How to Understand Betting the Spread

Betting Against The Spread

What is The Spread in Betting? & How Does It Work?

If sports are competitive, it is in the best interests of everyone involved: fans, leagues, teams, and players. If you have a competitive game on the field that means that people will tune into the game. Nobody wants to see blowout after blowout on television. However, very strong teams or athletes are sometimes pitted against very inferior teams or athletes.

Is there anything that can keep these competitions interesting?

In sports betting and fandom, point spreads can lead to some bizarre scenarios. Many bad beat stories abound, with seemingly little plays in long-decided games swaying the wagering outcome. However, because bettors like spread betting, it has become a standard in the industry.

Below, we will go over what a point spread is and key you in on the best ways to attack betting on the spread. If you become a good bettor on the spread, there is a lot of money to be made.

What is a Point Spread?

The oddsmakers and betting market’s best predictions about the numerical gap between two rivals are represented by a point spread. The spread might be as small as half a point at times.

Sometimes you could see a point spread of up to 50 points or more at times. This happens when one of the very best teams in the league is matched up with one of the worst, and generally happens most often in college football and basketball.

Most of the time, especially at the highest levels of professional sport, competitors have similar talent levels, and therefore the handicap is modest. Consider an example of a college football game.

Purdue is favored over Indiana by five points in the game. That would appear as a “-5” next to Purdue. The minus “-” sign detonates that the team is the favorite in the contest. Purdue would need to win by six or more points to cover the spread. Indiana is a five-point underdog. This is shown by Indiana having a +5 next to their name.

You can easily find who the underdog is if you look to see which team has the plus “+” sign by their number. This means that Indiana needs to win the game or lose by four or fewer points to cover the spread. 

If Purdue wins by five points or Indiana loses by five points, then the bet would push. Both betting sides would get their bet back if a “tie” on the spread happens.

What Does it Mean to Cover the Spread?

The spread does play a role in the betting outcome of the game pretty regularly. If it didn’t, the betting market wouldn’t be able to make any money.

For an example of the spread coming into play, look at this example. Say that Oregon and Georgia matched up in a non-conference football game. If the spread for that game was Georgia -4 and the final score was 27-24 and Georgia won, then we would see the spread bet be executed on both sides.

In this case, Georgia won the game but didn’t cover the spread, which is to win by more points than the number. To find out if Georgia beat the spread all you need to do is add the other score and the number together to figure out if they won the bet. 24 points plus the four points is 28 points, thus Georgia did not cover the spread.

Oregon lost the game but the spread was +4. This meant that they had to lose by less than four points or win the game to cover the spread. We can calculate this in the same way that we calculated for Georgia. You take Oregon’s 24 points and add four points to it. Since 28 points is more than 27, those who bet on Oregon +4 would win the bet.

If the final score would have been 28-24, or any other combination of Georgia winning by four points, then the bet would have been pushed. Bettors for both teams would have gotten their bets back.

What is the Juice or Vig in Spread Betting?

When looking at a point spread betting line, you’ll see that the handicap isn’t the only number linked with the wager.

Along with the “-5” or some other number, there will be another number. In most cases, this figure will be -110. This is the wager you’re making, including the handicap. You’re placing $11 for every $10 you want to win.

The “vig” or “juice” is a fee that allows the bookmaker to make a profit. You could bet both sides if the book gave an even payoff with Team A +5 and Team B -5.

This indicates that in order to break even, bettors must win more than 50% of the time. In reality, the break-even figure on point spread betting at -110 is 52.38 percent.

Crucial Numbers and Vig Changes

While the vigs in the instances above are industry standard, be mindful that bookies may modify the vig significantly on occasion. In these circumstances, depending on which way the adjustment occurs, your breakeven point may move up or down. This is most common as an NFL line approaches a crucial number.

Consider what would happen if the sportsbook in the Purdue/Indiana game stated above was flooded with Indiana +5 money. They might list Indiana +5.5 instead of instantly changing the line to +5. (-120).

Increased juice gives the book a middle ground between taking a predicted bombardment of Purdue money at -5 and continuing to get more Lions money than they’d like to manage, especially if the book’s competitors are all still at +5.

Why does the Point Spread Change?

It’s worth noting that a line nudges from +5 (-110) to +5 (-120), but spreads frequently alter much more dramatically. When the lines change it could have a big impact on your betting ability. 

Consider this scenario: You see Indiana +5 against Purdue and you’re ecstatic to bet on Indiana. You get home to bet on the game and you log into your betting app to place a bet. Now they’re at +5.5. The explanation is that when you first looked at the line, the market price was +5. The lines are always moving and are not guaranteed to stay on one number for long.

There are many different reasons that a line could change but here are some of the most common:

  • Leading up to a game there is more information available.

  • A line could change due to the injury of a star player or weather changes in the game.

  • Other sportsbooks can also create different lines to create an edge for themselves.

This is a way that competitors create an edge over other markets. You can see the spread move in order to close the gap between sportsbooks. 

The closing line shows the most accurate representation of the event’s possibilities. It has the most amount of information attached to it so it seemingly should be the most accurate line.

The information usually enters the market in the form of bets. High-limit bets from sharp, winning players, in particular. Because the bookmakers value the opinions of these accounts, these bets impact the market. They answer by moving the line in the opposite direction. 

Multiple clever gamblers may have made significant bets on Indiana at +5 and +5.5, prompting the change in this situation.

What does it mean to Line Shop?

What do you do if you were planning on betting Indiana +5 but your book is suddenly offering +5.5?

So, first and foremost, consider whether you still like Indiana at +5.5. Large market moves should give you pause as a general rule. Sharp bettors who prefer Indiana at +5.5 are likely to keep betting them until the line goes even farther.

If you’re still set on betting on Indiana, check to see if any of the sportsbooks you have access to are still offering +5. This is referred to as “line shopping,” which is looking for the greatest available line.

Over time, line shopping has a significant impact on your bottom line. Because the games land on these numbers a certain percentage of the time, it can change lost bets into pushes and pushes into wins.

Should I Place Money on Spreads?

For a variety of reasons, point spreads are a suitable option for most bettors. For starters, the vig on spread betting is usually among the lowest of any market available. This implies that the sportsbook maintains a smaller portion of the money they accept, which means that more money is returned to the bettors.

Furthermore, in point spreads, high-limit gamblers can frequently get a lot of money down. If you have a lot of money and like to wager big, spread betting is for you because the stakes are usually high compared to other markets.

Finally, spread betting makes a lot of games that would otherwise be boring worth viewing. Sure, Purdue may have a 10-point lead against Indiana in the fourth quarter, but the game’s fate with the handicap factored in remains uncertain. 

Just be aware that when it comes to spread betting, you will run into some difficult scenarios. End-game scenarios, in particular, frequently play out in ways that hurt a spread bet but have no bearing on the actual outcome. A -20.5 NBA favorite up 120-100 in the waning seconds, for example, may play sloppy defense and allow a meaningless bucket to cover the spread.

Can you Put Point Spread Bets into a Parlay?

Yes, gamblers can mix point spread bets with other sorts of bets in a parlay which is a multi-part wager in which all of the bet’s components must win. Parlaying spread bets are quite common among sports gamblers because it increases your payout if it does hit.

Spread betting usually entails laying -110, and a parlay effectively rolls over the earnings of each bet into the next. If you’re wondering how much your parlay will payout, keep in mind that most two-leg parlays payout at around 3-to-1, with the odds, nearly doubling for each additional leg.

Most bettors will struggle to benefit from parlays. All or almost all of the bets in a parlay must have a positive anticipated value for the parlay to be lucrative. It is very hard to parlay together bets with close to even odds to make money.

Can you Live Bet the Point Spreads?

Live betting has grown in popularity over time as it has become more widely available thanks to more sophisticated technology in the hands of bookmakers. Simply go into your online account during a big game to observe continuously fluctuating live betting lines, which are usually displayed during commercial breaks. 

A live point spread market is usually one of the markets offered by the bookmakers. In response to events on the field, these lines shift swiftly.

Let’s imagine Purdue scores two early touchdowns in the game against Indiana while Indiana struggles to move the ball on offense. The revised line might be Purdue -20.5, according to the bookmaker. If Indiana returns the next kickoff for a touchdown, Purdue might be favored by -14.5 points now as the point spread moves.

Unlike live moneyline betting, live spread betting can occasionally provide you with large “middles”. Middles are sets of numbers in which you can win numerous bets but not all of them.

Consider the following scenario: you bet on Indiana at +20.5 and then saw them return the kickoff. You may now take Purdue -14.5 and win both bets if Purdue wins by a margin of 15 to 20 points.

Using the information we covered about you should be in a much better spot to bet on the point spread of games. If you time your bets correctly, you could have a big edge on the bookmakers. This guide will help you know what to look for when making bets on the point spread.

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What is The Spread in Betting FAQs

What is a Point Spread?

The oddsmakers and betting market’s best predictions about the numerical gap between two rivals are represented by a point spread.

What Does it Mean to Cover the Spread?

The spread does play a role in the betting outcome of the game pretty regularly. If it didn’t, the betting market wouldn’t be able to make any money.

Why does the Point Spread Change?

It’s worth noting that a line nudges from +5 (-110) to +5 (-120), but spreads frequently alter much more dramatically.