Sports Betting Terminology: Point Spread Explained
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Point spread betting is one of the most common forms of sports betting today. This is largely due to the popularity of betting on such sports as football, with scorelines typically wider than those in baseball, hockey, and soccer.
If you’re used to betting on the money line, you might find it uncomfortable to even think of betting on anything other than a team straight-up winning the game. However, while the money line remains the foundation of all betting, the point spread really opens things up.
When new to point spread betting, a point spread can seem like random numbers with little meaning behind them. The reality is very different, however. Once you know how they work, they make a lot of sense.
How does spread betting work?
Based on multiple statistical factors, one team in every football game stands out as the favourite. However, if the only bet you can make is who you think will win between a clear favourite and an equally clear underdog, it wouldn’t make for a very exciting bet.
When a sportsbook creates a point spread, they're attempting to even the playing field in order to create a new set of betting opportunities. They achieve this by taking a certain amount of points away from the favourite team and giving them to the underdog. This makes betting more interesting, as you can bet on the losing team and still win money.
Here's an example of what a basic NFL point spread looks like:
In this example, the Ravens are the favourites going into this game, as indicated by the (-) sign before the 6. The (+) sign indicates the underdog. The point value (6) is the number of points a team could either win or lose by. If you think that the Ravens will win by more than six pouts, then you would bet on them to “beat the spread”.
Point spread odds
A point spread is typically set with -110 odds, which is the sportsbook’s edge. When the odds are -110, you need to bet $110 to win $100.
In a bid to even out the money on both sides of a bet, the sportsbook will move the spread to appeal to customers to bet on the side that is failing to attract a lot of money.
Let's take a look at another example of a spread, this time including the wager and final score.
Let's say you bet $100 on the Bills to win by more than seven points and the score at the end of the game is Bills 30 Jets 21. The Bills have won by nine points, which means that they’ve covered the sprea dand you have won the bet. Your bet has yielded $190 in total, including your original bet of $100, giving you a profit of $90.
The point spread odds are often referred to as the vigorish (or “vig”) for the sportsbook. They’re also known as the “juice”.
Cover the spread and against the spread
You may have heard these phrases in spread betting circles. If the favourite team wins an event, factoring in the point spread, or if the underdog wins with extra points, they have covered the spread.
Betting against the spread is betting on the point spread in a specific event, as opposed to a different type of bet, such as the money line. A bettor often looks at a particular team’s ATS record to assess its “against the spread” history. For example, the Cleveland Browns were 10-6 ATS in 2018, which means they covered the point spread 10 times and failed to cover it in the other six games.
Getting a free bet
- FanDuel ranks among the more popular sportsbooks in football betting, with plenty of point spread options available. They also offer a $500 risk-free bet, which is a nice incentive to new customers. Basically, if you lose your first bet (up to $500 in value), they will refund you within 72 hours.
- DraftKings offers the same $500 risk-free bet as FanDuel, but they also award you $25 before you even make a deposit, which means that you have a little extra to play with.
- Another sportsbook we recommend here at Oddschecker is FOXBet. The sportsbook offers $20 on sign-up and up to $100 in free cash when you make your first deposit.
Oddschecker provides an odds comparison service so you can see all the odds, offers, and promotions from every single sportsbook in one place. They also provide free picks and analysis across every single sport. This means that at Oddschecker, you will always be able to see the best NFL odds and picks the market has to offer.
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On which sports can I bet on the point spread?
You can bet on the four major sports: football, basketball, hockey, and baseball. However, point spread betting is mostly popular among football fans.
What if the result is a tied game?
This is known as a “push”. A push occurs when the final score point differential is equal to the spread number. In this case, the spread has failed to be covered by either team, and the sportsbook refunds your stake.
Can you bet on a point spread at various stages of the game?
Yes, sportsbooks offer spreads for different points in the game, such as at the end of the half. This opens up more opportunities for you to take advantage of the various spreads available.