How Does the Point Spread Work ? | LeoVegas

How Does Point Spread Work?

Summary: The point spread in sports betting is a wager on the margin of victory by one side or the other in a game. As a result, the favourite needs to win by an additional margin to secure a point spread bet, while an underdog can lose by the set amount but still secure bettors a win on the point spread bet.

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It may be the most popular form of sports betting, but how does the point spread work? In this sports betting guide, we aim to answer this question. It’s one that many fans ask before betting, with spread betting being the first market many bettors see, regardless of the sport.

This includes deciphering how to read the point spread, how it’s calculated, how it works in the most popular sports, and how to place a point spread bet.

What is a Point Spread in Sports Betting?

The point spread in sports betting is a wager on the margin of victory by one side or the other in a game. To answer “how does the point spread work,” it’s best to say that it gives either side of a game a handicap that brings the betting odds for the favourite and the underdog close to even by giving a larger or smaller spread.

As a result, the favourite needs to win by an additional margin to secure a point spread bet, while an underdog can lose by the set amount but still secure bettors a win on the point spread bet. In this way, you can get better odds on heavy favourites to win and make a return on underdogs that keep the game close.

How to Read a Point Spread in Sports Betting

You’ll usually see the point spread formatted as two rows, one for each team in the game, with a box under the “Spread” header for each row. In this box, there’ll be a plus or minus decimal number, such as +3.0 or -3.0, as well as the odds, which usually read -110. The decimal number is the point spread that you’re betting on at the -110 odds offered. These odds will vary, though.

Here are the three parts of the point spread structure:

The Favourite

The favourite to win the game is always given a negative point score on the spread and usually negative odds. For example, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sit at -2.5 and odds of -110 on the spread against the Seattle Seahawks. Here, the Bucs need to beat Seattle by at least 3 points on the scoreline.

The Underdog

Whichever team is given the positive handicap or positive point spread, they are the underdog. Bettors will note Detroit Pistons as the underdog against the Boston Celtics, shown by their +11.5 points handicap at odds of -110. A bet on this market wins if Detroit wins, ties, or doesn’t lose by more than 11 points.

Covering the Spread

This is the aim of the game and certainly why you want clarity on how the point spread works in betting. Covering the spread means that you’ve won your spread bet because the team that you placed your spread bet on has won within the parameters of the spread’s handicap values, congratulations!

How are Point Spreads Calculated?

The odds and spread for points spreads are calculated off the money line, with favoured teams being given enough of a disadvantage in their initial points handicap to bring the odds close to evens. At the same time, the spread increases the handicap of points to the underdog, bringing their odds in towards evens.

That said, as time goes on from the release of the point spread odds, the calculations can slide. This is predominantly to reduce the exposure of the sportsbooks in light of important news or bettors piling onto one side en masse.

If you’re wondering if your spread bet has won, that depends on the line you’ve taken. As an example, we’ll go from the Houston Rockets versus the Toronto Raptors games, for which, the Raps were given -8.5 on the spread at odds of -110.

Taking these odds means that you think that Toronto is going to win by a margin of 9 points or more. If the final score is 110-102 in favour of the Raptors, the 8-point margin simply won’t cut it.

However, the Raptors winning 120-111, would result in Toronto covering the spread and your bet winning. Had you put a $10 bet on Toronto at -8.5 at odds of -110, the Raptors winning by 9 or more points would return $19.09.

Types of Point Spread

Most of the time, point spread betting is down as “spread” or “handicap” betting, but some sports have put their twist on the popular lines. If you’re a multi-sports bettor, to fully understand how the point spread works in the sportsbook, you’ll need to know the types of point spread as they tend to differ per sport:

Football (NFL): NFL Point spreads in football are based on the final score of the game, such as the Atlanta Falcons beating the Carolina Panthers by -3 points on the spread at -110.

Basketball (NBA): Basketball spreads can be quite wild but are also focused on the game's final score. The Orlando Magic win with a +7 handicap on the spread at -110 is a good example.

Hockey (NHL): In hockey, the point spread is called the “Puck Line,” and refers to the final scoreline of the game, such as the New York Rangers beating the Islanders by -1.5 goals or more on the puck line at +140.

Baseball (MLB): For baseball, the point spread line becomes the run line, which often takes the form of a team like the Toronto Blue Jays winning with a +1.5 or -1.5 run handicap. This means they need to win by two clear runs to cover the spread.

Soccer (MLS): Spread markets can also be seen under the “Handicaps” banner in soccer, with there usually being many more point spread betting options that swing far from the common close-to-evens lines. The spread in soccer looks at the final score of the game, with 0.5 or 1.5 spread lines usually being the closest to even.

Tennis (US Open): The margin of the number of games or sets won offers different forms of tennis spread betting. So, in tennis betting, a -1.5 sets spread bet on Novak Djokovic means that you need him to win by two or more sets, which would be a 2-1 or 3-0 scoreline in a best-of-three match.

How to Place Point Spread Bets

To make a point spread bet, you need to:

  1. Read the guide above to find the answer to the question of how a point spread works in betting;
  2. Go to your sportsbook of choice and click on your favourite sport;
  3. Select the tab for today’s games, the next game, or Game Lines;
  4. Scroll to the game that you want to make a point spread bet on;
  5. Click on the Spread, Handicap, Run Line, or Puck Line odds for the team that you think will cover the spread;
  6. Go to your Bet Slip, input your wager, and press the Bet button;
  7. Watch the game and see if your team covers the spread!

Point Spread FAQ

What Does + Point Spread Mean?

A “plus” point spread or + point spread means that the team gets an opening handicap of an additional number of points. If the team loses by fewer points than the + value, even if they lose the game, the point spread bet will win.

What is a Push in Spread Betting?

A push occurs in spread betting when the outcome matches the betting line exactly. For example, if there’s a -3 spread and that team wins by three points, it’ll be a push. A push in spread betting returns the stake as though the bet had never been placed.

Should You Make Spread Bets?

Generally speaking, the odds for spread bets have a potentially smaller outcome than most other markets, meaning that wins are, in a sense, subject to less commission.

Can I Use a Point Spread Bet in a Parlay?

You can use a point spread bet in a parlay, but some sportsbooks will limit the variety of other betting picks that you put into the parlay with your point spread bet.

Why Does the Point Spread Change?

The point spread changes because the odds adapt to how much money is being placed on either outcome or recent news alerts. If the favourite is being heavily backed by bettors, the spread will reflect a greater divide and larger numbers on either side, covering the sportsbook from major losses.

What is a “Juice” or “Vig” in Sports Betting?

“Juice” or “vig” are shorthand terms for “vigorish” in sports betting, which refers to the small fee that sportsbooks charge to accept your wager. Typically, bettors look for markets with smaller vigs or less juice, like point spread betting.

How Does a Tie Work in Point Spread?

With a point spread, a tie according to the spread – per the handicap values, such as -4 or +4 – results in a push: this returns your stake. A tie on the scoreboard, however, will result in a loss to the favourite or “minus” option but a win to the underdog due to their initial “plus” points on the spread.

What does +7 mean in the spread?

If the spread is +7, the underdog must either win the game handily or lose by a margin of less than seven points in order to cover the spread. The favourite needs to win by more than seven points.

What does a +10 spread mean?

The -10 indicates that Team B must lose by fewer than 10 points for you to win your wager, while the +10 indicates that Team A must win by at least 10 points in order for you to win your wager.

What does a +4.5-point spread mean?

The NBA has an average score spread of -4.5/+4,5, so your bet will cover the spread. If the underdog wins, then the game must be lost within four points, or they must win the match.

Can Spread Betting be combined with a Prop Bet?

No, since prop bets are more specific and are not related to the point spread.

Should I bet on point spread?

Betting on point spreads can generally have a number of benefits. By helping to level the playing field between opposing teams, point spreads allow bettors to place their money on the underdog and still have a chance of winning. Point spreads can also provide better odds than moneyline bets, which occasionally require a higher initial wager.

Point spread betting does, however, present some unique risk and difficulties. Point spreads, for instance, might be trickier to anticipate than straightforward moneyline wagers because they need a deeper understanding of the match and the teams involved.

What does against the spread mean?

You need the "underdog" to either win the game or lose by a smaller margin than the "Point Spread" you are given.

Can a team lose and still cover the spread?

The favourite needs to win by an additional margin to secure a point spread bet, while an underdog can lose by the set amount but still secure bettors a win on the point spread bet.

Learn more about sports betting in our guides