Point Spread Betting Basics

Point spreads are the commonest bets in American Football and Basketball, and they can be used in a lot of other sports too. You’re sure to come across them in your wagering career, if you haven’t already done so, and they can be really profitable. Find out all about how they work here.

Evening the Playing Field

The underdog is usually the champion in movies, but they’re much likelier to lose against the favourite in real life. That makes for predictable, less-than-thrilling viewing for sports spectators, and can upset the NZ sports betting balance for bookmakers.

If bookies really want to turn a profit, the odds on either team winning need to be relatively even. The same could be said for any game being really exciting to watch. That’s where the point spread comes in.

How a Point Spread Works

Next to the team that is likely to win, you’ll see a negative sign with a point amount next to it. The same points total will be seen alongside the team likely to lose, but with a positive sign. Imagine a game between the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots are the favourites, so the point spread could look like this:

  • New England: -4.5 (-110)
  • Miami: +4.5 (-110)

The number in brackets is the amount of money you need to bet in order to win $100. This is most commonly $110, as it is in this example, but it could be another amount. You need to put down your 1:1 bet of $100, plus whatever juice or vigorish the sportsbook is taking – in this case, 10% or $10 per $100 punted. For every $100 you wager, you get $210 returned if you win and lose $100 if you lose.

The positive and negative points totals are the amount that the favourite has to win by, and the amount that the underdogs can lose by. In this case, the Patriots have to win by more than 4.5 points and the Dolphins can lose by as much as 4.5 points for them to cover the spread, as the saying goes.

If you back New England and they only win by 3 points, you’ll lose your punt. In the same scenario, if you backed Miami and they only lost by 3, you’ll win. As you can imagine betting this way involves a lot more analysis, and weighing up the skills of teams and individual players – such as the legendary Tom Brady, in our example.

Notes on Spreads

  • In the relatively common instance of a tie between the teams, the spread bet is said to Push and your stake is refunded.
  • Point spreads can change as the event gets closer, so you need to think carefully about when it will be most advantageous to place your bet. This is a skill that comes with time!
  • Point spreads are available on half, full and quarter parts of the game.
  • Spreads in Hockey and Baseball are known as puckline and runline bets. They are always set at +1.5 and -1.5 because the scores tend to be low in these sports.