Intermediate and experienced sports bettors have a solid grasp on NFL odds, NFL lines and point spreads, described in detail in our sports betting 101 explainer. If you inadvertently enrolled in 201 before reviewing 101, head back there.In this article we’ll delve deeper into more advanced football betting plays, like parlays, hedging, buying points and some more exotic bets.
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NFL lines, exotic bets, hedging and more betting terms, explained
Hedging: Hedging or “hedging a bet” describes when a bettor takes the opposite position of an existing bet he placed. This may for done for several reasons, and is best described through examples. For example, let’s say Joe bet $100 on the Packers to win the Super Bowl at 30-1 odds, and the Packers make it to the Super Bowl. Joe stands to win $3,000 if the Packers win the Super Bowl, but would win zero if Green Bay falls short. So he may decide to place a bet on the AFC Super Bowl representative, the Patriots, favored -200 on the moneyline, in order to guarantee that he wins something.
In this example, let’s say Joe bets $1,000 on the Patriots moneyline at -200. If the Packers win the Super Bowl, Joe will win $3,000 on his initial futures wager, and lose the $1,000 he bet on the Patriots, for a total profit of $2,000 on his initial $100 bet. If the Patriots beat the Packers, Joe will win $500 on that bet, lose $100 on his initial Packers futures bet, for a profit of $400. By betting on the Patriots as a “hedge” he guaranteed himself some profit. (Check out this hedge calculator.)
Middle or middling: To successfully middle a game or total means to take a position on both sides, and win both. This is possible because the line is not static: it moves according to how people are wagering, or how the book believes that wagers will ultimately fall. An example: The Dolphins open as a 3.5-point favorite over the Jets. John bets $100 on Miami to cover the spread. Closer to game time, a wave of money comes in on the Dolphins and the line moves all the way to 6. John now bets $100 on New York at +6. John is now invested in both sides, but has created a middle opportunity if the Dolphins win the game by 4 or 5 points. In that case, the Dolphins will have covered the 3.5 spread, and the Jets will have covered the spread of +6. John double dips, and wins about $200.
Parlay: A parlay is a type of bet in which the bettor is wagering on the outcome of two or more games, and must win each of the games in order to win the overall bet. For example, you might bet a two-team parlay: Patriots -14 vs. the Browns and the Giants -3 vs. the Eagles. The bettor is not wagering these games individually – they are betting that BOTH the Patriots and Giants cover the spread. With the risk comes a much greater reward: based on fixed odds and a standard -110 wager, a successful two-leg parlay pays 13/5. So, if the Patriots and Giants both cover, a $100 bet will win $260; a three-team parlay pays 6:1, a four-teamer 10:1 and up and up. When the parlay includes moneyline underdogs (such as +200), the potential payout rises. However, the risk is also greater – if any of the teams you include in a parlay fail to cover, you lose the entire bet. So even if you bet a 5-team parlay, and four of the teams cover, you lose the bet because the fifth team did not cover. But keep in mind that if one of the teams in your parlay “pushes,” that gets canceled out and the wager is reduced by one leg and you can still win. Generally speaking, it’s not a great bet, and is a better long-term strategy to make single wagers.
Twoo additional notes about parlays: When the legs of a parlay involve games at different times, the might create hedging opportunities. Suppose you hit the first three legs of a four-game parlay during the daytime games, and your last game is on Sunday or Monday night, you’ll have a chance to hedge by betting on the other side in that last game. Also, note that parlays can be mixed sports or combine spread(s) and total(s).
Teaser: The teaser is another popular bet where all the bets must hit, but with a twist: in football, you can “tease”, or adjust the line a certain number of points (typically 5.5 to 7.5), of every game you’re including, in either direction. For example, if the Lions are +1 vs. the Vikings, and the Bears are +4 vs. the Packers, you could make a two-team, 6.5-point teaser. This would change the lines to Lions +7.5 and Bears +10.5. In this example, both teams must cover that adjusted spread in order for you to win the bet. You can also “tease” point totals. For example: If you think that Lions stand a good chance to win and that the game total of 42 is too high, you might tease the line by 6.5, which would make the game line +7.5 and the total to 48.5. Assuming standard -110 lines in both legs of the teaser, a successful wager (both legs must win) pays about -110. So you must bet $110 to win $100. Add a third leg to the teaser and it will pay about +165, so $100 wins $165. Multi game bets, where more than one outcome is needed for the player to win have a perceived 30% house advantage. It’s one of the main reasons why the house wins (in addition to the vig).
Buying points: Many sportsbooks will give you the opportunity to “buy points,” which allows you to manipulate the existing point spread. Often a bettor will buy a point to move the spread off a key number. For example, Henry wants to bet the Chiefs -3 to beat the Broncos. However, he thinks the game will be close and wants to avoid a push. So he might buy a half-point to move the line to Chiefs -2.5. But it will cost him: instead of betting the spread at -3 and risking $110 to win $100, betting the spread at -2.5 will require him to risk about $130 to win the same $100. Buying a half-point in the NFL costs 10% but buying off key numbers may cost more like 20%.
Sharp: Often referred to as a “wiseguy”, this is typically a professional sports bettor. A “wiseguy” refers a bit more to someone that is a professional sports bettor that is very sophisticated and/or well-informed.
Square: A novice or beginner when it comes to sports betting. Often the square will bet on the favorite and/or the total.
Reverse-line movement: Reverse line movement (or “RLM)” occurs when a sportsbook receives a large volume or percentage of bets on one side, yet the line moves in the opposite direction in response to some big bets — or higher quality bets from sharper bettors on the other side. For example, the betting public, comprised of your more casual bettors, produces a large quantity of small bets, on the Steelers -3 over the Ravens. Meanwhile, the same book receives a smaller number of very large bets on the Ravens to cover, and the line moves to Steelers -2. This seems counterintuitive because if most people are betting the Steelers, they should become a bigger favorite; however the sportsbook sees a potentially greater liability on the Ravens at +3 because more money is being bet on them, and, in a way, encourages more bets on the Steelers. Thus, the line is moving in reverse.
Steam: When a betting line changes quickly or drastically, typically in response to an influx of bets on one side. This may happen because “sharp” or professional bettors uniformly bet one side of a wager, thus prompting the sports book to quickly change the line.
In-game wagering: Also known as “live betting,” some sports books will offer bettors the opportunity to place bets on the outcome of a game during the game. The line will move in response to the way the game is unfolding — the score, field position and such — and the relative ability of both teams. For example, during Super Bowl 51 between the Patriots-Falcons, the line opened at Patriots -3. However, once they went down 28-9 in the third quarter, the “in-game” line that you could bet shifted to Patriots +1600, or 16-1 to win the game. For anyone who had the guts to make this bet, it worked out pretty well. You can also make in-game wagers at some from play to play, betting for example whether the next play will be a run or a pass.
Fading the public: A strategy in which you basically bet against popular sentiment. Certain teams like the Steelers, Cowboys and Patriots, the more household names that frequent national television, draw more action from the general public. This may have the effect of distorting the line, because fans of these teams may bet on them no matter the situation. This creates an opportunity to gain an edge because the posted line is skewed in favor of those public teams. Another element of this play is public perception. A lot of recreational players operate based on short-term memory, i.e., last week’s result. Fading the public means that when the bulk of bettors pounces on a side en masse — typically on favorites and overs, perhaps moving the line out a point or more — bet the other side.
Correlation play: The Lions side and total example above is an example of a correlation play; it’s based on a theory of a single game where the Lions and the Vikings will play a low-scoring defensive game that the Lions may win outright. You’d be expecting (or hoping for) an outcome of about 21-17. Either a Lions or Vikings victory in that scenario (a four-point margin) would score you a win. Of course, some books may prevent you from making correlation plays in teasers or other exotic bets.
“If” bets, also known as “If then”: An “If bet” is a type of bet that links together two or more wagers, like a parlay or teaser. However, the first bet must win in order to trigger the subsequent wagers. Unlike a parlay, there is no reward if the linked games are all winners. The benefit of an “If” bet is the ability to bet additional games with a limited bankroll, while limiting his exposure (potential losses), because the subsequent bet(s) will only become an active single-game wager if the first bet is a winner. An example of a three-game If bet by Peter:
- (1) $110 on Lions +3 (-110) to win $100, and if they win:
- (2) $220 Titans -3 (-110) to win $200; and
- (3) $110 Texans -3 (-110) to win $100
If the Lions lose, the other bets aren’t activated and Peter loses $110. If the Lions win or push, the Titans and Texans bets go live after Peter wins $100 thanks to Detroit. In that case the outcomes are:
- (1) Titans win and Texans win: Peter wins $400
- (2) Titans lose and Texans win: Peter loses $20
- (3) Titans win and Texans lose: Peter wins $190
- (4) Titans lose and Texans lose: Peter loses $230
The cost of the initial wager is $230, which is the most that Peter could lose in the event that both the Titans and Colts lose (as in scenario 4).
Note 1: The timing of the games for an If bet are irrelevant; even if the Lions play on Sunday night, Peter could use the Titans and Texans, both at 1:00 pm ET, as the additional legs of the wager.
Note 2: If betting is illegal in Nevada.
Reverse: A reverse bet (or action reverse) is basically a set of “If bets” that operates forward and in reverse with the same selections. Let’s go right to an example using two bets (they can be up to four): Jimmy puts $110 on the Bills +1 (-110) and $110 on the Bears +4.5 (-110). His reverse will look like this:
- If Bills win at +1, then
- Bears to win at +4.5
- If Bears win at +4.5, then
- Bills to win at +1
There are three possible outcomes here:
- (1) The Bills fail to cover, and the Bears fail to cover: Jimmy loses $220, the full amount of the initial wager
- (2) The Bills cover, and the Bears fail to cover: Jimmy loses $120
- (3) The Bills fail to cover, and the Bears cover: Jimmy loses $120
- (4) The Bills cover, and the Bears cover: Jimmy wins $400
Like If bets, a reverse limits your exposure but still gives you an opportunity for a good score if you feel confident about both picks. Note that reverse bets are not available in Nevada.
Round Robin bet: This type of bet allows you to make multiple parlay bets, but in a simpler fashion. Many books will allow you to pick between 3 and 8 sides, and turn those picks into 2-6 leg parlays. So for example if you pick 3 sides at $10 apiece– let’s say Giants -3, Redskins +4, Eagles +1 — the wager will become 3 separate parlays looking like this:
- Parlay one: Giants -3, Redskins +4
- Parlay two: Giants -3, Eagles +1
- Parlay three: Redskins +4, Eagles +1
All three sides (teams) you picked are represented. For each parlay, you’re risking $10 to win $26 (based on typical 2.6/1 odds for a parlay). If just one parlay hits (you must win both legs), you’ve just about covered your $30 investment. Hit all three and you’ve won $78. Round robins get a bit more complicated and costly (and harder to win) when you add addition picks and combinations, but the same principles apply. This is similar to “boxing” horses in a race.