Betting the spread, or "Spread Betting" is a type of wager placed on the difference between the amount of points scored by each team in a given matchup, plus or minus the "points" assigned to the matchup by the online sportsbook. If the gambler picks the underdog, and the underdog loses, the spread bet is successful if the total of the underdog's losing score plus the sportsbook's assigned points is greater than the favorite's total points scored. Conversely, if the total of the underdog's points scored and the sportsbook's spread points is LESS than the total points scored by the favorite, the gambler loses the spread bet. The gambler can also wager on the favorite, which is known as "giving the points". If the favorite's score minus the spread is greater than the underdog's score, the bet wins. If, however, the favorite's score minus the points is less than the underdog's final point total, the bet loses.
Spread betting is fun and slightly less risky than a straight bet on the outright winner of a given matchup. Betting the spread allows the player some leg room to be slightly incorrect is his/her estimate of the final difference in total points scored while factoring the sportsbooks spread points into the outcome. The point of spread betting is to create a "market" for a given matchup for the sportsbook that contains a relatively even number of players on each side of the bet; that is, there are about equal numbers of players both "taking" the points and players "giving" the points. Thus, the sportsbook can be more profitable, especially in matchups that would appear to be drastically biased towards the favorite, since players will not be betting on the outcome, but on the point totals using the sportsbooks point spread.
Here are an examples that demonstrate how spread betting works, assuming in all examples that the bookmaker offers a spread of 6 points.
If the player takes the underdog, he/she "takes the points" and will win if the underdog's score plus 6 is greater than the favorite's score:
Case 1: Underdog scores 5 points, Favorite scores 7 points. 5 points + 6 point spread = 11, which is greater than favorite's 7 points. Gambler wins.
Case 2: Underdog scores 5 points, Favorite scores 12 points. 5 points + 6 point spread = 11, which is less than than favorite's 12 points. Gambler loses.
If the player takes the favorite, he/she "gives the points" and will win if the favorite's score minus 6 is greater than the underdog's score:
Case 1: Underdog scores 4 points, Favorite scores 11 points. 11 points - 6 point spread = 5, which is greater than underdog's 4. Gambler wins.
Case 2: Underdog scores 6 points, Favorite scores 11 points. 11 points - 6 point spread = 5, which is less than underdog's 6. Gambler loses.
As you can see, spread betting makes sports matchups a little more interesting and more fruitful for the sportsbooks, because a better wagering "market" is created with the points given or taken in each respective example. 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 spread, and yet still win the bet. As a result, most sportsbooks charge a little commission or "juice" on most spread bets so that they don't go bankrupt.
It's also common to see some sportsbooks use 1/2 point increments in their point designations for a given game. This is meant to avoid a "push" or tie result when figuring the spread after the game has finished. A lot of tie bets would mean that some gamblers would get their money back, which is a bit of a hassle for sportsbooks, especially if the game handle is large. This leaves a lot of money in limbo. Accordingly, the use of 1/2 point increments determins a concrete winning or losing spread bet outcome, so that the sportsbook can pay all winners and claim money from all the losers.
When to spread bet? Spread betting is appropriate in contests where there appears to be a certain outcome before the game has been actually played, that is, suppose the #1 NFL team was playing the #16 team. In this instance, it might make sense to go with the favorite. However, if you feel the score will be closer than expected, you can bet with the underdog and still come out a winner even if the underdog loses, since you're dealing with the sportsbook's point spread. Have fun and Good Luck!
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