Sports Betting Strategy: Spread Betting

Sports Betting Strategy: Spread Betting
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When it comes to sports betting, point spreads can be one of the most popular betting types, depending on which sport you’re wagering on. Essentially, a point spread allows the oddsmakers at your favorite sports betting sites to provide a small margin of error by creating a spread in which you can place your bet within based on the score of the game. This will mean you will be betting on a team to score a certain number of points – but the spread will signify the number of points between either team’s score.

How does a point spread work?

If you’re betting on a favored team, your sportsbook will have that team listed as a negative number, let’s say -7.5. Conversely, an underdog team will be listed with a positive number, +7.5.

Depending on your research and which team you have decided to bet on, these two outcomes have different meanings.

  • The negative number signifies how many points the favored team has to win the game by.
  • The positive number signifies that the underdog team must win or lose by less than that many points.

Ultimately:

  • The favored team will need to win by more than 8 points.
  • The underdog team will need to lose by less than 7 points, or win the game outright by any amount.

This will give the underdog a slight advantage, so where you may not find value in betting on an underdog on the moneyline, you can find some value here by betting on point spreads.

How to read Point Spread odds

We have the basics of a point spread wager down, now let’s look at the odds that will be associated with your wager. If you’re familiar with moneylines, you will understand how the odds work for the most part, but we can briefly go over this again.

Your sportsbook or sports betting site will create odds based on thorough statistical analysis and will choose a favored team and an underdog team. The odds associated with these teams will show the likelihood of that team winning the game. Again, the negative symbol will show that the team is likely to win, and the higher the number is in the negative, the more likely that team is to win. The positive symbol will again show you the underdog team, and the higher the positive number, the less likely it is that team will win.

Point Spread Betting using American Odds

American odds are most prevalent in North America and are commonly viewed in Canada by sports bettors, so we will start there.

When you are looking at the point spread odds for a game, you will see your negative/positive spreads and then next to it in brackets will be the odds (-110) or something of that nature. Point spread odds aren’t the same odds you would see with moneylines, having huge underdogs as there is a margin of error, so sportsbooks don’t tend to be too risky with this betting type.

We commonly will see (-105) or (-110) but sometimes you may see upwards of 20 points on either side, if it is a highly likely betting option.

What American odds do really well is show you your potential winnings on a $100 wager if you’re betting on underdog odds. If your +7.5-point spread that you had above had odds attached to it of (+105), you would win $105 on a $100 wager – it’s that simple.

The favored team’s odds will show us how much we need to wager to win $100. Let’s say that -7.5 point spread had (-115) odds, you would need to wager $115 to win $100.

Point Spread Betting using Decimal Odds

If you’re more accustomed to decimal odds, we have you covered as well – decimal is also viewed in North America but is mostly prevalent as a standard odds format in Europe. The decimal odds are very simple and can show you what you could potentially win for each dollar you bet. All you need to do is take the decimal odds that are listed by the team you want to bet on, and multiply your stake by those odds (subtract your $1 from your odds).

Our underdog odds above on an $80 wager would work out to 2.05 and all we would need to do is multiply 1.05* 80 = $76 (We removed the $1 wager from the odds to make it 1.05) then you would also receive your $80 returned for $164 in winnings.

Our favored team’s odds would work out to 1.86 in decimal odds, and if we were to place an $80 wager on them, we would take away our initial $1 to make the odds .86:

0.86 * 80 = $68.80 then you would also receive your $80 back for a total of $148.80 in winnings.

Point Spread Betting using Fractional Odds

Last but not least, fractional odds give you the opportunity to put those grade school math skills to the test. When using fractional odds for point spreads, you will follow the same rules as the other odds formats, you will simply multiply your stake by the numerator then divide that by the denominator.

Our 7.5-point favorite above’s odds would translate to 20/23 in fractional odds. If we were to bet $50, we would multiply 50 by 20 = 1,000 then divide that by 23 = $43.48 in winnings on top of your initial stake for a $93.48 payout.

The underdogs on the other hand, would have fractional odds of 21/20. This would mean we would multiply $50 by 21 = 1,050 then divide that by 20 for $52.50 in winnings. Add this to your initial $50 to double your money.

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Point Spread Betting by Sport

Point spreads can be displayed differently or look differently depending on which sport you are betting on. We want to show you real examples of point spreads in each professional sport so you can have an idea of what this should look like or why point spreads are called different things in different sports.

NFL Point Spreads

NFL point spreads are arguably more popular than moneyline wagers or totals when it comes to betting regularly on Sundays. With point spreads you have the option to bet on underdogs with a little more confidence. In the NFL you may see spreads between 1.5 and 11 points, depending on the teams.

Popular point spreads are set as a field goal differential or a touchdown differential – 3.5 or 6.5. If you are betting on the Indianapolis Colts (+3.5) and the Detroit Lions (-3.5), you know the Lions are favored and need to win by more than four points, and the Colts are the underdogs and need to win or lose by less than three.

NBA Point Spreads

We all know the NBA is high scoring, which can make predicting the score nearly impossible. However, we don’t see large spreads in the NBA due to the caliber of play. Teams tend to be so closely matched and teams can score so quickly, if the oddsmakers keep the spreads close, they won’t have huge risk associated with the games.

You might commonly see -1.5/+1.5 spreads or even a few points more, but nothing too high unless we are looking at a huge underdog situation.

NHL Point Spreads (Pucklines)

Hockey is one of those sports that doesn’t record points, they record goals, so point spread didn’t exactly roll off the tongue. In the NHL, we call point spreads Pucklines. They work the same as other sports, they just go by a different name.

You can find spreads between 0.5 and 5.5 goals, as hockey is such a low-scoring game. You may find a point spread on a Montreal Canadiens (-1.5) and Boston Bruins (+1.5) game that you want to bet on. This means the Canadiens are favored and will need to win by 2 or more points, and the Bruins are the underdogs and need to win, or they can lose by 1 goal and your bet will still win.

MLB Point Spreads (Runlines)

Baseball is another sport that doesn’t track points, they track runs. Point spreads in the MLB are aptly named Runlines. There will be runline spreads usually are in the 0.5 to 2.5 range, but in baseball, it can be easy to accumulate points fast - all a team needs is one hot inning or a Grand Slam, and we’d be looking at a vastly different ball game.

If you’re looking at the Arizona Diamondbacks (+1.5) versus the Pittsburgh Pirates (-1.5), we predict a close game, and the Pirates are favored, meaning they will need to win by 2 points. If you bet on the Diamondbacks, they could lose by one run, or win the game outright for that bet to cash.

Soccer Point Spreads (Goallines)

Soccer spreads, or goalline wagers because they don’t track points, is one of the trickier point spreads because they will have spreads that are fractions of points. You may see your usual 0.5, 1 point, 1.5, but you will also see quarters of points. Also, soccer games can end in a draw, which means the teams would tie, forcing a push and you wouldn’t win anything, just your stake is returned.

Best Online Sportsbooks for Point Spread Betting

Now that you have an idea how point spread bets work and how to read the odds, you can start preparing your betting strategy on making your spread bets. Finding a new sports betting site for your point spread betting should be a top priority and is the best starting point if you’re new to sports betting.

Our sportsbook reviews provide an in-depth look at the most important criteria that sports bettors of all skill levels look for, including deposit options, bonus information, sign-up processes, security, mobile compatibility and more.

Finding a sportsbook that suits your needs is important, and making sure the sportsbook has great point spread odds is an important factor!

FAQ


The point spread is a sports betting option where you can place a wager on the number of points a team must win or lose by (depending on which side of the wager you are betting on. The underdog can either win the game or lose by any amount less than the spread, and the favorite must win by more than the spread.

When betting on point spreads, you will want to understand how the teams might match up against each other. You will want to bet on the team you believe has the best chance of covering the spread. The favored team will need to win the game by more than the spread, and the underdog will need to lose by less than the spread or win the game outright.

The point spread in basketball would refer to the amount of points the oddsmaker is allowing as a margin of error. The point spread in basketball usually isn’t huge, but allows for a few points differential that allows the underdog team to have a small head start before the game begins. You would bet on the underdog to win or lose by less than that number of points, or you could bet the favorite to win by more than the spread.

In football, the point spread allows the underdog team to have a slight advantage before the game begins. Usually, the point spreads in the NFL or NCAAF are between one and 11 points, depending on how mismatched the teams are. Point spreads in football are straight forward, you either bet on the favorite to win by the number of points in the spread, or bet on the underdog to lose by less than the spread, or win outright.

The point spread is simple to read and understand. The number next to the team’s name will indicate if they are a favorite or an underdog. A positive number will show you which team is the underdog and the negative number will indicate the favorite.

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