What do the Plus (+) and Minus (-) Signs Mean in Sports Betting?

by Big Al Staff

What do the plus (+) and minus (-) signs mean in sports betting?


As a sports bettor, you probably have seen loads of different ways to display odds.  And it varies country-by-country.  In American sports betting, the industry standard is the use of the plus sign and the minus sign.  These signs can tell a bettor a lot about the outcome of their bet, but that's just a little teaser.  There's way more to take into consideration as a sports bettor.  In this article, we'll guide you through the ins and outs of sportsbooks, betting lines, and ways to optimize your payout!

What kind of odds are there?

Let's start by recounting all the possible ways to display odds.  Bookmakers across the world use the following types of odds:

  • Fractional odds
  • Decimal odds
  • American odds

The fractional odds use either a slash or a hyphen to display their odds: 4/1 or 4-1.  The decimal odds show the number that you can use to calculate the total amount of money you win:  for example, 4.98.  Since our focus lies on the meaning of the plus sign and the minus sign, we focus on the American odds.  These are also called the moneyline odds, as lots of sports bettors use this odds type for their moneyline bets.

In every matchup, there are two teams:  the underdog and the favorite.  Let's take the most crucial match in the NFL -- the Super Bowl -- to illustrate.  In 2020, the San Francisco 49ers played against the Kansas City Chiefs.  This NFL game was the final game of the season, and there was no clear favorite.  Still, the oddsmakers have to choose which party is the underdog, and which is the favorite.  The moneyline odds for Super Bowl 54 at BookMaker sportsbook looked like this:

  • San Francisco 49ers +111
  • Kansas City Chiefs -130

In this example, the 49ers carried the plus sign and were, therefore, the underdog.  The Chiefs took the minus sign and were, hence, the favorite.  Since both numbers behind the plus and minus signs were close to 100, you could tell that both teams were a close match for each other.  With odds like this, you could have expected a game full of fireworks.

What kind of bets can I make with American odds?

Once you understand the meaning of the signs that you see a lot across the sports betting landscape, it's time to dive into practical matters.  It should be clear that with the American odds, you can make way more bets than simply the moneyline bets.  We want to show a few of the most popular examples and point out how to calculate your potential payout.  The kind of bets you can start wagering on today are:

  • Moneyline bet
  • Point spread bet
  • Over/Under bet
  • Other types of bets

How to make a moneyline bet with American odds
We slightly went into the moneyline bets already, but we want to provide a deeper understanding of this type of bet.  To calculate your payout for a moneyline bet, you should know that the holy number is 100 dollars.  To show this in practice, we'll take an NBA game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors.  Let's imagine Bill from Las Vegas wants to place a bet on this match.  The odds are as follows:

  • Los Angeles Lakers -250
  • Golden State Warriors +210

In this example, the Los Angeles Lakers are the favorite, while the Warriors are the underdog.  Now, if we want to calculate our winnings, let’s use the assumption that our bet is 100 dollars.  If you bet $100 on the Warriors, you profit $210 over and above the initial stake of $100.  If you bet $100 on the Lakers, you profit $40 over and above the initial stake of $100.  So, to actually PROFIT $100 with the Lakers bet, you would need to wager $250.

When is a moneyline bet straight up?
In moneyline betting, two terms are prevalent:  a bet can be straight up, or you can make a straight bet.  Straight bets are types of betting wagers on a single sporting event that carries a point spread, the final score of a game, moneyline, run line or puck line.  You might wonder, doesn't that cover basically all games?  The difference here is that a bet is only straight up when it regards a single sporting event -- the bet should not cross multiple games.  This term is very common across moneyline bets as they always regard a single game.

How to make a point spread bet with American odds
The point spread bet is there to give bettors the possibility to bet on any kind of match, no matter the skill difference between the two teams.  You bet on the difference in the number of points between the two teams.  For example, let’s use an illustration of an NBA game between the San Antonio Spurs against the Philadelphia 76ers.  The odds might look like this:

  • San Antonio Spurs +1.5
  • Philadelphia 76ers -1.5

In this example, the negative number indicates the favorite, while the positive number indicates the underdog.  Let's say you bet on the Spurs to cover the spread.  For your bet to be successful, the 76ers need to win by at least 2 points.  If not, the gamblers who bet the point spread on the Spurs would win.  The plus and minus sign are predictive of which team is more likely to win the game, straight-up.  Of course, when the point spread is taken into account, the favorite and the underdog will each have close to a 50% chance of covering the spread.

How to make an over/under bet with American odds
The over/under bet is very easy to explain.  Sports bettors put their money on the final score of the match.  Let's take an NFL match between the New England Patriots and the Detroit Lions.  The American odds could look like this for this game:

  • Over 45 +130
  • Under 45 -150

In this case, it's favored that the final score of the match will be less than (“under”) 45 points.
In this case, you should look out for the relative offensive and defensive capabilities of both teams.  This is one of the most straightforward bets to understand, but it can be tough to predict.

How to make a parlay bet and a prop bet with American odds
Anyone who places sports wagers now and then is open to taking a risk.  You are wagering your money on the outcome of an event that's insecure.  But some bettors take on more risk than others.  For example, a single bet generally has a greater probability of success than a parlay bet, which offers higher payouts for the additional risk.  To show a couple of examples, this is what a parlay bet could look like using American odds:

  • Match 1: LA Rams -109
  • Match 2: LA Kings +104
  • 2-team Parlay odds: +292

Let's say you place a wager of $100.  Your potential payout would be $392 based on the odds of the two individual wagers.  It's a risky situation as both your bets need to be successful, but it could bring you big rewards in return.  With parlay bets, you should always be cautious of not betting on too many matches at once.  It’s one thing to have success predicting two or three matches, but to try to predict four out of four (or more) is quite a longshot.  Still, if you enjoy parlay bets, then you should join BetAnySports, as its parlay and teaser odds are the best in the online sportsbook industry.  Now, there are other types of bets that are available for those who enjoy taking risks.  Two examples could be:

  • Proposition bets -- You wager on the probability that Stephen Curry makes more than five three-point goals
  • Futures bet -- You wager on the New York Jets to win the Super Bowl before the start of the season

What is the best sportsbook for American odds?

No matter where you are in the United States, there are dozens of sportsbooks out there ready to take your bets.  You could choose to go for brick-and-mortar bookies or pick one of the many online options.  Don't forget about the in-game betting option, also known as live betting.  It allows you to bet on outcomes in sporting events throughout the game, not just before it starts.  To pick your favorite sportsbook, we have a short checklist to use:

  1. Which bookmakers offer a nice welcome bonus?
  2. Which bookmakers have the highest wagering limits?
  3. Which bookmakers have the best deposit and withdrawal methods?
  4. Which bookmakers offer the best odds on straight bets, parlays and teasers?
  5. Which bookmakers deliver a smile on your face in terms of user experience?

As you can see, there are a lot of factors, and not every factor is important to every bettor.  If you want a great sign-up bonus, then you might go with BetNow or BetUS.  But if you want to bet $10,000 on an NFL game, then BookMaker should be your sportsbook.  And if you’re looking for the best user experience, then Bovada would be your best choice.  Of course, most gamblers join multiple sportsbooks so they can shop the lines, and win even more money.  When you find a sportsbook that best suits your needs, you’ll have nothing that's holding you back from making some incredible bets!  Do your research and, as always: happy betting!

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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