Upon first glance, the big board in any sportsbook can be somewhat intimidating. There are the moneylines and the point spreads and the totals, and it’s all smashed together in an effort to get as much information out there as possible. However, once you break all the numbers down, you’ll have a much clearer idea of just what all those numbers mean. Knowing how to read betting odds will not only make you a smarter gambler, it’ll make you a better one.


The moneylines are the numbers with the plus or minus sign in front of them. What that sign tells us is how much you’ll win wagering on that team. The plus sign denotes the amount of money you’ll win if you bet $100. The minus sign tells us the amount we would need to wager in order to win $100.

For example, in a game where the Steelers are -250, you would have to wager $250 to win $100. If the Browns are +150, you’d win $150 on a $100 wager. You don’t have to bet exactly $100, this is just the scale all American sportsbooks use. Reading betting odds like these also tells us plenty about the game.

There is no point spread with this wager so the moneyline is telling us who the straight-up favorite of the game is and just how much of a favorite they are in that game.

It’s important when reading the betting odds to read all of the betting odds. Many factors in the game reveal themselves in the betting odds numbers. The favorite, the underdog, if it will be a low scoring game, or a high scoring game. Remember, there’s more than what’s just on the surface when reading the betting odds.

Point Spreads

Playing the point spread is probably the most popular wager on the board. These spreads focus on the amount of points one team is favored by and must overcome in order to win the wager. Once again, you are looking for the plus or minus sign to denote the favorite or the underdog.

Plus is the underdog and minus is the favorite. If the Steelers are -8 point favorites, they would have to win the game by 9 points or more. If the Browns are +8 point underdogs, they could lose the game by 7 points or less and win the wager.

Point spreads are straight handicapping. The favorite gives points to level the playing field. This, in turn, levels out the payout odds as well. Most point spreads will payout between -105, -110, or -115 for both teams.

It rewards the gambler for reading the teams well enough to handicap the game. But remember, and this is important when reading betting odds, the point spreads are made not to create a level playing field between two teams, there made to get you to gamble. There’s a difference and it’s to be considered before placing any wager.


The totals wager is also known as the over/under. The number you see when reading betting odds is the combined score of both teams in a game. For this wager, it doesn’t matter who wins the game. You are wagering on the scoring of the game, not the winner or loser. At the end of the game, the totaled final score will be either over the totals number or below it.

For instance, in our Steelers/Browns game, the over/under is set at 40 points. If you have the under, you want the combined score of both the Steelers and the Browns to be 39 points or less. If you have the over, you want the combined score to be 41 points or more. Again, this is a handicapping-type wager so it usually pays out the same the point spreads, -105, -110, or -115.


A push is simply a tie and can occur only two of these wagers: the point spread and the totals. If the team ends in a tie after the point spread is applied, it’s a push. If the combined score of the game is the exact same as the over/under, it’s a push. No one wins a push and all money wagered is returned. Side note, on the moneyline, if the game ends in a tie, no one wins. The moneyline bet pays winners only, not tie-ers.

All Together Now

Now that we know what all of the numbers indicate, we can make a smarter wager on our Steelers/Browns game. The Steelers are -250 and giving 8 points while the Browns are +150 and getting 8 points where the over/under is 40.

What does this information tell us? Obviously, the first thing is that the Steelers are the favorites and the Browns the underdogs. Secondly, the over/under is 40 which means this isn’t expected to be a high scoring NFL game. Then the 8 point spread. Is it possible for the Steelers to win the game by the 8 points and still have a total of less than 39? Probably not.

Therefore, if you like the Steelers, the smart wager is the Steelers on the moneyline, the point spread, and the over. All the information is there. Learn how to read betting odds, learn to make better bets.