Favorites vs Underdogs
When oddsmakers put out a betting line on a game, one team is listed as the FAVORITE and the other team is listed as the UNDERDOG. The Favorite is the team that oddsmakers think has a greater chance to win the game while the Underdog has a lesser chance to win the game. If each team has the same odds to win the game, oddsmakers would list this as a PICK.
One way to bet on a game is by betting the SPREAD. Oddsmakers decide an expected winning margin for the Favorite. If you bet the Favorite with the spread, the team needs to win by the listed margin or more for you to win the bet. If you bet the Underdog with the spread, the team only needs to lose by less than the listed margin for you to win the bet. If the final game score falls exactly at the spread, then both sides get their bet retuned. This is called a PUSH.
Example: The Bears are playing the Lions. The Bears are expected to win by 3 points. The spread for this game would be listed as Bears -3 (or Lions +3). If you bet on the Bears -3, you need the Bears to win by more than 3 points to win your bet. If you bet on the Lions +3, you need the Lions to either win (by any score) or lose by less than 3 points to win your bet. If the Bears win by exactly 3 points, both sides take their bets back.
Another way to bet on a Favorite or Underdog is to bet on the Money Line. When you make bet on the Money Line, you are only picking the Winner of the game...the margin of victory is irrelevant. Money LInes are available for all sports, but are more popular for lower scoring sports like Baseball, Hockey and Soccer.
The Favorite would have a negative dollar amount listed while the Underdog would have a positive dollar amount listed. Since Favorites have a greater chance to win, you risk more when betting on them.
Example: The Cubs are a favorite to win against the Pirates. The Money Line would be listed as Cubs -150 (the closer to 100 the number is, the closer the match up is and vice versa). This means that if you bet on the Cubs to win, you risk $150 to win $100. It doesn't matter if they win by 1 run or 10 runs. On the flip side, if the Pirates are listed as +150 Underdogs, you would risk $100 to win $150.
Oddsmakers also set a line based on the total number of points they expect to be scored in a game by both teams combined. This can be referred to as the Total for the game. When placing a bet on the Total, you would pick Over or Under the listed number.
Example: The Total for the Bulls/Bucks game is listed at 212. If you bet Over 212, you win your bet if the combined scores goes above 212. If you bet Under 212, you win your bet if the combined total stays under 212. If the total lands on 212, both sides get their money back (PUSH).