Spread betting is one of the most popular forms of sports wagering for one main reason, expense. When spread betting, a bettor must account for the points given for each team. A bettor is wagering on whether a team will win or lose a game by a certain amount of points. With some of our RYP pools, selecting a spread winner is required.
This style of betting levels the wagering for both the bettor and sportsbook. Let’s break down what spread betting is, how to bet a spread, how to read a spread and much more!
What Is the Point Spread?
The point spread is the amount of points given to both teams or players in any given game. If the Steelers are given ‘6 points’ for their game against the Ravens, the point spread for the Steelers vs. Ravens is ‘6’.
The favorite and the underdog come into play here. If the Steelers are +6 then that means they are underdogs, and must either win the game outright or lose by five points or less. That means the Ravens are -6-point favorites, having to beat the Steelers by seven points or more in order for Ravens point spread bettors to win.
If the game ends with a 6-point Ravens win, then the game is considered a ‘push’ and no one wins. The bettor receives back the wagered money, and it’s as if the game never happened.
How Does Spread Betting Work?
As mentioned above, the reason for spread betting is to make the game more fair for both the bettor and the sportsbook. If the Falcons are +13-point underdogs to the Buccaneers, it’s much more fair to bet the game by having the Bucs win by 14 points or more.
Since the Buccaneers are so likely to win the game, the spread presents a cheap alternative for bettors instead of risking a lot of money on the Buccaneers to win outright for a cheap payout.
Let’s say the Buccaneers are -13-point favorites with a -600 moneyline, it would cost a moneyline bettor $600 to profit just $100. If the Falcons pull off the upset, then the bettor would lose $600. But if the bettor takes the Buccaneers to win by -13-points at a -110 moneyline, it would cost just $110 to profit $100.
If the Falcons cover the spread against the Buccaneers, the bettor only loses $110. The spread betting market is just a cheaper alternative for bettors to wager on a game, although more difficult to hit too.
Spread betting is different for a few sports. Football and basketball typically feature spreads as mentioned above. For hockey, the spread is known as the ‘puck line’ and it is always -1.5.
The favorite in hockey always has a puck line of -1.5, while the underdog always has a +1.5 puck line.
This means the underdog must win the game or only lose by one goal to cover, so any game that goes into overtime will see the underdog cover the puck line. The favorite must win by at least two goals to cover the puck line.
This is the same for baseball, only it’s called a ‘run line’ instead. The run line is always -1.5 for baseball favorites and +1.5 for baseball underdogs. Hockey and baseball games are typically close scoring, so the spread will almost never go past -1.5/+1.5 in those sports.
How To Read a Point Spread With Example
As mentioned above, reading a point spread isn’t very difficult. Let’s use the example below.
Raiders +5.5 (-110)
Chargers -5.5 (-110)
In the above example, the Raiders have a +5.5-point spread while the Chargers have a -5.5-point spread. Since the Raiders have a positive spread (+), they are the underdogs. That means the Raiders must either win the game or lose by five points or fewer.
Since the Chargers have a negative spread (-), they are the favorites. That means the Chargers must win the game by six points or more. The -110 represents the point spread moneyline, which is the cost for taking either team’s point spread.
Sportsbooks set point spreads, each based on various reasons. Home teams are typically favorites, but dominant teams on the road will also see favorite point spreads. There are various stats, standings, analytics and lineup changes sportsbooks monitor to set a point spread.
If LeBron James is announced to miss a game, the Lakers point spread might drop from +1.5 to +5-point underdogs. If Patrick Mahomes is set to miss a game, the Chiefs’ point spread might drop from -13.5 to -7.5-point favorites. Point spreads can change based on the public betting too.
If the Rams open the Super Bowl as -1.5-point favorites but the public is betting on the Chiefs instead, a sportsbook might switch the point spread to Chiefs -1.5 instead. Point spreads are constantly changing until the game starts, and even changes during live betting as well.
Spread vs. Moneyline Betting
Because the point spread is always changing, timing is important. This can be true for moneylines as well, as the moneyline will adjust along with the point spread. As mentioned earlier, the moneyline is typically more expensive to take for bettors siding with the favorite.
However, bettors siding with the underdog might find more value in the moneyline over the point spread. If a bettor likes the Bears to cover a +3.5-point spread against the Vikings, it will typically cost $110 to profit $100 if the Bears cover.
The Bears might present a +200 moneyline to win outright however, which means an underdog bettor could spend $100 to profit $200 if the Bears win the game.
It is more difficult for the underdog to win the game then it is to cover the point spread, that’s why the payout for moneyline underdog bettors is typically better than the point spread.
FAQ About Spread Betting
• What does handicap 1.5 mean?
A 1.5 handicap means that the point-spread for the game is 1.5 each way. That means the favorite of the game will see a -1.5-point spread, while the underdog will see a +1.5-point spread.
If you ‘handicap’ at 1.5, that means you are buying 1.5-points for either the favorite or the underdog to win. This is common with hockey and baseball spread betting.
• How to bet on point spreads?
If a bettor wants to bet on the point spread, first look at the moneyline which is typically next the spread in parentheses. If a bettor wants to take the Packers -6.5 (-110), that means the bettor will have to pay $110 to profit $100. The Packers must win the game by seven points or more for the bettor to win the point spread.
• Why does the line move on a spread bet?
There are various reasons for a line movement for spreads, typically its lineup changes or injuries. The line will always move in live betting markets. If the Chiefs enter a game as -6.5-point favorites then score the game’s first touchdown, their live point spread might jump to -12 for the game.
• How can I win a spread betting, and how much do you make?
To win spread betting, the team you select must cover the amount of points a sportsbook gives it. If the Raptors are -3.5-point favorites they must win by four points or more, whereas the Hawks as +3.5-point underdogs must either win the game outright or lose by three points or fewer.
How much you make depends on the moneyline. If the Raptors are -3.5 at -110 then it will cost $110 to win back $210 ($110 wagered + $100 in winnings). If the Raptors are -3.5 at -120 then it will cost $120 to win back $220.
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