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How Does a Point Spread Work?

How do you read a point spread?

Point spreads are becoming more and more mainstream. Scott Van Pelt has a segment on his SportsCenter show titled “Bad Beats” where he shows teams either covering or failing to cover the spread during the last moments of a game. Bill Simmons’s popular podcast has a weekly segment, “Guess the Lines,” where he tries to guess the NFL point spreads for the week. Point spreads are everywhere.

But how does a point spread work in sports betting?

Point spreads are a tool of oddsmakers in gambling. At its core, the point spread is there to show how much an oddsmaker thinks the favored team is likely to win by. In this guide, we’ll look a little closer so you can fully understand the spread and what it means in betting.

What Is a Point Spread?

If you’re new to sports betting, you might naturally assume that betting all boils down to predicting which team is going to win. In essence, you’re right, but things get more complicated. So, how does sports betting work, exactly? The betting odds affect the payout, and types of sports bets like over/unders and parlays extend well beyond a single win or loss.

However, “betting the spread” is relatively straightforward for newcomers. So, how does betting on point spread work? Let’s break down the steps of assessing a point spread bet:

  1. Setting the money line –  First, you’ll need to know how to read sports betting lines. Oddsmakers will look at upcoming games and set a line. This “line” is the point spread. Let’s say the Patriots are playing the Jets, and the Patriots are favored to win. If the oddsmakers set a line of 7, that means they think the Patriots will win by 7 points.
  2. Betting – Once you know the line, you make your assessment. Let’s say you think the Patriots will win, but you think the game will be close. You should then bet on the Jets. Betting on the underdog like this is called taking the points. If the Jets win, you will win your bet, but you’ll also win if the Jets lose so long as the loss is by fewer than 7 points.
  3. Result – The final score of the game is Patriots: 21 - Jets: 17. You win your bet! The Jets lost, but only by 4. In this case, the Patriots failed to cover the spread: they won, but not by enough points for a bet on the Patriots to pay out.

Which Sports Use a Spread?

Football and basketball are the sports where you’re most likely to see a point spread bet because they are high-scoring games. Sports like baseball, hockey, or soccer can also use a spread (called a “run-line” or “goal-line” depending on the sport), but it is often set at 1.5 because these are low-scoring games. Football and basketball will vary more greatly, so it’s easier to find value as a bettor.

How Is a Spread Determined?

Oddsmakers are smart. They don’t just guess what a money line should be. Instead, they use computer simulations and algorithms to set the line. These consider many factors, such as:

  • Past results
  • Which team is Home
  • The weather
  • Players’ injuries
  • Past point spread betting trends

The goal of any line is to encourage bettors to bet on either side of a bet. Sportsbooks take a percentage of every bet (called a vig, often worked into the betting odds) to ensure profit. Because of this, their risk is lowest when there is even betting on both sides of a bet. Encouraging this even betting is the goal of the point spread.

Reading the Spread

Now that you know what a spread is, you need to know how to read it. You may see something like this:

  • Cardinals -4.5 (-110)
  • Seahawks +4.5 (-110)

The first number is the betting spread. The “-” in front of the Cardinals mean they are the favorite and have to win by more than 4.5 points to win the bet. The “+” in front of the Seahawks means they are the underdog.

The “-110” next to both teams is the moneyline bet. It shows you have to bet $110 to win $100 (that extra $10 is the vig). Often, point spread bets will have a -110 moneyline.

Why the Line Moves

Over the course of a week, you may notice the spread on a game move. There are many reasons this could happen such as:

  • A new player injury
  • The weather or some other outside factor
  • An excess of bets on one side

Any of this could cause a sportsbook to change the line. However, the line for your sports bet is whatever the betting line was when the bet was made. If the betting line changes, it does not affect your bet.

Cover the Spread with Tipico

How does point spread work in betting? In short, it’s the number of points by which the oddsmakers think the favored team will win. With careful observation, you can figure out when you think you’re wrong, making money, and having fun in the process.

Want to give spread betting a shot? There’s no better place to place your bets than Tipico’s online sportsbook. We let you bet on any sport you want with fast and easy deposits and withdrawals. When you’re ready to test your knowledge against the spread, we’re here to take your bets.

Sources:
NJ.com. Types of Bets.  https://www.nj.com/betting/academy/types-of-bets.html
Vegas.com. Sports Betting. https://www.vegas.com/gaming/gaming-tips/sports-betting/
Gineers Now. How Point Spreads Are Determined. https://gineersnow.com/industries/sports/how-point-spreads-are-determined
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