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The Basics of Betting on Football

Did you know that football is by far the number one sport for betting in the US? Baseball and basketball are popular as well, but they are nowhere near the same level as football. The Super Bowl game alone sees millions upon millions of dollars wagered, and those amounts keep rising.

Between 2009 and 2015, the value of all Super Bowl wagers taken by Las Vegas sportsbooks have increased each and every year. The total in 2015 was a quite staggering $115 million. Keep in mind that this number only reflects bets placed in Nevada. It doesn’t even account for all the other sportsbooks and betting sites that people use.

So it’s safe to say that betting on football is a popular pastime. There are many reasons why this is the case, and one is that it’s actually quite simple to get started. With just a little bit of football knowledge, combined with a little bit of betting knowledge, anyone can start placing wagers on games.

However, there’s a reason why most football bettors lose money. It’s because they never go beyond having just that little bit of knowledge. Knowing how to bet on football is one thing, knowing how to bet on football successfully is something else entirely. Now, we can’t promise that we can turn you into a successful bettor overnight, but we can certainly give you all the information you need to get there in time. That’s actually the main reason we created our complete guide to betting on football.

In this section of our guide, we focus on the basics. The only way you’ll ever be successful is if you start out with a solid understanding of these, so please invest some time into learning about them. Even if you’re already an experienced bettor, it wouldn’t hurt to look through this entire section. There’s bound to be some information you’re not yet aware of, or some advice that will help improve your skills.

Please read through this page for details of everything that’s covered in this section.

General Sports Betting Advice

Before you start betting on football, or any sport for that matter, there’s something you need to understand. Most people who bet on sports lose money. We alluded to this fact in our introduction to this page, but it’s worth repeating. It’s also worth expanding on the reasons why so many people lose.

There are plenty of people who are very knowledgeable about sports, and therefore assume they’ll do well against the bookmakers. They figure that their sports knowledge is enough to give themselves an edge. The harsh reality is that sports knowledge isn’t enough by itself. The bookmakers have the same knowledge, and they’re also very good at setting odds and lines in a way that makes it very difficult to find value.

The very small percentage of bettors who are consistently successful are the ones who are able to find the value when it does exist. This takes a great deal of skill, and an intrinsic understanding of all aspects of betting.

Now, as a beginner it’s not realistic to have such an understanding. There’s a lot to learn, and it takes time to assimilate all the information that you need to know. Much of it can be learned as you go along though, so there’s no need to become an expert before you start putting your money at risk.

There are, however, a few things that you really do need to know.

If you don’t understand certain fundamental concepts, then you are ultimately doomed to be another loser. We’re not saying this to discourage you from betting, but rather to encourage you to start off on the right track.

If you’re an absolute novice in betting terms, then we strongly recommend that you take a look at our introduction to sports betting before learning about football betting specifically. The selection of topics this covers will really help you to form good habits from the moment you start placing wagers. Feel free to skip this step if you already have some experience and are confident you understand all the rudimentary aspects of sports betting, but a quick refresher might be a good idea.

Pros & Cons of Football Betting

There’s a wide range of different sports that you can bet on, so what is it that makes football so popular among bettors? Well, for most people it’s probably the simple fact that football is their favorite sport. Not only is football the number one sport in the US, but a sizable percentage of global football betting is also done by Americans.

It’s entirely logical that people prefer to bet on the sport they know and love the most, but there are actually several good reasons for choosing to bet on football. It has a few advantages over other sports, with the following two being the most evident.

  • There are lots of betting opportunities available
  • There is extensive coverage of the sport

Let’s explain exactly why these advantages are so significant.

Betting Opportunities

Imagine that you could only place one single football wager each season, on one single game. How likely are you going to be able to make any money? The answer is “not very.” The chances of finding a value bet to make with just a single opportunity are incredibly low. Thankfully, there are lots of football games taking place each year and therefore lots of opportunities to bet.

More opportunities to bet means more opportunities to make money.

This is a key point. While every football game offers the opportunity to place a bet, not every game offers a GOOD opportunity to bet. Some games are very hard to call, and are best left alone. The fact that there are so many games means that you CAN regularly find opportune moments to place a bet, especially if you don’t just focus on the NFL. By broadening your horizons to college football, and maybe even the Canadian Football League, you stand an even better chance of finding good occasions to bet.

Extensive Coverage

The more background knowledge you have concerning football, the teams, the players, and even the coaches, the more likely you are to make accurate predictions about what will happen in the games. More accurate predictions will generally lead to making more money, so the aim is to know as much as you possibly can. One of the great things about football is the almost blanket coverage of the sport.

For one thing, you can watch as many games as time allows. Watching games really helps you understand how teams play, and it allows you to identify their strengths and weaknesses. This is really useful when it comes to deciding how teams are likely to perform against each other. A lot of football coverage provides valuable insight into other things you need to know too. You can keep up to date with roster changes for example, and injuries.

The major sports news outlets devote huge resources to providing up to date information on all aspects of football.

At GamblingSites.com we’re big fans of betting on football. The advantages mentioned above are just two reasons why, and there are others as well. However, there are also two notable disadvantages of betting on this sport.

  • Football is unpredictable
  • Bookmakers are excellent at setting football lines


There are some sports where this is even more of an issue than in football, but the fact still remains that football games don’t always turn out as expected. The favorites don’t always win, and they certainly don’t always win by the expected margin. Sometimes a game that’s expected to be high scoring can end up being low scoring, and vice versa. A team that’s considered a lock to make the playoffs can have a really poor season, while a team that’s expected to struggle can surprise people and do really well.

The unpredictable nature of football is, of course, a major part of what makes the sport so exciting. Watching football games wouldn’t be nearly as enticing if you were 99% certain what was going to happen all the time. It would make the betting a lot easier though. But that’s not the case, and unexpected results are just something that you have to accept when betting on football. It’s simply not easy to make accurate predictions consistently.

Skilled Bookmakers

Bookmaking is not an easy job. Although bookmakers have an inherent advantage over their customers, they still have to be good at what they do in order to make a profit. That means setting the odds and lines in a way that makes it very difficult for their customers to find value. For the most part, they do this very well. When it comes to football, and especially the NFL, they do it extremely well.

The people setting the odds and lines for football games are typically very smart, and very skilled at analyzing and assessing all the data that’s useful for predicting the outcomes of football games. They’re also skilled when it comes to setting prices for the betting markets so that people find the odds and lines attractive enough to bet, but so that there’s little to no value available.

Bookmakers aren’t perfect by any means, and they can be beaten. But they really know their sports, and football in particular is one sport where their knowledge is second to none. This shouldn’t discourage anyone from betting on football, but it should just serve as a warning that in order to make money, you need to be just as good as them.

How To Bet On Football

There are a number of different ways to bet on football, each of which has its advantages and disadvantages. The two most popular methods in the US are casino sportsbooks and online sports betting sites.

The majority of casino sportsbooks found in the US are in the state of Nevada. This is because Nevada is one of the few states where sports betting is completely legal. Casino gambling is also legal of course, which is why Las Vegas is such a popular destination. It’s filled with casinos, and these days many of them have huge sportsbooks just off the gaming floor. These typically have several betting windows where wagers are placed, loads of big screen TVs, and computerized display boards showing the odds for various sports events. Anyone that enjoys sports betting would almost certainly enjoy spending a few hours at one of these location.

Visiting a casino sportsbook is a great experience, but it’s not convenient for everyone.

The biggest problem with these sportsbooks is that not everyone can get to one every time they want to place a wager. This issue can be avoided when placing wagers on the internet, which is the method we recommend for betting on football. It’s simply so much more convenient than the alternatives. All you need is a computer, or other device connected to the web, and an account at a betting site. The only real difficulty is in choosing which of the many sites to use, but luckily we’re here to help. We’ve recommended the best football betting sites currently on the web, based on our extensive research and testing.

Types of Football Bets

So far we’ve established some of the reasons why you might want to bet on football, and suggested the best methods to use when betting on football. Now it’s time to think about the various wagers that can be placed. There are a lot of them, and it’s in your best interests to learn how they all work if you want the best chance of making some money.

Here’s a list of the most commonly placed football wagers.

  • Point Spreads
  • Totals
  • Moneylines
  • Futures
  • Props
  • Parlay
  • Teasers
  • Pleasers
  • If Bets
  • Reverse Bets

Two of these are especially popular, namely point spreads and totals. We couldn’t say for sure what percentage of football wagers they represent, but we suspect that it’s very high. In fact, many people don’t even bother with the other types at all. Although this isn’t the ideal approach in our opinion, we do understand it has appeal. Point spreads and totals are both very simple wagers, and they don’t have to require a great deal of thought.

We recommend reading both of the following articles. One covers just point spreads and totals, while the other covers all the other types. It’s definitely possible to get by with just the first two, but we do think it’s better to at least understand the other types as well.

Tips for Beginners

Armed with your new found knowledge, you’re ready to start actually placing wagers. There’s still a lot more to learn if you want to be successful, but you can learn all that as you go along. Our section dealing with all the strategy involved in football betting will help you a lot if you’re serious about making money and are prepared to put in the time and effort.

For now, though, here’s a few simple tips that will help you to do things the right way from the moment you start.

  • Set a budget
  • This is absolutely vital, whether betting just for fun or with the goal of making consistent profits. You simply MUST set a budget and then stick to it; otherwise it’s all too easy for things to get out of control. The size of the budget is largely irrelevant, as long as it’s an affordable amount. This won’t only prevent you from spending money that’s needed elsewhere, but it can also help you make good decisions. Betting with “scared” money (i.e. money you can’t afford to lose) invariably clouds judgement, which doesn’t help when trying to assess what selections to back.

  • Study the game
  • We mentioned earlier how useful it is to have knowledge of all aspects of football when betting on the sport. This makes it so much easier to make informed decisions based on sound reasoning. You can’t possibly expect to make accurate predictions about what will happen in games without some real insight into the participants of those games. We therefore advise watching as many games as you can, reading match reports, and basically studying the game as extensively as possible. It will pay off in the end.

  • Understand the stats
  • There are several statistics that can really help when trying to predict the outcome of football games. The difficulty is that there’s a phenomenal range of stats that get used in the sport, and many of them tell us very little that’s useful. There’s a real skill in knowing which stats to consider, and which to ignore. The only way to master that skill is by developing a solid understanding of as many different stats as possible, and then assessing just how much use each one can be. This means doing a lot of research but, again, it should prove to be time well spent.

  • Know the key factors
  • All kinds of different factors affect what happens in a game of football, and it would be impossible to assess them all. There are, however, some factors that have especially notable influences, and those you really do need to assess if you’re going to make consistently accurate predictions. Things like the relative strength of a team’s offense, and the relative strength of their opponent’s defense, are fairly obvious, but there are lots of less obvious ones too. Depth of squad, coaching style, injuries, motivation, and schedule are just a few. It’s important to understand as much as possible about the effects of these factors, and once more this means putting the hours into doing research and analysis.

Mistakes to Avoid

Getting into good habits from the moment you start betting on football will be of great benefit further down the line. Good habits don’t just consist of doing the right things, but they also involve not doing the wrong things. The harsh reality is that you are almost certainly going to do a lot of wrong things as a beginner. You shouldn’t worry too much about making mistakes, as long as you try to learn from them, but you do want to make sure that you don’t make too many mistakes that are easily avoidable.

Here’s a list of five mistakes that we see beginner football bettors make all the time. If you can avoid making these yourself, you’ll instantly be ahead of the vast majority of recreational bettors.

  • Betting too often
  • It’s unnecessary to bet on every game, or even every week. The only right time to bet is when there’s a good reason for doing so, not simply because there’s a game on and you “feel like it.”

  • Trusting public opinion
  • There’s nothing wrong with listening to public opinion about upcoming games, or specific teams or players, but don’t put too much faith in it. Use it as just one more thing to consider.

  • Forgetting the defense
  • So many bettors don’t pay attention to a team’s defensive strength when assessing games. They focus purely on what a team can do offensively, forgetting that a good defense can just as easily shape a game.

  • Overvaluing momentum
  • It’s natural, to some extent, to assume that a team on a winning streak is going to keep winning. Winning streaks come to an end at some point. Momentum is important in football, but it’s not a defining factor.

  • Being impatient
  • Impatience ruins many bettors, as they either give up too soon or start chasing big money before they’re ready. Successful football betting takes time, so please remain patient while you’re learning.

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