Questionably Qualified's NFL Picks Primer
Welcome to Questionably Qualified's Sports Betting Primer! The NFL season is mere days away, and I couldn't be more excited to shift from writing about Bachelor in Paradise to something I can truly enjoy watching, with or without a drinking game.
Of course, as a Bears fan and a realist, it's difficult to get excited at the prospect of making it to the playoffs or winning the division:
As a result, I have to look elsewhere for storylines and excitement to keep myself engaged all season; enter the Las Vegas sportsbooks and the odds they provide, giving me an opportunity to pontificate on any game from a different perspective.
Barring an odd injury to an important player, every NFL game's betting lines are posted sometime after the conclusion of Monday Night Football. Before I start throwing numbers at you and explaining my Week 1 Picks, though, I should probably explain what these lines mean.
NFL Gambling Lines
There are two basic ways to bet on a given game: against the spread, or on the money line. A bet against the spread (ATS) is won or lost based on the final score, whereas a bet on the money line is simply determined by the game's winner. Let's take an example so fantastical it could only have come from a time long, long ago to see how an ATS bet works.
Betting Against the Spread
Chicago Bears -6 AT Green Bay Packers, OR
Green Bay Packers +6 VS Chicago Bears
In this case, the Bears are "favored" by six points, which means the bet's outcome is determined by subtracting six points from the Bears's final score or adding six points to the Packers's final score. If you were to bet on the Bears in this case, they would have to win by at least seven points for your bet to pay off. Here's a range of final scores and the resulting payouts if you bet on the Bears -6:
In real life, the total payout for a winning an ATS bet won't always be double your bet (the casino takes a cut and the odds aren't always even), but it generally won't be far off.
Betting on the Money Line
The second, seemingly simpler option is betting on the money line. In this case, the odds for the game above might be expressed as:
Chicago Bears -250 AT Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers +220 VS Chicago Bears
Well, you're not going to be deducting 250 points from the Bears's final score (Ditka's not available), so what does this mean? For a money line bet, you're simply betting on which team will win. The Bears are favored in this example, so you wouldn't win as much betting on them as you would the underdog Packers. A "-" in front of the number indicates the amount you have to risk to win $100, and a "+" in front of the number indicates the amount you'll win if you bet $100. Here are the payouts from the same outcomes in our table above for money line bets:
I know, it looks like a lot of fun to bet on the underdog; try to remember they're an underdog for a reason, and the people setting these odds are very wealthy because they're good at what they do.
Wrapping Things Up
Now that you have a basic understanding of how to read gambling lines, what types of bets a person can make, and how those bets will pay out, you're ready to go! Just remember, gambling is only legal in certain places, so don't trust that guy your co-worker knows through a cousin. Just fly to Las Vegas! You can mail in your winning tickets when you get home.
I'll be picking games here every week using the consensus lines at vegasinsider.com and explaining my logic as best I can, keeping track of my wins and losses as I go. We'll see you later this week for my Week 1 picks!