Point spread betting is the most popular form of sports betting. The vast majority of sports wagers use a point spread thanks to the popularity of football and basketball. Even though this type of betting is so popular, it may take awhile to understand.
The point spread is sometimes known as an equalizer for sportsbook operators. All teams aren’t created equally, so sportsbooks can create a point spread for a game so that each team playing has an almost even chance of winning the game. In a way, the point spread will even the field for both teams.
The point spread gives a reason for bettors to risk money on both teams. The better team playing in the game is considered favorite. They have to win by the point spread offered by the sportsbook. The favorite in a game is listed as being minus (-) the point spread.
The worse of the teams playing in the game is called the underdog. The bettor wins if this team wins the game outright or loses by an amount smaller than the point spread. The underdog in a game is listed as being plus (+) the point spread.
Let’s use Super Bowl 54 odds as an example:
Looking at the lines above, the Kansas City Chiefs opened as the favorite over the San Francisco 49ers by 1.5 points (odds subject to change). The Chiefs need to win by two or more points to cover the spread.
Likewise, the 49ers need to win the game or lose by less than two points to cover the spread. If the spread moves to Chiefs -1 and Kansas City wins by exactly one point, the betting result is a “push” and bettors for both sides get their wager refunded.
Point spread betting odds
Point spreads are usually set with -110 odds, but pricing often fluctuates at online sportsbooks. This is the sportsbook operators’ house edge. The odds guarantee the sportsbook operator will see a little money over time. When the odds are set at -110, the bettor must wager $110 to win $100 (or $11 to win $10).
The odds on a point spread are most commonly known as the vigorish or “vig” for the sportsbook. You might hear this small profit margin for the sportsbook called the “juice” by some sports bettors.
Point spread and odds movement
Sportsbook operators often aim to have equal money on both sides of a point spread. When the money is exactly split the sportsbook operator will see the exact vigorish as their profit margin. If all things are equal over time this will maximize how much money the sportsbook operator can make.
In an effort to have equal money on both sides of a wager, the sportsbook operator will move the point spread to attract money on the side that customers aren’t betting on. The odds for a point spread might change before the actual point spread. There are certain point spread numbers, like 3 and 7 in football, the sportsbook operators would like to avoid moving away from since the final score margin falls on these two numbers most often.
For example, if a lot more money is wagered on the New England Patriots -3, the vig may shift from -112 to -115 and -120 before the line moves to -3.5.
Run and puck lines
Football and basketball games are mostly bet using a point spread. The less popular major sports, baseball and hockey, are mostly bet using a moneyline. In an effort to make baseball and hockey more appealing to point spread bettors, the sportsbook operators offer run and puck lines, respectively.
The run and puck lines are essentially point spread bets for their respective sports. For example:
These alternative lines give point spread bettors a chance to wager on other sports using a more familiar method of betting. Since points (runs and goals) aren’t as easy to come by in baseball and hockey, the odds with the lines may have a wider spread than a football or basketball game.