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Adam Thompson for Bookies.com

By Adam Thompson | | 13 mins

Point Spread Betting

Point Spread Betting
Are you looking for Week 4 NFL Picks against the spread? You can check out our spread betting NFL experts make a betting pick for all 16 Week 4 NFL games.

If you are interested in spread betting gambling on an NFL, NHL, MLB, or an NBA game, you need to know how to read a point spread. Point spread betting is by far the most popular kind of way to bet on NFL, college football, NBA and college basketball. We reccomend you stay tuned to bookies.com for all your spread betting needs and tips.

Read below to reveal how a point spread works and how to make the most of a football points spread and a basketball points spread to your betting advantage.

What is a Point Spread?

A point spread helps even the gap between the favorite and the underdog of a game. For spread betting in football for example the Philadelphia Eagles are playing host to the Miami Dolphins, you would likely be inclined to pick the Philadelphia Eagles to win the game. But sports betting sites will put a point spread on the football game, giving the underdog Miami Dolphins points, to help even the odds. A points spread also will move throughout the week as more information comes in to help give sportsbooks the most efficent points spread.

The approach in sports gambling is especially common for football and basketball spread betting.

How Does Point Spread Work?

Let’s say in the NFL the Los Angeles Rams are playing host to the New England Patriots. If you have to pick a winner of the game, you’re likely going with Matthew Stafford and the Rams. But what if the Patriots were given seven additional points to begin the game?

That’s what a point spread does. It evens the playing field. It also evens the NFL betting odds. In the above example, the point spread NFL line would look like this:

  • New England Patriots (+7) -110
  • Los Angeles Rams (-7) -110

If you were to pick the Rams to simply win on the moneyline (straight up), these odds might be -280, meaning you’d need to wager $280 to win $100 in profit. With a point spread, both teams can be wagered on at -110 odds, in which a $110 ticket brings $100 in profit for correctly winning this point spread bet.

Why is just about every even betting line posted at -110? The vigorish, or juice, is a backend commission by sportsbooks for most sports bets including bets involving point spread betting. It provides a house edge: If each side is evenly played, the sportsbooks still make money off the juice.

What Happens if I Lose My Spread Bet?

If you take the Rams to cover the spread (-7) at -110 odds, you not only need Los Angeles to win, but win big. Let’s say Matthew Stafford goes off for 3 TDs and the Rams roll to a 28-24 victory. That’s great for the Rams, but not for you, the bettor. Their four-point win didn’t cover the point spread. You lost $110 for this football spreads wager.

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How to Bet the Spread

If you back New England (+7) to cover the NFL point spread for $100 (-110), that means you don’t need the Patriots to pull off the upset. All you need is for the Patriots to lose by six points or less to cash out on this football spread bet.

In the above example, the Patriots lost … but you didn’t. You are in possession of a winning ticket for your points spread wager on the Patriots. You doubled your money on the point spread bet, and the book owes you $210 – your $110 bet plus $100 in profit.

Benefits of Point Spread Bets

Point spreads level the playing field for sports bettors. It makes underdogs just as valuable to pick as favorites in spread betting. You’re not likely to pick Kentucky to beat Alabama when betting college football, but if the Wildcats are posted at +28, you might consider looking at it when college football spread betting.

Conversely, even if you’re sure the Crimson Tide are going to win, putting a moneyline wager might be too expensive compared to the advantage offered by spread betting. Alabama might be -500, meaning you’d need to wager $500 to win $100 in profit on a moneyline bet. One loss can set you back. To many sports bettors, it’s not worth it. However, Bookies.com will help you learn what spread betting means and give the best football picks with the spread to help you when betting at a sportsbook or mobile betting app.

With each team in a basketball, football, hockey, or baseball game posted with a point spread, it allows you to look at both sides of the game and, in theory, a 50% chance of picking the right side for each of your spread bets you might place. A win doubles your money, a loss costs slightly more with the juice added by the sportsbook.

As an aside, it also makes many games more interesting to watch. If the Packers are leading the Lions 28-17 with four minutes left on Thursday Night Football, the on-field drama may be lacking, but it’s on full tilt if you took either side of the 10-point spread in the NFL.

Point Spread Odds and Line Movements

A point spread changes often from the time they’re posted to the start of a game. An oddsmaker can alter the spread lines whenever they wish, based on a variety of reasons. That includes if one spread betting side is getting a strong majority of the money, if a major injury or suspension occurs, or if the weather plays a factor.

Bettors can take advantage of lines changes, either by jumping on them early or waiting for the point spread to move later in the week. For example, if the Denver Broncos are playing host to the Kansas City Chiefs, on Monday the spread line might be:

  • Kansas City Chiefs -3.5 (-110)
  • Denver Broncos +3.5 (-110)

But by Thursday, it’s unclear if Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes will play due to an ankle injury. Suddenly, the line shifts:

  • Kansas City Chiefs -2.5 (-110)
  • Denver Broncos +2.5 (-110)

The Broncos remain the underdog in this point spread scenario, but the line shifted a full point in their favor. A Denver Bronvos bet may not be as appealing of a betting option as it was, however, because the betting line now doesn’t cover a field goal. The Chiefs need to win by just three points to win the point spread bet, instead of four as was required with the original point spread for the gambler to win the NFL football bet.

The betting spread can switch just as quickly the other way. If Mahomes is officially declared good to go on Saturday, the spread betting line moves once more:

  • Kansas City Chiefs -5 (-110)
  • Denver Broncos +5 (-110)

Now, the Chiefs need to win by six points or more to cover the points spread, the Broncos can win or lose by less than five points.

Timing is important in playing your points spread bets no matter the sport. Whatever the line is when you place your bet, that’s the number you get, regardless of how it moves through the rest of the week. You also want to keep an eye on our NFL consensus page to see if money is flooding in on one side of a particular point spread.

Can You Bet on Point Spreads At Different Parts of the Game?

Yes, especially in the NFL. In addition to a full game point spread, most sportsbooks now post first-half and second-half point spreads, and even point spreads for each of the four quarters.

Also, live betting NFL odds has exploded onto the scene in recent years, and point spread is the most-popular way to bet in-game. Scoring plays, changes of possession and time passed can affect point spreads when it comes to in-game betting.

Key Numbers to Watch For

When it comes to how to read a point spread, there are several key numbers worth keeping an eye on, especially in football.

The two most-common scoring plays in football are the touchdown with extra point (7 points) and the field goal (3). It would make sense, then, to know 7 and 3 are the most common final score margins of victory, accounting for roughly 25% of all NFL games in recent years.

Based on those two key numbers, oddsmakers will often use a “hook” to sway spread bettors in one direction. A hook is an extra half-point put on a point spread, most often used in football.

If you’re betting a favorite for spread betting, laying fewer than 7 or 3 points adds a great deal of value. So a line of -6.5 or -2.5 is enticing.

Conversely, so is an underdog posted at +7.5 or +3.5. With so many games decided by those two numbers, using a hook when available is something to consider for NFL point spreads.

There are other key numbers in football, not as strong but worth considering. The third most-common scoring margin in NFL games is 10, followed by 6. Getting a hook on either side of 10, especially, can be the difference between a win and loss for football spread betting.

Basketball has key numbers but they’re not as strong and point spread hooks aren’t as commonly used. The most-common final margin of NBA games is between 5-8 points, so spread betting hooks of 4.5, 5.5, 7.5 or 8.5 are utilized. Late free throws will often push last-second outcomes into that range for sports bettors invovled in the spread.

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Point Spread Betting Strategies

Betting on point spreads evens the risk and the reward, compared to moneyline wagering, where a bettor simply picks the winner or loser regardless of the betting odds. But it takes a keener eye on which side should hit. Developing your own criteria can go a long way to being successful betting against the spread.

Some aspects to consider:

Home-field advantage: Some teams have a stronger advantage of playing on their own field in front of their own fans, but the advantage varies on the team. In football, playing at home can be worth anywhere from 2 to 4.5 points. Oddsmakers factor home-field advantage in their odds, so it’s important to note it in your own projections when reading the points spread.

Statistics: For football, yards or points for and against, red zone success and turnover differential are just a few of myriad stats that could help you come to a conclusion on what side of the point spread to bet. In basketball, shooting percentage for and against, rebounding success and turnovers can be key for sports gamblers.

Power rankings: Sites all over the internet post lists of teams based on their own systems and merits to rank them. Many handicapping sites may assign a total number to each team, which they may use directly in their projecting for spreads.

Recent Play: Some teams may have a skewed overall package if they started the season losing four in a row but have since bounced back to win three straight. Taking their latest form into consideration is a good checks-and-balances practice for all betors.

Handicapping Point Spreads

After taking all these above aspects into consideration, you should have a better idea of which side of a point spread is most likely to hit. Experience betting against the spread allows for tweaking and fine-tuning any approach.

Matchups can be a way to separate the close calls for each sports . If a pass-happy offense is matched up against one of the league’s bottom pass defenses, it could offer a decided edge to one side. If one QB is prone to throwing interceptions and the opposing defense is a ball-hawking unit, there’s an advantage to the other side. Point spreads can also mean a little more in potentially higher-scoring games.

Nobody wins them all, but remember, if you hit on 55% of your picks, you’re making a profit.

What is the Spread in Betting?

Point spread betting is very popular for the NFL and college football. All sportsbooks list every NFL game each week with a point spread and all FBS games are listed with a points spread too. Point spread betting in football will have the underdog listed with a (+) next to them showing they will get additional points added to their actual score and the favorite will get a (-) next to them showing they must win by that many more points than the underdog. The point spread will also shift throughout the week based on how much money comes in on either side. Bookies.com will recommend free picks against the spread each week to help you out!

How Point Spread Are Used in Different Sports

Point spreads are the main way people bet on football and basketball, and thus it’s most associated with those two sports. But point spreads exist in other sports, too, albeit they’re set lines.

In the lower-scoring sports of baseball and hockey, point spreads are run the “runline” and “puckline,” respectively, and each is set at 1.5: a favorite are posted at -1.5 with underdogs at +1.5, with adjusted odds for each.

What is Spread Betting?

The spread in betting means it is the expected margin of victory of a game, set by oddsmakers at sportsbooks. For spread betting, the point spread favorite has a (-) next to them with a point total and they will have to win by that many more points than their actual score to cover the spread or for the point spread under dog who has a (+) next to them with a point total, they get their actual points plus those additional spread points to help cover the spread.

What is the Spread In Football?

Betting on football point spreads is the most popular way of laying NFL and NBA bets. It evens the playing field for bettors, giving similar odds to both the favorite and underdog. Learning what a point spread is, how to read a point spread is, and how to formulate a gameplan on point spread picks increases your chances of success and profit.

Point Spread Betting FAQ

What Does +7 Spread Mean?

If the spread is seven points for a game, it means the underdog is getting seven points, noted as +7 on the odds. A team posted at -7 is the favorite and is laying seven points.

What Is A “Push” In Spread Betting?

A push means neither side on a bet against the point spread. If a team is favored by three points and wins by three, the bet is considered a push. Nobody wins and bettors get their original wager back.

What Does PK Or Pick’em Mean?

If a point spread is listed as PK, it means neither team is favored, and no there is no spread. You can pick either team for the same price, typically -110 adding in the vigorish for the house edge.

What Is An Alternative Point Spread?

Alternative point spreads offer more or fewer points to a certain team in exchange for altered odds. If the Saints are -7 against the Buccaneers, for example, a site may offer an alternate spread of -6, so you could get the Saints at -1 or -13 in the NFL.

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What Are Examples Of Football Point Spreads?

Point Spreads Have Been Put On Every Super Bowl, from the Packers (-14) vs. the Chiefs in Super Bowl I to the Chiefs (-1) vs. the 49ers. The Eagles (+4) were the last underdog to cover a Super Bowl, vs. the Patriots in Super Bowl 52.

What Are Examples Of Basketball Point Spreads?

On Christmas Day 2021, the spread for the big five games included the Hawks at the (-6) Knicks, the Celtics at the Bucks (-6), the Warriors at the Suns (-6), the Nets vs. the Lakers (-1.5), and the Mavericks vs. the Jazz (-13). The point spread is a very popular bet for NBA on Christmas.

How To Read A Points Spread?

To read a points spread you need to look at the particular matchup for a game or player prop. The team or individual with a + next to their number means they are getting extra points to their actual score to even the playing field and the team with a - next to their number means they have win by that many more points than their acutal score. After the + or - spread amount is added or subtracted from the actual game score, you can find out who correctly covered the spread. (Note a team or player can win the acutal game or statistical category, but lose in the spread score)

About the Author

Adam Thompson for Bookies.com
Adam Thompson
NFL writer and expert Adam Thompson joined Bookies.com in 2019 after a successful run as senior handicapper for SportsLine and CBSSports.com. He's long been estabilshed as one of the nation's premier NFL and MLB handicappers, and his horse racing and PGA picks have produced major winners over the last 12 months.

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