Wagering on the point spread, along with moneyline and over/under betting, is one of the most common types of bet placed in the US.
Even if you’re new to betting and are unaware of what exactly it refers to, you’ve probably heard the phrase “cover the spread” within sports betting circles. Alternatively, you may have witnessed someone get ecstatic after a seemingly inconsequential fourth-quarter touchdown in a seemingly already-decided game.
There’s a reason for this popularity: point spread betting aims to equalize both teams by factoring in an estimated margin of victory. That’s why most point spreads will have odds of -110 or close to that on both sides.
When priced right, point spreads essentially turn games into 50/50s and make for some thrilling sports betting action.
The above information may leave you asking: what is a point spread, and what is point spread betting?
Simply put, point spreads are the margins that sportsbooks use to account for differences between two teams, and this discrepancy is normally represented as points.
For example, in a football game, an underdog might be facing a strong favorite. After assessing the difference between the two teams, the sportsbook will then come up with a number of points that will represent how much better it views the favorite as being. In this scenario, let’s say the number is 6.5 points.
For the favorite, its line would then show up as -6.5. This means that it has to overcome this 6.5-point disadvantage to cover the spread. For the underdog, its line would show up as +6.5, representing the advantage the underdog must maintain to cover the spread.
In this scenario, 6.5 is the point spread. And betting on a team to win by more than that number of points or to avoid losing by more than that number is what we refer to as point spread betting.
To better understand how point spreads work, it’s best to use real life examples in both basketball and football. Note, though, that while point spread betting is often synonymous with football and basketball, it also exists for other sports: game spread betting in tennis and run line betting in baseball, for example.
It’s clear that the Buccaneers are the favorites in this game. However, it’s down to you to gauge whether you think Tampa Bay will be able to win by four points or more.
If you decide to wager on the Buccaneers with this spread, any victory for them with a margin of four or more would be enough to win you your ticket. Victories like 34-30, 35-29 and 19-10 would all be wins for your bet.
However, if the Buccaneers win by fewer than four points, you would lose the bet despite the fact that the Buccaneers still managed to win the game. Wins by scores of 33-30 or 40-38 would not be enough to warrant a winning ticket, for example. You would also lose the bet if the Buccaneers end up losing the game outright.
The Pistons are the underdogs in this game. However, you’re confident that they won’t lose by 13 points or more, so you decide to pick them with this spread.
Several scenarios could easily lead to a winning ticket. The Pistons could lose by fewer than 13 points, which would still win you your bet. Losses like 99-87, 100-90 or 105-100 would all be enough to guarantee that your ticket wins because the Pistons were able to cover the spread.
If the Pistons were able to come out with a victory, your bet would still win because the victory more than guaranteed that they covered the 13-point spread.
However, any loss for the Pistons by 13 points or more would mean that you lose your bet. Losses of 100-87, 89-76, 120-106, etc., would result in a loss for your bet, despite being so close. That’s why even half a point can be decisive in point spread betting.
Though sports betting in New York is currently limited to onsite locations, growing calls for mobile sports betting mean that it could soon become an option. Here are a few sportsbooks where you could bet the spread should legal online sports betting become a reality.
Launched in 2012 and initially focusing on daily fantasy sports, DraftKings has grown to become a great sports betting option. DraftKings Sportsbook currently conducts mobile sports betting operations in legal states such as Indiana, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
As a sportsbook, it offers a variety, from NFL, MLB and the NBA games to several European soccer leagues. Meaning that you can bet the “spread” in all of these sports. It also has a variety of bonuses and promotions, most of which run daily.
FanDuel has a similar origin story to DraftKings in its DFS origins. It now has several sportsbooks in different states under its brand.
Its sportsbooks offer a large number of sport options and types of wagers, ranging from moneyline bets, point spreads and over/under options to other types such as props and futures bets. Its website is sleek and has a great user interface. FanDuel Sportsbook also has an easy-to-use app that goes a step further in easing the sports betting experience.
BetMGM is an online sportsbook from MGM Resorts International, a respected name in both hospitality and gambling. It’s best known for its Vegas casinos. With current online operations in nine states, BetMGM will likely be looking to launch in New York should it get the opportunity.
It features all the popular and common sports and gives even more options with some truly niche sports. In addition, BetMGM Sportsbook offers a great live betting experience that includes a large market of selections.
Australia-based PointsBet is growing quickly in the US. Among its offerings is PointsBetting, a system that deviates from the normal fixed odds and fixed payouts.
It also has betting markets that set it apart, with some of the bets on leagues like the NBA not available on other sportsbooks. And just like most of the other large sportsbooks, it has an app for the mobile betting experience.
A moneyline bet is simply placing a bet on one side or the other to win a game. The number of points that the team wins or loses by does not matter in moneyline betting, unlike in point spreads. Moneyline bets also extend to a variety of sports, whereas point spread bets mainly appear for basketball and football.
And unlike point spread bets, which are mostly always close to 50/50 affairs in terms of their probability, moneyline bets vastly differ in their probability and could even swing to 90/10 affairs.
To better understand their differences, we can use an example and look at the comparison between the odds.
|Buffalo Bills||+3.5 (-110)||+135|
|Kansas City Chiefs||-3.5 (-110)||-155|
As you can see, the odds for both the teams in the spread are the same, while their moneyline odds are different.
If you were to bet on the Chiefs to win the game, any score after the final whistle with the Chiefs leading would guarantee you a payout. However, if you instead chose the Chiefs with the -3.5 spread, they would not only have to win the game but do so with a margin of four points or more.
Line movements occur when the initial lines from the oddsmakers shift. This is a common occurrence in sports betting, and a starting line or spread rarely remains the same. This usually happens for one reason: balance.
When sportsbooks release the odds for an upcoming slate of games, the market then reacts to these odds. If the oddsmakers see that a huge chunk of the money is headed in a single direction, they then alter the line or the spread to favor the opposite direction; intending to give both markets a balanced share of the action.
Take, for example, a football game that opens up on the market with a spread of 3.5 points. If a majority of the bets coming in for this game tilt toward the favorite’s direction, the oddsmakers can react by raising the spread to 4 or 4.5 points to shift more of the action the underdog’s way.
Other factors can also cause line movements. Breaking news regarding a team’s lineup or coach — or the weather forecast in the case of football — are just a few of the factors that could cause massive line movements.
That’s why it’s always advisable to check how drastically the lines of a game have shifted, especially if you’re placing a bet on the spread a couple of days after the opening lines were released.
If you’re starting out, this may seem like a complicated thing to do. However, your success in handicapping spreads will depend on how you approach it.
You can start by seeking different resources on upcoming games and building out your own method from there. To get started the internet is awash with plenty of information and resources, some free others paid.
You can then use the information that you have to study the upcoming games, doing so on a weekly basis to see how accurate the information you’ve gathered is. After a while, you’ll be able to judge the accuracy of the information that you have. If it is helpful, you can continue using the information for a while as you also build upon your own judgment and perception.
If it isn’t, you’ll know what doesn’t work in handicapping spreads.
Your method will also depend on your knowledge of the sport that you’re handicapping. This is why you should learn to handicap spreads in a sport that interests you. This will help because you’ll be up to date with crucial news and information; this could give you a decisive edge in your handicapping journey.
You should also begin looking at the sport with an analytical eye, even when you’re watching it for entertainment purposes. Take note of the key stats that decide games, the crucial plays that win titles, the elements that only coaches and pundits see, and the reasons that oddsmakers choose certain lines and spreads to begin with.
Point spread betting is a great betting option, and it’s easy to see why it’s one of the most popular bet types. It puts both teams on an even level and adds an extra dimension of excitement to the game, making even plays toward the end of a lopsided game potentially crucial.
For beginning sports bettors, it might sound complicated at first. However, once you grasp the basics, it’s easy to build your knowledge from there.
And if you wish to learn how to handicap, you’ll need to look at spreads from an analytical perspective and gather as much information about handicapping as you can. Remember, any information can end up giving you the decisive edge; many point spread bets need just half a point to be won.