Alternative Football Wagers
A lot of people who bet on football do so because it’s relatively easy to do so. There are some very simple wagers that can be placed, and you don’t need to be a betting expert in order to enjoy putting a few bucks on the games each week.
The most popular wagers are point spreads and totals, and we go into great detail about those two on the following page.
Many football bettors only ever place point spread and totals wagers. This isn’t a terrible idea because of their simplicity coupled with the fact that it’s possible to win a reasonable percentage of them without being especially skilled.
If you know what you’re doing, it’s possible to make consistent profits.
However, successful football betting is all about finding the best opportunities to gain an edge over the bookmakers. That’s much easier to do when using a wide range of different wagers.
We strongly recommend that you learn about all the different types of wagers you can use when betting on football. That’s actually the purpose of this page, as we’ve explained each of the following wagers in detail.
- Teasers & Pleasers
- If Bets & Reverse Bets
Moneylines are just as simple as point spreads and totals. They may even be simpler, in fact. All you do with these is bet on which team you think is going to win a game outright.
If your prediction is correct, you get a payout based on the relevant odds. Here’s an example of the moneyline for a football game.
In this game, the Chiefs are the favorite. We can tell this because their odds are lower. Having odds of -165 means that a stake of $165 could net winnings of $100. It’s clear to see that the potential return isn’t great, but that’s because the Chiefs are considered more than likely to win the game.
The Bengals are the underdog, so their odds are higher. In this case, a stake of $100 could net winnings of $145. The potential return is much better, but of course the chances of the underdog winning are lower.
A moneyline wager is a good option when you feel confident that a favorite will win, but you’re not sure they’re going to cover the spread. Rather than place a point spread wager, where you’ll need the favorite to win by at least a specified margin, you can simply bet on them to win. Although the potential return is lower, the risk of losing the wager is also lower.
This wager is also a good option when you feel an upset is likely. It’s by no means unheard of for underdogs to win games, and if you can pick the right spots then you can land some nice wins.
There’s more risk involved, but that’s why the potential returns are so much higher.
All sports wagers are, of course, based on outcomes that will occur at some point in the future. The term futures refers to a specific type of wager though: one that has a long-term horizon. In the context of football, futures are typically wagers that are placed at the start of the season on outcomes that won’t be determined until the end of the season.
There are others examples too. It’s possible to bet on whether or not a team will win their division or conference. It’s also possible to bet on a team simply making it to the playoffs. In addition to team futures, there are player futures; an example of this would be betting on which player will be named that season’s Most Valuable Player.
We don’t recommend spending a lot of time or money on football futures. They do have the potential for good returns, as the odds can be quite high. However, they’re hard to get right and they require tying up a portion of your bankroll for an entire season.
There isn’t really a whole lot of strategy involved in them either. You can certainly make informed judgments about which teams or players are going to do well over the course of a season, but winning futures is as much about good luck as it is about handicapping.
We should point out that futures can be placed during the season as well as at the beginning. The relevant odds are constantly changed by bookmakers, in accordance with results and performances.
So the odds for some teams will get shorter, while the odds for other teams will get longer. To illustrate this, here are the odds for the winner of the Super Bowl in 2016, available after the first couple of playoff games had been played.
Now, at this stage there were three joint favorites. The odds for the Patriots, Cardinals and Panthers were all at +450, because each of these teams was well positioned to progress to the Super Bowl.
At the start of the season, their odds were higher. The Patriots were +800, the Cardinals were +4000, and the Panthers were plus +5000. The Cardinals and the Panthers had clearly not been predicted to do especially well at the start of the season, but they have performed above expectations.
The reason we’re pointing this out is to highlight the fact that futures can be good wagers to use in combination with hedging strategies.
We won’t go into detail regarding these strategies here, but you can find more information on the following page.
Football props (short for proposition bets) are wagers on very specific outcomes that aren’t necessarily directly related to the outcome of match. These are often simple yes/no wagers, or wagers with just two possible outcomes, but there are props with multiple outcomes too. Here are some examples.
- Will there be a touchdown in the first half?
- Will “Player X” score a touchdown?
- Will the game go to overtime?
- Will either team score 3 times unanswered at any point?
Props with Two Possible Outcomes
- Which team will score first in the match?
- Which half will be the highest scoring?
- Over/under on the longest touchdown yardage.
- Over/under on a quarterback’s total passing yards.
Props with Multiple Possible Outcomes
- What will the margin of victory be?
- How will the first points of the game be scored?
- Which player will score the first points?
- Which player will score the most points?
Props are widely considered to be “fun” bets rather than a serious way to make money. That’s because a lot of them are very hard to predict with any degree of accuracy, so you’re basically just guessing. Many recreational bettors really like them though, because they can make watching the games a lot more exciting.
Commonly heard advice is that props should be avoided by serious bettors, but we don’t agree with this. In the right circumstances, they can represent good value bets. The key is in working out which ones can actually be properly handicapped. Which player scores the first points can’t, for example, but the over/under on a quarterback’s total passing yards can.
You can do some research into his average passing yards per game, compare that to the opposition’s average passing yards allowed per game, and then have some idea of what the expected total might be.
This is not a recipe for guaranteed success of course, but it does allow you to determine whether there’s a good bet to make.
Parlays are a type of multiple. This means they involve making more than one selection as part of a single wager. For example, you could pick three teams that you think will cover the spread and then back them all in a parlay.
If all three managed to cover the spread, then you’d win the parlay. Only one would have to fail for your wager to lose though.
Most betting sites offer fixed odds payouts for parlays when they involve point spread selections or totals selections. The more selections are added to the wager, the higher the payouts will increase. The odds will vary at different betting sites and bookmakers, but here’s a typical example.
|Number of Selections||Odds|
As you can see, the payout for a successful 10 selection parlay is huge. For a $100 stake you could win $30,000. You don’t need to win many of them in your lifetime to have had an excellent betting career. Don’t get too excited just yet though, there are a couple of key points you should know about parlays.
The big payouts are there for a reason. The chances of winning a parlay with more than two or three selections are very low. Bookmakers are happy to offer the high odds, because they know that they tempt customers.
They’re also very happy to take such bets because they’re so hard to get right. Just one wrong selection and the whole wager fails.
As such, we don’t recommend investing much money into parlays. We don’t suggest you should ignore them completely though. They can be profitable with the right strategies, which we explain in detail on the following page.
Teasers & Pleasers
Teasers and pleasers are two of the more advanced wagers that can be used when betting on football. Many bettors avoid them for this very reason.
They’re good wagers to understand though, as they can be profitable if you know how to use them effectively. Teasers are particularly beneficial.
These two wagers are types of multiples, just like parlays. They can only include point spread selections or total selections though. What sets them apart from “standard” parlays is that they involve modifying the lines of the selections.
The easiest way to explain this further is to use some examples. Let’s look at a teaser first. Suppose you wanted to place a point spread teaser on the following selections.
- Seattle Seahawks at (-4 on the spread)
- Green Bay Packers at (+1 on the spread)
- New England Patriots (-7 on the spread)
You’d need to decide how many points you wanted to tease these selections by. Most bookmakers and betting sites offer a few options in this respect, but a six-point teaser is pretty much the industry standard.
If you decided to go with this option, the spreads would all be moved by six points in your favor.
- Seahawks from -4 to +2
- Packers from +1 to +7
- Patriots from -7 to -1
Instead of needing the Seahawks to win by more than four points, you’d now only need them to win or lose by less than two points. You’d only need the Packers to lose by less than seven points, and the Patriots to win by more than one point.
Clearly, each of these selections has just become more likely to cover the spread. Therefore, you’d have a much better chance of winning this teaser than you would of winning a standard parlay on the same three selections with the original spreads.
You might be wondering why a bookmaker would offer such a wager. They offer it because the odds for teasers are much lower than for parlays. They vary at different bookmakers and betting sites, but you can expect a three-team six-point teaser to have odds of around +180. This is in contrast to the +600 you’d expect to see for a standard three-team parlay.
So, basically, teasers are easier to win but come with lower odds as result. Pleasers are the opposite. They are harder to win but come with higher odds.
For example, let’s say that you wanted to place a six-point pleaser rather than a six-point teaser on the selections mentioned above. The spreads would all be moved against you by six points.
- Seahawks from -4 to -10
- Packers from +1 to -5
- Patriots from -7 to -13
Now the Seahawks need to win by more than ten points, the Packers need to win by more than five points, and the Patriots need to win by more than 13 points. So each selection has become much less likely to cover the spread. In return, this pleaser would offer much better odds than a standard three-team parlay. You could expect to see something around the +1700 level.
Remember that teasers and pleasers can be based on totals too. The principle is basically the same.
If betting the over on a teaser, the required number of points becomes less. If betting the under on a teaser, the allowed number of points becomes more. It’s the other way around for pleasers.
If Bets & Reverse Bets
If bets and reverse bets are also considered more advanced wagers. They may seem like overly complicated multiple bets at first glance, but they’re not too difficult to understand once you grasp the basic concept.
They’re essentially a lower risk alternative to parlays, as they can still payout even if you don’t get each selection right. They also allow you to bet on multiple selections without having to stake too much.
With an if bet, the result of each selection determines whether any subsequent selections come into play or not. For example, let’s say you’d picked three teams to cover the spread and staked $110 on an if bet covering them all.
If the first team fails to cover, then you’d lose the $110 and the subsequent selections would be irrelevant.
If the first team did cover, you’d be paid the $100 in winnings (assuming -110 odds) and your initial stake would roll over onto your second selection. So you’d have $100 “in the bank”, and $110 riding on the next game.
If your selection failed to cover in that game, the wager is over. Your initial $110 is lost, but you keep the $100 payout from the first game. So your net position is $10 down.
If the second team also covered, you’d get another $100 in the bank. The $110 stake would then roll over to the third game. The same principle as above then applies for the third game.
The order of your selections will affect the outcome of an if wager. In the above example we look at picking three teams, and it’s quite possible that all three of those teams would be playing at the same time. The actual order in which they play is irrelevant though, as it only matters what order your selections have been placed in.
If the team you select as first fails to cover, then you’ll have no money riding on the other two games. Even if your selections cover in those two games, you’ll still be out your initial $110.
It’s, therefore, a good idea to order your selections based on confidence level. The selections you’re most confident about should be first, and the selections you’re least confident about should be last.
To avoid having to worry about the order of your selections, you can use reverse bets instead. These work in all possible directions across your selections. Let’s say you want to place a reverse bet covering the three selections we’ve just discussed.
Assuming you’re sticking to a $110 stake, you’d have to bet $660 in order to cover the six possible combinations that your three selections could make. We have outlined these combinations for you below.
- Selection 1 Selection 2 Selection 3
- Selection 1 Selection 3 Selection 2
- Selection 2 Selection 1 Selection 3
- Selection 2 Selection 3 Selection 1
- Selection 3 Selection 1 Selection 2
- Selection 3 Selection 2 Selection 1
Reverse bets clearly provide more opportunities to receive some form of return. If just one team covered, you’d get two payouts of $100 each as every team comes first in the order twice.
If two teams covered, you’d get a total of $600 back. If all three teams covered, you’d get $1,800 back plus your initial $660 stake.
We believe that if bets and reverse bets can be good options in the right set of circumstances, so we’d definitely recommend that you try to fully understand them.
You can experiment with them using small stakes, which is perhaps the best way to get a real sense of how they work. You can then look for spots when they offer good value.