How Do You Read a Sports Betting Line?

Reading a sports betting line isn’t hard once you get down what a few symbols and phrases mean. Sports betting lines are meant to give gamblers a quick idea which team is the favorite and the underdog and what the odds pay in case of a win.

How do you read a sports betting line with “plus” or “minus” symbols?

The plus or “+” symbol on a betting line indicates that a team is the underdog. The + will be followed by a number, which indicates how much of an underdog that team is. So if you see a sports line which reads Giants +7, the line is telling you the Giants are seven point underdogs. Why does the underdog get the + symbol?

The plus symbol lets you easily figure out if you won your bet. If you bet on the Giants +7, then if they lose to the Eagles 24-20, you simply add the +7 bet modifier to the total and see whether you won the bet or not. Add in the number and you get the total 24-27. That would be 24 for the Eagles and 27 for the Giants, and therefore you would win your bet.

It works the same with the minus or “-” symbol, except the – indicates you are betting on the favorite. Imagine in the Giants/Eagles game that you bet on the Eagles -7. When the final score is shown, you can subtract seven points from the Eagles’ total to see if you won. Once again, you could subtract 7 from 24 to get 17, so you would lose the bet 17-20.

Bet Line Sports Betting Terms


So far we’ve explained the following bet line sports betting terms

  • Minus Sign (-) – Given to the favorite.
  • Plus Sign (+) – Given to the underdog.
  • Point Spread – The amount of points separating the favorite and the underdog in the bet. If it’s New York Giants +7, the point spread would be +7.

Money Line Sports Betting

To understand money line sports betting first we’ll look at what a money line is for. A money line shows the amount of money you win using the $100 scale. This line is used if you want to bet about whether either team wins straight out, without a point spread. The odds are weighted differently in this case. If you bet on a favorite, you’ll have to bet more than $100 to win $100. If you bet +100 on the underdog, the number shows how much you can win if your team wins.

Once again, the “-” sign indicates the underdog and the “+” sign indicates the favorite. So let’s go back to the Giants/Eagles game. We’ll stipulate the Giants as the underdog at +200, while the Eagles will be the favorite at -225.

So if you want to bet $100 on the New York Giants, you win $200 if the Giants win straight up. If you want to win $100 betting on the Philadelphia Eagles, you’ll need to bet $225 to win $100 in case of an Eagles victory.

Notice that the numbers won’t be the same on a money line. The difference in the two numbers is the vigorish or “vig” (or “juice” or “take”). The vigorish is the house edge of the casino you’re making the wager through. So if the casino pays out $100 to all the Giants fans, but rakes in $225 from all the Eagles fans, they are getting out pretty well. (Actually, that number isn’t likely to turn up, since the casino will be making huge money off that game. You get the point, though.)

Also, I’ve seen moneylines before where both sides of the bet were in the negative (-). For a really close game or match, you might see both contestants given the -125 designation. Essentially, the casino is saying these fighters or teams are evenly matched, so they will pay out the same on each. Because of the vigorish, these even-money fighters or teams are actually written out as favorites in the money line. (You won’t see two contestants at + in a money line. If you see one of those, bet both sides huge — though you won’t ever see that kind of mistake happen.)