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Point Spread Explained

Here is our detailed and informative guide on point spread wagers. This guide will help you understand and get started using this popular type of sports bet.
Fri, October 27, 4:22 AM EDT | 5 min read

This is the essential starting guide to point spread betting. New bettors most certainly have heard of point spread bets, but may be unsure of what that means and how they work. Luckily, it is very simple to get started. This guide will help you understand point spread betting, and teach you the differences between NFL point spreads and college football point spreads. It is important to realize there are different factors involved in professional and college level sports wagers, as well as wagers on championships like Super Bowl point spread bets. Read on to learn all of the nuances of this wager type.

Or, if video is more of your thing, watch below as our ambassador Jamie Kelton breaks down everything you need to know about point spreads.

What Is A Point Spread?

Put simply, the points spread – also commonly known as ‘betting the spread’ or ‘handicap betting’ – is a sports betting market that means a team must win by a specific number of points / goals, or they must not lose by a specific number of points / goals.

Point spread betting is one of the most popular ways to bet on major professional team sports. While NFL point spread and NBA point spread bets are what first made this wager type popular, the format has been adopted by other professional sports as well. In a moneyline wager, you are betting on an overall winner in a chosen matchup. Each matchup will have a favorite team to win and an underdog, as well as associated odds that reflect their chance of winning. While it may be more profitable to bet on an underdog, favorites are likely to win more often. This can lead to many one sided and uninteresting games. This is where point spread bets come in.

In a point spread, you are wagering on the point margin between two teams. Let's say you have bet on the underdog to cover the spread. Once the game is over, if the underdog has kept the game close, within a certain amount of points, or won outright, your point spread bet is a winner. If you are new to sports betting, the concept may be a bit confusing but it is actually very simple and straightforward. Let's take a look at an example to break it down.

TeamPoint SpreadOdds
Buffalo Bills-7.5-110
New England Patriots+7.5-110

In the above matchup, the Buffalo Bills are the favorite to win. As they are the favorite, they have a corresponding handicap of -7.5 points. If you bet on them to win, they must beat the opposing team by at least 7.5 points.

On the opposite side of the wager, the New England Patriots are the underdog to win. To beat the spread, they must close the point gap to within 7.5 points or win outright. Once the game is over, you can take the Patriots final score and add 7.5 points. If they now have more than the opponent, your bet is a winner. In both examples, -110 odds are given. Make sure to always check the NFL odds before placing a wager.

What does + and - actually mean in sports betting spread?

As mentioned in the previous example, +5 and -5 reflect the point spread margin between two teams. The spread is set by sportsbooks in the build up to a match and depends on numerous different factors. In most instances, a spread is given 0.5 extra on both sides. This is because sports like football and basketball do not have half points. By adding 0.5 extra, like 5.5 or -7.5, you are ensuring that one team will always win in the end and there will never be a draw in a point spread wager.

Why Is Point Spread Betting So Popular?

There are numerous reasons why point spread betting has become the most popular type of wager for football and basketball. In many football matchups, there is normally one clear favorite and an underdog. Oftentimes, this can make moneyline bets unattractive to bettors because the odds are one-sided and therefore unprofitable. However, spread bets add more elements to the matchup, making it more dynamic and interesting for bettors.

Because you are not betting on an overall winner, just the point margin between two teams, there are more opportunities for bettors. This makes games more interesting to watch as well. In some games, a team may take the lead and it will be a straightforward victory from that moment. However, point spread bettors will be on the edge of their seat waiting to see if the underdog can close the point spread gap. Players get to utilize the entirety of their sports knowledge to predict how certain teams will matchup and what the overall outcome will be.

Can Point Spread Lines Move?

As with all types of sports betting wagers, the corresponding odds and lines can move. In the lead up to a scheduled game, any number of different factors can change the point spread lines. A star player may be injured, a new player may be placed on the starting lineup, even a coach can get replaced midseason. These all have the potential to change the odds and lines of a matchup. Before you place any wager, it is always best to check the current odds that are being offered by the leading sportsbooks. This way, you are always ensuring to maximize your potential profit, and placing your wager at the best odds possible.

Point Spread Betting Odds: Which Sports Can You Bet Against The Spread?

The point spread is one of the most familiar types of sports betting wagers in the US. Most major professional team sports will have point spread betting in one version or another. Football is of course the most popular sport in the US, and spread betting is intertwined with the game. This type of wager helps keep the game fun and competitive for bettors because it adds more elements to a one-sided matchup. You are no longer wagering on which team will win, but whether or not a team can beat the spread. Our free bets section will show you which sportsbooks are offering bonuses for both moneyline and point spread bets.

When it comes to the NBA, point spread betting is also prominent. Bracket betting during March Madness and moneyline bets are also very popular, but point spread betting is often considered the most common type of wager.

Now, the most important factor to consider is that football and basketball are often high-scoring sports, and this is what makes point spread bets possible. On the other hand, sports like ice hockey, soccer, or baseball can often be low-scoring sports. An ice hockey game may be won by just a single goal.

These sports don't have traditional point spread bets, but they utilize a type of wager that is essentially a point spread function. Sportsbooks have designed so called "runline" and "puckline" bets to appeal to point spread bettors. In these wager types, you are betting whether the favorite team to win will beat the underdog by more than a run or whether the underdog will keep the game within one run. This is different from point spread betting because there is no real limit to how many points can make up a spread bet, but these other types still retain the point spread function.

NFL Point Spread

NFL point spreads can vary greatly from college football point spreads. In the NFL, most wagers will stay around a 7.5 margin or less. However, in college football, there can be much more serious mismatches based on talent. College football games can be very high-scoring events as well. Therefore it is not uncommon to see college football point spread bets with margins of 30 points or more. This can provide exciting opportunities for bettors, and our picks and parlays section will always keep you informed on upcoming games.

NBA Point Spread

The NBA is known for exciting high level basketball games that come with dynamic and constantly changing odds. You have to continuously check the odds to make sure you are getting the best value for your wager. Similar to college football point spread bets, college level basketball also has some enticing opportunities. In the same way, college basketball teams can be mismatched in a game based on skill level. Margins of more than 20 points are far from uncommon.

What Is The Current Super Bowl Point Spread?

To review the proper Super Bowl point spread, you will have to wait until after the conference championship games. These will take place early 2022, after the upcoming 2021-2022 season. However, it is never too early to check out the Super Bowl winner odds and see which teams the analysts expect will have the best chance of winning the Super Bowl overall.


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