Football Betting Basics

Betting on football can not only be a fun hobby, but it can also be a great way for you to pad your wallet with some extra cash. In fact, if you’re really sharp at picking winners, it’s something that could turn into an additional source of income or even a full-time job as a professional sports bettor. Betting on sports is one of the few things inside the casino walls where skill can actually help you beat the casino.

In the sections below, we’re going to talk you through the most important things that you need to know to get started betting on football. Whether you are looking to bet college football on Friday night or Saturday morning, or the NFL on Sunday, Monday, and Thursday, you’re right where you need to be. The information provided below will give you the full rundown on exactly what you need to not only get started with your first bet but also to do it profitably. Let’s be honest; no one gets into sports betting without the goal of winning.

The Different Types of Football Bets

One of the coolest things about betting on football (NCAA and the NFL) is that you have a lot of variety in the different types of bets you can make. While you may think this perk has a lot to do with counteracting boredom or something like that, you’d be incorrect. A wide variety of bets means that you’re able to fully leverage any and every prediction you might have on how a football game is going to go.

If you were limited to only being able to bet on the winners of a game, any other predictions would be worthless. Have a prediction on how many points are going to be scored? Think you know which individual player is going to have a big game? Got some thoughts on how well the defense is going to perform? While all of these will have some form of indirect effect on the outcome of the game, you may be interested in betting your prediction independent of the game outcome.

What if you think that a receiver or QB is going to have a big game, but you think the team is still going to lose? Without betting flexibility, this prediction is worthless. But thanks to the variety of bets you’re going to see across the board in football, you’re in luck.

The link below will take you to our dedicated page on the different types of football bets that you will see in college football as well as in the NFL. The page will also talk you through the important strategy considerations you need to remember when deciding which bet types you’d like to use.

Types of Bets

The Do’s and Don’ts of Betting on Football

If you’ve navigated yourself to this page, you’re probably looking for some strategic advice on getting started with betting on football. While it’s impossible to learn everything you need to know to be a successful football bettor on day one, there are certainly important things that you should be learning on day one. These pieces of key information will help you to stay pointed in the right direction towards winning, as well as protect you from making any serious mistakes that might cost you a lot of money.

Our experts decided the best way to present this information to you was through a list of do’s and don’ts. You can consider these your golden rules of betting on football. Some of the tips might seem basic, while others might seem advanced. Keep in mind that we are trying to give you every piece of information that our experts think is important for a day one football sports bettor to remember.

If you’re looking for advanced strategy content, definitely check out our dedicated football strategy section after you read through these tips.

Don’t Bet Every Game

The number-one football betting tip that we can give you is also the number-one mistake that new football bettors make. You do not need to and should not be betting every single game. Why? The purpose of betting a football game is to take advantage of the value that you’ve found.

Value is when you are going to get paid out more than you really should be for a particular bet or you are getting more points in your favor than you really should be. For example, let’s say that you’re looking to bet on the Ravens versus the Browns game. The sportsbook offers you a point spread bet of the Ravens -5½, which means that the Ravens have to win the game by at least 5½ points for you to win your bet.

But let’s say that you think the Ravens are way better than the sportsbook thinks, and you think they’re going to win the game by at least 7 points. This would be an example of value. This would also be a great opportunity for you to bet on the Ravens and most likely clean up a nice little profit if your prediction is correct.

Let’s say, though, that maybe you think the -5½ points is pretty close to accurate. You think that the sportsbook is correct, and the Ravens are probably going to win by 5 or 6 points (since you can’t win by half points in the NFL). Should you bet this game?

Definitely not because there is no value to you. When you say that -5½ is correct, you are saying that the score will be the Ravens winning by 5 half the time and the Ravens winning by 6 the other half. This means that when you make this bet, you are going to win 50% of the time.

When you bet spread bets, you typically are paid out at (-110). This means that if you bet games that you are going to win 50% of the time, you will lose money in the long run. A $10 bet at (-110) does not pay out a profit of $10. It pays out a profit of just over $9. The difference is the money the sportsbook keeps as their profit for facilitating the bet.

So, what is the takeaway here?

The takeaway is that you should only bet games where you think there is value, and every single football game is not going to have value. Additionally, your knowledge base is not going to be the same for each team across the board. You may know teams from the SEC really well but be clueless when it comes to teams in the Big 10. If you’re smart, you are going to want to stick to betting the SEC.

Some weeks, this might be only betting a few games (or no games), and some weeks, you might be betting close to the whole schedule. It is all going to depend on how to assess value and what the lines look like that week. Just remember that you should not be betting every single game. Only bet the games where you think there is value or else your profitability is going to suffer.

Do Your Own Research

How many of you have that friend or friends that can rattle off statistics about football teams like it’s their job? Well, it can be tempting to take their data and make your selections based upon it. Here’s the problem. If it’s not actually their job, there is no requirement for them to be correct in their information. People have a tendency to develop tunnel vision when it comes to stats, and they have a tendency to accidentally skew statistics in favor of their argument or only include stats that back up their argument.

If this is your source of data, you are playing with fire. Take the time and do your own research. Not only will this ensure that the data you are using is correct, but it will also ensure that you aren’t incorrectly swayed by your friend’s pick. The whole point of you learning to bet football is for you to be able to create your own predictions. Unless your friend is a highly-successful sports bettor, you should be driving your own picks.

Take the extra time and do your own research. You’ll be really happy you did.

Do Keep Detailed Records of Your Bets

The key to crushing football sports bets is knowing what is working and what is not. The only way that you’re going to be able to properly analyze your betting results is by keeping detailed, accurate, and honest records. Before we discuss what you want to be keeping track of, we want to look at the last part of the last sentence – honest records.

You need to make sure that when you tally up your wins and your losses that you are honest with yourself. Do not exclude bets from your records for whatever silly reason your mind comes up with. Every single bet you make counts no matter what. It doesn’t matter if it was a wild bet you normally don’t make, a bet you made when you were drunk, or just a bet that you think shouldn’t be included. Every bet counts and needs to be tracked honestly.

Now, as for what you are wanting to track, it’s going to be up to you what you think is important. The bare minimums for football bets will be the type of bet, date of the bet, amount of the bet, outcome of the bet, profit and loss from the bet, and your reasoning for picking a particular side of the bet. Putting down your reasoning behind the bet will allow you to analyze later what is working and what is not.

For Example

Let’s say you put down that you think the running attack for a particular team is the reason they are going to win a game and the reason you chose to bet on them. Let’s say that you pick a lot of games based on this same information. Let’s say, though, that you lose all of those bets, and the running offense is completely shut down. When you analyze your records, you’ll be able to see that maybe you need to find a new way to analyze running attacks.

Don’t forget this still works on winning bets as well. Let’s say that for all of those bets, you actually end up winning, but it’s only because the passing attack was great, and the run attack was shut down. Even though you ended up winning, you are still going to need to reassess how you look at run attacks and pick winners. The more detail you put and the more honest you are, the better you’re going to be in the long run.

Do Pay Attention to the Defense as Much as the Offense

This is a simple tip, but one that a lot of novice football bettors forget about. It can be very tempting to only look at the offensive side of the ball when you’re predicting how a game will be going. This is probably because it’s points on the board that determine who the game winner is. The problem, though, is that the cliché that defense wins games is true.

We won’t harp on this one for too long, but just make sure you are taking the time to look at both sides of the ball. Additionally, special teams play a big role in NFL and college football games. Make sure you are looking at the entire picture when you are making your game predictions and picking winners.

Don’t Bet with Your Heart

You’re going to have to ask yourself a serious question when it comes to sports betting on football. Are you betting for entertainment value only or are you betting to turn a profit? If your answer is the latter or a combination of the two, you’re going to need to make sure that you separate logic from your heart.

It is insanely tempting when betting football to bet on the team you want to win. Your mind will want them to win, and your research will be done in a way that tries to validate a bet on them winning the game. As you might imagine, this is detrimental to any potential profit. You need to be approaching games as neutral emotionally as possible.

If this is easier said than done for you, here is a tip. Don’t bet on your favorite team ever. Only bet on teams that you have no emotional attachment to. There are plenty of games in both the NFL and college football every week where you can find value without betting on your favorites. Plus, if you’re looking for entertainment value, you probably aren’t going to need any help getting pumped up for the games your favorite teams are playing in.

Don’t Overreact to the Media

With football being such a mainstream sport, the media coverage is fantastic. Any bit of news or storyline that happens with any team is instantly plastered all over the TV and the internet. While this is great for keeping up to speed with the teams and players, it can also create some issues for sports bettors.

Here’s the problem. The news media is not in the business of finding sports betting value. They’re in the business of entertaining their viewers and maybe picking game winners from time to time. However, they do not care if their picks or their stories are in line with profiting as a football sports bettor. In fact, a lot of the storylines they push and the picks they make are designed to get you excited about a game that is most likely going to be a one-sided affair.

For example, let’s say that two teams are playing in an upcoming football game. The first team is a far superior team and should crush the second team. But let’s say the second team suffered a tragedy like a player dying or something bad happening in their hometown. The news media will likely jump on this story and begin talking about the emotional comeback story. They’ll talk about the team coming together and fighting through the tragedy.

First, this is awesome from an emotional and feel-good standpoint. We don’t want to sound cold like we don’t care about teams rising up against the tragedies of life. However, does this make them any more likely to beat the first team? Probably not. They might play with a bit more emotion, but when it comes down to it, the first team is still better and is still probably going to win the game.

However, the news media isn’t going to say that. They’re going to hype the game up as an emotional victory and chance for the second team to rise above the mess. They’re going to push the narrative about how they’re going to play with so much extra heart. Commentators are probably going to pick them to win in their pre-game selections.

But this does not change the cold, hard facts. The first team is better and is most likely going to win the game. If you let the news media influence your betting picks with emotional stories that don’t change the facts, you’re going to lose a lot of money.

Enjoy the emotional stories and the entertainment value that other stories might bring, but don’t let them into your picks or your wallet.

Don’t Use Useless Statistics

It can be fun to draw crazy parallels between statistics. In fact, it can be a way of discovering opportunities for value or a new betting system. The problem, though, is when people choose to misuse statistics that are nothing more than coincidences. For example, if you hear that the Cowboys had never lost a Monday night game when the weather was above 64 degrees and the Republicans controlled the house, that might be cool, but it should play no part in your betting strategy. For the record, that is not a true fact; we just made it up.

Make sure you know the difference between a useful statistic and one that is just for entertainment value. Yards per play? Very useful. Backyards that the defensive line’s kids have played in? Not so useful. Know the difference and don’t let the wrong stats negatively influence your football betting picks.

Don’t Chase Your Losses

We understand the temptation. You lost a $10 bet. Why would you waste your time with another $10 bet that is just going to get you back to even? The next game is a lock. Why not bet $20 so that you not only get back to even, but you also turn a profit? This is how the dangerous downward spiral of chasing your losses begins.

Here’s what happens. You might win that $20 bet and then go right back to betting $10 a game. But what happens if you lose the $20 bet? You’re now down $30. You might be tempted to bet $40 on the next game to get back to even and turn a small profit. If you lose that bet, you are now down $70. Are you going to bet $80 on the next game? As you can see, it can quickly spiral from betting $10 a game to betting way more than you’re comfortable with.

There is no such thing as a lock in sports betting. There is no football game that you can be 100% sure on. This means that when you go betting amounts you aren’t comfortable losing, you run the risk of losing big and creating problems in your normal life and finances.

Don’t chase your losses. Stick with your betting strategy and stay within the safe limits you set for yourself. If you can’t beat the game with your own limits, betting more money is not going to help you. You’ll always find yourself needing to bet more and more to catch up. Instead of doing that, focus on improving your betting strategy and picking more winners. Yes, getting back to even and turning a profit will be a slower process, but it’s safer and protects the longevity of your sports betting career.


With this information, you should feel confident getting out and making your first football bet or bets. There’s no need to go wild on day one and bet every game for your entire bankroll. Take things slow and work on developing your winning system at a pace you are comfortable with. Remember, the NFL and college football are not going anywhere for a long time. You will have plenty of betting opportunities, so take your time.

That being said, don’t be scared to make that first bet. Even if it’s only for a few bucks, get your feet wet and get into the game. Everything is learned so much easier through experience. If you have real-life betting experience happening while you’re reading our strategy tips, you’re going to learn so much quicker than you would without it.