What is Betting The Spread?

Complete point spread betting overview. What is betting the spread? Learn why spread betting is sometimes better than the money line. Read my advice and betting tips for beginners. Reference tables list the best websites for football and basketball ATS trends.

Book Bonus Bet
#1 Bookmaker Sportsbook
Bookmaker

REVIEW
15% Cash Bonus up to $600 + 50% Casino Bonus up to $1,000 + 25% Bitcoin Reload Bonuses Bet Now
#2 Bovada Sportsbook
Bovada

REVIEW
50% First Deposit Bonus up to $250 New Customers - OR - 50% Matching up to $500 Bitcoin - Promo Code BVSBITCOIN50 Bet Now
#3 Diamond Sportsbook
Diamond

REVIEW
100% New Member Bonus = 50% Sports + 50% Casino up to $500 each or 2X Bonus + 30% On Bitcoin Deposits & Reloads Bet Now

Definition of Point Spread Betting

Bet is made on expected score difference. Bettor decides if underdog will win adding point spread to underdog’s final score. Or bettor decides if favorite will win subtracting point spread from favorite’s final score.

Method

  1. Bettor reviews point spread. Juice is -110 unless otherwise specified.
  2. Bettor decides whether favorite or underdog will win.
  3. Favorites win if final score minus spread is greater than underdog’s score.
  4. Underdogs win if final score plus spread is greater than favorite’s score.
  5. Bet ties if underdog’s score plus spread equals favorite’s score.

Specs

Popular straight bet. Sportsbook wants a balanced betting market. It will adjust spread and juice values to encourage betting on one side more than the other.

Sportsbooks may offer ½ point spreads. This means tie bets are not possible.

Round ½ point spread up to nearest 1. 2½ rounds to 3. Favorite must win by 3 points. Underdog cannot lose by more than 3 points. Bet will either win or lose.

Point spread betting is most common in football and basketball. Hockey puck lines are always -1½. Puck line odds vary with probability of favorite winning by 2 goals.

Example

SB3’s article “How to Read NFL Odds” discusses how to read betting odds in detail.

Football

Chicago 2½ -115
Miami 42½

  1. Bettor chooses favorite Chicago Bears to win by 2½.
  2. Juice is -115. Bettor lays $115 to win $100.

Basketball

Cleveland 6 -108
Orlando 227 u-115

  1. Bettor chooses underdog Orlando Magic. They cannot lose by more than 6.
  2. Favorite juice -108 corresponds to underdog juice -102. Bettor lays $102 to win $100.

How It Works

The following explains how spread bets win, lose or tie. Fictional scores have been given to our football and basketball games from above.

Football Example

  1. Chicago wins game straight up 23-20.
  2. Bet wins if favorite score minus spread is greater than underdog’s score.
  3. Chicago 23 – 2½ = 20½. 20½ is greater than 20. Chicago covers spread.
  4. Bettor collects $115 risked + $100 win = $215.

Football Tie Spread Example

A tie is impossible because the sportsbook’s spread was 2½. The final score could never be Chicago 22½ – 20 Miami.

This bet only can only win or lose.

Basketball Example

  1. Cleveland wins game 115-110.
  2. Bet wins if underdog score plus spread is greater than favorite’s score.
  3. Orlando 110 + 6 = 116. 116 is greater than 115. Orlando covers spread.
  4. Bettor collects $102 risked + $100 win = $202.

Basketball Tie Spread Example

A tie is possible because the sportsbook’s spread was 6. Suppose the final score was Cleveland 118-112 Orlando.

Orlando 112 + 6 = 118. 118 equals Cleveland 118. The spread is tied. Neither Cleveland nor Orlando cover.

Bet is graded “No Action”. A $102 Orlando bet would be refunded.

Pros And Cons

Pros

  • Point Spreads are available for Football, Basketball, Hockey, Soccer and Baseball. Most sportsbooks will have lines for top leagues in the USA, Canada and Europe.
  • Can be less expensive than betting the money line. It’s harder to make a bad bet at +100 to -120 odds. Some money lines cost -250 or more.
  • Point Spread Betting rewards accuracy. Bettor doesn’t have to pick straight up winner. The spread levels the playing field between two unevenly matched teams.
  • Spread betting juice is usually less than other bets. -110 is most common.

Cons

  • Spread betting isn’t always the best value. A small underdog could win outright. In this case, a successful money line bet would pay more than a spread bet.
  • Point spreads subject to change as betting market evolves. Your bet’s value will vary with these numbers. Carefully monitor line changes.
  • Taking the public favorite offers limited value. Sportsbooks profit most from these wagers. Consider betting the favorite in other ways.

Tips

  1. Analyze current football and basketball ATS Trends and Stats. See our table below for a complete list of websites with NFL, NCAAF, NBA and NCAAB data.
  2. Compare numbers to find value. Shop spread and juice numbers at different sportsbooks. One sportsbook may have a better spread. Another may charge less juice.
  3. Shop lines to avoid ties when spread is a key number. See NFL and NBA key numbers below. Ties unnecessarily lockup bankroll.
    Example: Suppose Book 1 has an NFL underdog +7 -108. Book 2 has the same underdog +7.5 -110. Book 2’s bet is more expensive but less likely to tie. It’s a better opportunity.
  4. Fade public favorites against the spread. Use this website to track betting activity.
  5. Bet the favorite against the spread when the money line is too expensive. Money line bets > -220 may not be a good value.
  6. Be wary of road favorites. Never discount an underdog’s homefield advantage. According to Covers.com data, some 51% road favorites won ATS vs. 52% home favorites. Make sure you have good reasons for taking these teams besides their favored status.
  7. Buy ½ points to avoid ties (push bets) only if you can remain profitable. Sometimes the increased juice is not worth the risk. Half points typically cost another 10 cents with some exceptions for lines crossing key numbers. These purchases may cost up to 25 cents.

Bets to Try

  1. Teaser Bet – Use the Teaser Bet to move spread and total lines in your favor. Buy points in exchange for a lower payout.
  2. Pleaser Bet – Use the Pleaser Bet to move the spread in the sportsbook’s favor in exchange for a higher payout.
  3. Parlay Bet – Combine multiple spread bets. All bets must win ATS for the parlay to win. See sportsbook’s parlay card to calculate potential payout.
  4. If Bet Win Only – Make multiple spread bets when you only have money for one. Next bet sees action if previous one wins.
  5. Reverse Bet – A double action If Bet. Make multiple spread bets when you only have money for one. Next one sees action if previous one wins, ties or is cancelled for any reason.
  6. College Basketball 1st half correlated parlay – Look for large spread to small total ratio. 25% correlation is ideal. Read more here. Football correlated parlays are rare and most sportsbooks prohibit them.

Point Spread Betting History

Prof. Charles Kline McNeil created point spread betting combining ideas from other bookmakers. He later popularized it in Chicago during the early 1940s.

McNeil completed a master’s degree at the University of Chicago, later teaching in New York and Connecticut. He was both an avid and successful gambler, eventually opening his own bookmaking shop in the 1940s. His bold decision was the result of another bookie limiting his action.

McNeil’s spread betting invention changed the way people gambled on sports. Spread bets are placed on the expected difference in score. This concept contrasted with money line betting. These bets are placed on the probability of a result.

Prof. McNeil’s ingenuity is responsible for one of the most important sports gambling concepts in history.

Point Spreads became common fare at Las Vegas and New Jersey sports books coinciding with the rise of large scale gambling operations in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Today all sportsbook operations – both onshore and offshore – offer spread betting.

Other Names

  • Spread Bet
  • Betting the Spread
  • Betting the favorite or underdog
  • Side Betting

Similar Bets

  • Teaser Bet
  • Pleaser Bet
  • If Bet Win Only
  • Reverse Bet
  • Total Bet

Tables and Reference

Football and Basketball ATS Trends & Stats
+ Taps out NBA & NCAAB on mobile
Website NFL NCAAF NBA NCAAB
TeamRankings.com
TheSpread.com
PredictionMachine.com
WalterFootball.com
Covers.com

NFL Point Spread Betting

NFL Key Numbers 1989-2015
Margin Games % of Games
3 Points 1028 15.58%
7 Points 577 8.74%
10 Points 401 6.08%
4 Points 359 5.44%
6 Points 358 5.43%
14 Points 317 4.80%
1 Points 264 4.00%
17 Points 247 3.74%
2 Points 245 3.71%
13 Points 208 3.15%
5 Points 205 3.11%
8 Points 197 2.99%
11 Points 189 2.86%
21 Points 181 2.74%
20 Points 149 2.26%
24 Points 145 2.20%
18 Points 137 2.08%
16 Points 124 1.88%
28 Points 112 1.70%
12 Points 110 1.67%
9 Points 108 1.64%
15 Points 107 1.62%
27 Points 107 1.62%
19 Points 80 1.21%
31 Points 79 1.20%
23 Points 75 1.14%
22 Points 70 1.06%
25 Points 70 1.06%
34 Points 44 0.67%
26 Points 43 0.65%
35 Points 41 0.62%
38 Points 34 0.52%
30 Points 33 0.50%
32 Points 31 0.47%
29 Points 30 0.45%
37 Points 17 0.26%
33 Points 13 0.20%
41 Points 11 0.17%
36 Points 9 0.14%
45 Points 8 0.12%
42 Points 7 0.11%
39 Points 5 0.08%
40 Points 5 0.08%
43 Points 4 0.06%
44 Points 3 0.05%
46 Points 2 0.03%
48 Points 2 0.03%
49 Points 2 0.03%
51 Points 1 0.02%
52 Points 1 0.02%
54 Points 1 0.02%
55 Points 1 0.02%
58 Points 1 0.02%
59 Points 1 0.02%

NBA Point Spread Betting

NBA Key Numbers 1989-2015
Margin Games % of Games
7 1716 6.62%
5 1691 6.52%
6 1651 6.37%
8 1586 6.12%
2 1507 5.81%
4 1506 5.81%
3 1494 5.76%
9 1490 5.74%
10 1326 5.11%
11 1229 4.74%
12 1090 4.20%
1 1058 4.08%
13 978 3.77%
14 838 3.23%
15 766 2.95%
16 715 2.76%
30+ 625 2.41%
17 624 2.41%
18 572 2.21%
19 480 1.85%
20 467 1.80%
21 437 1.68%
22 374 1.44%
24 308 1.19%
23 289 1.11%
25 265 1.02%
26 234 0.90%
27 181 0.70%
28 157 0.61%
29 155 0.60%
30 127 0.49%

How to Read NFL Odds Tables and Reference

Calculating Opposite Side of Line
3rd party odds tables provide most expensive line value.
Calculation is for opposite line.
Juice Calculation Example
Juice -101 to -109
  1. Drop – sign.
  2. Subtract value from 110.
  3. Add difference to 100.
  4. – sign for opposite line.
  1. -107 becomes 107.
  2. 110 – 107 = 3.
  3. 100 + 3 = 103.
  4. -103 is opposite line.
Juice -110 to -119
  1. Drop – sign.
  2. Subtract 110 from value.
  3. Add value to -110.
  4. Difference is opposite line.
  1. -118 becomes 118.
  2. 118 – 110 = 8.
  3. -110 + 8 = -102
  4. -102 is opposite line.
Juice -120 or more
Less Common
  1. Drop – sign.
  2. Subtract 110 from value.
  3. Add value to 90.
  4. Difference is opposite line.
  1. -125 becomes 125.
  2. 125 – 110 = 15.
  3. 90 + 15 = +105
  4. +105 is opposite line.
Calculating Opposite Side of Line
Alternate Method
Juice Alternate Method
Juice -101 to -109
  1. Drop – sign.
  2. Subtract 210 from value.
  3. Difference is opposite line.
Juice -110 to -119
  1. Drop – sign.
  2. Subtract 220 from value.
  3. Difference is opposite line.
Juice -120 or more
Less Common
  1. Drop – sign.
  2. Subtract 20 from value.
  3. Difference is opposite line.

References


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spread_betting#Spreads_in_sports_wagering_(U.S.)
https://www.gamblingsites.org/sports-betting/point-spreads/
https://www.covers.com/pageloader/pageloader.aspx?page=/data/nfl/trends/league/season.html
https://www.bovada.lv/help/buying-points
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_K._McNeil
https://mag.uchicago.edu/economics-business/point-man
https://www.boydsbets.com/nfl-key-numbers/
https://www.boydsbets.com/nba-key-numbers/