Legal online sportsbooks in the US offer numerous ways to bet on sports but sports betting odds can be confusing to new bettors. Time-tested betting methods like moneyline, point spread, totals, and parlays represent just some of the overall betting markets available on mobile sports wagering sites.
Futures, in-game, in-play, and prop betting offer even more ways to wager for bettors in the US. Brands like DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook each employ linemakers, tasked with setting the in-house odds and lines for all games.
US federal law allows individual states to legalize and regulate sports betting. As of January 2021, 14 states legalized online sports wagering.
Types Of Bets Available At Online Sportsbooks
Legal online sportsbooks offer a vast number of different ways to wager on sports. Sports bettors have engaged in point spread and moneyline betting for decades, as these betting types represent some of the most time-honored and simple ways to bet.
Totals bets (aka over/under bets) task the bettor with predicting the total final score between two teams in a sports contest.
Bettors have enjoyed parlay wagers throughout the entire history of sports betting. Parlays allow multiple wagers to be placed on the same ticket, with the parlay paying out only if all bets on the tickets win. Parlays can generally involve any combination of different bet types, with winning tickets offering massive potential payouts.
Futures bets allow wagering on a season-long event. A futures bet sets sports betting odds on events like what team will win the NHL Stanley Cup, or which player will win the NBA scoring title.
Modern online sportsbooks also offer in-game and in-play betting, allowing for wagers on a contest while it’s being played.
Learn more in our Guide To Placing A Sports Bet Online.
Moneyline bets represent the most straightforward kind of sports wager. This kind of wager tasks the bettor with simply picking the winning team in a sports contest.
Underdog teams pay out at better odds than favorites in a moneyline bet. For example, an NBA moneyline bet offered by DraftKings Sportsbook might look like this:
This line sets the Orlando Magic as the favorite. The -240 odds mean that a $240 wager would net $100 in profit if the Magic win.
The Brooklyn Nets +195 line means a $100 bet yields $195 in profit if the Nets win.
Over/Under, aka totals bets, allow bettors to wager on the total number of points scored in a game. An over/under line looks like this:
|Orlando Magic||Over 211.5 -112|
|Brooklyn Nets||Under 211.5 -109|
This line allows bettors to wager on whether the total score of the game will go over, or fall under 211.5 points. The under bet pays slightly better than the over in this example.
Note that both the over and under lines represent a bet on the total score from both teams. The bottom row isn’t offering a bet on the Nets to go under 211.5, for example.
The most popular bets at most sportsbooks are point spread bets. These bets allow the bettor to choose the underdog plus points, or the favorite minus points. Instead of significantly better odds on the underdog, the point spread allows sportsbooks to set the favorite and underdog at relatively even odds.
Here’s the Magic vs. Nets example from above as a point spread bet:
|Orlando Magic||-6 -110|
|Brooklyn Nets||+6 -110|
Bettors can pick favored Orlando with six points deducted from its final point total, or underdog Brooklyn plus six points. Both teams pay -110 odds in this bet, meaning a $110 wager wins $100 in profit.
For example, if you bet $110 on Orlando, and the team wins the game by a 98-91 score, you get $210 back total for a $100 profit. Applying the -6 line to Orlando’s score still positions the team as a 92-91 winner.
A futures bet generally functions as a wager on a season-long event, rather than a single game. An example of a futures bet might be a wager on what team will win the MLB World Series, or what player will win the NFL rushing title.
A futures bet can be made at any time before or during a sports league’s season, up until the specified event occurs.
NBA Finals Futures Bets
|Team||Odds to win the 2019-2020 NBA Championship|
|Los Angeles Lakers||+260|
|Los Angeles Clippers||+320|
These five teams represent some of the favorites to win the championship, but all 22 NBA teams still in the championship hunt are available for betting.
MLB National League MVP Futures Bets
Before the start of the 2020 Major League Baseball season, FOX Bet set the following lines on what player would win the National League MVP:
|Player name||Odds To Win The 2020 NL MVP|
Futures market betting odds change as the season plays on, and the lines can alter drastically as the season comes into focus.
For example, if Mookie Betts leads the National League in multiple offensive categories with a few weeks left in the season, the odds on Betts winning the MVP will move closer to even money, or even beyond.
A prop bet (short for proposition bet) is a wager on an aspect of a game unrelated to which team wins. Examples of prop bets can include what player will lead a basketball game in scoring, or whether the total number of points in the game will end up as an odd or even number.
Super Bowl MVP Prop Bets
The Super Bowl annually brings in the largest number of prop bets of any US-based sports event.
One of the most popular prop bets on the game each year involves predicting the Super Bowl MVP. Caesars Sportsbook set Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (+110) as the favorite to win the Super Bowl LIV MVP, and Mahomes did just that.
Player Prop Bets
Player prop bets involve wagering on an individual player’s statistics in a particular game. The 2017 NBA Finals, for instance, offered several ways to bet on LeBron James’ statistics.
James was then a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Available prop bets on any single NBA Finals game included over/under bets on his total points scored, whether he would lead a game in scoring, and many others.
Exotic Prop Bets
Exotic prop bets can be fun but largely involve luck. Examples of exotic prop bets include predicting what team wins the Super Bowl coin toss, or the length of the National Anthem before the game.
Super Bowl LIV offered numerous exotic prop bets, including a prediction of what color liquid would be poured over the winning coach’s head after the game.
Live In-Game Betting
In-game betting presents one of the most exciting and dynamic ways to wager on sports.
Unlike other types of bets, in-game betting allows for wagering on a game, while it’s being played. In-game betting odds on moneyline, point spread, and prop bets flow dynamically based on what already happened in the game.
For example, a standard NFL point spread bet might look like this before the game starts:
|New England Patriots||-7 -110|
|New York Jets||+7 -110|
If the Patriots take a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, however, a sportsbook could offer an in-game bet with the following line:
|New England Patriots||-10.5 -110|
|New York Jets||+10.5 -110|
With the Patriots holding a touchdown lead, the point spread on the underdog Jets switches from +7 to +10.5. In-game betting odds generally update at each commercial break for a televised sports contest.
In-play betting, a subset of in-game betting, offers an even more dynamic betting experience, with odds changing every few seconds during live play.
In-game and in-play bets are offered as time-sensitive bets, which must be made within a certain time frame for the bettor to get the advertised odds.
Where Can I Bet On Sports Online?
DraftKings Sportsbook stands as one of the leading brands in the legal US online sports betting industry. New players can sign up at DraftKings Sportsbook and enjoy a 20% deposit match bonus up to $500, a $500 risk-free bet, and a $25 no-deposit bonus.
FanDuel Sportsbook, much like DraftKings Sportsbook, represents one of the most popular legal sports betting brands in the US. Bonus offers for new players at FanDuel Sportsbook include a risk-free bet up to $500.
BetRivers Sportsbook originally launched in Pennsylvania, as a product of parent company Rush Street Interactive. The BetRivers platform now operates in four states, including Pennsylvania, Colorado, Illinois, and Indiana.
New player bonuses include a 100% deposit match bonus up to $250, with only a 1x playthrough requirement.
Sports media powerhouse FOX Sports teamed up with gaming giant The Stars Group to launch the FOX Bet sports betting brand. The platform offers new players a 50% deposit match bonus up to $500, as well as a risk-free bet up to $500.
FOX Bet operates in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Colorado.
PointsBet offers a unique style of wagering known as “PointsBetting,” in which bettors can enjoy larger payouts based on how much their selected team wins by in a game.
Bettors in Indiana, Iowa, and New Jersey can wager at PointsBet. The platform includes a $200 risk-free bet bonus for new players.
How Odds Differ Across Legal Online Sportsbooks
Sports betting odds and lines for the same game often vary from one online sportsbook to another. Skilled bettors own accounts at multiple online sportsbooks, and shop for the most favorable lines.
For example, here’s a look at July 2020 futures odds for the NBA Championship, compared across five different legal online sportsbooks:
|Milwaukee Bucks||LA Lakers||LA Clippers||Houston Rockets||Boston Celtics||Toronto Raptors|
A bettor looking to bet on the Houston Rockets to win the championship would find enormous value by line shopping. The odds on the Rockets at FanDuel Sportsbook and FOX Bet offer significantly better odds versus other sites.
How Sports Betting Odds Are Calculated
Moneyline bets simply establish a favorite and an underdog for a game. Bettors choose which team they think will win, straight up, with no point spread.
Underdogs pay at better odds than favorites. To calculate the potential payouts of a moneyline bet, you must understand what the odds notations mean.
Here’s another look at the NBA moneyline example from above:
Moneyline betting odds with a “+” notation are relatively simple to calculate. The +195 line on the Nets means a $100 wager would net $195 in profit. In other words, the $100 bet would return a total of $295 (the $195 in profit and the original $100 bet).
Another way to calculate “+” moneyline odds is to divide the odds number by 100. Using this method, the +195 odds convert to 1.95.
Multiplying this decimal number by the amount of the bet yields the total profit amount. A $50 bet on +195 odds yields $97.50 in profit ($50 x 1.95).
Calculating “-“ odds on the moneyline is a little trickier. The -240 line for the Orlando Magic means you would have to bet $240 to win a $100 profit.
For “-“ odds, you must divide 100 by the moneyline odds number. For a -240 line, dividing 100 by 240 yields 0.416.
Multiplying your bet amount by 0.416 yields the total profit of the bet. A $50 bet, for instance, comes out to $20.80 in profit ($50 x 0.416). A $50 wager on the Magic, if it won, would result in the sportsbooks returning $70.80 to you ($20.80 profit plus the original $50 bet).
Point Spread Bets
A point spread bet adds points to the underdog’s score and subtracts that same amount of points from the other. Adding the point spread allows the sportsbook to put relatively even odds on the favorite and underdog.
The point spread variant of the Orlando vs Brooklyn NBA game looks like this:
|Orlando Magic||-6 -110|
|Brooklyn Nets||+6 -110|
Bettors can choose the Magic with six points taken off their final score, or the Nets with six points added to their final score. Both choices pay the same -110 odds.
Bettors on Orlando wins if the Magic win by seven points or more. If Orlando wins by exactly six points, the bet is a push, and the wager is returned to the bettor.
If Orlando wins by five points or less, or if the Nets win the game outright, Brooklyn bettors win this point spread bet. For instance, if Orlando wins the game 98-94, the Nets +6 bet wins.
Over/under bets, aka totals bets, allow for wagering on the total combined score of a game. Bettors can wager that the game total will end either over or under a line set by the sportsbook.
Like point spread bets, the over and under options generally pay relatively even odds. For example:
|Orlando Magic||Over 211.5 -112|
|Brooklyn Nets||Under 211.5 -109|
The sportsbooks set the total at 211.5 for this game. If the total goes over 211.5, the over bet wins at -112 odds. If the game score total finished under 211.5, the under bet wins at -109 payout odds.
If the Nets win the game by a score of 100-98, for example, the total for the game is 198. This total is under the 211.5 line, and therefore the under bet is the winner.
Moneyline, point spread, and totals bets use the same notations seen above across all sports. The betting types are offered for virtually every NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB contest.
What Affects Sports Betting Odds Throughout A Season?
Each sportsbook employs its own linemakers (aka oddsmakers), and these expert analysts set the lines and odds for games. An algorithm determines the lines for certain kinds of in-play bets, as those lines rapidly change throughout a game.
Linemakers consider every imaginable factor when setting a game line, including lines set at other sportsbooks. Lines on a game can change considerably after they’re posted, as injuries, weather, lineup changes, and other factors influence the game.
NFL teams, for example, play just one game per week. The opening line on an NFL game could drastically change by kickoff time.
For instance, the Kansas City Chiefs could be listed as a 10-point favorite over the Los Angeles Chargers for an upcoming Sunday game. If Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes suffers an injury in Wednesday’s team practice, however, that 10-point line will drop, as it’s now unclear whether Mahomes will even play.
Linemakers will adjust point spreads and odds from game to game based on how teams are trending in recent contests. For example, the Milwaukee Bucks could stand as a strong pick to win the NBA title, prompting linemakers to set the Bucks as a big favorite in every game.
If the Bucks lose a few games in a row, however, linemakers will adjust accordingly, considering Milwaukee’s recent performances.
Sports Betting Odds For Professional Leagues
The NFL stands as the most-watched professional sports league in the US. Point spread betting on NFL games represents one of the most popular ways to bet on any sport in the US.
The NFL plays regular season and playoff games in a weekly format. The 32 NFL teams play one game per week in the regular season, with 14 teams advancing to the playoffs.
Here’s a look at what an NFL bet for Week 1 of the 2020-21 regular season looks like at FanDuel Sportsbook:
|Week 1||Point Spread||Moneyline||Total|
|Houston Texans||+9.5 -105||+350||O 54.5 -110|
|Kansas City Chiefs||-9.5 -115||-460||U 54.5 -110|
Note that the “Total” column displays the over/under line for the combined final score. The “O 54.5” bet isn’t a bet on the Texans, even though it’s the same row as the point spread and moneyline options for the Texans.
The NFL season culminates in the Super Bowl, which brings in more bets than any other sporting event in the world. FanDuel Sportsbook, DraftKings Sportsbook, FOX Bet, and all other legal online sports betting platforms offer numerous ways to bet on the Super Bowl.
These betting options include exotic prop bets, such as betting on the color of Gatorade dumped on the winning head coach after the game. The Super Bowl produces many different prop bets not seen in any other sports event.
Much like the NFL, the NBA functions as one of the most popular sports in the US. Ways to bet on the NBA regular season and playoffs are also similar to the NFL setup.
The NBA’s 30 teams play 82 regular-season games. Of those 30, 16 teams advance to the playoffs, with teams facing off in best 4-of-7 series until a champion is crowned.
With that many games on the schedule, betting opportunities abound for the NBA. Here’s a look at how an NBA bet is displayed at FanDuel Sportsbook:
|Los Angeles Clippers||+1 -105||-108||O 218.5 -110|
|Los Angeles Lakers||-1 -115||-108||U 218.5 -110|
The linemakers at FanDuel set this game as almost dead even between the Clippers and Lakers. Note that the moneyline odds on both teams are identical, and there isn’t a favorite or an underdog on the moneyline for this game.
All legal online sportsbooks offer NBA betting throughout the regular season and playoffs, all the way through the NBA Finals. Special bets on the NBA Finals allow bettors to predict what player will win the NBA Finals MVP, what player will be the first to be ejected in a given game, and many more.
Major League Baseball Odds
The numbers for MLB single-game betting look a little bit different, as baseball by nature is a lower-scoring game than its NBA and NFL counterparts. The odds and lines work the same, however.
A typical MLB game setup at FanDuel Sportsbook looks like this:
|New York Yankees|
|-1.5 +138||-130||O 7.5 +100|
|+1.5 -162||+114||U 7.5 -122|
The names under the teams (G. Cole and M. Scherzer) are the names of the starting pitchers for this particular game. MLB teams generally use a rotating cast of 4-5 starting pitchers, with each pitcher starting around 30 games throughout the 162-game MLB season.
The MLB season culminates in the World Series, where the National League champion meets the American League winner in a best 4-of-7 series. Prop bets on the World Series include over/under lines on the number of strikeouts from a particular pitcher, odds on a certain player hitting a home run, and many others.
The betting setup for an NHL game looks similar to an MLB contest. Like MLB, NHL games tend to be low-scoring contests, and as such point spreads typically linger around 1.5. Anything higher than that represents a pretty massive spread in an NHL game.
Here’s a look at the setup for an NHL game at FanDuel Sportsbook:
|New York Rangers||+1.5 -250||+110||O 5.5 -125|
|Carolina Hurricanes||-1.5 +210||-130||U 5.5 +105|
Like MLB games, payout odds on point spread bets are often wider than moneyline odds. This differs from the NFL and NBA, where the point spread usually evens out the odds.
The NHL plays 82 regular-season games and four rounds of best 4-of-7 series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The playoffs end with the Stanley Cup Finals. Special bets on the Stanley Cup Finals include wagers that task the bettor with predicting the score at the end of the first period, and lines on whether a particular player will score a goal or assist.
See our complete guide to NHL Betting On The Stanley Cup.
Other Sports Betting Odds
College Sports Odds
The popularity of NCAA football and basketball in the US rivals that of any professional league. With hundreds of teams in each sport, bettors enjoy an enormous selection of games throughout the year.
The main difference between college sports and professional leagues is the larger point spreads in college contests, as the disparity between teams can be much greater.
College football games generally feature higher scores than an NFL game. College basketball games, however, usually end with lower scores than an NBA game.
NCAA Football And Basketball Postseasons
The biggest college football league, known as the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, culminates its season with the four-team College Football Playoff.
The most prestigious college basketball championship is decided in the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. This tournament, also known as March Madness, draws some of the biggest betting interest of any event on the US sports calendar.
March Madness starts with 68 teams and culminates in the Final Four each year, with the last four teams remaining to battle it out for the championship.
For both NCAA basketball and football, numerous special prop bets can be made on postseason games. The 2020 CFP National Championship Game was attended by President Donald Trump, and prop bets for the game included an option to wager on whether Trump would tweet during the game.
Different states have different laws on betting on off-the-field events like President Trump’s tweets, however, and these kinds of bets might not be offered in every state.
NASCAR’s large and loyal fanbase makes the stock-car racing circuit one of the most popular sports in the US. Legal online sportsbooks allow wagering on the NASCAR schedule throughout the year.
NASCAR bets resemble futures markets bets for other sports. The most popular NASCAR bets involve picking the winner of a race from the NASCAR Cup Series, which represents the top level of the sports.
DraftKings Sportsbook offered the following betting lines on the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500, a NASCAR Cup Series race from July 2020:
|Winner||Top 3||Top 10|
The “Winner,” “Top 3,” and “Top 10” columns represent different bets. For example, if you make a “Top 10” bet on Kevin Harvick and he wins the race, your bet still pays out at -670 odds. The bet pays the same if Harvick finishes anywhere in the top ten places.
English Premier League Odds
Soccer betting on major international leagues like the English Premier League opens up even more betting opportunities at legal online sportsbooks.
Betting on the EPL offers many more lines on any single game, compared to domestic sports leagues. DraftKings Sportsbook offered the following moneyline odds on a July 2020 EPL match between Liverpool and Chelsea:
|Liverpool - Chelsea|
|Liverpool -103||Tie +270||Chelsea +265|
Unlike the four major US sports leagues, EPL games can end in a tie. Moneyline bets for EPL games include an option to bet on a tie. Soccer moneyline bets are generally based on what happens during regular time in the match and doesn’t include overtime or penalty kicks.
Point spread bets for the same Liverpool-Chelsea match look like this:
|Liverpool - Chelsea|
|Liverpool -1||+185||Chelsea +1||-230|
|Liverpool -3||+1800||Chelsea +3||-3335|
|Liverpool -0.75||+128||Chelsea +0.75||-155|
|Liverpool -2.75||-215||Chelsea +2.75||-1667|
|Liverpool pk||-278||Chelsea pk||+175|
|Liverpool +0.25||-139||Chelsea -0.25||+220|
Instead of one point spread for the Liverpool-Chelsea match, the sportsbook offers numerous different spreads with varying payout odds.
A unique feature of soccer betting is the “quarter goal handicap,” seen in this example on lines like Liverpool -0.75 and Chelsea +2.75. A quarter goal handicap bet on Liverpool -0.75 splits the bet between Liverpool -0.5 and Liverpool -1.
For example, you place a $100 bet on Liverpool -0.75. This places a $50 bet on Liverpool -0.5, and a $50 bet on Liverpool -1.
Sports Betting Odds FAQ
Yes, in states that legalized online sports betting after the overturn of PASPA. Federal law allows US states to legalize and regulate online sports betting on an individual state basis.
States with legal online sports betting include New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa, among several others. Legal online sportsbooks in these states function as extensions of retail or tribal casinos.
All online sportsbooks employ their own team of linemakers, and odds and lines vary across all of the different sportsbooks.
Skilled bettors shop for lines, evaluating the odds at different sportsbooks before making a bet.
Odds written out as 5/1, 5-1, or 5-to-1, indicate fractional odds notation. The 5/1 odds here are just an example, as 10/1, 9-4, 7-to-2 and any other odds displayed in this fashion represent fractional odds.
A winning bet made at 5-to-1 odds means you win $5 for every $1 bet. For example, a $100 bet made at 5-to-1 odds pays $500 in profit ($100 x 5). This bet would return $600 total ($500 profit plus the return of the original $100 bet).
A 5-to-1 fractional odds bet is equivalent to +500 moneyline odds, or 6.00 decimal odds.
Decimal odds are written as Lakers 2.00, Bucks 3.00, Clippers 5.00, etc. The payout for this notation is calculated by multiplying the odds by the amount of the bet, then subtracting the original bet to determine the profit.
A $100 bet on Bucks 3.00, for instance, would result in a total return of $300. Subtracting the original $100 bet gives you $200 in profit.
A 3.00 decimal odds bet is equivalent to a +200 moneyline bet, or a 2-to-1 fractional odds bet.
No. Betting on contests involving athletes under the age of 18 is not permitted in any US state.
Yes. Some states do have restrictions on college sports betting. New Jersey, for example, outlaws betting on New Jersey-based college teams and contests.
In general, however, college sports betting is permitted in all states with legal online sportsbooks.