Odds, Picks and Betting Lines Explained

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Vegas odds are a system of betting where gamblers can bet on one side or another for a given sporting event. One site will set up a long list of numbers, the player checks which team they like and then chooses how much they wish to wager. Vegas odds go deep into history and we’ll explain them in more detail later on Odds Fanatic.

Las Vegas odds emerged from 1930s Nevada, when the state agreed to allow gambling. Oddsmakers flocked to Las Vegas in the hope of establishing new odds on sports betting opportunities available in the newly legalized state.

These oddsmakers were known for making their own unique ‘power ratings’ across different sports. Secrecy surrounds what criteria went into these early ratings, but some of the same statistics bookmakers use today – wins/losses, player injuries, and previous performances – were undoubtedly included.

What Are Vegas Betting Lines?

The term “Vegas lines” is another way to say “Las Vegas odds.” These are figures used in sports gambling and is determined by a team’s relative strength, the stage of the season you’re betting on, and what type of bet you’re placing.

The Las Vegas betting system is now utilized by bookmakers throughout America to streamline the betting process. With each sports match, there are many wagering options to choose from: which team will win or lose, how many points will be scored, etc. Oddsmakers use this system to present all of this information in an easy-to-understand way.

Many newbie sports bettors wonder how Vegas odds work. Basically, the idea is that point spread and over/under bets are simpler if you know what each section stands for based on its corresponding betting type.

How To Read Vegas Odds?

Sportsbooks in the United States offer bets on a variety of games, including football, basketball, and hockey. In order to place a bet at US sportsbooks, you need to understand how to read Vegas odds. Let’s look at an example of what this looks like:

Odds Board

Understanding Las Vegas betting lines is hard at first. We review the parts of a line in order to make it easier to understand.  

Rotation Number

You’ll find unique numbers listed on the betting boards of Las Vegas casinos that correspond with each team and sports event. For example, if you want to wager $100 on a certain football game this weekend, go to the board for NFL Odds. For example, the state of California has a whopping 19 major sports franchises. Nine of those teams are situated in Los Angeles.


On a Vegas betting board, it is important to make sure that you are choosing the right team and the right sports league before placing your bet. If your sports league is not listed at the top of the page, then you may want to reconsider which league you are entering.

Point Spread

A sports betting line is a set of numbers that predicts how many points one team will win by. The favored team has a negative number next to it, while the underdog has a positive number.
Seattle Seahawks -10
Jacksonville Jaguars 8
The point spread is 10 points. The Seattle Seahawks are favored by 10 points against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
To win a point spread wager on the favorite, the Seattle Seahawks must win by more than 10 points. If you bet on the underdogs, to win money you would have to either bet on Jacksonville and they have to outright win or lose by 9.
When betting, if either team win/lose by the predicted amount, the wager is considered a ‘push’ and cancelled.

Over/Under or Total

These terms refer to the expected combined score predicted by a bookmaker in a specific match. If you think the two teams will score more than what the bookmaker predicts, choose ‘over.’ If you predict they’ll score less than the sum, select ‘under.’ A bet on a half point, called a wagered-point or vigorish, is used to offset the odds between the betting line set by sportsbooks and the change that players can take. If two parties tie in their bet, then there will be no push because sportsbooks have an explicit rule for this eventuality.


This refers to odds that are based on the predicted outcome of a game. The odds do not reflect money but rather how much a gambler will win if they bet on a specific team.


If a gambler wants to place an individual bet, he/she may make a ‘straight up’ wager.


The juice is the amount you pay the bookmaker for the opportunity of making a pick. Sportsbooks usually add in an additional cost that’s either in monetary or percentage terms, and this measure of value changes depending on how likely it seems that any given event might happen.


The overround is found when two sides in a wager have an implied probability of 100% or more. The vig is the amount a bookmaker charges to make a bet, and it appears separately from the overround as “vig” on your sporting betting slip.

How To Make A Pick Using A Betting Line?

Placing a wager on a betting line is easy after you learn the abbreviations and steps. Use the instructions below to make your pick as quickly as possible.

1. Choose one of the many types of bets available, such as a straight bet or an accumulator.
2. Choose the sport and then bet on one (or more) matches.
3. Choose a type of bet: point spread, moneyline, or total.
4. Choose an amount to bet on each game.
5. Visit a betting site and type in: the rotation number, the type of bet, what criteria you want to bet on, and how much you wish to wager.

It is essential to be very clear about the criteria you are betting on in a Vegas odds line. Oddsmakers will assume that you want to bet on the point spread unless otherwise specified, and placing them can be tough if they don’t understand your preferences.

Why Are Vegas Lines Relevant?

The reputation of Las Vegas Oddsmakers grew as the popularity of sports betting grew in Nevada during the latter half of the twentieth century. In an historical perspective, gambling statistics have traditionally been tracked and reported by the bookmakers in Las Vegas. Other bookmakers adjusted their statistics as determined by Vegas betting odds.

The reality is that Vegas odds are in decline. Online sportsbooks have shifted the pendulum of power away from Nevada, but many bettors continue to use them as the standard against which they measure their own betting decisions.

Vegas Odds

How Accurate Are Vegas Betting Odds?

Sportsbooks in Las Vegas may be without any insider knowledge, but they are replete with statisticians and time. These math wizards work full-time analyzing every facet of a team or player’s success, history, and outside forces to determine how these dynamics may affect the outcome of a match.

Vegas bookmakers have an edge because they charge a fee for operating. This house advantage guarantees that there will be enough revenue from wagers in order to maintain operations, but it also provides gamblers with an appealing opportunity to make a stake on bets.

A Vegas bookmaker will generally have accurate odds, but can differ depending on what factors the statistician believes will have the greatest influence on the match. Check the odds and house edge at several sportsbooks before placing a bet to make sure you get the best possible deal for your wager.

Vegas Sports Picks

Below, we offer tips to help you determine the best types of bets for each individual type of sport gambling line-up promised in Vegas:

Point Spread Betting

This bet requires the gambler to predict if a team will make their performance expectations in a match. In order to balance the bets and still turn a profit, sportsbooks sometimes shift the point spread by half-point or whole points. Record any changes you see in the point spread during the week before or after game day and use your observations to help make better wagers.

Moneyline Bets

This wager type has a simple layout, making it the perfect introduction to betting for casual gamblers. However, if you’re looking for more rewards then this isn’t the wager for you. When judging money line bets, a better statistic to use is implied probability (the percentage of times a wager needs to win for you to break even) over actual odds.

Over/Under/Totals Bets

If you’re new to betting, you might think that predicting the total number of points in a game is as simple as guessing. However over/under bets—usually known just as “the ‘total'”—requires an advanced understanding of both athletics and odds. Sometimes there’s correlation between what margin of victory a favorite wins by and how many points they score. For instance, in the NFL, you might think a favorite team’s quarterback will be playing far more cautiously given their recent injury. As a result, you would figure that one of the underdog teams will get points taking advantage and pushing for an over/under win in this game.

Why Do Vegas Odds Lines Change?

Sportsbooks need to make enough money in order to stay operational, and this means giving gamblers odds that are not always favorable but still offer a decent chance. Las Vegas sportsbooks must also take into account outside factors that could change the betting line, despite having teams of analysts who always have up-to-date statistics for both teams’ performances.

When gamblers think they know which team is going to win a game, it’s easier for the oddsmaker to calculate what he needs to pay out if the public is right. If there are any news announcements or rumors coming up in the run-up to a game that might sway people one way or another, betting sites need to adapt their betting odds accordingly.

In addition to this, sportsbooks predictably want to maintain a balanced stake between the amount of money bet on their favorite and underdog odds. Sportsbooks will shift the odds if too much money is placed on one side by shifting them in favor of the other team in hopes that gamblers will place more bets on it.

FAQs: Odds and betting lines

Why do odds and lines change?

The two most important things that cause changes in odds and betting lines are as follows:

– Change in circumstances
– Volume of betting activity

Before moving on to other topics, we will first take a look at the odds and lines available for sporting events. Sports betting has attracted hundreds of people from all walks of life. The initial odds and betting lines given are based off probability of occurrence. Thus, these need to be reevaluated if any changes have taken place that could affect this outcome.

Take, for example, a basketball game. When setting the odds for each team to win, the odds compilers need take into account an array of factors. The most significant is simply how good each team is in comparison to one another. If one team clearly dominates on paper against others in their league then the odds are going to be low for them.

But what if their key players are injured the day before the game? They’re not as likely to win at this point, and these changes will eventually be reflected in betting odds. The chances of them winning should go up, while the other team’s chance is forecasted to decrease.

It’s pretty obvious why the chances of a wager have changed just because circumstances are different. But how does volume of betting activity factor in? A betting site wants to have what is called a “balanced book,” meaning that they make roughly the same amount on each possible outcome.

When a website accepts more bets on an outcome than what is being bet on any of the other outcomes, their books are not balanced. To rectify this, they increase betting odds for different possible endings while also decreasing those of the more popular outcome. Customers will then be able to take whichever option is available and create a better opportunity to win.

Why are odds and lines different at different betting sites?

Odds and lines are subjective representations of how the odds compilers believe specific events will turn out. Odds often vary depending on what different sites think is going to happen in a game, which is why they can differ so greatly from betting site to betting site.

It is important to understand that odds and lines are affected by both the volume of betting activity, as well as differences in distribution.

Where can I get the best odds and betting lines?

When you place a bet, odds and lines don’t always vary from site to site. No betting site consistently has the best odds and lines for every market. So it’s not like there is one site that will always offer better value than others; instead, what you need to do is shop around by looking at what different sites.

What happens if there’s a mistake in the odds and lines?

Mistakes in these lines will inevitably occur. The odds line-makers might make a mistake, or there could be an inputting error on the website’s behalf. These mistakes are usually corrected quickly before any customers get their money down.