Spread Betting

Updated Wed 11th November 2020

Spread Betting
Betting Basics
Betting Basics

All contests will have a favourite and an underdog, however sports point spread betting brings equality and a level playing field. 

What does spread mean in betting?

The points spread is a margin of victory quantified by the sportsbook that they think is the most likely to happen. You can then bet on which team will ‘cover the spread’, meaning;

  • Will the favourite win by more than that margin, or
  • Will the underdog either win or lose by less than that margin. 

Here is a point spread betting example from a college basketball game;

MoneylineSpread
Duke Blue Devils-560-11.5 (-110)
North Carolina Tar Heels+400+11.5 (-110)

You can see that Duke are heavy favourites in the moneyline market and when looking at the points spread market to the right, bookmakers have predicted that Duke should win by 11.5 points. 

Spread Betting Explained

As mentioned, point spread betting creates a level playing field. This can be seen in the spread market above, where both sides of the spread have -110 odds. That is that if you are to place a spread bet on either Duke -11.5 or North Carolina +11.5, you must bet $110 to profit $100 if your bet wins. 

How to Bet the Spread

If you think that Duke will beat North Carolina by 12 or more points, you will bet on the Duke -11.5 market, and will have to bet $110 to profit $100 ($210 total return). 

If you think that North Carolina will either beat Duke or Duke will win by 11 points or less, you will bet on the North Carolina +11.5 market, and will have to bet $110 to profit $100 ($210 total return). 

How to Win Spread Betting

The following table maps out different match results and the outcome of betting against the spread for both the favourite and the underdog. It is important to remember that regardless of who wins or losses the match, point spread betting is all about the margin of victory and if the team you bet on is on the right side of the margin of victory determined by bookmakers

BetStakeResultAfter SpreadBet ResultTotal ReturnProfit
Duke -11.5

(-110)

$55Duke 87 – 75 NCDuke 75.5 – 75 NCWIN$105$50
NC +11.5

(-110)

$55Duke 87 – 75 NCDuke 87 – 86.5 NCLOSE$0-$55
Duke -11.5

(-110)

$110Duke 93 – 87 NCDuke 81.5 – 87 NCLOSE$0-$110
NC +11.5

(-110)

$110Duke 93 – 87 NCDuke 93 – 98.5 NCWIN$210$100
Duke -11.5

(-110)

$22Duke 82 – 85 NCDuke 70.5 – 85 NCLOSE$0-$22
NC +11.5

(-110)

$22Duke 82 – 85 NCDuke 82 – 96.5 NCWIN$42$20

Understanding Sports Betting Points Spread

As seen in the top example, if you bet Duke -11.5 and the final score is Duke 87 North Carolina 75, to work out if you have won the bet, subtract 11.5 from Duke’s score. Their new score after adjusting for the spread would be 75.5, which is still higher than North Carolina’s 75, meaning your bet wins. The betting term for this is; Duke covered the spread.

Alternatively, using different final scores in the fourth bet, if you had North Carolina +11.5 and the final score was Duke 93 North Carolina 87, you can see North Carolina lost the match, but that doesn’t mean you lost your point spread bet. If you add 11.5 to North Carolina’s score it becomes 98.5, higher than Duke’s 93, meaning your bet wins! The betting term for this is; North Carolina covered the spread. 

Moneyline vs Spread

Where moneyline betting is betting on who will win or lose the match, spread betting is betting on which team you think will score more after accounting for the margin of victory (spread) created by the bookmaker. 

Some advantages of spread betting include;

  • If there is a heavy favourite with low odds, you can bet on the spread market to get increased odds

An example of this is the Los Angeles Lakers who were -315 favourites over the Portland Trail Blazers, meaning you would have to bet a massive $315 just to profit $100. You could alternatively bet against the spread, which for this game was -7.5 (-110), meaning you would need the Lakers to win by 8+ points and only need to bet $110 to still profit $100, saving yourself $215 compared to the moneyline bet. The Lakers went on to win this game by 20 points, meaning both bets won, but your risk was less on the spread bet. 

  • If you think the underdog will create a close contest, but unsure if they will win the game, you can give yourself some insurance by betting on the spread instead of the moneyline market. 

An example of this is the Philadelphia 76ers who were +250 underdogs in game four of their 2020 playoff series against the Boston Celtics, meaning a 76ers win would give you a $250 profit from a $100 bet. Philly were down 0-3 in the series and facing elimination, and their spread for this game was +7.5 (-110), meaning a $110 bet would profit $100 if the 76ers won, or lost by 7 or less.

Seven points is quite a lot in the NBA, especially with a team facing elimination and their backs against the wall. If you aren’t sure Philly would win the game, but think they will put up a good fight, you could bet on the spread of +7.5 (-110). The final score was 110-106 Boston, meaning Philly lost the game, but covered the spread, meaning your +7.5 bet won!

Another advantage of sports spread betting is that it keeps you glued to the game till the very end, even if a team is clearly going to win. You might need them to win or lose by a specific margin for your spread bet, meaning you are riding every score right till the final seconds tick down.

This is often seen in basketball when coaches put the bench players in who are just putting up shot after shot in the final minutes with minimal defence played. They can be trading scores, causing the result to go either side of the line the whole way down to the final shot, making it an exhilarating watch to the end. 

A big spread betting mistake is betting based on win/loss record or outcome. During the 2019 NFL season, the Miami Dolphins who finished with a dismal 5-11 record actually finished with a 9-7 record against the spread. This is an important reminder that even though a team might not win every game, their spreads might be very achievable and can be smart bets. 

What is a Push in Spread Betting?

As seen in all of our previous examples, the spreads have ended in .5 meaning there is no way that a result could finish with this exact margin, so there is always a winner. Sometimes in point spread betting, the margin of victory determined by the bookmakers will be a full number, -5.0 for example.

If at the end of the game the margin is 5 points exactly, your bet will be refunded. As explained in the advantages section above, spread betting keeps a game exciting, and although a push is just a refund of your stake, it might actually be a relief if your team was on the wrong side of the spread for most of the game!

Now you know how spread betting works, you can put your knowledge to the test and start winning with the best picks and predictions for every game, every day for all sports including NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, UFC, College Football, College Basketball, Golf, Tennis, Soccer, Horse Racing and eSports!

If you would like to keep learning more betting strategies, check out our moneyline, over / under, parlay and futures betting guides!

Tim is a keen follower of all American sports, in particular the NBA and NFL. He has followed both sports for over a decade and would happily sit down and watch every game, regardless of who is playing! No matter the sport, whether it be NFL and NBA or even MLB, NHL and UFC, Tim covers it from every angle, keeping up to date with all the news to bring you the most up-to-date information and the best picks and predictions across all sports.