What is a Point Spread Bet?
Point spread betting is the most common type of sports betting in America. The main goal of point spread betting is to make it possible to bet money on teams/athletes competing against each other by assessing their relative strength.
The point spread aims to level the playing field between two teams as much as possible for bettors by distributing the scoring units for each individual sport (i.e., points, goals, runs, etc.). In addition, it predicts what margin of victory one team will have over another.
Alabama’s team is significantly better than Arkansas’s in most college football seasons and will likely win by a large margin. The point spread allows bettors to evaluate the margin by which Alabama will beat them.
If nearly five touchdowns favor Alabama, their margin would be -34.5 points. On the other hand, if Arkansas manages to keep the score within 34.5 points, you could take them at +34.5 odds from one of your favorite sports betting apps.
Points spread betting: outcomes.
A point spread bet has three possible outcomes: you can win, lose, or the game can end in a tie (also known as a push).
- If bettors make the right choice and win, a sportsbook will provide them with their original stake plus the winnings. The amount won is based on “the price” of the bet placed, which typically equals -110. That means that for every $110 you bet, you would earn back $100 profit–or for every $11 you spend, your return would be$10 in profit.
- When the game result falls right on the point spread margin, this is called a “push.” If this happens, the bet is “voided” or “canceled,” and bettors get their original wagers back.
- On the other hand, a loss results in the bookmaker keeping the bet.
A point spread bet is not the same as a moneyline bet because, for those placing the bets, spread betting does not always produce results that match up with the outcome of the sporting event.
Unlike moneyline bets, point spread bets may still provide a win to bettors even if the team they picked loses outright, depending on the score of the sporting event.
For example, if team A defeats team B by a score of 51-21, Kansas would lose by 30 points but still manage to win the bet.
Point spread bets explained.
There are three essential parts to any point spread wager:
- The point spread
- The team favorited to win
- The underdog favored to lose
The point spread is the projected winning margin for the favorite to win over the underdog, represented by a number of scoring units.
Depending on the sport and event, the point spread can vary significantly. Home-field advantage is generally considered when oddsmakers decide on a point spread for a game, which usually results in an additional “adjustment” of zero to three points.
A team that usually plays well at home would have about three points added to the spread, while a team not known for playing well at home would have a minor adjustment in its favor.
So, if a team that usually wins when playing at home played their opponent on a neutral field, the game points awarded for home-field advantage would not be relevant.
Bettors rely on sportsbooks or oddsmakers to set the spread and handicap the matchup. Handicapping is simply analyzing the game to try and predict who will win. Professional bettors might even calculate their own spread betting odds for games, comparing them against what sportsbooks have posted. They’re looking for discrepancies that they can exploit.
A favorite is the team sportsbooks think is more likely to win. For example, with $100 as the bet (size), a bettor would have to stake the amount listed (-110) to earn$100. So if the bet wins, the sportsbook pays out $210–the stake ($110) plus what was won($100).
If you bet on the favorite team, they must win by more points than the point spread for the bet to be won. So, for example, if the Cowboys are favored over the Patriots by 5.5 points and the Cowboys only win by 7 points, then the favorites have “covered the spread”, bettors who placed a wager on them will have won their bets.
A favorite team is always represented by a minus sign (-) preceding the point spread. For example, in an NFL game, the Packers might be -6.5 against the Steelers or a “6.5-point favorite.” The Steelers would correspondingly be +6.5 “against the spread.”
The underdog is the team less likely to succeed in a competition, sporting event, etc. Therefore, to bet on them using a point spread, you wager that they will lose by fewer points than predicted.
Bettors who choose the underdog can still win their wager if that team loses by less than the point spread. For example, if 5.5 points favor the Giants over the Seahawks, but the Giants win by only 4 points, the Giants have “failed to cover the spread.”
Bettors who bet on the Seahawks to lose would still win their bets if they lost by less than 7 points. In this case, we say that the Seahawks “covered the spread.” Likewise, if they won outright, they would have also covered.
The underdog in any sporting event is always given a head start, represented by a plus sign. So, for example, if the Seahawks are playing and they’re +5.5, that means they start 5.5 points ahead.
“Evens” or “Pick ’em” Teams Matched Evenly
If a game is listed as a Pick’Em” or Even” bet, the sportsbook sees two teams as closely matched in terms of level of play. In this case, there is no projected margin between the two teams.
If a game is listed as an evens or pick ’em point spread, that means “evens” or “pick ’em” will be listed on the moneyline. For example, you might see both sides of the game priced at -110, and the side you select has to win for your bet to pay off. If the game ended in a tie, it would result in a “push,” which means you would get your original wager back.
Point spread betting: The vig, also known as “juice”
The “vig” is what the bookmaker charges for accepting a bet – in other words, it’s the cost of doing business. The vig is also commonly referred to as “the juice.”
The average pricing for spread betting is usually around -110 on both sides. This boils down to a vig of 10 cents for every dollar bet on the favorite and 10 cents per dollar placed on the underdog.
The extra $10 is not a part of the bet when you wager on -110, which means that if you win a $110 bet at -110, you will earn $210 in total (the $100 original bet plus the
$100 in winnings).
Remember that the point spread is attractive to bettors who want to wager on the favorite or the underdog. As a result, the value will sometimes fluctuate around 100 on each side as the sportsbook tries to attract different bets at various prices.
A sportsbook will often fine-tune the point spread when the price on one side reaches -120 or higher, and there is an imbalance of wagers on one side.
If the Warriors are favored to win by 5 points over the Lakers at -110, and bettors think the Warriors will win by more than 5, they may all bet on Golden State.
If many people bet on the Warriors at this rate, the imbalance could change to -115 or -120. This might dissuade more action on the Warriors.
If the Warriors remain favored to win, the sportsbook may choose to increase the point spread to 6.5 points while resetting the vig at -110. Doing so would help create a better balance of bets between those who think the Warriors will win and those betting on the underdog.
The point spread is not increased or decreased incrementally — instead, the volume of funds placed on a particular team determines how the point spread moves.
Depending on various conditions such as weather, injuries, and betting patterns, lines and prices are in flux and not set in stone.
The potential results of a point spread bet
If you make this type of bet, your wager can go three ways.
1. The favorite team wins by more than the point spread:
Bettors choose the favorite to succeed when the favorite wins its game by a point spread that is LARGER than predicted.
For example, if the Bulls are playing the Celtics and the latter is favored to win by 4.5 points, but they end up winning by 6 points instead, those who bet on the Celtics will still earn money.
2. The underdog loses by less than the point spread:
If the underdog team either wins or loses by less than the point spread, those who bet on them will win.
For example, the 49ers were speculated to win by 7.5 points over the Broncos. However, the Broncos only lost by 3 points. Because of this, those who bet the 49ers would win lost their money (the 49ers failed to cover the spread), while those betting on the Broncos won because even though they lost, they did so by less than was predicted (they covered).
3. The bet is voided due to a “Push”:
When the favorite in a match also wins by exactly the set point spread, that’s called a push. In this case, those who bet on the favorite will get their original wager back.
For example, let’s say the Eagles are favored by one point over the Bears, and it’s an intense game that ends with the Eagles winning 28-27. In this instance, no team is “covered” (a term used when a team wins by more points than what they were favored), so all bets on both the Eagles and Bears will be returned. An online sportsbook may refer to this as a voided or canceled bet in their transaction record.
“The hook” is another key term in spread betting. The hook refers to the half-point that can determine the outcome of a bet, regardless of the whole number it follows.
For example, if the Texans are favored by 3 ½ points over the Falcons and defeat Atlanta 20-17, then the bettor who picked them “giving” 3 ½ points had a losing bet. This is because Houston only won by 3 when they needed to win by 4 to cover the spread.
The person who bet on the Falcons winning and “got” 3 ½ points was spared by the hook and won their bet, even though the Falcons lost.
There are specific “key” numbers in football–such as spreads of 2 ½ and 3 ½ points, 6 ½ or 7½ points, and 9½ or 10½ points–that make a bet more challenging.
Point Spread vs Moneyline
Essentially, a moneyline bet and a point spread wager are two different things. However, they are connected because the potential payout from a moneyline allows bettors to look at team-level differences.
Let’s say, for example, that 3 points favor the Raiders in an NFL game at or near -110. As a result, that game could have a moneyline status of -160 for the favorite and +135 for the underdog.
The difference in score pertains to the public’s beliefs on which team is stronger.
So, for a moneyline bet to be successful, the team chosen by the bettor must win outright. This is tougher for an underdog than simply covering the spread.
When the point spread increases, the moneyline wager requires betting more money to achieve the same return. Still, because the point spread is designed to create level betting terms for both teams, the value remains at or near -110 for favorites or -110 for underdogs per $100 bet, regardless of how large the point spread is.
If 7 points favor one team, their moneyline would be -350. If the other team is an underdog by 7 points, their moneyline could be +285.
Remember that the transformation of moneyline to spread alters depending on the sport. For example, a 7-point victory in an NFL game is not equal to a 7-point win in basketball.
The point spread is the great equalizer when betting on games, regardless of sport!