The Basics of How to Place a Bet and Have Fun With It All
Whether you’re entirely new to sports betting or you just need a quick refresher so you don’t look like a deer in headlights at the sportsbook, we’ve got your back. Following is a quick primer on how you bet on college football games.
What You Can Bet On
To be clear, you can bet on just about anything. If you’d like to wager money, a sportsbook will give you plenty of ways to do so. There are some bets, though, that are the most common when you’re betting on college football and we’ll focus on those here.
Betting on the Spread
For every college football game there’s a spread. Basically the sportsbook will look at the two teams (let’s say the Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Georgia Bulldogs in this example) and decide which team is likely to win. Based on that, the bookmaker will apply a point penalty to the team most likely to win. That point penalty is the spread. By applying a point penalty, the bookmaker is encouraging more people to bet on the underdog, or less likely to win team.
When you’re betting on the spread you’re not betting on which team is the better team. Rather, you’re betting on if the favored team is that much better.
For example, if most people thing Alabama is likely to win, you may see the spread written as Alabama -3. This reads as, “Alabama is a three point favorite.” If you bet on Alabama, in this instance, you are betting that they not only win, but they do so by more than three points. By more than a field goal. Alabama -3 is the same thing as Georgia +3. If you bet on Georgia in this example, you are saying that Georgia will either win OR they will lose by less than three points.
When you bet on a spread you are betting on one of the teams to exceed expectations.
Betting on the Total
Maybe you aren’t sure whether Alabama or Georgia will win, but you think it will be a high scoring game. In this case, you can bet on the total of the game. For every NFL game sportsbooks will also set a total: it’s the sum of each team’s score at the end of the game. You can bet whether the total will be over or under the oddsmakers’ prediction.
For example, if you see Green Bay -7 28. That reads as, “Alabama is a seven point favorite and the total of the game will be 21 points.” If at the end of the game, the score was Alabama = 21 and Georgia = 10 then your total game score was 31 points. If you bet over, you win your bet!
Betting on Who’s Going to Win
If you really don’t want to deal with point spreads and game totals, you can simply pick which team you think will win: Alabama or Georgia. This is called a moneyline bet. For a moneyline bet, you need to consider the vig (or the odds) set by the sportsbook. Most vigs start at -110. This means that “in order to win $100, you have to bet $110.” That extra $10 is a fee or penalty to the sports book. It’s how Vegas stays Vegas.
If oddsmakers always offered a -110 vig for matchups, they would lose money over time because bettors would keep picking the more favorable team or opponent. Thus, oddsmakers increase the vig in order to discourage betting on favorite teams. If the odds are set at -300, we would read that bet as “in order to win $100, you have to bet $300.”
If Alabama is a huge favorite in the game against Georgia, the vig is going to be steep. The bookmakers will force you to risk a lot to win a little. Vigs are -110 or close to it when games are toss ups.
Betting on Random Things
If sports really aren’t your thing, you can still have fun placing a bet: consider a proposition “prop” bet.
A proposition bet is a defined outcome bet such as yes or no, up or down, over or under, heads or tails, etc.
If you want to get in on the betting action, but really don’t like sports, you can bet on the game’s coin toss or whether or not the game will go into overtime. (If you really don’t like sports we assume you’ll be betting on it not going into overtime!)
How to Place Your Bet
Place a Straight Bet on the Spread
Back to our example, if the spread reads: Alabama -3, you would read that as: “it’s a three point spread,” or “Alabama is a three point favorite.” As a bettor, you select one side to bet on.
You write or say the spread based on the side you are betting. If you take Alabama -7 this means you are accepting a three point penalty at the end of the game; you believe Alabama will win the game against the Georgia and they will do so by more than a field goal (which is a key figure).
To take that bet you would write or say “I bet $X on Alabama -3” If you do not think Alabama will win OR you don’t think they’ll win by more than three, you would write or say, “I bet $X on Georgia +3.”
Place a Straight Bet on the Total
If the line is: Alabama -7 28, you can simply bet “over” or “under“ on that total game score of 28.
Place a Moneyline Bet
If the line is Alabama -3 28 and the odds are -120, you know that in order to win $100 you have to bet $120. Thus, if you want to bet on Alabama to win, you simply write or say, “Alabama to win.”
Note: the odds (-120 in this example) are a ratio. You do not have to put down the full $120. Instead you could bet $12 and win $10. Conversely, you could bet $240 and will $200.
Like we said above, there are plenty of other types of bets and betting scenarios, but this will get you through a basic visit.