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How to Place a Bet on a Football Game

By Contributing Writer

There are many casual football fans who are certain they can beat the point spreads and win a bunch of money. While actually winning on consistent basis is incredibly difficult, placing a bet shouldn't be. Here's how to get started.

Get some money together. The amount is up to you. Professional sports bettors might bet an average of $20,000 per game. Many online sportsbooks accept wagers as low as $1. So really, it's your call, although $100 is usually a good starting point for a novice gambler.

Find an outlet to place your bets. If you live in or near Las Vegas, you don't have to go far to find a sportsbook. However, if you don't live in a city with legalized sports betting, there are other options. You could contact a bookie, an individual who takes wagers just as a sportsbook would, or you could bet online. There are many websites that offer betting on football games (see Resources).

After selecting an outlet (an online account probably being the easiest to manage), you are now ready to wager on football. There are many types of wagers available, the most basic and commonly bet being the point spread wager. In every football game, one team is favored over another. So if a weak team (let's say the Miami Dolphins) is playing a strong team (New England Patriots), the Patriots would be favored to win. Let's say they are favored by 7 points. You have two options here: (1) Bet the Patriots and hope they win by more than 7 or (2) bet the Dolphins and hope they don't lose by more than 7. If the Patriots win by exactly 7, it's a "push" and you get your money back.

If you want to bet the Patriots and you're in a casino sportsbook, approach a betting window and say, "I'd like the Patriots at minus 7 for 10 dollars, please." Unless the line has suddenly moved (to say, -6.5 or -7.5) the teller will confirm your bet and give you a slip of paper indicating your wager. Hold on to that ticket because if you win, you'll be cashing it in. If you're betting online, you simply log in to your site, go to the "football" tab, click the box next to the Patriots, enter your wager, and click "Place Bet." Most sites ask you to click a box to confirm your bet. The money is immediately deducted from your account, but if you win you are paid the amount of your bet plus your winnings.

Right now you're probably thinking to yourself, "Wow, this is easy! I could definitely go at least 50 percent." Therein lies the problem. No sportsbook (in Vegas, online, or anywhere else) will pay you even money for a wager. So in the aforementioned hypothetical game, regardless of which team you took, your $10 bet would not win you $10. Instead, you'd only receive a $9.09 profit, because of the 10 percent rake the sportsbook takes. Therefore, if you truly want to make $10, you have to bet $11. This is called the "house advantage," and is the principle reason why sportsbooks earn money. Going 50 percent for the season means you lose. You need to do better than 53 percent to break even.

So they take all your money if you lose and keep a little for themselves even when you win. Doesn't seem fair, does it? Well, it's not, so you're going to have be smart to win. Betting 10 games every Sunday is not the way to win in the long run. It's much wiser to choose 2 to 4 games you are confident in and bet those. Try to go 2 and 1 and make a small profit instead of attempting the near impossible. Also, if you don't like one particular team, there are other bets offered, such as the over/under, in which you bet whether the total points in the game will exceed a certain number or not.

Stay within your limits. Unless you're a very wealthy person, betting a large amount of money is not wise. Gambling, like drinking, can become an addiction, and a costly one at that. There's nothing wrong with setting a little money aside for gambling (it is, after all, entertainment) but never bet more than you can afford to lose. Remember, there's no such thing as a guaranteed winner when it comes to sports betting.

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