Ok so far we have mastered reading the odds and understanding probability, now it’s time to look at the spread or point spread.

The point spread is the most common and popular bet among gamblers. The purpose the point spread serves is to level the playing field between two teams by means of a handicap from the bookies who set the lines.

As ever, it is best to use an example to explain this more clearly.

Storm$1.71  -2.5 ($1.91)
Cowboys$2.20   +2.5 ($1.91)

The moneyline we have already discussed in our reading the odds, in simple terms it is the straight bet odds. In this example Storm are clear favourites but the disadvantage by taking the moneyline is you will only get $71.45 return if you bet $100 wins so your exposure is greater than your return.

By betting on the spread, however your returns would increase to $91 with the remaining $9 being the vig or the juice (the profit margin of the sportsbook). Conversely, if you bet $100 on Cowboys on the moneyline you would return $120 BUT as they are underdogs you may want to use the spread as a ‘safety net’, increasing your statistical likelihood of winning but reducing your potential payout to $91.

Betting Against the Spread & Covering the Spread

When you bet against the spread, it’s not enough for the favorite to win the game; now, they have to win by more than a specified amount (the line or spread) in order for them to cover the line or spread.

Very simply covering the line means that the favourite (the team with the odds under $2) wins with the handicap taken into account or the underdog wins with either with or without the additional points given.

So in our example if you backed Storm on the line and they won by 3 points or more, you win. If, however they won by 1 or 2 points you still lose your bet.

If you backed Cowboys and they either won outright OR lost by less than 2.5 points your bet is a winning bet.  

This may seem very obvious but it doesn’t stop people getting confused.

When to Bet on the Line

There are a number of factors to consider when betting on the line as opposed to the moneyline or H2H.

If your own assessment of the underdog means you think they will win the game without the need for the spread then the moneyline is the way to go.  

On the flip side if you believe through your own research that the favourite will win by more than the allocated line then you are best going against the line. In both cases the reason is you will get a better return on your bet.

Changes to the Line

Sportsbooks can change the line for any number of reasons from changing weather conditions to injuries or changes to the line-ups and even because they feel their odds maker hasn’t correctly assessed the probabilities.

If the line changes after your bet is made this does not affect your bet, so if you backed Storm to cover the line at 2.5 and it moves to 2.0 and the result is a 2 point win you still lose the bet.

This can work in your favor or against, it is up to you to decide whether betting early will benefit you in terms of potential line moves or not.