How to Bet on Football: A Beginner's Guide

Football Betting For Beginners

If you're new to football betting and keen to get involved then you've just come to exactly the right place. On this page we will teach you all the basics of betting on football, and make sure that you are on the right track from the moment you place your first wager.

In our opinion this is one of the most useful beginner's guides to football betting you'll find anywhere on the internet. It covers everything you need to get started, and yet you don't need to worry about getting overwhelmed with detail as we keep our explanations as simple as possible.

For those who are only really interested in wagering for a bit of fun, you'll be ready to go as soon as you've finished reading this page. For those of you with ambitions of making long term profits, we also point you towards a wide range of additional information and advice that will help you to achieve such goals. We're not promising that we'll make you an instant expert, but we'll certainly give you the chance to become one.

We recommend reading through this whole page from start to finish, but we've listed the various topics we cover below if you'd prefer to skip straight to something specific.

Before You Start: Recommended Reading

If you're already familiar with how sports betting works, and know a thing or two about football, then please feel free to skip this section. If, however, you're completely new to sports betting and/or not much of a football fan, then there are a few things you should learn before you start placing bets on football games.

Firstly you really need to understand the basics of what sports betting is all about, and what's involved with placing wagers. These basics are relatively straightforward, so thankfully it doesn't take long to get up to speed. It's definitely advisable to familiarize yourself with them though. Our beginner's guide to sports betting is the perfect resource for this. Here's a selection of some of the topics it covers.

Sports Betting For Beginners
  • Mechanics os Sports Betting
  • Understanding Odds
  • Probability & Value
  • Top Tips for Beginners
  • Sports Betting FAQ
  • Sports Betting Glossary

In addition to knowing the basics of betting, you should also know at least the basics of football too. It's likely that most people reading this are big sports fans, and fully understand it, but that's not necessarily the case for all our readers. We like to cater for everyone, so we've written the following two articles explaining all about the game at both professional and college level.

About The National Football League
About College Football

Different Types of Football Bets

One of the first things you should understand about betting on football is the fact that there are several different types of wagers that can be placed. You won't necessarily use all the different types, depending on what strategies you employ, but it's still advisable to learn at least a little about each one.

Below we look at the two most popular types of wagers, some of the other commonly used options, and the various options for wagering on multiple games with a single bet.

The Most Popular Types of Football Bets

There are two types of football bets that are used far more than any other. Many people who bet on football place only the following wagers.

Point Spreads

Some readers will already know all about these and how they work, but we'll explain a little about them for those that don't.

Point Spreads

A point spread is effectively a handicap that's used to create a 50/50 wagering proposition. For example, a bookmaker may offer the following point spread on a football match between the San Diego Chargers and the Indianapolis Colts.

Chargers vs Colts
The Moneyline

What this spread means is that, for the purposes of wagering, the Chargers will have 3.5 points deducted from their final score. For a bet on them to be successful, they would therefore have to win by four points or more. The Colts, on the other hand, will have 3.5 points added to their final score. A bet on them would be successful if they won the game, or lost by 3 points or less.

You can read more about point spreads on the following page.


Totals are just as easy to understand. With these, the bookmaker posts an expected total for the amount of points scored by both sides. On the previously mentioned match between the Chargers and the Colts, for example, they might set the total at 48.50. You then have to decide whether to bet on the over or the under.

A wager on the over will win if the combined score from the two teams is 49 or over (e.g. Chargers 29, Colts 24). A wager on the under will win if the combined score from the two teams is 48 or less (e.g. Chargers 19, Colts 17).

We explain totals in more detail on the following page.

Before we go onto explain some of the other types of wagers you can place, there's some very important information that we need to mention.

The basic principle of point spreads and totals is that you have roughly a 50% chance of winning, so technically a "fair" return on these types of wagers should be equal to the amount staked. However, they are usually priced up by bookmakers at odds of -110 (1.91 in decimal odds format, 10/11 in fractional odds format), which means for every $110 staked you stand to win $100. You don't have to stake as much as $110 of course, but the point is that a successful wager will only return 90% of the amount staked (plus the initial stake of course).

This is because bookmakers are in business to make a profit, so they effectively charge a commission for taking wagers. This commission is known as the vig, short for vigorish, and it's one of the ways that bookmakers stay profitable. They don't charge it just for points spreads and totals either, as it's built into the odds for every wager that they offer.

Further Information

If you have any ambitions of being a successful bettor, we strongly recommend reading our article explaining vig and how bookmakers make money.

Other Common Football Bets

In addition to point spreads and totals, there are three other types of bets that are commonly used for wagering on football. These are as follows.


We'll now provide a brief overview of each of these, and point you towards some additional information on each one too.


A moneyline wager is very simple. It involves simply backing a team to win a match, with no point spread involved. The odds for moneyline wagers are based on each team's relative chance of winning. For example, the moneyline on a game between the San Diego Chargers and the Indianapolis Colts might look like this.

Chargers vs Colts
The Moneyline

The Chargers are the favorites here, and the odds of -175 mean that a stake of $175 is required to win $100. To put it another way, every $1.75 staked stands to win $1 if the Chargers win. Initial stakes are returned too of course.

The Colts are the underdogs, so backing them means the potential for higher payouts relative to the amount staked. The odds of +155 mean that every $1 staked stands to win $1.55 if the Colts win (i.e. a $100 wager stands to win $155 if the Colts win). Again, initial stakes are also returned.

For more information on moneylines, and the strategy involved in placing them, please see the following article.


Props, short for propositions, are wagers on outcomes that are decided during a football game, but are not necessarily directly linked to the final result. Some examples include the following.

  • The first team to score.
  • The distance of the longest touchdown.
  • The total passing yards of a quarterback.
  • The number of field goals kicked.

These are just a very small selection of some props. Many bookmakers offer dozens of different options, particularly on high profile matches. Props are generally considered a fun type of bet rather than a way to make money, but it is possible to make consistent profits from them. We explain more about props on the following page, where we also offer some strategy advice.


Futures are wagers on how teams, or individual players, will fare over the course of an entire season. A wager on a team to win the Super Bowl, placed at the start of the season, would be considered a future. So would a wager on a team to be the National Football Conference champions, or a wager on a player to win the Most Valuable Player award.

There isn't a lot more to explain about futures, and there isn't really much in the way of specific strategy for them either. We do go into a bit more detail on them on the following page though.

Betting on Multiple Football Games

A lot of people like to bet on multiple games at once, as this can provide the potential for big payouts. It's not something we particularly advise beginners to get involved with, but it doesn't hurt to understand the options available. The main ones are as follows.


Let's take a quick look at what these are all about.


A parlay basically combines several different wagers into one. For example, a parlay could be made up of five point spread wagers on five separate games. The payout for such a wager could be very attractive, but only if ALL the wagers were correct. Just one wrong pick would mean the whole wager failing. That's why these are considered quite risky. They're a bit more complex than the previous wagers mentioned, but we won't go into any more detail here. We do on the following page though.

Teasers & Pleasers

Teasers and pleasers are essentially types of parlays that use modified point spreads or totals. With teasers, the spreads or totals are moved in the bettor's favor. With pleasers, they are moved in the bookmaker's favor. There's plenty more to explain about these wagers, which we do on the following pages.

Where to Place Your Football Bets

Now that you know about the different wagers you can place on football, the next step is actually placing them. The question you're probably asking now is "how and where can I do this?" There are a few options, which we list below, but please be aware that not all of these are available in all parts of the world.

Casino Sportsbooks
Bookmaking Shops
Telephone Betting
Online Sports Betting Sites
Casino Sportsbooks

Many casinos around the world contain a sportsbook. They usually feature several big screen TVs showing any live sports action currently taking place, and computerized odds boards displaying all the latest odds. There are typically cashier windows where you can place your wagers with a real person, but some books have interactive machines instead. Either way, these are great places to place some bets and watch the games at the same time. The problem for Americans, though, is that they are only legal in Nevada. There are plenty of sportsbooks in Las Vegas casinos, but not in other parts of the country.

Bookmaking Shops

Bookmaking shops are mostly like sportsbooks, they're just not inside a casino. They also generally have lots of TVs showing sports, and a counter where wagers are placed. These shops can be found in many countries around the world, but they're not legal in the United States.

Telephone Betting

A lot of bookmakers offer telephone betting services, and they are usually very straightforward to use. It's a simple matter of calling the relevant number, telling the operator you reach which wagers you want to place, confirming the odds, and then providing your credit card details. Some bookmakers take other payment methods too, and some even offer credit lines to select customers.

This is another option that's not available to Americans. Not legally at least, as the Federal Wire Act of 1961 made telephone betting illegal. You might be getting disheartened by now if you live in the US, and wondering exactly how you're ever going to place any wagers. Don't worry though, as we have one more option to tell you about.

Online Sports Betting Sites

Using an online sports betting site is far and away the best way to bet on football, or any sport for that matter. It's the most convenient and accessible option, and there are several other advantages too. Best of all, it's legal in the United States. There are some laws against online gambling in the US, but these mostly apply to companies and individuals providing gambling services. There's no law that states it's illegal to use a gambling site of any kind, so Americans are at liberty to place football bets online if they so choose. We've written the following page explaining things in more detail for those interested, or you can just keep reading for a quick guide to getting started online.

Using Online Betting Sites

Using sports betting sites to bet on football online is relatively straightforward. It's super easy to open accounts at most sites, and the majority of them are very user-friendly. Finding and placing wagers generally takes no time at all, and can be done from the comfort of your own home with just a computer and internet access. You can even use most sites from a smartphone or tablet these days.

Please make sure that you use the right sites though. Most places are pretty good, but there are some that are best avoided. It's vital that you use a safe and trustworthy option, and you also want to use somewhere that is suitable for football. We suggest taking a look at the following sites.

Our Top Ranked Football Betting Sites

We also suggest you follow these two tips.

Take Advantage of Bonuses

Most gambling sites give away bonuses to new customers, and many of them offer additional rewards to existing customers too. You should always try to take advantage of these bonuses and rewards, as they are a great way to boost your bankroll. They're not exactly "free" money, as they come with terms and conditions such as having to wager certain amounts before being able to withdraw. Nonetheless, they can be very valuable.

Have More Than One Account

The odds and lines for football games are not always the same at every bookmaker. They don't tend to vary by a lot, but they do vary. It's very much in your best interests to always try to place wagers where you can get the best value. A half point difference on a spread or a couple of points difference on the odds may not seem like a big deal, but over time these small differences can add up. By opening accounts with a few different sites, it's easy to shop around for the best odds and lines. This is one of the best ways to maximize potential profits.

Essential Advice for Beginners

Once you understand all the fundamentals of football betting, and have an account with a suitable gambling site, you're pretty much ready to go. There's still a lot more you need to know, but most of this can be learned as you go along. Indeed, learning as you go along is the best approach. Trying to become an expert before actually getting started is a futile exercise, as so much of what's involved only really starts to make sense once you have some real experience to draw on.

With that being said, we don't want you to just start risking hard-earned money without offering some more pointers. There are a few things that we'd like you to be aware of before you get started, and we'll take a look at these now. There are some important tips and advice included here, so please read the next few paragraphs carefully.

A Dedicated Bankroll Is Vital

One of the single most important pieces of advice for any form of gambling is to set aside a sum of money that is exclusively for the relevant activity. It should be money that is not needed for anything else, that you can afford to lose, and that you are comfortable putting at risk. This money will be known as your bankroll, and it's effectively the most important tool a bettor has at his disposal.

Top Tip

Good money management is crucial for any sports bettor hoping to be successful. Please take the time to read the advice we offer for managing a betting bankroll.

Some Handicapping Knowledge Helps

Making money from betting on any sport requires an understanding of how the betting markets work, and an ability to use that knowledge to gain an advantage. No-one makes a consistent profit from simply following hunches or relying purely on statistics and trends. Sports handicapping is something that people often assume is very complicated, but the basics are actually relatively easy to grasp.

Our Advice

It's a very good idea to learn at least the basics of handicapping betting markets. This can really help when it comes to approaching things in the right way and making good decisions.

You Will Make Mistakes

One of the first rules of gambling is that nothing is ever certain. There's one thing that's almost certain though; you will make mistakes as a beginner. This is nothing to worry about, and in fact making mistakes is an important part of the learning process. That doesn't mean you need to make unnecessary ones though. There are a few mistakes that are routinely made by beginners, and it pays to be aware of these.

Simple Can Work

A lot of betting strategy is very complex, and it definitely helps to learn some of the more advanced concepts if you want to be truly successful. However, trying to get your head around complicated strategies is NOT the right approach as a beginner. There are several simple betting systems that are relatively easy to understand, and it makes much more sense to start with these. They're not guaranteed to bring immediate success, but they can be effective if used correctly.

Improving Your Football Betting Skills

If you follow football at least reasonably closely, have some idea about the relative strengths of all the players and teams, and have absorbed the information provided on this page, then you should be able to become a competent football bettor. You don't really need to know much else should the aim be to simply have some fun and win some money every now and then.

If you really want to stand a chance of making regular profits, however, then you'll need to go a step or two further. You'll certainly want to learn about all the different factors that should be taken into account when making selections, and the various statistics that are relevant. Below are just a few examples of these.

  • Team Schedules
  • Current Form
  • Injury Reports
  • Weather Forecasts
  • Passing Yards
  • Yards Per Attempt
  • Individual Rushing Yards
  • Team Yards Per Carry

This is by no means an exhaustive list, as there all kinds of considerations that need to made when the goal is to make consistently accurate predictions. You also need to learn about the different strategies that can be used, and how to use them effectively.

All of this, and more, is covered in our football betting strategy section. Please spend some time reading though this if you're serious about becoming a successful football bettor.

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