Point Spreads Basics

Pont Spreads Basics

Point spreads are the bread-and-butter of the most popular sports in the world. It allows players to wager on a team at equal odds. While it can be harder to win as opposed to moneyline betting (straight picks), betting point spreads can provide more bang for your buck.



What is Point Spread Betting?

The point spread is how oddsmakers make two unequal teams “equal”. They do this by assigning a points handicap for each team listed as either a plus number like +3½ or a negative number like -3½.


You take these numbers and add or subtract them to the team’s or player’s final score. If their score is still a winning score, the bet cashes.

This is a way to set an “equal playing field” in a sport where teams are not equal. For example, the Super Bowl-winning Los Angeles Rams host the last-place Detroit Lions. Since there is a big disparity in their skill level, the Rams are given a spread of -14½ while the Lions are at +14½. 


This means that bettors need for the Rams to win by more than 14 points, as 14½ will be deducted from their final score. On the flip side, Lions backers only need for Detroit to be within 14 points of Los Angeles, since 14½ will be added to their score.     



Factors to Consider with Point Spread Betting

Sports betting point spreads can be difficult to bet on though it can be more rewarding and, in the case of favorites, gives a better return on your wager. Plenty of factors can affect how teams perform against the spread (ATS), which you should keep track of.


+ Home court can affect the point spread because home teams usually perform better; hence, the term “homecourt advantage.”


+ For sports that are played outdoors, the weather can be a major factor. A clear sunny day versus a stormy day may reveal different spreads, considering each team will perform differently given the conditions.


+ Recent betting trends will weigh how the teams’ spreads are shown. Teams on a hot streak may get a different handicap than teams on a losing streak. These trends can also go back to the previous season or just be connected with the team’s history (i.e. a team historically plays worse on a certain court or day of the week)


+ Conference and division games can adjust spreads differently than non-conference and/or non-division games. In many sports, conference/division games mean more because of their impact on the postseason, so you can expect teams to potentially play differently. This entails, thus, having a different spread.


+ Injuries or the absence of players can affect a spread in a major way. A missing player or two can cost a team a few points, especially if the player is a star quarterback or superstar point guard in the NBA.


+ There are more ways in which a point spread will be affected. These are just a few examples. Keep researching each team’s spread betting history to gain more insight into why the point spreads are what they are.



Pros vs Cons

🔷 Pros

🔹 Betting on the point spread gives bettors an alternative to, and sometimes a more affordable option than, betting on the moneyline.
🔹 You can parlay point spreads with over/under (total) bets.
🔹 Capitalize on short or miscalculated spreads before the market (the rest of the bettors) can move the line.



🔶 Cons

🔸 “Garbage time”, where players or teams score pointless points, can make you lose the bet.
🔸 Injuries and weather changes can impact the game and/or change the spread when you have already placed a wager.



Point Spread Betting Examples

Here are a few examples of what a typical point spread is using different sports this time. Even though they are different, the same rules apply. You can bet on full game, half, and/or quarter spreads (if applicable), so you have more options in how you choose to bet. 


NBA point spread betting looks something like this:


Celtics logo Boston Celtics +6½ -110

Heat logo Miami Heat -6½ -110

In this example, the Boston Celtics are the underdogs and will have 6½ points added to their final score. The -110 indicates their American odds. You wager $110 to win $100 similarly with the Miami Heat, who will have 6½ points deducted from their score. 


The game is played and Miami defeats Boston 112-107. The winning spread is with Boston as 6½ added to 107 is 113½, which defeats Miami’s 112 points.  


Ideally, spreads are given a ½ point to guarantee a winner. In the case the spread is a whole number, a “push” may occur:   


Lakers logo Los Angeles Lakers +3

Warriors logo Golden State Warriors -3


In this example, the Warriors defeat the Lakers 120-117. Since the differential is exactly three points, a bet on either the Lakers (+3) or Warriors (-3) would result in a draw or a push. You do not win the bet, but you also have your stake returned.




Betting the point spread can be more difficult but also more affordable than betting the moneyline, especially when looking into favorites. Plenty of factors affect the spread, so research and a keen eye can help cash some bets.



Betting Point Spreads – FAQs

1. What Are Point Spreads?

Point spreads are a sports betting number used by oddsmakers to serve as a handicap between two teams. It serves as a way to make equal betting lines.

2. How to Read Point Spreads?

Point spreads show as a positive number (i.e. +5½) or a negative number (i.e. -5½). The positive number indicates the underdog, while the negative number is the favorite.

3. How Are Point Spreads Calculated?

Add the positive number to the team or athlete’s final score, while you subtract the negative number. If the final score with the addition or subtraction still wins the game, you win the bet.

4. How Are Point Spreads Determined?

Point spreads are determined by oddsmakers using a computer algorithm. These computers are able to predict the price based on possible outcomes using the data it has gathered.

5. How Accurate Are Point Spreads?

Spreads are reasonably accurate, although sharp bettors can find gaps in the accuracy and get to “beat the odds”.


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