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Favorites vs. Underdogs

When odds-makers release a picking line on a game, the first thing they do is decide which team should be the favorite and which should be the underdog. The favorite is the team that is more likely to win the game and has a minus sign next to its odds. The underdog is expected to lose and has a plus sign. Here’s how it looks at Gamepick:

With this matchup the Jazz are the underdog, and the Timberwolves are the favorite.


There are two main ways to pick a favorite or underdog. The first is the point spread, which is a pick on the margin of victory. Spreads are available in every sport but most common in higher-scoring sports like basketball and football.

Let’s use the same example from above.

The Timberwolves are a -8.5 favorite over the Jazz. This means anyone picking the Timberwolves needs them to win by 9 or more points. Anyone picking the Jazz needs them to lose by 1-8 points or win the game.


  • Timberwolves win by 10: Timberwolves pickers win

  • Timberwolves win by 3: Jazz pickers win

  • Jazz win: Jazz pickers win

Money lines

The second way to pick a favorite or underdog is the money line. A money line pick requires you to pick the winner of the game and uses odds to calculate the payout. Money lines are available for all sports, but they are predominantly used when picking on lower-scoring sports like baseball, hockey, and soccer.

Odds are centered around winning 100 diamonds. Using the same Jazz-Timberwolves example. Odds-makers believe the Timberwolves will win. If you are picking a -350 favorite, you need to risk 350 diamonds to win 100 diamonds, or any fraction of that — 35 diamonds to win 10 diamonds, 7 diamonds to win 2 diamonds, etc.

If you are picking a +285 underdog, you will win 2.85x your diamonds for every diamond wagered — 100 diamonds to win 285 diamonds, 10 diamonds to win 28.5 diamonds, 1 diamond to win 2.85 diamonds, etc.

Why do you have to risk more on the favorite than you would win on the underdog? This is called the juice, and it’s how sportsbooks maintain their edge over pickers.

Over/Under (Totals)

In addition to setting a line for the favorite and the underdog, odds-makers will also set a total number of points scored in a game by both teams combined. This is called the total or over/under.

Pickers can then wager on whether the game will go over or under the total. You are not trying to guess the exact score.

Using the same Jazz-Timberwolves example, the game has a total of 229 — slightly above average for an NBA game.

  • If you pick the over, you need 230+ total points

  • If you pick the under, you need 228 total points or fewer

  • If the total points land on 229 exactly, it’s a push and picks are refunded

What Is the -110 Number Listed Below My Pick?

With many picks, you may see two numbers — a spread like -8.5, and then odds below it, like -110.

  • The spread is the margin of victory your team needs to win by

  • The -110 odds are the diamonds you need to pay to pick that spread

Let’s say you’re picking the Timberwolves.

  • The spread is -8.5, to win your pick, you need the Timberwolves to win by 9+ points.

  • The “juice” is -110. You would need to wager 110 diamonds to win 100 diamonds, or 11 diamonds to win 10 diamonds, on that spread.

If you wager 11 diamonds to win 10 diamonds and the Timberwolves win by 14, you will win 10 diamonds. If the Timberwolves win by 3, you will lose 11 diamonds.

Basketball and football spreads will usually be -110 on both sides.

But for something like an MLB spread, where the line is almost always -1.5 for the favorite and +1.5 for the underdog, the juice will differ depending on the gap in ability between the two teams.


Calculating the payout of any wager is very simple, just use the the following method:

If the odds are negative (-110, -400, -1650, etc.), use this formula: ((100/odds) + 1) * wager

Example with $50 wager: (100/110) + 1 = 1.91 (rounded) * $50 = $95.50

If the odds are positive (+110, +275, +1000, etc.), use this formula: ((odds/100) + 1)* wager

Example with $50 wager: (275/100) + 1 = 3.75 (rounded) * $50 = $187.50

Note, this includes the return of your $50 wager.


A parlay bet is a bet placed on multiple outcomes (also called legs) to occur. For a parlay bet to win, all legs within the parlay must be selected correctly. The odds for each pick are multiplied by one another to determine the odds for the parlay.

Here’s the step-by-step process, using a hypothetical $50 wager:

Convert the odds from each leg of your parlay into decimal odds.

If you have a three-leg parlay of -110, -110, and +275, the corresponding equations to convert the decimal adds would be:

(100/110) + 1 = 1.91 (rounded)

(100/110) + 1 = 1.91 (rounded)

(275/100) + 1 = 3.75 (rounded)

Next, multiply these decimal odds by each other. From the example above:

1.19 * 1.19 * 3.75 = 13.68 (rounded)

Now multiply the above answer (13.68) by the dollars wagered $50. The answer: $684. This is the total amount you would receive if you won a $50 three-leg parlay with odds of -110, -110, +275. Note, this includes the return of your $50 wager.


Prop betting, it means a wager made on anything other than a point spread, moneyline, or total. Common football props include:

  • Will there be a score in the first quarter of the game?

  • Will either team score three unanswered times?

  • Will Patrick Mahomes throw an interception?