The plus and the minus are key betting indicators in the American odds system, so it’s fundamental for even novice bettors to understand what each one means.
As a general rule, minus signs indicate favorites, and plus signs indicate underdogs.
In an NFL spread market, the meanings for each symbol are straightforward. A minus symbol, such as Chiefs -7, denotes how many points the favorite must win by in order to cover the spread. Conversely, a plus symbol, like Chargers +7, would denote that the Chargers are the beneficiaries of a seven-point spread.
If the point spread ends up being the exact amount of the winning margin, that “tie” is called a push.
NFL odds and symbols become slightly more complicated in the moneyline market. The concept of a moneyline is simple enough, as bettors must simply merely pick the winning team. Because there is no spread, the market yields a reduced payout for favorites and a multiplicative payout for outright underdog wins.
American moneylines are centered around the number 100. A favorite must bet the number after the minus symbol to win $100. On the other end, underdog betting yields whatever number is after the plus on a $100 bet. Bettors who are betting more or less than $100 see their returns grow or shrink at a commensurate rate.
This is one of the most confusing concepts when I do NFL betting explained breakdowns, so let me lay out an example to clarify what this all looks like in person.
Imagine that the Kansas City Chiefs are a -240 moneyline favorite. That means a $240 bet would yield exactly $100, plus the original $240. It also means a $60 bet would yield $25; a $100 bet would yield $41.67; a $500 bet would yield $208.33.
On the other side of the market would be something like Los Angeles Chargers +200. That means a $100 bet yields $200. A $15 bet would yield $30.
Based on the payout structure, let me reinforce what you may already know: Underdogs can be lucrative, and favorites can be deeply disappointing. So if you’re going to regularly rely on big moneyline favorites, at least stick to the best favorite teams in NFL betting.
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