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NFL Betting: Placing Straight Bets

By Loot, NFL Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Straight betting is the bread and butter of NFL wagering. There are two teams playing and you have two choices. It’s an either/or equation. With straight NFL betting, we are working with a point-spread. On a straight bet, you pick one of the two teams to “cover the spread.” Straight bets are not wrapped up in who simply wins the game, but who covers the spread.

The point-spread is a number that is designed to even out the teams. A great majority of the time, one team will have an edge over their opponent. A “pick-em” spread means the teams are so evenly-matched that neither team appears to have an edge, but that is relatively rare. The point-spread is like a handicap for the better team.

The point-spread is a term that is known even by people who have never laid a wager. It’s an equal number applied to both teams. One team is favored by that amount, while the underdog is “getting” that amount of points. It’s easier to show than it is to tell. Here’s a quick example:

New England Patriots -4
Cincinnati Bengals +4

First of all, the first or top team is always the road team, while the bottom or second team listed is always at home. That’s true for betting, looking at scores on TV, or any other situation where two teams are listed.

New England at -4 means they are a 4-point favorite. A minus-sign (-) is always indicative of a favorite. Always. So naturally, a plus-sign (+) is what you see on the point-spread of an underdog team. In this example, Cincinnati is +4. In sports-betting jargon, you would say the Bengals are “getting” or “taking” 4 points. New England is “giving” or “laying” 4 points.

Cincinnati is the underdog. Any underdog that wins the game is a winning bet. But at +4, they can lose the game by less than 4 points and still win the bet. New England not only needs to win, but they need to do so at a margin greater than 4 points to win. Naturally, if the game is decided by exactly a 4-point margin, it is a “push” and all bets are returned. A lot of NFL point-spreads fall on a half-point, like...

San Diego Chargers +5.5
Pittsburgh Steelers -5.5

San Diego at +5.5 is the underdog at the favored Steelers, who are favored by 5.5 points. A winning straight bet on San Diego would result from one of two things: the Chargers winning the game outright or losing by 5 or less points. A winning wager on the Steelers can only occur if Pittsburgh wins by 6 or more points.

For those struggling with the concept of point-spreads, it’s one of those things in life where very little effort will make you a lifelong master on how it works. After a few weeks betting on NFL football, you will start understanding point-spreads on an instinctive level. It’s one of the easier concepts to understand in all areas of gambling. What goes into being successful against the spread on a long-term basis is a going to be much more difficult to learn. But the concept itself is easy.

You might notice it’s a yea or nay wager--with two possible outcomes that theoretically have an equal chance of panning out. That might lead you to think that winning exactly half of your wagers would result in breaking even. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. There’s a little something called “vig,” also known as “juice.” It’s basically the bookies’ commission, the price you pay for having the privilege to place sports bets. It’s nothing peculiar to sports-betting, as it exists in all forms of gambling, to varying degrees depending on the game.

Compared to other forms of gambling, the juice on straight NFL bets isn’t that bad. The industry standard is -110, meaning you have to bet $110 for every $100 you want to win. If you break it down, that means you will only profit at NFL straight betting at 53% winners or better. But 53% is a winning percentage that seems doable. It’s tough, but it can be done. That’s why the best bettors in this business make straight wagering a big part of their betting output.

The prospects of winning in NFL wagering by making mostly straight bets becomes even rosier when we can get reduced juice. Most books work with a -110 line, meaning you have to bet $110 for every $100 you want to win. Did you know you can get a reduced juice line at -105? Think about how much you can save and how easier it would be to show a profit against the spread if the juice was cut in half. You can bet on games at reduced odds -105 at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Make the switch today! You'll be so glad you did!

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