How to Bet on the 2023 CFL Season

Learn everything you need to know about betting on the CFL, including how to read football odds, different ways to bet on CFL games, and strategies.

Jun 3, 2023 • 05:43 ET • 4 min read
Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros CFL
Photo By - USA Today

CFL betting has a lot in common with betting on football in general, but there are some key differences to keep in mind when betting on football games in Canada. 

The game is quite different, after all. A larger playing surface, three downs as opposed to four, and 12 men on the field are just a few things that make it different from the NFL. If you're looking to build a sharper CFL betting strategy to make better CFL picks, here are our best tips for how to bet on Canadian football. 

Betting tips and strategies

Sportsbooks tend to pour over data and analyze every angle of football odds in the NFL. The CFL has a much smaller market presence, and its odds tend to have much softer lines that can prove profitable for an informed bettor.

Breaking down the best ways to bet on CFL odds takes time, insight, and experience. However, these are some simple football betting tips to point you in the right direction.

Analyze the matchups Analyze the matchups

Analyzing matchups between teams is where handicapping any team sport starts. Weigh the offensive and defensive strengths of each team and see how they've been playing in recent games. The CFL is a small nine-team league, so the matchup history between teams is always significant. You can find all that info on our CFL matchup pages.

Bet on underdog success early in the season Bet on underdog success early in the season

With so much roster and personnel turnover in the CFL, it can be extremely tough to predict how teams will perform from one season to the next. With so much uncertainty at the start of the year that puts plenty of betting value on taking the underdogs with the points. Since 2006 underdogs have been 149-94-2 against the spread in the first four weeks of the season — an impressive 61.3 percent win rate.

Take the Unders early Take the Unders early

Taking the Over on CFL games has been a betting trap for years. There have been more Overs than Unders in just one CFL season since 2005, and the Under is 630-524-15 (54.6 percent win rate) in all regular-season games over the last 17 years (as far back as our CFL database goes).

Unders have gone 21-11 in Week 1 since 2014. Generally avoid betting Overs early in the regular season, as teams take a while to gel on offense. And remember to keep track of CFL betting trends. 

That said, the CFL made a few rule changes ahead of the 2022 season meant to improve flow and increase offense. That saw the totals for all Week 1 games surge by as many as 4.5 points from their opening number. 

Football The special teams X-factor

Special teams are always an X-factor in football. It impacts the game on an even greater level in the Canadian version. In 2022 NFL teams had 1.75 punt returns and 1.86 kick returns per game on average, while in the CFL, teams averaged 4.23 punt returns and 4.19 kick returns per game.

With fewer downs, punting is more common, and the CFL has no fair-catch rule, but the kicking team must leave a five-yard cushion around the returner when they receive the kick. When trying to figure out which team has an edge, don't forget to evaluate their return games and kick coverage units.

Scout The Schedule Keep track of splits

Thanks to a wealth of online information, finding out home/away and first-half/second-half splits for the NFL is easy. For a fringe sport like the CFL, don't expect those kinds of analytics to be easily accessible even at a comprehensive database for CFL stats.

Thankfully, there are never more than four CFL games per week, so you can keep track of those splits yourself. Spreadsheets are king, but paper and pen work too. Keep track of home/away splits for teams and see how teams score and defend in different quarters and halves of games.

For example, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers defense was unbelievably dominant during the second half of games in 2021. This trend made them a profitable play to back in live betting during the second half although they faced some massive first-half spreads as favorites.

Bet the best number< Bet the best number

Shopping around at different top sportsbooks and football betting apps to get the best CFL odds is crucial for wagering on any sport. It's more critical for CFL betting where early money (and sharp money) can move a line quickly in one direction. 

Identify which way you're leaning early in the week when odds come out at your sportsbooks and try to get a feel for where the cash will flow. If you think you're leaning towards the contrarian side of a line, it's often wise to wait since that line will likely get better closer to kickoff. 

However, if you feel like the steam will go in the direction you are leaning, it's a bright idea to get your bets in early so you can get the best odds possible.

Watch for injuries Watch for injuries

Due to the physical nature of football, injuries can have a large influence on the CFL betting odds.

Closely follow injury news and updates. Injuries to key positions like QB, running backs, and receivers can shift lines throughout the week, and books are often slower to respond to CFL breaking news than with more marquee leagues.

Watch the weather Watch the weather

With the colder climate (and earlier snowfall) north of the border, the weather will be an important factor to keep an eye on later in the season.

Weather can have a major influence on the final results of a game. Rain and snow can play a big part in how teams perform, but the wind is the most disruptive element to play in and can influence passing and kicking.

Keeping an eye on the forecast for the week and which games could be played in poor conditions.

CFL bet types and odds 

Just like wagering on the NFL and NCAA football, there are plenty of CFL odds you can bet on. Here is a quick breakdown of some of the most common CFL wagers you can make.

Point spread

A point spread or "spread" is the most common way of betting aside in a CFL game and is a number created by oddsmakers to level the field between two teams. The favourite will be designated with a minus (-) sign in front of the number and will need to win by more than that number to cover the spread and win the bet. The underdog will have a positive (+) number and need to either win outright or lose by fewer points than the number to win your bet. If the final score differential is exactly the same as the point spread, your bet will "push" and you’ll get your money back.

Team Spread
Chiefs Calgary Stampeders -3.5
Chiefs Toronto Argonauts +3.5

In the above example, oddsmakers have set a point spread for a game between Calgary and Toronto at 3.5. Calgary has been designated the favourite at -3.5. Calgary will need to win by more than 3.5 points to cover the spread, while Toronto just needs to win or be within 3.5 points in a loss to cover the spread.


Totals, also known as Over/Under bets, are a type of bet that involves wagering on the total combined score of both teams in a game. Bettors place a bet on whether the combined score will be higher or lower than a projected number set by oddsmakers.

Total score Odds
Over 52.5 +105
Under 52.5 -115

In the above example, bettors would wager on whether the total combined score of a game would be Over or Under 52.5 points. The oddsmakers have made the Under the slight favourite in this case with odds of -115 as opposed to the standard -110.


The most common way of betting on sports in general, moneyline betting, simply involves betting on which side will win. However, the payout will vary depending on a team's chances of winning. 

Team Odds
Chiefs Calgary Stampeders -170
Chiefs Toronto Argonauts +150

For example, if the Calgary Stampeders are -170 favourites against the Toronto Argonauts, who are +150 underdogs, you would need to bet $170 on the Stampeders to win $100. But if you wagered $100 on the Argos and they pulled off the upset win, you would profit $150.

Player props

Prop bets are fun alternatives to more traditional bet types, and many sportsbooks offer a wide variety of proposition betting markets, including props on specific player performances and outcomes.

While CFL player props aren't quite as easy to find as NFL player props, they will occasionally hit the betting board, especially for more significant matchups. The most common player props are Over/Unders and Yes/No propositions for individual players. Examples of player props include betting the Over/Under on total passing yards for a QB or wagering on which player will score the game's first touchdown.

Bo Levi Mitchell total passing yards

Team Odds
Over 275.5 yards -110
Under 275.5 yards -110


Futures betting involves placing wagers on longer-term events such as who will win the Grey Cup or the CFL's Most Outstanding Player Award. Futures odds will usually come out just before the season begins and will shift throughout the season as contenders emerge and others play poorly.

Differences between the CFL and the NFL

There are few rule differences between the NFL and the CFL that bettors need to know before they place a bet.

Three downs instead of four

Having one fewer down makes running the ball a distant second-fiddle to the passing game in the CFL. Elite running backs can still make a difference but don't expect anything close to a 55/45 pass/run ratio (although given the current aerial attacks in the NFL, that might not seem so different after all).

A longer and wider field, and with larger end zones 

Canadian football fields are 10 yards longer and about 15 yards wider, while the end zone is 10 yards deeper. The goalposts are on the goal line in the CFL as opposed to the end line in the United States.  

The 12th man is on the field, not in the stands

The CFL has 12 players on the field for each team as opposed to 11. There are no tight ends while offenses employ a pair of slot receivers, fittingly enough called slotbacks. On defence, teams utilize a pair of slot defensive backs called halfbacks and have just one safety over the top.  

In the Canadian game, all offensive backfield players and receivers (except the quarterback) are allowed unlimited motion before the snap, provided that they remain more than one yard behind the line of scrimmage. This is yet another rule that encourages offense.

In addition to touchdowns, converts, field goals, and safeties, another scoring method in the CFL is a single, also known as a rouge. A single point is awarded when a team kicks a ball through the end zone but doesn't score a convert or field goal, and the opposing team is unable to return the ball out of its end zone.

Ready to bet on the CFL? Try a free-to-play contest

Not sure if you're quite ready to bet on football north of the border? Well, you can try your luck with the King of Covers 2023 CFL contest for the chance to win cash and prizes. And once you get a feel for it, you can start placing real money CFL bets at the best sportsbooks in your region.      

Best CFL sportsbooks for beginners

There are a ton of online sportsbooks that can be a bit overwhelming, but our team of betting experts has researched them all to find the best sportsbooks in your area.

If you’re betting on the CFL from the Great White North, most of the top sportsbooks in Canada will offer odds and props on CFL games. Those in the US will want to browse the best sportsbooks in the U.S. and most of these will also offer a solid betting menu for CFL games.  

CFL betting forum

Want to discuss CFL betting with other football fans? Check out Covers' CFL betting forum to get picks, ask questions, and chat with a huge community of experienced sports bettors.

Instant Replay: How to bet on the CFL

If you're just getting started with your CFL betting, keep these points in mind: 

  • While there are a few key rule differences between the CFL and NFL, they are both very similar games with similar betting options and strategies.
  • Fringe sports and leagues tend to have softer lines from oddsmakers who don't spend as much time analyzing every angle. This can create plenty of opportunities for a savvy sports bettor. 
  • The CFL has a lot of personnel turnover, so continuity and consistency are key to getting betting value. 

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