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NFL Football Betting History & Stats

The National Football League (NFL) is the undisputed champion of sports betting in the US marketplace. Pro football betting draws more money than any other sport, and the annual Superbowl game is the biggest single annual sporting event among US facing books and second only to the soccer Champions’ League final worldwide. Pro football betting is such a ubiquitous part of American popular culture that pointspreads have become part of the common lexicon and are discussed by people who have never placed a bet in their lives. In Nevada, the significance of NFL betting is staggering—approximately 40% of all sports betting action written in the Silver State is wagered on the NFL and the Super Bowl by far is the biggest single betting event in the state.

The current version of the NFL dates back to 1922 when the eleven team American Professional Football Association changed its name to the National Football League. A merger with the rival American Football League (AFL) was finalized in 1970, and the league started to resemble the current day incarnation. A number of expansion teams have been added during the past four decades taking the NFL to a total of thirty-two teams divided into two conferences — the American Football Conference (AFC) and National Football Conference (NFC).

The NFL regular season begins in early September and runs through the first week of January with each team playing 16 games. The playoffs begin the following week, culminating in the Super Bowl one month later. Sports betting enthusiasts anxious to get an early start can bet on NFL preseason games, which begin in early August. Preseason games can be tricky to handicap, but are an increasingly popular betting event. At one point they were considered ‘easy pickings’ by sharp NFL betting experts but the linemakers have caught up to the ‘wise guys’ and the lines for exhibition NFL games are much tighter than they used to be. Even NFL preseason totals are becoming much more accurate, a testimony to the expertise and professionalism of the bookmaking community.

Pointspread bets are by far the most popular way to bet on NFL games, with players backing a favorite that must win by a certain number of points or the underdog who must win outright or lose by less than that same number. Another popular bet type is the over/under wager on NFL totals, where bettors can predict whether the combined points scored by both teams will go ‘over’ or ‘under’ a predetermined number.

In recent years, the growth of technology in the sports betting marketplace has greatly enhanced the popularity of the ‘in running’ bet. In Nevada, Cantor Gaming—a division of worldwide financial market giant Cantor Fitzgerald—has revolutionized a staid industry with their promotion of in running wagering which allows bettors to not only bet the game throughout the contest at odds that are continually updated due to in-game activity, but allows players to wager on the outcome of every play. This type of betting has become very popular with professional and recreational players alike, and other sports books in Nevada and offshore have rushed to get in on the action.

Another popular form of NFL football betting is the ‘teaser’ wager. This type of bet allows the player to modify the pointspread/total by a certain number of points (eg: 7, 8 or 9 points). Thus a -10 favorite can be ‘teased’ to a -3 favorite. The catch is that the player must ‘tease’ at least two games and win them both for the bet to cash. Furthermore, the bet requires the player to lay a minus (favorite) moneyline, usually -120. By contrast, a parlay with the same number of teams will pay back at ‘plus money’. There’s considerable debate on the desirability of playing teasers. Some ‘sharp’ players suggest that it can be a very valuable weapon in trained hands, while others suggesting that the teaser is the province of ‘squares’ and a virtual ‘sucker bet’.

The distant cousin to the teaser bet, the parlay is a popular form of not only NFL betting but in all betting sports. The player can parlay a number of propositions into a single bet with a payout that increases by the number of betting interests. For example, two team parlays typically pay out at 13/5, 3 team parlays at 6/1 and so forth. Typically, the eight team parlay is the maximum allowed though some books will accept bets for bigger ones. An eight team parlay pays at odds of 150/1 at most sports books.
Some sports books also offer a wide range of contests on NFL football. In Las Vegas, the most famous of these is the Hilton Super Contest where players pony up a $1,500 entry fee to select five NFL sides a week against the spread. The winner of the contest will pocket over a quarter million dollars. Other contests are free to enter with lower prices or are single game contests similar to office pools.

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