How To Read A Sports Betting Line


A sports betting line is the odds that a sportsbook offers for a bet. Lines will be available for all betting options. You’ll be more equipped to make betting decisions if you grasp the lines and what they’re telling you.

Learning how to read the sports betting lines is an important first step for people who are new to sports betting. Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals, you’ll be able to garner even more insights by fully comprehending the data and what they’re telling you.

What is the best way to read a sports betting line?

Betting odds for scheduled games and events can be found at an online sportsbook. By clicking on the name of the sport you’re looking for, you can adjust the display in the betting lobby. Let’s look at some examples, beginning with the NFL:

Spreads, totals, and moneylines are the most popular NFL wagers. On each side of the first two, you’ll notice two numbers: the line and the odds for putting the wager.

On the spread, the team with the negative line is the favorite, while the side with the positive line is the underdog. The San Francisco 49ers are 6.5-point favorites in this game. In this scenario, you might bet on the total to go over or under 42.5 points.

The moneyline can also help you identify favorites and underdogs. Once again, the former has negative numbers whereas the later has positive values. While the following example comes from Sportsbook, the bets may be placed in a different order at other online sportsbooks. But the numbers all signify the same thing.

While this is an NBA example, the lines are the same as they are in the NFL. The Golden State Warriors are 5.5-point favorites against the spread in this game, with the over/under set at 214.5 points. The Warriors are also the moneyline favorite. Reading the three boxes provides insight into how the sportsbook thinks the game to unfold.

The same basic rules apply when betting on MLB games, but the run line replaces the spread. It works the same way: you can pick the favorite to win by more than the spread or the underdog to lose by less than the spread or win by any score. Unlike the point spread, the regular run line is always 1.5, and the odds adjust to reflect the differential between the teams. The Tampa Bay Rays are run line and moneyline favorites in this game, with the total set at 6.5.

How to Read Sports Betting Lines for Other Bet Types

In addition to the regular sports betting lines that we just discussed, there are odds for all of the different wagers that you can place. A player prop bet might look something like this:

In this game, the over/under for Mika Zibanejad’s goals is 0.5. If he scores a goal, you win if you bet on the over. If he does not, those who chose the under will win. There are additional chances for the two options that follow the same standard premise: negative for the more likely of the two possibilities and positive for the less likely of the two outcomes. Meanwhile, a bet with more than two possible outcomes might look like this:

You’re trying to pick the first player to score a goal in the game for this sports betting line. There are no negative odds numbers in this situation. The positive odds are listed in increasing order, with lower numbers representing more likely options. This is similar to how futures betting works:

The Colorado Avalanche have the best chances of winning the Stanley Cup, making them the favorite. The figures rise from there for all of the other options.
To summarize, when reading the odds for a pair of options, the negative value is the preferred option. If both numbers are negative, the higher negative number of the two values is used. When there are numerous possibilities for a sports betting online, the one with the lowest positive odds is the favorite, although the changes in some of the numbers can be smaller.

Are all Sports Betting Line the same at every Sportsbook?

Not all of the time. While betting odds appear to be somewhat uniform at first look, sportsbooks set their own sports betting line. As a result, there will be some differences in the initial release, and you can continue to notice differences right up to game time. Let’s look at the odds for an NFL game at two popular sportsbooks:

The Los Angeles Rams are one-point favorites over the Buffalo Bills at Sportsbook A, with the over/under set at 52 points. The moneyline odds are the same. Buffalo is the one-point favorite at Sportsbook B, with the total set at 51.5 points. The Rams are small favorites on the moneyline. In either case, betting the underdog and taking the point will cost you slightly more (-115).

While the differences are minor in one situation, they can be rather profound in others. This is really a positive thing for bettors because it allows you to search around for the best odds and lines on any bets you want to place.

Why do sports betting line change over time?

The lines will not necessarily remain static after the initial posting of betting odds. This is due to two factors: betting activity and new information.

Bettors begin placing bets as soon as the lines are released. Bets from well-known “sharp” professional players and groups will generally have the most impact on a line. Spreads and totals can shift by a half-point or more, and odds can change.

Furthermore, sports betting line are based on the facts available. After the lines are read, news can break that affects how a game is perceived. An injury to a key player or a change in the weather prediction are two examples.

Sports betting Line don’t always move in the same way from book to book. For line shopping, you can select the numbers that appeal to you the most or are the most similar to what you’re thinking.

Using sports betting odds to Calculate Payouts

The odds are also related to the payouts that you might expect from winning bets. There are several methods for calculating profit potential.

Betting slip: When you add a bet to your slip at an online sportsbook and enter your stake, the potential return will be displayed immediately on the screen.

Betting Calculator: A simple web search for a betting calculator can yield a variety of reputable options where you can see the potential return based on the odds and the amount you intend to bet.

Ballpark it: Using the two rules of thumb below, you can generate a quick (but not exact) estimate.

When the odds are negative, the amount equals how much you have to stake to win $100. A stake of $110 would win $100 at odds of -110.

When the chances are in your favor, the number indicates how much you would profit from a successful $100 bet. That would be $120 at +120 odds.

Use a formula: If you want an accurate result, you may easily compute American odds using the two methods below.

Negative (for the sake of the math, alter the odds number to positive): 100/Odds * Stake = Profit

For instance, odds of -140 and a $50 wager

100/140 * 50 = $35.71


Profit is calculated as Odds/100 * Stake.

For example, +120 odds and a $75 wager

120/100 * 75 = $90

What should you look for in sports betting lines?

After you’ve mastered the fundamentals of odds reading, it’s time to learn what to look out for. While scanning the Sports betting lines at online sportsbooks, you can utilize the following quick checklist as a general guideline:

  • What are the stats telling you about the matchup? Spreads and moneylines can indicate how close a matchup the sportsbook thinks, whereas totals indicate what the book forecasts for overall scoring. Reviewing these stats may help you decide which games to focus on.
  • Is there enough value in the current odds to outweigh the risk? If you’re putting money at risk, your goal should be to get enough value back to justify it. The odds determine predicted payments, so you may quickly determine whether a bet is worthwhile, at least in your opinion. If it isn’t, you can just pass on the bet.
  • What are the odds for the identical bet at other sportsbooks? The sports betting lines may be similar across the business, but they will not necessarily be identical. Line shopping is an important step to do because it puts you in the best possible position for prospective returns.


Now that you understand what betting odds are and how to interpret them, you’re ready to join a sportsbook, either in person or online, and wager on your favorite team.

As you go, it is beneficial to get a greater knowledge of what the data are telling you. Aside from favorites and underdogs, you can calculate winning bet payouts and implied probability of outcomes, for instance.