What is a Point Spread?

Spread Betting | A guide to betting point spreads

You’ve got an abundance of options when you’re looking to bet on sports. There’s moneylines, point spreads, totals, parlays, futures and more. But what are point spreads, and how do you figure out which spread to bet?

A point spread bet is basically your usual moneyline bet with an added equalizer. So, if a moneyline bet has you betting on the absolute outcome, a point spread bet has you bet on the outcome with caveats that make the bet that much more enticing.

Say you’re betting on a one sided match, and you just kind find the odds you’re looking for. Well, a spread bet gives the losing team a margin to lose by, and if they lose by less or get a win, the result is a loss for the bettor. We’ll discuss the mechanics further later on.

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How to bet the spread | Point spread odds explained

A point spread basically outlines a range an individual or team must reach to satisfy the bet. In gridiron football it’ll be called the point spread, while in baseball it’ll be referred to as the runline. In sports like cricket, a spread bet will have many implications, from a team total, to an individual batsman’s score. But an individual achievement isn’t a spread bet per se. A spread bet will give an advantage to the underdog team, and if the underdog team manages to at least lose by less than the spread amount, it means a victory for anyone who bet on the underdog.

Point spread odds

Point spread odds are calculated just the same as any other bet. Positive odds tell you the amount you’re going to receive in case of a successful 100 dollar bet, while negative odds tell you the amount you’d have to bet to win 100 dollars. So (-150) means you’d have to bet $150 to win $100, while (+150) means you’d win $150 for betting $100.

Evening the odds | Making bets more competitive (and lucrative)

So in an ordinary betting scenario, you’ll have to take your pick between the underdog and the favorite, and between both there’s a definite gulf. Either you pick the risky bet in order to maximize your potential winnings, or you pick the safe bet and cash out with your small reward. There’s no real way for you to balance risk and reward – you have to decide on which one of the two you favor.

A point spread bet helps level the playing field.

Say you’re placing a moneyline bet for the Green Bay Packers. They’re fan favorites for the match against the LA Chargers, and the odds just aren’t enticing enough for you to bet your fancy. But then you take a look at the spread.

So the books say that the Packers should win by at least 7 points. Now that’s quite the winning margin. Since you didn’t expect the Chargers to lose by that many points, you start rethinking your bet.

That’s precisely the intent behind a point spread. Not every fixture or game is a nail biter, and bookmakers have to figure out ways to draw in bets. So instead of bets on the outcome, you field bets on the amount of runs, points, or goals a team is going to win by.

As an example, let’s take a look at our two competitors. So the Packers are expected to win by 7 points. By way of some decisive, defensive plays, the Chargers manage to restrict their opponents to a 3 point win. While this would mean a loss on a moneyline bet, a point spread bet on the chargers would still result in winnings.

In baseball, point spread bets are instead called runline bets, and the run difference is constant at 1.5 runs. For sports like basketball and football, the point spread varies with each game. In the NFL, heavy favorites may have anywhere between a 6 – 12 point disadvantage, while regular fixtures will see a 2 – 6 point difference between the winning and losing side.

Point spread betting strategy

If you have a mind to maximize your winnings while betting on point spreads, you’ll have to learn how to identify odds that most betray a particular game.

Say, for example, that a game between the Patriots and the Cardinals has the spread at 9 points in favor of the Patriots. While betting on such a high difference might be risky in most cases, you know that the Cardinals’ three best defensive tackles are going to be sitting the next game out. This means a greater chance for the Patriots to break through, and therefore a greater chance for a bet on the patriots to be successful. On the other hand, the added disadvantage for the Cardinals might push people to bet more, when a sizable 9 point win is unlikely to begin with. They may just edge out their competition by losing by only eight points, and while the points table might list that as a loss, plenty of bettors that evening will go home happy.

This is why point spread bets draw in such high numbers. They’re enticing for both avid bettors and avid sports fans; and by affording the likely losers a handicap, they have the ability to make any bet more competitive. There’s always room for an upset when you’re counting on the winning team to keep pushing despite an assured victory.

Point spread betting FAQ

Are point spread bets good?

Absolutely. If you have the right strategy down, you can make tons off of point spread betting.

Is betting on the underdog a good point spread betting strategy?

Actually, yes! Depending on how you research your bets, you can make a killing off of betting on the underdog. Just last season, the majority of point spreads ended up going to the underdog in the NFL.

Can point spread bets be part of a parlay?

Yes they can. point spread bets can be parlayed with other similar bets or combination of other bets. Consult your sportsbook for details.