Live NFL Betting Explained

Live-betting is on the come-up across many professional sports, but especially in the NFL. Football is the most popular sport on which to gamble, with the situational exception of Soccer, which can dominate the discussion depending on the time of year. In North America specifically, there is no substitute for the NFL. So if you're going to bet on one of the world's biggest sports, it's time to familiarize yourself with the mushrooming merits of live wagers.

What Is Live Betting?

When most people use online sportsbooks, they focus on big-picture wagers, such as championship bets, or single-game outcomes using the moneyline, spread or over/under. They may also sniff around the prop bets section, which provides off-beat wagering options that typically pertain to an outcome with a game's actual outcome. In the NFL's case, such a bet would include the over/under on the number of yards Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers throws for in a mid-December road game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Live bets are like a glorified prop. You are still betting on single-game outcomes, but you are making those investments after the competition in question has started. The best sportsbooks will have pages dedicated to all the games, updating the spread, moneyline and over/under in real-time, so that you can place a bet pretty much whenever there's a stoppage in play.

There will also be organic points during every game in which you needn't make decisions as quickly. Betting at the end of each quarter allows sportsbook to hold their mid-game lines for a touch long—particularly during halftime, when you'll have up to half an hour or so, and longer during Super Bowls, to get your mid-stream investments in. 

Different Types Of Live Bets

Spread Bets

Moneyline, spread and over/under wagers are considered the Big Three of betting. They're the most popular investments people make.

Among these three, spread wagers receive more attention than the other two. You're not so much betting on the outcome of the game—or quarters and halves (more on this later)—as you are the margin of victory or loss.

For our purposes, let's say the Tennessee Titans are +6.5 underdogs in a matchup with the Carolina Panthers. Betting on them equates to saying they'll lose by six or fewer points, or that they'll pull off the upset. On the flip side, taking the Panthers at -6.5 stipulates they will win by seven points or more.

Though this final-game line will move throughout the contest itself, the same rules apply. Underdog spread bets are still investments in Tennessee losing by a closer margin than projected or outright winning. Favorite spread bets on the Panthers mandate they win by whatever number the line is at.

Moneyline Bets

Moneyline bets are probably the second-most popular wager type among the Big Three, in no small part because they're as straightforward as it gets. You're betting on the outcome, a winner or loser, and nothing else.

Sticking with the theoretical Titans-Panthers matchup, a bet on the underdog entails investing in a higher payout. Taking the Titans at a +200 means you'd would net $200 for every $100 you bet. Rolling with the favorite doesn't provide as much of a return. For this argument, if the Panthers are a -200, you need to wager $200 just to win $100. 

This concept doesn't change whether you're betting before or during the game. Moneyline wagers are for those who want to choose the winner of game, with no strings attached.

Over/Under Bets

Over/under bets have nothing to do with the winning or losing side specifically. You're focusing on the total score between the two participating teams.

If the threshold for the Titans-Chiefs game is 36.5, a bet for the under states both squads will combine for 36 points or fewer, while a commitment to the over says they will hit 37 points or surpass it.

Broken-record style: This logic will not change when wagering on the over/under as a live bet. The lines will change more frequently, deviating according to the ebbs and flows of the game, but you will be striving to predict the total-scoring benchmark no matter what.

Live Props

Live prop betting varies by sportsbook and the competition. Regular-season NFL games might not have as robust of a selection, but there is usually a small pool from which to choose. Mid-game props will invariably increase in popularity once the postseason rolls around as well.

Prop bets offer solid respite from the typical moneyline, spread and over/under wagers. They're more creative—off-the-beaten path, if you will. Soldiering on with our Titans-Panthers hypothetical, here would be some examples of mid-game props you might see and consider:

  • Over/under on the number of yards quarterback Cam Newton throws for by the end of the second quarter
  • Which Titans receiver will make the first catch of the second half?
  • Which player will have the most rushing attempts in the fourth quarter?
  • Will the Titans defense have an interception in the second half?
  • Will either the Panthers or Titans win a coach's challenge in the third quarter?

Once more, these are just some possibilities we've stumbled across in the past. There will be others. That's the beauty of prop betting. You will find versatility in the variety. Definitely consider entering the mid-game props fold if you're bored with the usual forms of betting. 

Entire Game Outcomes

These are the bets in which you're making a wager after the game is underway and predicting the entire outcome in some form. 

For example, let's say the Minnesota Vikings are playing host to the New Orleans Saints and you decide to sneak in a bet at halftime for the Vikings' spread of -3. You're not hedging against them outscoring the Saints by more than three points in the final two quarters alone. You're effectively betting that they'll win the entire game by three or more points. 

Segmented Bets

As we alluded to in the above section, not all live bets will be geared toward predicting the final result of a game. You will have the option of betting on outcomes by the quarter and half.

Let's continue with our Vikings and Saints hypothetical. Here are some examples of what segmented live-game wagers could look like:

  • Four minutes have passed in the first quarter. You could have the ability to bet on a team's spread—say, the Vikings at -2—for the rest of the period. This would mean you're banking on Minnesota outscoring New Orleans by more than two points by the end of the first quarter alone.
  • It's halftime. The Vikings and Saints are knotted up at 21 points apiece in what seems like it's shaping up to be a high-scoring affair. Sportsbooks will allow you bet on the over/under for total points scored by both teams through the final two periods. For instance, if they set the second-half over/under at 34.5, an investment in the under says the Saints and Vikings will combine for 34 points or fewer in the third and fourth quarters. Meanwhile, betting on the over wagers against the opposite; you'd be predicting that Minnesota and New Orleans score 35 or more points between them across the final two quarters.
  • The third quarter has ended. The Vikings are leading the Saints 35-28. You believe New Orleans will score more points than Minnesota in the fourth quarter but won't win. You'll have two mid-game options at this stage: Invest in the Vikings to win the entire thing, either via the spread or moneyline, or you can strictly bet on the fourth quarter spread or moneyline in favor of the Saints. In this case, taking the Saints at a -110 to win the final frame is different from taking their moneyline to win an entire game.

It's important to understand the difference in segmented bets compared to final results. They are games within the actual game. Remember: You don't need to concern yourself with the eventual winner, just the quarter or half you are focusing on.

Everything we've just said applies to segmented props as well. Continuing with our Saints and Vikings example, you might be able to bet the over/under on the number of passing yards that quarterback Kirk Cousins racks up by the end of the game, or for a specific quarter or half alone.

Benefits Of NFL Live Betting

Beyond the fact that live bets pleasantly fall into the "something different" category, they also give you an opportunity to correct mistakes. In essence, they make sure no pregame decision needs to be permanent. You can reverse course if you are willing to bet the money.

Should you invest in the Vikings being -3 favorites over the Saints only to see them get blown out of the water in the first quarter, pivoting to a live bet on New Orleans' side (moneyline or spread) could allow you to make up your losses.

Shoot, even the over/under would have value here. If you have already placed a bet on the spread or moneyline and you don't have a feel for who's going to win after kick off, gauging the style of play (low scoring or high scoring) would allow you to offset that relative unpredictability as the game wears on.

When Is Live Betting Best?

While you're free to pretty much use live betting on NFL games as you see fit, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Steering clear of wagers on projected favorites in the middle of competitions is generally a good idea. Moneylines won't pay out all that well when they're delivered mid-stream, and even the odds on certain spreads can be a little undesirable.

Sussing out underdog opportunities is better—specifically if you believe they are going to win. The Saints could enter halftime trailing the Vikings by 14 points, but if you think they have the offensive firepower to turn the outcome in the second half, you'll fetch nice potential gains from the sportsbooks.

None of which means you should be investing haphazardly in underdogs. Only play their moneyline (or spread) if you've seen enough to know that, despite their current deficit, they can still win.

In the event you're looking to branch out, consider using props or segmented wagers that apply only to specific quarters or halves rather than the entire outcome. Those provide you with more options by ensuring you're not tied as tightly to the final result. That in mind, try to get your props in before halftime. Sportsbooks tend to weed out the selection has the game wears on.

Risks Of Live Betting

Fortunately, there's really own one true downfall to making live NFL bets—and for the most part, it's completely within your control to neutralize it.

Make sure you know what you're betting on. Some things tend to get lost in translation when looking specifically at our big three of moneyline picks, spread bets and over/under wagers.

If you see the Vikings are a -8 favorite at halftime over the Saints, ask yourself this before submitting your official ticket: Am I betting on the second-half result alone? Or is this a final-tally bet that stipulates the Vikings will win the game by eight or more points?

Similar misinterpretations happen for the moneyline and over/under as well. People don't always realize they're betting on the outcome of the entire game and not the second half alone (or vice versa). 

Don't fret too much. This sounds more confusing than it will be in practice. Sportsbooks will typically discern betting types on their tickets in extra-clear fashion. You just need to make sure you're reading properly. Submitting one wager when you think you're betting on another is a good way to come up a loser.

Lessons Learned About NFL Halftime Betting

  • Live bets happen at any point after an NFL game has started
  • Live bets can be made on both the final outcome of games and on a quarter-by-quarter or half-by-half basis
  • Betting mid-game moneylines on favorites is overrated
  • Consider instead focusing on opportunistic underdogs and live-bet props
  • Make sure you know what you're betting on before submitting tickets: final-game outcomes or segmented lines