The Big Three of Point Spreads, Totals and Parlays

A point spread is a handicap for an American football or basketball game. Some alternative lines in baseball and hockey use this. In baseball, it is called a run line and means you have a bet option of laying -1.5 runs for better odds. The same for hockey where you lay the -1.5 goals and it is called a puck line.

American Football and basketball games use point spreads alongside money lines. This gives two ways to make a bet. The point spread bet usually is a -110 to win a 100. The money line is a straight up bet to win and will cost much more than the -110 with point spread.

The point spread shows how many points a team must win by or lose less than by for the ticket to get paid. A favorite that has a -3.5 point spread must win by four points for that side to cover the spread. An underdog that is +3.5 gets paid if that team loses by fewer than four points or wins the game. Point spreads may be whole numbers or half points. A whole number can tie. When that happens, all tickets push and you get your money returned. Half points eliminate the push possibility. You can win or lose by the half point sometimes.

American football spreads around 3 and 7 may vary from the usual -110. It is common to see a -3 favorite also require a -115 or -120 money odds. This is done because moving a number on or off of three is a major difference in American football.

Alternative run line and puck lines will most often be plus or minus 1.5. This means that the favorite must win by two runs or goals. If the underdog only loses by one, then that side wins these alternative lines. The side laying 1.5 runs or goals will be plus money.

Totals are also referred to as over/unders. A total is the number of points scored in a match. In boxing, it means the total number of rounds a match goes. The points from both sides count in a total. There are alternative lines where the points of just one side count towards the number. Totals may push if they are on a whole number. Bettors are sometimes more comfortable just betting totals without betting sides. A look at sports’ over/unders:

  • Basketball totals tend to be the highest.
  • NBA games can often be over 200 on an over/under.
  • NCAA basketball is often in the 140 range.
  • NCAA football will have totals around 70.
  • NFL games are typically around 45.
  • Baseball will be in the 7 or 8 range.
  • Hockey is typically around five.
  • Soccer/football matches will be around 2.5.

A parlay is when a bettor buys a ticket that wins based on two or more outcomes. This can be money lines, point spreads, totals, alternative lines or a combination of all.

Plays that are correlated may not be placed on the same parlay card. For example, a money line bet on one team and taking the point spread on the same game is not permitted. A total with one of those is typically permitted.

The house edge on parlays is well above 10 percent. The more teams that are involved in a parlay, the higher the payout. Higher payouts also equal a higher house edge. Parlays are typically thought of to be sucker bets because of the high juice charged by the sportsbook.

All portions of a parlay ticket must win. A tie will drop the card’s payout by one team. Some parlay cards disclose that ties lose.