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What is Point Spread Betting?

Point spread betting is an easy betting type that allows for a small margin of error on whichever side of the bet you decide to place some money on. When betting the point spread, oddsmakers will determine an amount of points that they believe the score will be separated by and they will assign a positive number to the underdog, and a negative number to the favored team.

This essentially gives the underdog a head start before the game even begins, and puts pressure on the favored team to cover the spread. Usually, you will see point spreads in a half-point format because if you use whole numbers, you could induce a push by hitting that number exactly.

 In basketball, you might see a point spread of -4.5/+4.5, which means the favored team will need to win the game by five points or more for your bet to cover the spread. If you bet on the underdog, they simply need to win the game or lose the game by less than four points. If they lose by five, your bet won’t cash.

Point Spread Betting Odds Explained

Now that you have an idea of how point spreads work, you need to look at the betting odds that are next to the actual point spread numbers. These odds represent the likelihood of that team covering the spread. Oddsmakers are very skilled in predicting these margins, so the odds are usually fairly modest compared to moneyline wagers.

The odds for point spreads are displayed in your preferred format, and the options include American odds, Decimal odds, and Fractional odds. It really doesn’t matter which format you use, they all represent the same likelihood, it’s a personal preference.

American odds are by far the most popular format in the United States, for obvious reasons. This odds format is the newest addition, and is displayed as a number in the 100’s. If you’re familiar with moneyline odds, you won’t see large numbers here, you will likely see a range of numbers from -115 to +105. These are common point spread odds.

A good trick to remember when dealing with American odds is that you can determine how much you would win on a $100 bet very easily. If you bet the underdog, the odds represent how much money you would need to wager to win your bet. If you bet the favorite, you would need to bet this amount to win $100.

Your point spread odds can also be viewed in the decimal format, which is commonly used in Europe and the UK. The decimal odds will show you how much you would win for every dollar wagered. You simply need to multiply your bet amount by the odds. If your odds are 1.96, you will win 96 cents for every dollar you bet. So, if you decided to place a wager of $20, you would return $19.20, plus your initial $20.

Fractional odds are less popular in the United States, but some do use this option, so it’s worth mentioning. Many times, it can be easier to think of odds in the fractional sense, by comparing them to one chance – like ten to one odds. To determine how much you’d win using fractional odds, you would multiply your wager amount by the top of the fraction, then divide the result into the bottom of the fraction.

If we use the same odds as above, the fractional odds would be 24/25, and if we decide to bet $20, we would multiply 20×24, which is 480, then divide that into 25. This gives us the same amount as decimal, as the odds are the exact same – you’d win $19.20 plus have your initial $20 returned to you for a total of $39.20.

A helpful tip if you are planning to bet the same amount as the bottom number in your fractional odds, you will win that amount!  

Point Spread Betting By Sport

Since point spread betting is a little trickier, it actually is called different things depending on the sport you’re betting on. Since not all sports have points per se, you might need to track other things like runs or goals. Below we will outline how to bet the point spread in several different professional sports.

NFL Point Spread Betting

NFL point spreads are very popular betting options because the competition is so fierce in the National Football League, therefore we see closer games, and sometimes less predictability. Having the option to be able to predict that a team might not win, but they might score enough points to stay neck in neck with their opponent can be greatly effective in an NFL betting strategy. You might see point spreads between one and 11 points, it depends on how the two teams match up against one another.

A common point spread is in the three-point range – the amount of a field goal. An example of what you can look at in your point spread betting strategy is to analyze the offensive and defensive lines and make sure that you aren’t betting on a weak offense and depending on them to score on a strong defense.

NBA Point Spread Betting

You would think with high-scoring games like basketball, you would see larger spreads, but that isn’t the case in the NBA. You might see some bigger spreads in college basketball, depending on if a number one seed is playing a much lower seed, but for the most part the spreads in basketball are only a few points.

Most of an NBA game’s important points are accrued in the last five minutes, meaning anything can happen as the pace changes entirely. All it takes is a few three-pointers in the final minute and it could be a very different ball game.

MLB Point Spread Betting

Baseball is one of those sports we spoke about because it doesn’t track points – it tracks runs. So, the name point spread doesn’t really fit here – in MLB the point spreads are called ‘runlines’. MLB runline betting has the same principles, but just a clever name that matches the sport. You will see runlines between 0.5 and 9.5 on average, depending on how likely it is that a team might beat another.

When looking at the matchups, you’ll want to keep an eye on the starting pitcher, and the batting order to see how likely it is that your selected team will perform.

NHL Point Spread Betting

Another sport where they don’t track points is hockey. Like baseball, hockey tracks goals instead of points so when referring to NHL point spreads, they are called ‘pucklines’. These pucklines are the exact same as any other sport, just more aptly named to reflect the scoring system.

Pucklines can range from 0.5 to 5.5 on a regular basis, depending on the teams playing in the matchup. That small margin can make things easier to make your picks, as you can likely tell how a team may perform against another, depending on the goaltender and the defensive strength.

MMA/UFC Point Spread Betting

MMA and UFC have not always had point spreads available, these are actually quite new offerings that not all sportsbooks offer. Point spreads in the UFC were always offered on the fight card as a whole, not individual fights. Some fights were beginning to get too predictable and we were seeing huge underdogs or situations where there was no chance the dog would win and many bettors were choosing to not bet the moneyline at all.

While these UFC point spreads are still very new and in their infancy stage, we thought we’d share how they work so you make the best UFC betting decisions for your strategy. UFC point spreads are depicted in rounds, so you might have -3.5/+3.5 for a three-round fight, and -5.5/+5.5 for a five-round fight. If your fighter wins by finish according to the judge’s scorecards, your point spread bet will win. If you chose that +3.5 underdog and the fight ends with a 29-28 on the judge’s scorecards, you will win your wager. Betting the point spreads in the UFC can be daunting depending on who the judges are for any given fight. Some judges can offer some very outlandish opinions or thoughts on a fight and really mess up your wagers.

Soccer Point Spread Betting

Like hockey and baseball, soccer also has its own name for point spreads. With the same reasoning – they track goals instead of points – they call their point spreads ‘goallines’. Now, unlike soccer moneyline bets, you don’t have the draw option, so your team actually has to fulfill the parameters of your point spread wager.

 If the game results in a tie, neither team technically wins which would cause a push, and you would just receive a refund of the amount you bet on the game.

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Point Spread Betting FAQs

What is a point spread bet?

A point spread wager allows the underdog a slight advantage before the game begins. Odds are assigned to each team based on their likelihood of winning the game. A positive number indicates the underdog and they must win or only lose by less than the spread, and the favored team must win by more points than the spread indicates.

Are point spreads called different names in some sports?

Yes, point spreads can be referred to as pucklines in hockey, runlines in baseball and goal lines in soccer. They are exactly the same as a point spread but these sports don’t track points necessarily.

Are point spreads easier than moneyline bets?

Not necessarily. Point spreads make you think a little harder as you have to try to predict how well a team may perform against another. You have to ensure you can predict how close a game might be or if an underdog could win overall.

Now that you have a better grasp of point spread betting, you’re ready to place your bets! Head over to our sportsbook to place a point spread wager on your favorite sport, or continue learning by reading one of our related betting guides:

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