Ok so far we have mastered reading the odds and calculating 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 oddsmakers who set the lines.
As ever, it is best to use an example to explain this more clearly.
|Tampa Bay||-140||-2.5 (-110)|
|New Orleans||+120||+2.5 (-110)|
The moneyline we have already discussed in our reading the odds, in simple terms it is the straight bet odds. In this example Tampa are clear favourites but the disadvantage by taking the moneyline is you will only get $71.45 return if you bet $100 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 New Orleans 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 payout to $91.
The moneyline to spread conversion varies from sportsbook to sportsbook but broadly speaking for football for instance it will look something like this:
|Point Spread||Money Line|
|FAVORITE||ML||WINNING %||UNDERDOG||ML||WINNING %|
We can go into further detail by considering probability percentages, like this NBA chart:
But we are probably getting ahead of ourselves. I do suggest though that you take a screenshot of those two charts as they will come in very useful once you are confident enough to bet.
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 spread) in order for them to cover the spread.
Very simply covering the spread means that the favourite (the team with the negative number against it) 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 Tampa on the spread 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 New Orleans and they either won outright OR lost by less than 2.5 points your bet is a winning one.
This may seem very obvious but it doesn’t stop people getting confused. If New Orleans win outright without having to use the spread you DO NOT get the moneyline odds!
When to Bet on the Spread
There are a number of factors to consider when betting on the spread as opposed to the moneyline. The key factor is covered in our calculating probability video.
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 spread then you are best going against the spread. In both cases the reason is you will get a better return on your bet.
Changes to the Spread
Sportsbooks can change the spread for any number of reasons from changing weather conditions to injuries or changes to the lineups and even because they feel their odds maker hasn’t correctly assessed the probabilities.
IF the spread changes after your bet is made this does not affect your bet, so if you backed Tampa cover the spread 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 spread moves or not.
Do Other Sports have Point Spreads?
Betting against the spread on the NFL is by far the most popular form of spread betting, but there are other options.
You will also see point spreads in hockey, baseball, soccer and even tennis. The principle is the same but the terminology is different:
In hockey, the spread is called a puck line; in baseball, it is a run line; and in soccer, it is a goal line.Puck lines and run lines are almost always fixed at 1.5.
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