Point Spread Betting

The point spread bet is one of the most popular wagers at online sportsbooks across America. This type of wager gained popularity for a multitude of reasons, most of which we explain below. Here at Bet Station, we have compiled a variety of sports betting guides to help new players distinguish between each of the most commonly used wagers.

The best sports betting sites prioritize three wagers, the spread, over under, and moneyline for most American sports. There are many differences between each of these bets, but the most complex wager is the point spread. This type of bet is interesting as it can give rewarding odds to the favorite. That also means it may give lower odds to the underdog, depending on the margin of the spread. This may sound confusing, but by the time you finish reading this guide, you should be an expert on the spread bet.

If you are looking at sports betting, you often have two choices. Place an individual bet, otherwise known as a single, or form a parlay. We go into great detail explaining the parlay bet in our guide, but essentially it’s where you can link bets together for bigger prizes. You can certainly do this for a point spread bet, but it is riskier. Unless you get every single bet in your parlay right, you win nothing. The caveat is that a parlay is usually worth a lot more in terms of rewards. However, since this is a guide all about the point spread, let’s get straight into it.

What is the Spread in Sports Betting?

A spread bet is an exciting wager as it seeks to level the playing field between the favorite and the underdog. If you look at the moneyline bet, you can tell the favorite from the underdog, as the favorite will usually give you poor returns. This is where parlays can become advantageous, as they combine odds from several games to yield better returns. If you want to avoid parlays but want decent returns, the spread bet becomes a fantastic choice as it attempts to neutralize the gap between the two teams, allowing for better odds.

What do we mean by neutralizing the gap between the favorite and the underdog? Essentially, the spread bet provides a points margin for each team, often resulting in better odds for a wager. If you were to bet on the San Diego Padres at the Pittsburgh Pirates, the moneyline bet for the Padres to win outright is -178, but if they complete the spread, the odds are +105. The spread determined by the sportsbook can vary depending on the teams and the sport, but for this match, it was 1.5.

The 1.5 is just an example, and in sports like basketball, the spread can be as high as 20 points. If you are wondering why some spreads have a decimal place, think of it as a tie-breaker. Since no team can score half a point, they will either score less than the target or more. This means the bet can not yield a draw or a push. You will either win or lose. In this example, 1.5 means one team has to win by two or more points to cover the spread.

Point Spread Betting Explained

The point spread bet is unique as the sportsbook introduces a handicap system to bring two teams to a more equal level. If there is a clear favorite in a game, the sportsbook will assign a large points spread, meaning the team will need to win by a sizeable margin to win the bet. Conversely, if you were to bet on the underdog, they would need to either win the game or not lose within the designated margin.

This wager may look complex to any new player, but it is simple; once you know what to look for. The first feature to look for is the number itself. If you are browsing for a spread in the NBA, the spread can range anywhere from 1.5 to 20. This margin will tell you how many more points, runs, or goals the team must win or not lose by. The next step is the three-digit number underneath, which represents the odds. This is a three-digit number if you use the American odds display system, as opposed to the fractions and decimals options.

It’s difficult to talk about the plus and minus symbols for the spread bet and the odds. The minus icon for the spread shows how many points the team needs to win by. The odds have a different use for the minus symbol, as it means you can’t win more in profit than what you staked. Whenever you see a plus in front of the odds, then you will win more than the value of your stake in profit. If it says +125 for the Columbus Blue Jackets, then your $10 wager would net $12.50 in profit.

The FanDuel Sportsbook spread betting options for the NHL

What does -7 Mean in Point Spread Betting?

If you were to browse an online sportsbook, you would see a wide variety of spread bets. Sports like the MLB have much tighter spreads when compared to other sports. In baseball, the typical spread is around 1.5. In the NFL, spreads can vary a lot more, stretching up to -7 sometimes. But what does -7 actually mean? Whenever you see a number like +7 or -2.5 for a spread bet, it simply means a team will have to win by this amount to win the bet. For all point spreads, if a team has a plus symbol in front of their spread, then they are the underdog. That means they need to win the contest by any amount or lose within the point spread.

If you see a team that has a point spread of -7, that means they will need to win the game by scoring seven or more points/runs than the opposition. Normally in betting, the minus dictates the favorite. If you see a wager with -162 as the odds, that means you will win less than your stake in profit. Spread betting is your chance to make more money when then favorite wins by a large margin. The safer bet in this situation is often to bet on the underdog, who will typically have lower odds. All this will sound confusing to new players, but it is straightforward. Just remember, a negative point spread means the team will need to overcome this deficit. A plus means the team can win the game by any margin, or lose within the spread.

How to Place a Point Spread Bet

Placing a point spread bet is no more difficult than placing any wager at an online sports betting site. All you have to do is browse for the sport you want to bet on, find the right game, and add the wager to the bet slip. When in the bet slip, you can make adjustments to how much you will stake, or if you would like to combine your bets into a parlay or round robin.

The spread bet is usually easy to spot, as it is one of the few wagers with two numbers in the box. The first number will have either a plus or a minus next to it and will usually be in single digits. Depending on the sport, this number can have a decimal place or not. The decimal is used to remove the possibility of a push. This is because a team cannot score half a point, so they will either be more or less than 1.5. The over under bet looks similar, but they forgo the plus and minus for the O and U symbols.

Essentially, you need to look for a spread bet and note the points. If the team you bet on has a minus symbol, they will need to score more than the opposition by this number of points for your bet to win. If they have a plus for the spread, they simply need to not lose by this margin or outright win the game.

How to Win a Point Spread

If you are new to sports betting, you may wonder how people win spread bets. Truth be told, there is no one way to win a bet. Below, you will find a couple of useful tips to help you get started placing sports bets.

  • Check the spread: Point spread bets can only come true if the front-runner wins by a certain amount, or the underdogs don’t lose by that amount. This means the key to winning this bet is to check if the favorite is a high-scoring team. If the underdog has only narrowly lost their past few games, then they might make a safer bet than the frontrunner.
  • Adjust your stake: Everyone will have a different limit on what you are prepared to spend on a bet. However, that does not mean you should always bet the same amount on every spread. If you look at the NHL, the Nashville Predators were at the Colorado Avalanche and they had a 1.5-point spread to cover. The Predators had +105 for the +1.5 spread, and the Avalanche had -126. Compare this to the Penguins and Rangers game, where they had the same spread but -260 and +210, respectively. Any bet on the Rangers would deliver significantly more than any other team.
  • Compare the moneyline: Moneyline bets are great, as they give you the odds for an outright winner regardless of the scoreline. The Rangers to beat the Penguins by two or more points is +205, but the moneyline is -132. This means the Rangers are favorites to win the game but are not likely to win by a margin of two or more.

Spread Betting Sports Examples

New players often need a bit of time to understand how the spread bet works and how it can be advantageous over the traditional moneyline. We here at Bet Station want to help new players out as much as possible. Therefore, we have put together a few examples of spread bets across several sports to give you an idea of what to expect at any sportsbook.

Point Spread for NFL Games

You can place spread bets on the NFL for pretty much any fixture all season. The spread is determined by the sportsbook and can range from a single point up near double digits if there is a clear favorite to win. In the 2022 Super Bowl, the sportsbooks gave the Rams a spread of -4. Meaning they would need to win the game by four or more points for you to win this bet. If you bet on the Bengals at +4, they would either have to win the game or not lose by four or more. In the end, the Bengals lost by three points, making the spread a good choice.

MLB Point Spread Example

Point spreads are a common wager in the MLB for several reasons. The major factor being the point spread is usually quite close. Looking at ten fixtures in the MLB, nine of them had a spread of 1.5 points. Meaning the favorites had to win by two or more runs, and the underdogs just had to stay within two. Conversely, if you were to make an over under bet, where both teams’ scores have to equal more or less than a designated number, this ranged between six and 10.5 across all ten fixtures.

Looking at the San Diego Padres and Cleveland Guardians game, the spread is -1.5 to the Padres, with the odds at +116 and -140 to the Guardians. If you thought the Padres would win the game by a larger margin than two runs, you can look for the Alt Lines/Runs section available at the best sports betting sites. At FanDuel, they offer a wide range of Run Lines, including alternates. This is where the sportsbook swaps the underdog and favorites, allowing for a better selection of wagers. For example, you could have the Guardians win by 1.5 runs or more at +260, a much more rewarding spread bet.

A screenshot of DraftKings showing various NBA spread bets

Basketball Spread Betting

Just like the two sports mentioned above, you can place spread bets on just about any basketball game. This is where the spread becomes interesting, as it can vary drastically. Looking at the NBA playoffs, the spread ranged from two points up to nine across four games. This spread only gets bigger during traditional game weeks and is especially large for international basketball games. In some Olympic basketball games, the spread can reach well over 25 points for the favorite. Remember, the spreads in basketball can become humongous, making it a tough decision when looking for a team to bet on.

NHL Spread Bets

The NHL is another interesting choice for spread bets. This is down to most spreads sitting around the 1.5 mark. Looking at an NHL game week with eight fixtures, all eight had a spread of 1.5. If we inspect the Boston Bruins game at the Carolina Hurricanes, we can get a better idea of a spread bet. The Bruins have a +1.5 spread with -280, and the Hurricanes have -1.5 with +225. This means the Hurricanes must win the game by two or more points to win the spread. If they do, they win over two times what you put in. So, ten bucks would net you $22.50. If you were to place a bet on the Hurricanes to win outright using the moneyline, your $10 would only get you $8.47 in profit.

What are the Spread Bet Odds?

The spread is one of the most intimidating for new players to face as there are multiple numbers to look at. Not only do you need to look at the odds, but there is often a number with a decimal place to contend with as well. If you visit any online sportsbook, they usually have three wagers next to each game, the spread, moneyline, and over under. The over under is easy to spot thanks to the O and U symbols, but the moneyline is the easiest as it only has one number inside.

As long as you use the American odds system, the spread is identifiable because of the decimal place or because it has an additional number marked with a + or -. When the number has a plus in front, it means you can win more in profit than you staked. Betting $100 on the Grizzlies to beat the Warriors would give you $114 as the odds were +114. If the bet was anything with a minus in front, then you could not win more than your stake. If you bet $100 at -112, you would win $89.29 in profit, plus your $100 back. Just remember, the odds are almost always the second number.

What does a Points Spread Bet Mean?

A spread bet is a wager where the sportsbook assigns a handicap to both teams, making a more even contest. What this means is they choose a points margin for the favored team to win by for the bet to be a winner. This means the wager can offer better returns than the moneyline, as it makes it harder for the best team to win. This is especially good for players who like to make parlays, but it also means any single wager should be more rewarding.

The best way we can describe the points spread is it makes a game or competition more equal. If a team is usually dominant, they will need to be in fine scoring form to win the points spread. This brings the underdog into play. You can win a spread bet by wagering on the underdog to either win the contest or not lose by a certain amount. In the event of a close game, players who bet on the underdogs get rewarded. This happens more frequently than you might think, such as in Super Bowl 2022. Overall, the spread bet is a fantastic way to make games even more exciting.

When to Make a Spread Bet

The hardest part of sports betting is knowing when to place a bet. We here at Bet Station like to do everything in our power to help you win. Therefore, we have listed a few useful tips below to help you avoid losses when betting on your favorite sports teams.

  • Is it a realistic spread? One issue we have when looking for good spreads is the size. If a spread is large, it has more opportunities to fail. An unlikely event in the betting world pays well, so you have to pick your spreads wisely.
  • Underdog or favorite? The spread bet is one of the most effective for nullifying the gap between the two teams. If you look at the Philadelphia 76ers who visit the Miami Heat, there is a spread of -9 to the heat and +9 to the 76ers. The odds for both results are -110. This means it is just as likely the Heat wins the game by a large margin as it is for the 76ers to not lose. Although this sounds weird, it’s much better than the -430 for the Heat moneyline.
  • Parlay or not parlay? Parlays add risk to your bet slip, but they drastically improve the odds. Typically, the more legs you add to a bet slip, the higher your odds and the better the rewards. The consequence comes in if one result is wrong, then you cannot win any cash. We wouldn’t recommend doing a parlay with just spreads, but you never know! Today could be your lucky day.
A screen shot of the BetRivers Sportsbook showing a variety of points spread bets across the NBA, NHL, and MLB

Why Choose Point Spreads?

Spread betting is one of the most popular bets in America. Below are a few tips and tricks to help you choose the right points spread bet!

  • To spread or not to spread? A spread bet is not the most rewarding at the sportsbook, but is that a bad thing? If you want humongous returns, then the parlay is more suited for you. However, given that parlays are difficult to get right, a spread is a suitable compromise. The spread gives better odds to a game with a clear favorite, making dull contests more exciting!
  • How to pick a good spread: The first aspect to look for is a sport or team you know well. You should do some research into both teams’ recent form and whether their top players are going to play. Once you know how much they typically score and where they are in the league, you can look at the spread itself. Looking at DraftKings, the NBA games had spreads ranging from three up to 8.5, and yet, they all had -110 as the odds. This takes the pressure off, as you don’t have to focus on the returns. Just pick a bet you think is likely to win!
  • Returns or Results? If you only pick bets that have outstanding returns then you are not likely to see much profit. That does not mean you will never win but by the time you do so, it probably won’t cover your losses. Don’t just pick bets that will pay well and make sure you only stake what you can afford to lose.

Best Online Sportsbooks for Spread Wagers

The point spread bet is one of the most popular across America. Its popularity stems from an ingenious way to lower the likelihood of the better team winning the bet. It is often a more rewarding wager for anyone looking to bet on the favorite, as the moneyline bet on a clear favorite is not normally worth placing. The spread bet brings both sides into play, making for a truly exciting sports bet. Below are just some of the best sportsbooks for all your spread betting needs.

Spread Bets at FanDuel

If you are looking for an online sportsbook with excellent daily fantasy sports, then you will struggle to find better than FanDuel. Our FanDuel review dives deep into what makes this sportsbook special, including its wide range of sports and betting types. They usually have a fantastic range of promotions to accompany any excellent spread bets.

DraftKings Spread Bets

The DraftKings Sportsbook is another famous for its brilliant fantasy sports and exciting casino games. It also has a first-class reputation for providing players with an enormous selection of sports to bet on. DraftKings is a brilliant sportsbook for spread bets, especially on American sports like hockey, baseball, basketball, and football. They also have soccer games from all over the globe.

Point Spread Betting at Betway

Betway is one of our favorite sports betting sites for its detailed statistics. It is an excellent resource for finding out useful information about both teams’ previous matches. They have useful stats about each team’s win probability, helpful information about each team’s high-scoring players, plus a variety of detailed graphs and infographics. Check out our Betway review for more details.

Spread Betting at Pointsbet

Although PointsBet is famous for its unique betting type, PointsBetting, it’s a superb sportsbook for spread betting too. With its wide range of bonuses and exciting promotions, the spread bets at PointsBet are up there with the best.

Final Words on Spread Betting

If you are still undecided about spread betting, allow us to set the record straight. It is a brilliant wager for anyone looking to bet on the major sports across America. The MLB, NFL, NHL, and NBA are all prime examples of spread betting. They all typically feature high-scoring games and are excellent for betting both on the favorites and underdog.

What makes the spread bet so special is how it makes an uneven contest far more equal. This means in the event of a match-up between the top of the league and the bottom, there is more to bet on than usual. If you just did the moneyline wager on the favorite, you would win close to nothing. However, if you bet on the spread, and they cover it, then you are looking at much better returns. Just look at any Super Bowl over the past few years, and you’ll see how effective a spread bet can be.

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