About 118 million Americans bet on sports every year. The Super Bowl, March Madness, and the Kentucky Derby are all big sporting events made even bigger by the amount of wagers placed on them. And with the advent of mobile betting, you can place bets while sitting in a bar with a group of buddies.

What kind of bets are these people placing? If you’re new to the game, getting started can be confusing. But when betting on an individual game, there are three simple ways get in the action, and that’s through the moneyline, spread, and total.



The moneyline is as straightforward as betting gets. Simply pick the team or player you think will win and back that up with a wager. When looking at moneyline odds, you’ll see a number that indicates how much you’ll be paid if your bet wins.

A negative (–) sign accompanies the favorite (the stronger team) and denotes how much you have to bet to win a $100. For example, let’s say the Cleveland Indians are –160 favorites over the Texas Rangers, who are +140 on the moneyline. To bet on the Indians, you’d have to stake $160 to win $100. You don’t necessarily have to bet $100, you can alternatively stake $16 to win $10, or $1,600 to win $1,000.

Betting on the underdog pays more because the team has a lower chance of winning. If you want to bet on the Rangers in the aforementioned game, you’d win $140 from a $100 bet.



Similar to betting on the moneyline, the spread involves picking a team to win. But unlike the moneyline, the spread requires the favored team to win by a certain margin for your bet to pay. This kind of bet is referred to as a runline for MLB and puckline for NHL.

Let’s use the same Rangers-Indians example. Cleveland is the favorite and –1.5 on the runline, so they have to do more than just win, they have to win by at least two points – otherwise, the Rangers (+1.5 on the runline) win the bet. The Rangers get a head start, as indicated by their positive (+) betting odds.



Just as popular as betting on the moneyline and spread, is betting on the total. Instead of picking a winning team, you try to predict if the combined score of both teams will be higher or lower than the oddsmaker’s prediction.

Let’s say the total for the Cleveland and Texas game is 9. You decide if you think the actual total is going to be over or under 9. If the score ends up being 9 exactly, the result is a push, and your bet will be returned to you.

Watching the game is so much more exciting when you’ve got a bet riding on your favorite team, and now that you know the three most popular ways to bet on sports, you can join the other 118 million Americans as they bet on their favorite games.