The basics of
Learn about point spreads, money lines,
totals and parlays
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BetMGM features a full menu of wagering categories for sports fans! Here's a brief tutorial on four of our most popular betting options.
What is a point spread in betting?
Most games will have a favorite and an underdog. The point spread – or handicap – is what oddsmakers think the margin of victory is likely to be. If you bet on the favorite you will take the points (-2.5 for example) from that team's final score. Reversely, if you bet on the underdog you add these points (+2.5) to that team's final score.
Take this scenario: If Brooklyn is the favored team over Washington by 2.5 points and you bet Brooklyn you're betting it will win by more than 2.5 points. Alternatively, if you bet Washington, it can win, tie or lose the game by less than 2.5 points and you will win your bet.
How do bookmakers calculate points spread?
Bookmakers use several methods when calculating a point spread. The goal is to find a line that accurately reflects the competitive difference between two teams, and factors include recent performance, injuries, weather and player or coaching matchups. These factors will be accumulated to derive some form of team rating – often called power ratings – which will then be used to determine the spread.
What is a moneyline bet?
A moneyline bet is the simplest bet you can make at a sportsbook. There are no point spreads to consider but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a favourite and underdog. When betting the moneyline, your potential bet pay-out will change depending on which team is favored. The payout is presented in relation to a $100 wager. A (+) represents how much more than $100 the bet pays. Reversely a (-) represents how much you must bet to win $100.
If Brooklyn is seen as the stronger team (-143) and you bet $100 on them, you will win $70. Adversely, if you bet $100 on Washington, the underdog at (+120), you will win $120 from the same $100 bet.
Points Total (Over/Under)
What is an over/under in sports betting?
The points total allows you to bet without picking a side in the matchup. Instead, you are simply betting on how many points will be scored. Also known as "Over/Under," this bet is a wager on the combined points scored by both teams in a game.
In the Brooklyn vs Washington game, the Over/Under is 233.5 points. If you bet the over, you're betting the total points scored in the game will be 234 or higher. If you bet the under, you're betting the total points will be 233 or lower.
What is a parlay bet?
A parlay is multiple wagers in one bet. Because the odds are higher, the payout is also higher. But if any of your wagers is incorrect, the entire bet is lost.
You can combine or "parlay" the Nets -2.5 and the Knicks -1.5 into one single bet. If the first bet wins, your bet is rolled into the next game. If the next bet wins as well the payout will be higher than if you had bet each game separately. But if either bet loses, the entire bet is lost.
How are parlay bet odds calculated?
The reason parlay bets pay you out much more money for correctly picking multiple individual bets is to do with how the odds are calculated.
Parlay odds are calculated by multiplying each line’s odds sequentially. The more lines you add, the more the multiplier grows, offering longer odds and greater payouts.
To help you understand the difference in payouts, we will compare betting three individual matchups at -110 odds versus combining them into a three-line parlay:
If you won all three individual bets of $100 at -110, the total profit would be $272.73. However, if you played all three games as a parlay wager, the profit on a single bet of $300 would be $1787.40!
Parlays are for people who like big payouts and aren’t worried about longer odds of winning.
A little action on the side.
“Prop” bet is short for proposition bet. This is a wager on a result that will occur in-game, and often has nothing to do with the game’s final outcome. Prop bets can involve a team’s or individual’s performance.
This football game prop is on the combined number of touchdowns scored by both teams. You can bet over or under 6½.