Point spread betting is a popular form of betting, especially with basketball and football, since these are two sports where more points are scored throughout the game than in other sports like baseball and hockey. Therefore, it’s essential to understand how point spreads work before placing a wager.
Always pay attention to line movement and monitor point spreads on multiple sportsbooks to get the best bang for your buck, as this will help put you in the best position to succeed as a point spread bettor.
What Is a Point Spread?
As is the case with moneyline bets, point spreads involve betting on a favorite or underdog in a given game. If you bet on a favorite, they need to win the game by more than their assigned point spread. For example, if I take the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-7.5) on the point spread, that means that they need to win by at least eight points for me to win my bet.
If you bet on an underdog, they must either win the game outright or lose by a smaller margin than the assigned point spread. So, for example, if I bet on the Philadelphia Eagles (+3.5) and they lose by three or fewer points or win the game outright, I would win my bet.
How Does a Point Spread Work?
A point spread is assigned based on the projected outcome of the game.
Home-field advantage is a huge factor in the point spread. For example, if the Kansas Chiefs play the Denver Broncos at home, the Chiefs would likely be favored by 10.5 points. However, if the game were in Denver, the Chiefs would be favored by about 4.5 points. The impact of home-field advantage depends on the team playing with it — some teams do not have as favorable a crowd or atmosphere as others. Denver, for example, is a particularly tough place to play, given the altitude.
There are other factors like injury status, current form and overall talent in the game. It’s important to keep track of the latest news around the league to find value on point spreads.
It’s also worth noting that some teams just aren’t very good at covering the spread while favored in the game. For example, a team might have a good record but had won numerous close games, so they might not be as good against the spread. This statistic is also worth keeping an eye on.
Keep in mind, that there are other types of sports bets worth taking into consideration.
What Is a Push in Spread Betting?
A push is when the final result of the game lands precisely on the number of the spread. For example, if I bet on the Toronto Raptors (-4) over the Orlando Magic and the Raptors win by four, I would push my bet, which means that my money is refunded and the bet ends in a tie. Games with halves in their point spreads, like the Dallas Cowboys (-3.5) over the Atlanta Falcons, will never result in a push.
Favorites vs. Underdogs
The favorite is the team projected to win the game. They are assigned a point spread with a minus symbol (-) in front of the number, such as Pittsburgh Steelers (-6.5). If you were to bet on the Steelers to cover the spread in this instance, Pittsburgh would need to win by seven or more points for you to win your bet.
The underdog is the team that is projected to lose the game. They are assigned a point spread with a plus sign (+) in front of the number, such as Carolina Panthers (+5.5). In this case, the Panthers would need to lose by five points or fewer or win outright for you to win your bet.
Where Can You Bet the Spread?
These are some of the best sportsbooks for spread betting:
Types of Point Spreads
NHL (Puck line)
The favorite is assigned a puck line of (-1.5) and the underdog of (+1.5). In this case, if you bet the favorite, they have to win by two or more goals. You will likely have a payout ranging from (-130) to (+200) for a favorite on the puck line.
If you bet on the underdog, this means that they can lose by one goal or win outright for you to win the bet. Betting on the underdog on the puck line is a costly decision, as it’s usually priced (-170) or higher.
MLB (Run line)
The favorite is assigned a run line of (-1.5) and the underdog of (+1.5). In this case, if you bet the favorite, they have to win by two or more runs. You will likely have a payout ranging from (-130) to (+200) for a favorite on the run line.
If you bet on the underdog, this means that they can lose by one run or win outright for you to win the bet. Betting on the underdog on the run line is a costly decision, as it’s usually priced (-150) or higher.
When it comes to NFL betting, the favorite is assigned a spread for the projected winning margin. They need to win by more than the spread for you to win your bet. If you take the underdog, you can win your bet if they win outright or lose by fewer points than the spread allows.
The favorite is assigned a spread for the projected winning margin. They need to win by more than the spread for you to win your bet. If you take the underdog, you can win your bet if they win outright or lose by fewer points than the spread allows.
Soccer includes spreads when it’s between two unevenly matched teams. In these types of games, favorites are given spreads between 1-3 goals. This means that they need to win by more than that spread for you to win your bet.
How to Bet the Point Spread Online
- Log in to your preferred legal sportsbook
- Click the sport that you would like to bet on
- Examine the list of games with point spreads
- Click on the favorite (minus points) or underdog (plus points)
- Determine how much you would like to risk on this game
- Place your bet
Be sure to learn how to bet on sports before wagering.
Point Spread Betting Strategy
When betting on the point spread in the NFL, you need to remember key numbers. A touchdown, for example, is worth seven points, while a field goal is worth three points. The key numbers are three, seven, and ten points.
The difference between a 2.5-point spread and 3.5-point spread is vast, as you may end up losing your bet if your team loses by way of a game-winning field goal (three points). 6.5-point spreads, 7.5-point spreads, 9.5-point spreads and 10.5-point spreads are also worth keeping an eye on as final scores are often within three, seven, and ten points.
It’s also worth mentioning that the home team usually gets an imaginary spread of three points. If a home team is favored by (-2.5), the oddsmakers are telling you that the road team is the superior team. You should keep a close eye on home teams that are favored by few points, as it’s often the sharper play to go with the road team in those situations.
You don’t need to worry about key numbers as much in the NBA, but I would advise always betting on the point spread when betting basketball. More often than not, if the team wins the game, they’re able to cover the spread. But, at the same time, be careful with high spreads in the NBA.
Betting on a favorite of 10 or more points can come back to bite you in the NBA, as teams tend to send in their subs when up double-digits in the fourth quarter, which can allow the opponent to cut down the lead — resulting in something called a back-door cover. These exist in the NFL as well.
In NHL, MLB and soccer, tread lightly with spreads. Only take the underdog if they aren’t priced too high — often, you’ll see them at (-200) or higher, which is far too risky. It’s also tough to take the favorite, especially if they end up winning by only one goal. However, it could be profitable since you get some solid value on the favorites. I prefer betting on the spread in MLB than NHL or soccer because baseball teams usually win by more than one run.
Spread vs. Moneyline
Point spreads involve a winning margin. If you bet on a favorite, they need to win by more than the assigned spread. For example, if a spread is (-7.5) points, your team needs to win by eight or more. If you bet on an underdog, they can lose by fewer than the assigned spread or win outright for you to win. For example, if a spread is (+5.5) points, your team can lose by 5 or fewer or win outright.
Moneylines just require your team to win the game outright — the winning margin does not matter in this type of bet. Each team will be assigned a moneyline based on their projected probability of winning the game. For example, the Los Angeles Dodgers might be (-250) at home against the Rockies, who might be (+190). In this case, you would risk $25 to win $10 if you take the Dodgers. You would win $19 on a $10 bet if you took the Rockies.
It is better to choose moneyline in MLB, NHL, and soccer when taking favorites because the price is too high in the NFL or NBA. For example, if you took the Chiefs moneyline and they were favored by 7 points, you’d likely be laying (-400), which means you’d be risking four times your bet. However, it could be profitable for you to go with the moneyline on underdogs in the NFL or NBA since they’ll provide some nice value.
Where Can I Legally Point Spread Bet Online?
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- Rhode Island
- Washington D.C.
- West Virginia
Should You Make Spread Bets?
Point spread bets are good because they allow you to take heavily favored teams without incurring the financial risk involved. For example, let’s say the Chiefs are favored by 10 points against the Raiders. If you were to bet on them to win on the moneyline, you would likely be risking seven times your original bet. In this case, you can take them to win by more than 10 points and only have to pay a (-110) price.
Another reason to consider spread betting is that you can take an underdog without worrying about that team winning the game. For example, if I took the Raiders (+10) against the Chiefs, I would still win my bet if they lost by nine points or fewer. Point spreads allow bettors some options when deciding on who to take in a particular game.
One negative of point spreads is that it can be difficult for a team to win by the assigned margin. You can handicap the game well, only to have your team’s quarterback throw a late interception for a touchdown that would lower their winning margin, causing you to lose your bet.
Another negative is how difficult it is to choose the point spread in hockey or soccer correctly. There are so many one-goal games in these sports that you’ll often find yourself with a bad beat with your team only winning by one goal, which is one of the major downsides of spread betting.