Spread betting is the second most popular way to bet on sports behind the moneyline. It is used by many winning sports bettors, with some using it exclsuively in their betting strategies.
This guide will show you everything you need to know about point spreads. It’ll start out with the basics and develop into more advanced strategies for seasoned bettors.
Here is the ultimate guide to point spread betting.
What Is The Point Spread?
The point spread is the bookmakers’ margin of victory between two competitors. The bookmakers will decide who the favorite is to win the match and by how many points.
Betting on the point spread is wagering on which team exceed expectations and either win or lose by more or less than then the bookmakers’ margin.
Here’s an example:
The ‘-‘ sign next to the Celtics’ margin shows that the bookmakers consider them the favorites and will win by 3 or 4 points, so they set the betting line at 3.5 points. On the other hand, the ‘+’ next to the Nuggets’ margin shows that the bookmakers consider them the underdogs.
If you bet on the Celtics to beat the Nuggets and they win by 4 points or more, you win the bet.
This is what’s known as covering the spread.
However, if they lose or they win by 3 points or less, you lose the bet.
On the other hand, if you bet on the Nuggets and they lose by fewer than 4 points, you win the bet. You also win the bet if they beat the Celtics.
If the Nuggets lose by 4 points or more, you lose the bet.
For completeness, betting on the underdog to win is known as betting against the spread.
Why Bookmakers Use Half Points
Let’s take a look at the odds again:
But what if the bookmakers set the margin of victory to exactly 3 points?
The answer: there becomes a possibility that the match can end as a tie. So if the Celtics win by exactly 3, neither team exceeds expectations and either wins or loses by more or less than then the bookmakers’ margin.
In the event of a tie, you will have your stake returned to you.
So that’s the basics. Let’s move onto how to calculate the payouts from the point spread.
Point Spread Payouts
Point spreads usually pay out the same no matter the result – the previous odds were a great example of this. This is because bookmakers will only change their lines to encourage action on either side.
Let’s bring that example back and look at the odds again:
As you can see, both the Nuggets and the Celtics have odds at -110, meaning that you must wager 100 units to make a 100-unit profit.
In fact, it is common to have -110 odds on the point spread across most sports. But let’s think about what this means for a second.
If you bet on both sides, you a guaranteed to win at least one bet.
Let’s say you bet $110 on each side, so the total stake is $220. No, since both sides pay out at -110, your total payout would be $100 plus the $110 stake back. This adds up to $210.
This leaves a $10 profit for the bookmakers: EVERY TIME.
Changes To Point Spread Payouts
It doesn’t happen often but on occasion, a bookmaker will change their odds but keep the point spread the same. They do this to prevent an influx of action going on the other side of the line that could leave them extremely unbalanced. However, they resist changing them to whol points to avoid the tie scenario.
Instead, they may change the odds to something like:
- Celtics -2.5 (-110)
- Nuggets +2.5 (EVS)
You can now get the Nuggets at even money, so instead of paying out at -110, you get even money so you only need to wager $100 to win $100 rather than wagering $110 as before.
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Advantages Of Spread Betting
There are two main advantages to the point spread.
Firstly, it’s easy to understand the value of your bet. For example, think of how you evaluate value from betting on the moneyline. Without creating a betting strategy, it’s hard to tell whether or not it’s worth betting on from just a glance.
This where the point spread holds its own. While it may be difficult to see if you are getting good bang for your buck from odds of +250, it’s an awful lot easier to decide if +7.5 is a line worth betting on.
Secondly, point spreads give you the opportunity to profitably bet on teams you think are going to lose. Most other bets don’t give you that option.
If a team is not playing well and you spot patterns, you can comfortably bet on them to lose on the point spread until you can find out when they might start winning.
Either way, you’re going to make some money.
Ok, so now that we have covered all the basics and understand payouts, it’s time to look at some strategies.
Examples Of Point Spread
While it’s known as the point spread in basketball and football, the point spread exists in other sports; it’s just called a different name.
Ice Hockey Point Spread
In ice hockey, the point spread is known as the puckline. The line is based on the goals difference rather than points.
The line is usually set at a 1.5 goal difference. Here’s an example.
However, while the puckline functions the same as the point spread, there are no standard puckline payouts. You can see this from the payouts above as both teams are not set at -110.
Baseball Point Spread
The point spread in baseball is called the runline and is based on the number of runs scored.
Like ice hockey, the line is usually set at a 1.5 difference. Here’s an example.
The runline is similar to the puckline in that while it functions the same as the point spread, there are no standard payouts, illustrated from the above payouts.
Point Spread Strategies
Here’s the bottom line.
Point spread betting is all about spotting value in the markets.
However, there are some things you can do to increase your chances of finding these value bets.
Create Your Own Spread
This is quite a simple strategy but one worth sharing nevertheless.
Before heading to the bookmakers, take a step back and look at the matchups. From your own understanding of the game and using stats and data, create your own point spread.
Once you have an idea of what the margin of victory will be, head to bookmakers and compare their line to yours.
If their line is equal to yours or works more in your favor, you will have found value from the bet and must bet it.
The point behind this strategy is that you don’t get swayed by what the bookmakers think the line should be. People miss out on a value bet far too often because they take the bookmakers’ line as gospel and pass.
Predict Line Movements
Anyone with experience in sports betting will tell you that there is so much value to be found from even the smallest of changes. While a change from +3.5 to +4.5 may not sound like a big difference, in sports betting, it’s the difference between winning and losing.
This means that predicting any line movements becomes very valuable for your point spread betting strategy. Use the information to decide if you are going to bet before the line changes, after it changes or not even betting it at all. Sometimes not making the bet provides the best value.
Lines change based on breaking news, such as injuries and suspensions, as well as hype generated through public opinion and even the weather,
But not all line movements are correct. Keep en eye on them throughout the week leading up to the game and if you spot any change that looks out of the ordinary, you may have found a great value bet.
Time Your Bets
While money is continually bet on sports, there are certain times during the week that you may be able to get extra value from your bet.
For example, sharp money is placed when the markets have just opened. Sharp bettors tend to bet with high-than-average units, intuitively meaning that they must have a decent idea about which side of the line to bet. But you’ll have to be fast as bookmakers will adjust their lines quickly if they become too unbalanced.
However, this is a judgement call based on where you think value begins and ends.
Alternatively, you could bet closer to game day with the rest of the public. Interestingly enough, they like to bet on the favorites before the game. If you disagree and think that there’s a good chance the underdog will win or not lose as much as the line suggests, there is an opportunity to get great value here.
As more and more money goes on the side of the favorite, bookmakers will make the other side of the line more attractive by increasing the margin of victory.
There are plenty of valuable opportunities to bet on the point spread – we use them ourselves regularly in our data-driven betting strategies to make healthy profits.
Point spread betting can give you that edge and can turn you into a serious winner from sports betting.