The point spread bet is one of the most popular wagers at online sportsbooks across America. For those of you who are yet to make this type of sports bet, we have all the information you need below. This spread betting guide will tell you the best sports betting sites for this wager and how to make an effective bet.
If you were to browse any of the best sports betting sites, they usually list three types of wagers next to American sports. If you browse the NFL, NBA, or MLB, you will see a spread, moneyline, and total bet. There are many differences between these wagers, but the most complex is the point spread. If you want to know more about the other wagers, we have detailed guides for each bet. However, we are only focusing on the spread in this guide.
Sports betting is all about predicting the hope of winning cash. Yet, sometimes it is not worth the financial risk to bet on the favorite or underdog in a matchup. That is because the returns could be poor, or the underdog is so unlikely to win that it would just be a waste of money. The spread bet seeks to minimize these situations by placing a handicap on both sides. This may sound confusing, but we explain everything you need to know below.
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. This is where the sportsbook will apply a handicap to both teams, resulting in drastically different odds when compared to the moneyline. The result is you are predicting which team will win the game. However, in a spread bet, you need to team to win by a certain amount.
What do we mean by neutralizing the gap between the favorite and the underdog? The spread bet provides a points margin for each team, which can lead to 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 sports betting site 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 system, as opposed to the fractions and decimals options.
The plus and minus symbols are perhaps the most troublesome part for new players to understand. For the odds, a plus means you will win more money than you have staked. For spread bets, the plus represents the underdog. That means the team with a +5 spread will have five extra points to start with. That means if they lose within five points of the favorite, the underdog wins the bet.
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 the NFL, spreads can vary a lot more, stretching up to -7 sometimes. But what does -7 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.
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. Every sport starts with both teams at zero. However, with the point spread, think of each team as starting with the size of the spread. The underdog begins with +7 more points than zero and the favorite starts with -7. Any spread with a decimal place is there purely to stop ties.
How to Place a Point Spread Bet
Placing a point spread bet is as straightforward as placing any wager on an online sportsbook. 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 your stake, or if you would like to combine your bets into a parlay.
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 over under bet looks similar, but they forgo the plus and minus for the O and U symbols.
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
A spread bet is no more likely to win than any other wager on an online sportsbook. Instead, it is there as an option for games where one team is a clear favorite over another. The tips below should help you place successful wagers and avoid some losses.
- Check the spread: 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 +2 spread for the Rangers to beat the Penguins 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. 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 sportsbook determines the size of the spread and it 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 random 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 a total bet, 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.
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 a normal game week and is especially large for international basketball games. In some Olympic basketball games, the spread can reach well over 25 points for the favorite. 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. Looking at an NHL game week with eight fixtures, all eight had a spread of 1.5. In 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 a -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. Ten bucks would net you $22.50. Placing the same value bet on the Hurricanes to win outright using the moneyline would only get you $8.47 in profit.
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 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 2023. 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 world of betting 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 nine 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. 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.
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 spread bet.
- To spread or not to spread? A spread bet is not the most rewarding wager at the sportsbook, but is that a bad thing? If you want humongous returns, parlays are the way to go. However, parlays are far more difficult to get right compared to a spread. 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 is to bet on a sport you know well. You should do some research into recent form and whether the top players are going to play. Next, examine the spread itself. At DraftKings, the NBA games had spreads ranging from three up to 8.5. Even with drastically different spreads, they all had -110 as the odds. Other sports betting platforms may offer different or better odds. It just shows how important research is before you place the wager.
- Returns or Results? If you only pick bets that have large returns, then you are not likely to see much profit. You will end up spending a lot on failed wagers before you see any winnings. Don't pick bets based on how much you can win. Only wager 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. The spread bet brings both sides into play, making for an exciting sports bet. Below are 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 FanDuel is a great option. Our FanDuel review dives deep into what makes this sports betting site 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 sports betting site for spread bets, especially for American sports. 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 information about both teams’ previous matches. They have stats about each team’s win probability, helpful information about each team’s high-scoring players, plus a variety of detailed graphs. 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. 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 sports across America. The MLB, NFL, NHL, and NBA are all prime examples of spread betting. They all feature exciting games where you can make a winning wager on the favorite or underdog.
Many new players underestimate how effective the spread bet can be. If you look at the past few Super Bowls, two of the best teams going for glory mean a runaway leader is not common. That is exactly why spread betting is so popular. You can end up with a winning wager even if the underdog loses.