are just based around that hypothetical $100 / 100 units.

Point Spreads

The most popular form of betting in the US is point spread betting, with the most popular market being the NFL. (Point spread betting is also known as handicap betting – although mainly in Europe).

Here an ‘extra number’ is thrown into the pot. The line might look like this:

Atlanta Falcons  +3  -110

NE Patriots  -3  -110

The underdog will always get the positive number (in this case +3) and the favorite will always get the negative number (in this case -3). In this betting market, the Patriots start the game 3 points down, conversely, the Falcons start the game with a 3 point advantage. Effectively, the point spread levels the playing field and is especially useful to the sportsbook to attract betting action when there are two uneven teams, that might otherwise not attract bettors to that particular market.

In order to win a bet on the Patriots, they would have to win the game by more than 3 points. So if the final score in the game was 12 – 6  to New England, then even after the -3 points / deduction, they have still won the game and ‘covered the spread’.

If, however, the Falcons got to within three points of the Patriots, or won the game outright, then the Falcons would win the bet with their +3 point advantage. So if the final score was 14 – 12 to the Patriots, then the Falcons would win the bet with their +3 point / advantage.

If the game landed on the spread / number, then the bet is a ‘push’ or draw. For example, if the Patriots won the game 21 – 18, then the deficit would be 3 points – landing on the spread. When this occurs, all bet stakes are returned, with neither the sportsbook nor the customer at a disadvantage.

The ‘-110’ odds figure is again there for you to calculate your potential winnings as in the moneyline example.

Here’s what the slips might look like:

$110 on the Patriots.


New England Patriots bet slip


$110 on the Falcons.


Atlanta Falcons bet slip

Note: This sportsbook does not include your stake return in the win section. The win figure is your clear profit. It is assumed that the customer is aware that his stake of $110 will be returned.


Totals or Over / Under

This market is based on the combined scores of both teams in the game. In the game lines below we can see that the Total for the game between Philadelphia and Orlando is o/u 209. You can choose to bet ‘over’ the total or ‘under’ the total, depending on how many points you think will be scored in the game.


nba totals


The betting line / odds are in the above market are -110. These odds are of course subject to change depending on how the market develops.

Other types of bet you could look at are Parlays, Teasers, Futures, Proposition and Points Buying.

European Odds

UK and European odds are generally displayed as fractions or decimals, although decimal odds are more common nowadays.

Take a look at this example for Liverpool v Tottenham in the Premier League.


Decimal Odds:

Here the odds for Liverpool are 2.20. Decimal odds always include your stake return in the calculation. If your stake is £100, then multiply this by the odds of 2.20 and you get £220. This figure is made up of your profit of £120 and your stake return of £100.



The bet slip would look similar to this:


decimal bet slip


Fractional Odds:

Here is the same market but shown with fractional odds. Liverpool are 6 / 5. Fractional odds do not include you stake return in the calculation. If your stake is £100, multiplied by this by the odds of 1.2 (6 divided by 5 =1.2) gives you £120 profit.


fractional odds market


The bet slip would look similar to this.


fractional odds betting slip

Note: Although the strict fractional odds calculation, gives you your profit only, most sportsbooks like coral (above example) now show your total returns regardless of which odds format you use.


Indonesian and Malay Odds

Indonesian odds only need the briefest of mentions. They work very much like the US lines, except that instead of using $100 / 100 unit stake, they use a 1 / $1 stake.

Malay odds are slightly more complicated if you are used to US style lines, because they work in the opposite way in terms of ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ line numbers!

Malay odds are based around 1 unit rather than a 100 – as with the US line.

Malay odds of 1.0 are the same as US odds of +100 (fractional: 1/1 decimal: 2.00)

But for example:

Malay odds of 0.7: You would make 0.7 for every 1.0 unit staked. (0.7 is the same as US odds of 143 approx).

Malay odds of – 0.7: You would win 1.0 unit of profit for every 0.7 staked. (0.7 is the same as US odds of +143 approx).

Essentially, with Malay odds, the negative number points to an underdog and a positive number points to a favorite.

These days, virtually all sportsbooks let you choose your odds format and some let you choose if you want to show your slips with ‘profit’ or ‘total returns’. Here are the futures lines on next year’s Super Bowl – for the top teams.

It’s unlikely that all three formats will display together – the image below is purely a ‘visual’ for comparison purposes. One column will be displayed with your chosen odds format. Line, decimal or fractions.

super bowl odds schematic

Converting Odds

All the odds / formats above are of course related. So each format can be calculated from the other.

To convert US line to decimal for example:

Line = -110 (negative). Divide 100 by the US line 110 (ignore the minus sign) and add 1 =  decimal odds of 1.91. 

Decimal odds = (100 / US line) + 1.

Line = +120 (positive). Divide the US line by 100 and add 1. = decimal odds of 2.20.

Decimal odds = (US line / 100) +1

You can explore further the different odds conversion formulas, conversion charts and tools on the web.

Hopefully this has given you an introduction to sports betting lines and odds.

Which odds format do you prefer?

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