How Does Point Spread Work?

How Does Point Spread Work?

Did you know that NFL’s Week 1 this year was the most-watched Week 1 on CBS since 1998? NFL viewership isn’t slowing down and is averaging more than 17 million watchers!

If you enjoy the action but want to have even more fun with it, start betting on sports! Sports betting is available for different sports types and markets.

Point spreads are one of the most popular bets to make. How does point spread work? Keep reading to find out.

What Is a Point Spread?

A point spread represents the betting market’s and oddsmaker’s best guesses at the separation between the two competitors. The spread can be as little as half a point and up to 50 points depending on the sport.

How Does Point Spread Work?

How does point spread work? To understand this, you’ll need an example. We’ll use NFL odds to help.

In a sportsbook, a point spread might look something like this:

  • Los Angeles Chargers: +4.5 (-114)
  • Kansas City Chiefs: -4.5 (-106)

In this example, the Chiefs are favored by 4.5 points. This means that, for this bet to win, they have to win the game by five points or more.

The Chargers are a 4.5 underdog. If you bet on the Chargers point spread, they can’t lose by five points or more, or they would need to win the game outright.

Let’s say the final score ends up being:

  • Los Angeles Chargers: 21
  • Kansas City Chiefs: 27

The Chiefs covered the spread because they won by more than five points.

In some cases, the spreads aren’t distinguished by half-point differences and might look something like this:

  • Los Angeles Chargers: +4 (-114)
  • Kansas City Chiefs: -4 (-106)

The Chiefs still need to win by five points or more to cover the spread and the Chargers can’t lose by more than five points.

However, if the Chiefs were to win the game by exactly four points, the betting result would be a “push” meaning the wager is refunded.

What Is ‘Covering the Spread’?

Using the same example above (Chargers: +4.5 and Chiefs: -4.5), we’ll go over what ‘covering the spread’ means. To cover the spread, the Chiefs have to win the game by five points or more.

Let’s say the outcome of the game was:

  • Los Angeles Chargers: 21
  • Kansas City Chiefs: 24

Since the Chiefs only won by three points in this example, they did not cover the spread. If you bet the Chiefs spread with this outcome, you lose the point spread bet.

If you bet on the Chargers in this scenario, you’d win the bet because they didn’t lose by more than five points, they only lost by three points.

Spread Betting By Sport

We’ve covered what a point spread bet looks like in football, but in other sports, a spread is not always based on points.

Basketball and football spread betting are both based on points. Here is what a spread bet might look like if you bet on the NBA:

  • Oklahoma City Thunder: +10.5 (-110)
  • Minnesota Timberwolves: -10.5 (-110)

This is similar to what a spread would look like when betting on WNBA or NCAA college basketball.

Since the Thunder and the Timberwolves aren’t as close in competition, the Timberwolves are heavy favorites to win the game outright.

For the Timberwolves to cover the spread, they have to win the game by 11 or more points.

If OKC loses and you bet their point spread line, they can’t lose by more than 11 points for the bet to payout.

In other sports like soccer and hockey, you are betting on goals scored.

Soccer and hockey spreads are commonly set between 0.5 and 2 goals but might be bigger depending on the competition level. Since these sports are lower scoring, the spreads will be lower as well.

Lastly, when betting the spread in baseball, you’ll be betting on runs scored. A spread line might look something like this:

  • Chicago Cubs: +1.5 (-126)
  • New York Mets: -1.5 (+105)

For the Mets to cover the spread, they have to win by two or more runs. The Cubs can’t lose by more than two runs for their spread line to cash out.

You can find more MLB lines and odds at

What Is ‘Juice’ or ‘Vig’ in Point Spread Betting?

A handicap is not the only number associated with the bet in spread betting.

In an American sportsbook, the number will be -110 or somewhere along those lines. This number refers to the odds to win the bet and the amount you’ll pay for the bet.

This fee is sometimes referred to as the vigorish (vig) or ‘juice.’

Sportsbooks adjust the ‘juice’ up or down which can affect the breakeven point. This often happens when the line edges toward a key number.

Let’s use the same NFL example to explain what this means exactly:

  • Los Angeles Chargers: +4.5 (-114)
  • Kansas City Chiefs: -4.5 (-106)

When both numbers are minuses (-), it can be hard to tell which bet is favored. If there is a minus and a plus, the minus odds are favored.

In this example, the lower numbered odds (-106) aren’t favored. The favored bet is always the one that costs more to win more.

To win $10 by betting on the Chargers spread line, you’ll need to spend $11.40. To win $10 on the Chiefs spread line, you’ll spend only $10.60.

Now, let’s look at a spread example where the odds have one plus and one minus:

  • Chicago Cubs: +1.5 (-126)
  • New York Mets: -1.5 (+105)

In this MLB bet, the Mets spread line is the underdog. This means that Cubs are favored to cover the spread by winning the game or losing by less than two runs.

Lastly, we’ll look at matching odds using the NBA example:

  • Oklahoma City Thunder: +10.5 (-110)
  • Minnesota Timberwolves: -10.5 (-110)

Since the ‘juice’ in this example is even, you bet the same amount to win a certain amount. If you choose the Timberwolves to cover the spread, you’ll spend $11 to win $10 and vice versa.

Why Do Point Spreads Change?

The odds can change on any sports spread bet. The changes can have a major impact on your betting experience.

When you first look at the line, you are looking at the market price. The lifespan of a spread bet typically follows this process:

  • Sportsbooks open a market (market-setting)
  • Competitors copy and post the market lines
  • The limits begin low depending on the sportsbook you choose
  • More information pours into the market as the game gets closer
  • Books sharpen the line with the information to get closer to “true” odds

The original line will close when the game begins, but you can partake in live spread betting. The spread will begin to change throughout the game depending on which team is scoring.

Point spreads can change if there are injured key players or if an injured player is expected to return for the game.

What Is Line Shopping?

Let’s say you missed out on the best odds because you were waiting for payday. Once you get paid, the line for the bet you were going to make has changed.

You might be able to find the original line again by line shopping. You’ll need access to multiple sportsbooks and websites to do this.

Line shopping helps you search for the best available line. You can turn losing bets into pushes and pushes into wins with the right numbers.

If you can’t find the original line in different sportsbooks, check alternative spreads. Some sportsbooks offer this type of bet for lower or higher odds depending on the spread you are looking for.

These are different than the spreads you’d find in the main sports tabs.

Is Point Spread Betting a Good Idea?

Point spread bets are a good option for new and seasoned bettors.

The vig on a spread bet is generally lower than any other market bet offered. This means that more money goes back to the bettors than to the sportsbook.

High-limit bettors will get a lot of money through spread betting. If you have deep pockets and want to bet big, spread betting might be the safest option.

Spread betting can keep uninteresting games worth watching. The outcome of your bet is likely to remain up in the air until the very end of the game.

Point Spread Betting and Parlays

You can use a point spread bet, or multiple, to build a parlay. You even have the option of combining point-spread bets with other bet types and sports.

A parlay requires all components of the bet to hit to win the big cashout. The odds of a parlay roughly double when additional legs are added.

Most bettors find it difficult to turn a profit with parlays because it’s less common for all wagers to win. Even if you choose the favored bet each time, upsets happen where the underdog wins.

Make Money With Point Spread Betting

So, how does point spread work? A point spread bet is the betting market’s best guess at the difference between two competitors.

If you want to make money with point spread betting, you need to know about covering the spread, ‘juice’, and the changes in point spreads.

Use this guide to start making spread bets! Don’t forget to come back to this blog for more articles like this.

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