Point Spread betting (or the spread) is a popular betting market that is recommended for newcomers and veterans alike. Once you understand how the spread works, it is simple to place wagers. Its popular among leagues like the NFL, NBA and College Football as the actual wager focuses on the final margin of victory. The favorite needs to win by more than a certain number (also known as covering the spread) while the underdog can LOSE by fewer than the allocated points or win the game straight up to win the bet.

Our free guide will break down point spread betting in further detail to ensure you are prepared to win your bets when taking this type of action!

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What Is Point Spread Betting?

Point spread betting is a wager on the final score margin. If you are betting on the favorite, the team you selected needs to win by more than the assigned line, also known as the spread. If you bet on the underdog, they need to lose by less than the assigned spread or win the game outright to win your bet.

For example, if the Bucks are listed at -4.5 and the Pistons are listed at +4.5, this indicates firstly that the Bucks are the favorites, while the Pistons are the underdogs. In this scenario, the Bucks need to win by at least 5 points to win the bet. If the Pistons lose by less than 4 points or win the game outright, then the Pistons will have covered on the spread.

When betting on the point spread, you are betting on whether the team you select will cover the spread or not. As mentioned, if you bet on the favorite (marked with the minus – symbol), then they need to win by more than the line. If you are betting on the underdog (marked with the plus + symbol) then they need to lose by less than the allotted line or win the game straight up. Point spread betting is popular among leagues like the NBA and NFL.

What makes it so popular

Point spread betting is popular because it offers value that may not be found with wagers on the Moneyline or Totals. Even when a game is lopsided, you may still opt to bet on the favorite because there would be value in taking them on the spread. As well, an underdog may be expected to lose straight up but they could cover, giving them value you wouldn’t find when taking them on other lines.

Spread wagers are great because bettors can find value with both sides (underdog or favorite) through proper betting research.

Free Picks

Our free picks experts look at all odds to ensure you are getting the best bet for your specific game or sport. When we recommend taking a certain team to cover the spread it’s because of a variety of factors. Favorites winning by a slim margin in every game may entice our experts to back the underdog because they can cover on the spread. Second-half play (where a potential game is out of hand) could allow underdogs to cover on the spread because starters may be out of the game. This is important in sports like football and basketball.

Seeking out large lines (like Alabama -21.5 or Duke -15) is another tip that our experts may look at since it will be hard to cover late in the game. Garbage time in sports betting is key (especially for spread betting) because it can allow underdogs to come back and cover the line, despite potentially losing the game. So, finding out which teams will have a large lead late but not compromise cover the spread is another strategy our experts look for when recommending free picks.

Point Spread Betting Parlays and Single Betting

Point spread betting can be combined in a parlay or could be placed on a single, stand-alone wager. You can’t necessarily go wrong on your preferences but the more legs you add to your parlay, the riskier it becomes. Single-game wagers on the spread have fewer variables, giving you a better chance of winning.

Single-game picks are great because the only thing that matters is your choice. If your bet hits then you win the wager. The same cannot be said about parlay betting because multiple wagers need to all hit at once for your ticket to cash. Spread betting is great for either scenario; it all depends on your betting preference.

For those that like a potential low-risk, high-reward scenario, you can add multiple legs to a parlay and have it cash. But if one bet fails then the entire ticket fails. However, a single-game bet on the spread could be valuable as you can risk more money on a less risky bet since you’re only focused on one outcome in this instance.

Understanding the Odds

Understanding odds for point spread betting is simple. Like other wagers, you will have the favorite (marked with the negative – symbol next to their line) and the underdog (marked with the plus + sign next to their line). So, if the Raiders are listed at +120 and the Chiefs are listed at -150, we can look at this line and understand that the Chiefs are the favorites, while the Raiders are the underdogs.

For point spread betting, the same principle applies. Concerning the line, if the Raiders are listed at +7.5 and the Chiefs are listed at -7.5, this means that Kansas City will need to win by 8 points (or more) to cover on the spread. If the Raiders lose by less than 7 points or win the game straight up, this means that they cover the spread.

The example above uses American odds but you will also find point spread betting when wagering on lines listed in decimal or fractional form.

Favorites and Underdogs will still be listed at either – or +, but the actual odds displayed are different. For example, the Mavericks could be listed at +2 (9/10) while the Suns could be listed at -2 (9/10). Fractional odds are the ratio of profit to stake. So, for this wager, you win $9 for every $10 you wager.

As for decimal odds, the line represents the amount one would win on a $1 wager. If the odds are listed at 2.20, you would collect $2.20 for every $1 wagered. On a $50 wager, you would earn $110 if your bet hits, ($50 x $2.20 = $110).

Point Spread Betting Strategy

Whether you’re a newcomer to the betting world or a veteran of the sport, coming prepared with betting strategies is key to success. In point spread betting specifically, bettors need to understand the odds and lines they are betting on. NFL wagers that end in 7.5 can be challenging because the favorite would need to win by two scores (that combine to 8+ points) compared to a 6.5 line where a single touchdown would seal the deal.

Deep into betting lines like the NHL, you can find point spreads for periods. Since the usual line is 0.5 in the NHL, you can take advantage of that by betting period-to-period. This is important for games where the underdogs start off hot and the favorites are more of a second-period team.

Live betting goes even deeper into point spread betting because you can get insane odds for the team that allows the first goal. In games where the underdog opens the scoring, it may be advantageous to look at the live line for the favorite.

No matter the sport, it’s important to do your research and follow the latest betting trends. Sports like the NHL and MLB may be more advantageous to take the team with better odds since their games end in a closer fashion. And in leagues like the NBA and NFL, betting on larger lines may be worth it due to momentum and garbage time points.

Favorite vs Underdogs

Favorites and Underdogs are an integral part of point spread betting. When betting on the favorite, the line will show them with the minus sign and their line (-7.5 as an example). The favorite will be listed with the plus sign (+7.5). Looking at the point spread gives a quick view as to which team is the favorite (minus/-) and which team is the favorite (plus/+). The favorite needs to win by MORE than the line (in this scenario it would be 8 or more points) in order to win the bet (if you are backing the favorite). If you are backing the underdog, then they would need to either win the game outright or lose by 7 points or less.

Point Spread Outcome

In point spread betting, you are betting on whether or not you think the favorite will win by a set margin, or the underdog will lose by the same margin (or win the game outright). There are three possible outcomes: Win/Lose/Push.

If you are betting on the Packers at -3, this means they need to win the game by 4 or more points. If they win by exactly 3 points, then it is considered a tie, also known as a push. If the Packers lose the game outright or win by 2 points then they lose the game on the spread because they did not cover -3 points. The same is true about the underdog, but the roles are reversed. In this scenario, you need the underdog to lose by 2 or less points or win the game outright to win your bet.

These leagues love the spread. Below, you’ll find North America’s biggest leagues and why the spread is so popular.

  • NFL – Similar to the NBA, NFL spread betting gives value for near-even money betting, which is preferable for those that like
  • NHL – Also known as the Puck Line, NHL spread betting is favorable for bettors looking to wager on the underdog. Since the most common NHL final score is 3-2, this allows bettors to find value in taking the underdog to cover.
  • NBA – NBA spread lines are closer to even money than normal lines, meaning bettors will be enticed to take action because the value is better than other typical markets.
  • MLB – The spread (also known as the Run Line) allows baseball bettors to back the favorite with better odds than taking them straight up. This is popular because the favorite on the spread will have better value than taking them on the Moneyline.

Asian handicap

Asian handicap (AH) betting is another form of spread betting. Originating in Indonesia, betting the Asian Handicap is a way to eliminate draws from bets. Mostly used on soccer wagers, the AH is basic addition and subtraction. Similar to the underdog and favorite, you are adding goals to the underdog and subtracting goals from the favorite. Between England and Brazil, if England are listed at -1, they need to defeat Brazil by two or more goals. If Brazil (+1) wins the game or loses by one goal, then Brazil pushes and your stake is refunded. Since there is no draw as an outcome, you do not lose your bet when wagering on Asian Handicap lines.

Other popular betting markets that sportsbooks will offer include the Moneyline and Totals (Over/Under). In each wager, there is still the favorite and underdog, noted by the + sign and – minus. For a Moneyline wager, you are betting on who will win the game or match outright. Simply put, whether you back the favorite or underdog, if the team you select wins the game, then you win the bet.

For those betting on the over/under, you are betting on whether or not there will be more than the listed line (aka over) or less than the listed line (aka under). If the line is listed at 8.5, then you are betting the over if you think 9 (or more) of a certain stat (usually goals/points) will be scored. If you believe 8 (or fewer) points will be scored, then you would bet the under.

FAQs

  • Can there be a tie/draw with Point Spread betting?

    Yes, in lines that are not with half numbers (7), there can be what is considered a push/tie/draw. If you back the favorite to win by 7 points and the game ends with them winning by exactly 7 points, then it is considered a push because they did not win by 8 or more points and they did not lose by 6 or fewer points (which would back the underdog).

  • How is the Point Spread determined?

    There are a variety of factors bookmakers will weigh when releasing odds for the spread. Some key factors they will consider include a team's current form, the weather, the latest trends, home versus away record (and more). There is a ton of research from bookmakers when lines are placed because they want bettors placing money on both sides of the line.

  • Does Every Sport Offer Point Spread Bets?

    It depends on the sportsbook but the majority of sports will offer lines. The most common sports that offer point spread betting include the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and college basketball and football. European football is another sport that has point spread betting, which is incredibly popular.

  • How Do I Determine How Much Money to Wager?

    This is all dependent on how much money you'd like to risk and the value of the bet. For new bettors, it may be wise to start small until you understand lines, trends, and how the betting world works. More experienced bettors may be comfortable placing larger wagers since they understand the process and risk. Whether you're a newcomer or veteran, it's important that you understand your bankroll and how to manage it when betting.

  • Are Spread Lines Consistent or Does it Vary?

    The line will change between certain games and certain sports. MLB and NHL betting will see lines listed at 1.5 (for the most part) although there are some anomalies. However, sports like the NBA and NFL will have wildly different lines depending on matchups, so not every game will offer the same odds and same point spread line.

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