Ins and Outs of Point Spread Betting and Its Mechanics

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Ins and outs of point spread betting and its mechanics. Point spread betting allows casinos to even the playing field for the favored team, making it an exhilarating method to wager on a variety of sports, including football, baseball, and basketball.

Here, we will provide a comprehensive guide on point spread bets, including how to make them at online sportsbooks and casinos. We will delve into the intricacies of point spread betting in major sports and, most importantly, how to identify teams that are most likely to cover the spread.

Point spread betting is a popular form of wagering in sports betting that adds an extra layer of excitement to the game. It involves placing a bet on the margin of victory for a particular team, rather than just picking the winner or loser of the game. This type of bet is commonly used in sports like football, basketball, and hockey, where there is a clear favorite and an underdog. The point spread is set by oddsmakers to level the playing field and attract equal betting action on both sides. This means that the favorite must win by a certain margin in order for the bet to pay out, while the underdog can lose by that same margin and still result in a winning bet. Point spread betting is a great way for sports fans to add an extra layer of excitement to the game and potentially win big.

Get a better understanding of how point spread bets work in sports betting. When there’s a clear favorite and an underdog, bookmakers aim to balance the bets on both sides to avoid potential losses. This is where point spread betting comes in. It levels the playing field by requiring the favorite to win by a certain margin, while allowing the underdog to lose by that same margin and still pay out. It’s a popular form of betting that adds excitement to games across various leagues like NHL, NFL, NBA, MLB, and soccer.

Are you interested in learning how point spread betting works?

The point spread is designed to level the playing field between two teams during a game. When there is an equal amount of betting on both sides, sportsbooks can provide bigger payouts, particularly in matchups with clear favorites.

In order to achieve this, handicappers set a specific margin of victory (or defeat) that each team must overcome to win the bet. Displayed as a numerical value, the point spread bet serves a triple purpose:

  • The point spread is the difference between the two teams.
  • It gives an advantage to the underdog by adding points/goals to their final score.
  • Conversely, it puts the favorite at a disadvantage by deducting points/goals from their final score.

If your chosen team manages to win even with the point adjustment, then your spread bet is successful.

Here is a example of point spreads in action

In a scenario where there is a 4-point spread, the favored team needs to win by over 4 points for bettors to receive their payout. On the flip side, the underdogs can afford to lose by 1, 2, or 3 points (or even win the game) and still come out on top with the bet. But, if the underdogs end up losing by more than 4 points, then the bet is considered a loss.

Now, let’s delve into a concrete illustration to understand how sportsbooks promote point spreads and their mechanics:

  • Buffalo Bills -7
  • New England Patriots +7

The Buffalo Bills are favored by 7 points, so they need to win by more than 7 points to cover the spread. On the other hand, the New England Patriots are the underdogs with a +7 spread, meaning they can lose by 6 points or less, or win the game, to cover the spread.

Point Spreads and Payout Odds

The payout for your point spread bet is influenced by the odds listed at the time of betting. The odds next to each point spread in parentheses indicate the payout. These odds are in American format, resembling those in moneyline bets such as +125 or -120. To determine your payout, check if the odds are positive or negative.

  • When the odds are negative, it indicates the amount you need to wager to win $100.
  • On the other hand, positive odds show the amount you would win from a $100 bet.
  • For instance, with odds of -125, you would have to bet $125 to win $100.
  • Conversely, with a positive bet of +185, you would profit $185 from a $100 bet.

Betting in increments of 100 simplifies the process of calculating the value and cost of your bets, but it doesn’t restrict you to betting $100 each time. Feel free to wager any amount within the set limits of the sportsbook, and your potential payout will adjust accordingly.

Rules of Point Spread Betting

Get ready to dive into the world of point spread betting! Learn about how odds are locked in, what happens in a push scenario, and whether overtime is included or not. Master these rules to make the most out of your spread bet!

  • When you place a spread bet, the odds you choose will determine your payout. It’s common for spreads to change as the game gets closer, but once you lock in your bet, those changes won’t affect you.
  • Point spreads can be whole numbers or include half-numbers like 4.5. If the spread is a whole number, such as 4, there’s a chance the favorite will win by that exact number. In this case, it’s a push – neither a win nor a loss, and all bets are returned.
  • Overtime and penalty shots (in the case of NHL) count in spread betting for major sports, except for tournament soccer like the World Cup. Soccer spread bets, unless it’s a friendly match, do not include overtime.

Exploring Point Spread Betting Variations

We’ve covered the basics of point spreads, but let’s delve into how spread betting differs between high-scoring sports and low-scoring sports. This distinction is evident when looking at two types of point spreads:

  • Flexible point differentials
  • Systematic point differentials (runline and puckline)

Point spreads in sports betting can vary depending on the game. For high-scoring sports like football and basketball, oddsmakers set flexible spreads. On the other hand, systematic spreads are used for sports with lower scoring, such as baseball and hockey. Let’s take a look at an example with the New England Patriots and the New York Jets facing off in an NFL game. The Patriots are the favorites due to their strong record, and the game is set to take place at MetLife Stadium in New York.

  • New England Patriots -3 (-110)
  • New York Jets +3 (-110)

Here’s another way to put it: The 3-point spread in this game favors the underdogs, as it is positive for them and negative for the favorite. New England needs to win by more than 3 points to cover the spread against New York Jets. On the flip side, the Jets can win outright or lose by 1 or 2 points and still come out on top. In the event of a 3-point victory for the Patriots, like a final score of 10-7, it’s a push and the bets are refunded. To avoid pushes, oddsmakers often use spreads with half-points, since there are no half-points in hockey, baseball, basketball, or football.

Point Spread Pushes

  • Whole number point spreads can lead to a push outcome.
  • Point spreads with half-points will not end in a push.

Here’s an example of how MLB’s runline works: Let’s take a look at a game featuring the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. In baseball, the performance of a specific pitcher can greatly impact a team’s chances of winning, so they are factored into the bet. If there’s a change in the starting pitcher, the bet is marked “No Action, becomes void and the wagered money is refunded. Certain sportsbooks provide MLB runline bets without specifying a pitcher, resulting in lower payouts due to the increased uncertainty.

Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees

  • Boston +1.5 (-145) – Eduardo Rodriguez
  • New York -1.5 (+125) – Masahiro Tanaka

If you’re considering Live Betting, remember that the runline typically involves a 1.5-point spread, with the favorite at -1.5 and the underdogs at +1.5. Take the Yankees for example, they are 1.5-point home favorites, indicated by their negative spread and positioning below the Away team. To win a runline bet on the Yankees, they need to win by at least 2 runs with Tanaka as the starting pitcher. If everything goes as planned, a $100 bet could earn you $125.

To have a successful bet on Boston, Rodriguez must start and Boston must either win or lose by just one run. A $145 bet could result in a $100 payout.

Top Point Spread Betting Tactics

When it comes to betting on point spreads, there are plenty of tactics you can use to maximize the value of your bets. Let’s check out some of the advantages you can exploit.

Keep an Eye on Point Spread Changes

Monitoring the movement of a point spread for a particular game can give you insight into the betting trends of the general public. Sportsbooks constantly adjust the spread to even out the bets on both sides and minimize their potential losses.

For instance, if most bettors are favoring one team, the spread will be adjusted to attract more bets on the opposing team. Let’s take a look at how a 4-point spread can shift over time:

  • If the favorite is receiving a large amount of bets, the 4-point spread might grow to 4.5. This extra half-point provides the underdog with a larger margin for defeat.
  • When the underdog is attracting significant bets, the 4-point spread may decrease to 3.5, allowing the favorite a better chance to cover the spread.
Teams with large fan bases often experience spread shifts before games, so it’s wise to place your bet on them early. On the other hand, betting against them closer to game day can offer better value on the underdog.
In sports like baseball and hockey, the spread remains stable, but odds associated with it may change. Odds may lengthen to attract bets on a particular team, like going from +150 to +165. Conversely, odds may shorten to deter bets on a heavily favored team, like going from -125 to -140. Monitoring these changes can help you make the most of your spread bet.

Play the Middle, Playing both sides of the bet

When bets start piling up for one team, the spread adjusts to attract more bets for the opposing team. This opens up a special chance to bet on the middle, where you place bets on both sides with their own spreads. If the final outcome falls in between the two bets, you come out as a double winner.

Betting the middle is frequently seen in NFL games due to the early release of NFL odds, giving plenty of time for the spreads to change. Let’s walk through an example to illustrate how to capitalize on betting the middle.

Imagine the Philadelphia Eagles were initially favored by -14.5 points against the Los Angeles Rams. However, as the game day nears, the spread changes, and the Eagles become -17.5 favorites instead. In response, you decide to take the Rams as +17.5 underdogs. If the Eagles win by 15 to 17 points, you end up winning both your Philadelphia and Los Angeles bets.

The Middle = The space that separates the top pick from the underdog, created by the spread expanding on the betting lines.

Buying Points

When it comes to football and basketball, you have the option to improve your chances of winning a spread bet by purchasing points to adjust the line in your favor. Sportsbooks typically provide one, two, or all three of the following choices for buying points:

  • 5 points (underdog)
  • 1 point
  • 5 points (favorite)

By purchasing points, the spread will shift in a way that works in your favor. If you’re wagering on the underdog, points will be included in the spread, while if you’re betting on the favorite, points will be deducted from the spread.

Example of Point Spread

Let’s say the point spread is 6.5. If you buy a half-point for the favorite, the spread decreases to -6. On the other hand, if you buy a half-point for the underdogs, the spread increases to +7. If the favorite wins by 6 points, it’s a push instead of a loss. And if the underdogs lose by exactly 7 points, it’s a push instead of a loss with the original +6.5 spread.

  • Favorite: The -6.5 spread can be adjusted to -6 by buying a half-point.
  • Underdogs: By purchasing a half-point, the +6.5 spread for underdogs can be increased to +7.

In general, each half-point typically costs 10 cents (10%) in vigorish, which is the commission charged by the sportsbook; this would adjust a standard -110 line to -120. Yet, in football betting, there are specific premiums for spreads that fall on or off numbers that tend to be more common outcomes for win margins. For instance, the two most frequent victory margins in the NFL are

  • 3 points have increased chances by 15% since 2002.
  • 7 points have seen a 9% increase since 2002.
When buying points, if the spread lands on or off the key number 3, you’ll be hit with a 25-cent vigorish, which will move the line from -110 to -135. This means you’ll need to wager $135 instead of $110 to win $100. Spreads that land on or off 7 will cost you 15 cents, changing the line from -110 to -125.


Naturally, not every line is below -110. If a line falls below the -110 threshold, you’ll need to take an extra step (and incur additional costs) to bring it up to -110 before purchasing points. For instance, a line at -100 would have to be raised to -110 before adding the point, with the 10-cent fee for this adjustment included in your point acquisition. Lines above -110 do not need any additional actions to bring them down to -110.

Make sure you acquaint yourself with the regulations for point spread betting that apply to the sportsbook you are utilizing, as certain books impose limitations on the types of numbers that can be adjusted by a spread. For example, in some books, you might only have the option to increase a spread by half a point if it involves a half-number, effectively converting some of your losses into pushes.

Line Shading and Point Spreads

Sportsbooks often manipulate popular bets by line shading, making them more expensive than they should be based on true odds. It’s a well-known fact that bettors tend to favor high-scoring games and big-name teams. When sportsbooks engage in line shading, these picks come at a premium. To outsmart this tactic, many bettors choose to go against the public and compare odds from different bookmakers.

Point Spread versus Moneyline

Are you more inclined to predict the outright winner of a game? Or would you rather wager on the margin of victory for the favorite, or how close the underdog will come to winning and pull a upset? The initial choice is a straightforward moneyline bet, typically favored by beginners. As you become more experienced in sports betting, you may want to transition to the point spread for its additional benefits.

Newbie’s Guide to Two-Step Betting

  • Step 1: Moneyline
  • Step 2: Point Spread

When it comes to the moneyline, all you have to do is choose the team you believe will win the game. If your team wins, you win too. In case of a tie, you’ll get your money back. But if your pick loses, you lose your bet. It’s that straightforward. Your winnings will depend on each team’s chances of winning, clearly indicated in the odds. This is a simple way to dip your toes into sports betting, especially for beginners.

On the other hand, with the point spread, your bet requires more strategy. You’re not just picking a winning team, but a team that will win by a certain margin. This extra step offers additional advantages; it’s easier for the underdog to cover the spread, while it’s more challenging for the favorite to do so. The added challenge for the favorite means bigger payouts compared to the moneyline.

In general, the moneyline is great for predicting underdog upsets, while the spread is ideal for betting on strong favorites. It’s important to compare the odds and potential payouts for both options to ensure you’re maximizing your value.

NFL Football Point Spreads

When it comes to betting on NFL games, point spreads are the go-to choice for many fans. Whether it’s a close 1-point spread or a whopping 17-point spread, there’s always something for everyone. And if you think NFL spreads are big, just wait until you see the spreads in college football! If you want to increase your chances of winning when betting on NFL spreads, there are a few key factors to consider.

Back in 2002, the NFL saw the most frequent margin of victory being 3 points, with a 15% likelihood of a game ending with a team winning by that margin. The second most common margin of victory was 7 points, accounting for 9% of games. Interestingly, the most common margin of victory that doesn’t come with a high price tag when purchasing points is 10, occurring around 6% of the time. It’s worth noting that the public tends to support favorites, so if you notice the spread narrowing, it could indicate that sharp bettors are anticipating an upset. Remember, NFL point spreads do consider overtime, and it’s possible to buy points with NFL spreads.

NBA Basketball Point Spreads

NBA basketball point spreads work similarly to football spreads, with the range depending on the matchup. To make the most of your NBA betting experience, keep in mind that common win margins typically fall between 3 to 6 points, with 5 points being the most frequent. Remember, there are no extra costs for buying half-points in NBA betting. Take advantage of the hot and cold streaks in basketball to your benefit. Predict when a streak will end and capitalize on the underdog when a team with a long hot streak needs more chalk to cover.

MLB Baseball Point Spreads and Runline

MLB point spreads stand out from NFL and NBA spreads due to their standardized and rigid nature. Unlike other sports, MLB teams are either labeled as a -1.5 favorite or a +1.5 underdog, with Live Betting being the exception with its flexible runlines. Handicappers tweak the odds to even out the betting action, ultimately affecting the payouts. Check out the example of a runline below:

  • San Francisco Giants +1.5 (-155)
  • Boston Red Sox -1.5 (+135)

Betting $100 on the Red Sox in this scenario would result in a $135 payout, while betting $155 on the Giants would result in a $100 payout. The odds are subject to change before the game starts to ensure a balanced amount of bets on both teams. Due to the standard and relatively small spread, it is not possible to buy points with the MLB runline.

In baseball, the starting pitcher plays a significant role in a team’s success, to the extent that they are often factored into MLB spread bets. When it comes to these bets, the listed pitcher must start for the bet to be active.

NHL Hockey Point Spreads and Puckline

Hockey and baseball spreads operate similarly, with standardized spreads and adjusted odds to balance bets. Hockey spreads are typically 1.5 goals, but occasionally 2.5-goal spreads are offered. Unlike some sports, you can’t buy points with NHL puckline bets.

In NHL betting, overtime is included in the final result. Shootouts will also impact the final score, with the winning team receiving an additional goal in their total.

To make smart NHL bets, remember these key points.

  • The impact of playing at home is significant in hockey. Visiting teams have a harder time making player changes due to the long change in two of the three periods, giving the home team an advantage. This is why home teams often have a better record than when they play on the road.
  • The performance of the goaltender is crucial in determining the outcome of a game. A strong goaltender can be the difference-maker, but it’s important to ensure that you’re facing the first-string goalie and not the backup, as they don’t usually play on consecutive nights.
  • Each team has its own unique style of play, with some focusing more on offense and others on defense. Understanding the different styles can help you make informed spread bets based on how they match up against each other.

By conducting thorough research and monitoring these variables, you can decide whether to place your bet on the favorite or the underdog in a hockey match.

Spread betting is a crucial element in sports betting that every bettor should utilize. The key to maximizing profits in sports betting lies in placing the most advantageous bets with the highest odds possible. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each type of bet is essential in making well-informed decisions. Before placing your bets on a major game, always compare the point spread with the moneyline odds to determine where the best value lies.

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