What is a Spread Betting?
"Spread Betting" is predicting a winner plus or minus the points assigned to the matchup by the sportsbook.
Case 1: Gambler picks Underdog to win. (Gambler takes the points)
The bet wins if the Underdog's score + the sportsbook's points is GREATER than the favored team's final score. Example: The Giants are a 10 point underdog against the Jaguars. The final score is Jaguars 28 - Giants 20. The actual difference is 8 points. The bet wins because Giants 20 + 10 points = 30. 30 is greater than the Jaguars' 28.
The bet loses if the Underdog's score + the sportsbook's points is LESS than the favorite team's final score. Final score is Jaguars 28 - Giants 17. The actual difference is 11 points. The bet loses because Giants 17 + 10 points = 27. 27 is less than the Jaguars' 28.
The bet "pushes" or ties if the Giants lose by exactly 10 points. For example, Jaguars 28 - Giants 18. Push bets are returned.
Case 2: Gambler picks the Favorite to win. (Gambler gives the points)
The bet wins if the Favorite's score - the sportsbook's points is GREATER than the underdog team's final score. Example: The Bears are a 6 point favorite against the Patriots. The final score is Bears 21 - Patriots 10. The actual difference is 11 points. The bet wins because the Bears 21 - 10 points = 11. 11 is greater than the Patriots' 10.
The bet loses if the Favorite's score - the sportsbook's points is LESS than the Underdog's final score. Final score is Bears 21 - Patriots 17. The actual difference is 4 points. The bet loses because the Bears 21 - 10 points = 11. 11 is less than the Patriots' 17.
The bet "pushes" or ties if the Bears win by exactly 6 points. For example, Bears 21 - Patriots 15. Push bets are returned.
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Spread betting less risky than a straight bet. Betting the spread allows the player some leg room to be incorrect is his estimate of the final score.
It's common to see sportsbooks use 1/2 point increments in their point estimates. This is meant to avoid a "push" or tie result when figuring the spread. Tie bets would mean some gamblers get their money back. This is a hassle for sportsbooks, especially if the game handle is large. A tie leaves a lot of money in limbo. Accordingly, the use of 1/2 point increments determines a concrete winning or losing spread bet. The sportsbook can pay all winners and claim money from all the losers.
Why do sportsbooks have .5 or 1/2 points in their spreads?
Example 1/2 point spread negating ties and forcing a win or loss:
Cowboys vs. Dolphins. Cowboys are 2.5 point favorite. The final score is Cowboys 30 - Dolphins 27. Players who picked the Cowboys would win their bets, because the Cowboys won by 3 points. 3 points is greater than 2.5 point spread.
Now, the final score is Cowboys 30 - Dolphins 28. Players who picked the Cowboys would lose their bets, because the Cowboys won by 2 points. 2 points is less than 2.5 point spread.
Since it is impossible to score 1/2 points in football, there is no way the player can tie. The game is win or lose no matter how close the score is to the 2.5 spread.
For the sportsbook, the goal of spread betting is to create a "market" for a game. The sportsbook attempts to attract balanced numbers of players on each side of the bet. In other words, there are equal numbers of players both "taking" and "giving" the points.
Thus, the sportsbook can be more profitable, especially in matchups that would appear to be drastically biased towards the favorite. Players will not be betting on the outcome. Rather, on the result giving or taking the sportsbook's points.
Spread betting makes sports matchups a little more interesting and more fruitful for the sportsbooks, because a better wagering "market" is created. Spread betting also allows a little more leeway for the player. Instead of having to choose an outright winner, the player can experience some margin of error in the calculation of the final score and still win the bet.
Most sportsbooks charge a commission or "juice" on spread bets so they don't go bankrupt.
When to spread bet?
Spread betting is a mix of predicting the winner while considering the sportsbook's point difference in each team's final score. If you spot a large spread and believe the Underdog's potential is being underestimated, it would make sense to take the Underdog. If you spot a tight spread and believe the Favorite's potential is being underestimated, it would make sense to take the Favorite.
Have fun and Good Luck!