What Does Point Spread Mean In Sports Betting?

When it comes to sports betting, there’s a plethora of options at your disposal. These encompass straight bets, money line bets, parlays, teaser bets, futures, and, notably, point spread bets, which stand out as one of the most favored choices.

The History

Point spread betting made its debut in the 1940s, and its origins have sparked some debate. Nevertheless, many credit Charles McNeil, a seasoned punter and bookmaker hailing from Connecticut, with pioneering this betting style.

Drawing inspiration from the wholesale odds system employed by other professional bettors, McNeil introduced a concept that quickly gained traction among bookmakers. The appeal lay in its ability to level the playing field by balancing bets on both sides, aligning with the actual point spread of the game. Simultaneously, it ensured a consistent profit margin for online bookmakers in every event.

While point spreads are applicable in various sports, they find their primary use in American football and basketball. These sports are renowned for their high-scoring nature compared to sports like football or hockey, making larger point differentials more commonplace.

Since its inception in the 1940s, point spread betting has been a staple for sports gamblers. In the following sections, we’ll delve deeper into this betting type, equipping you with the knowledge to confidently try it out on the next major matchup.

What is the Point Spread Betting Odds?

A point spread is a crafted figure in the realm of sports betting. It serves as a clear indicator of which team holds the advantage and which is considered the underdog. Furthermore, it quantifies the expected point margin by which the favored team is projected to win or the underdog may potentially lose by.

The favored team is denoted with a “-” symbol preceding the point spread, while the underdog is identified with a “+.” These designations are established by bookmakers prior to the commencement of the match, drawing insights from historical team performances.

The numerical values following these symbols hold paramount significance. For the favored team, this number represents the minimum margin they must secure to win the bet. Conversely, for the underdog, it signifies the cushion of points they can afford to lose by. Notably, if the underdog emerges victorious, the bet swings in their favor.

Explained Further

Let’s illustrate this concept with a practical example: consider a matchup between the Cowboys and the Patriots happening this weekend. The point spread is set at Cowboys +4.5, while the Patriots are at -4.5. This indicates the bookmakers’ belief that the Patriots are the likely victors.

Opting for the New England spread means your bet will pay off if the Patriots not only secure the win but do so by a margin of five points or more. Conversely, if you choose Dallas, they must either win the game outright or avoid losing by more than four points to secure a win for your wager.

In the end, the game concludes with the Patriots winning 20 to 17, a mere 3-point difference. As a result, betting on the Patriots’ spread would result in a loss since they didn’t meet the five-point requirement. However, if you placed your wager on the Cowboys, you’d emerge victorious as they stayed within the four-point threshold.

What about the other numbers?

Within parentheses, you’ll find the odds or what’s commonly known as the house edge – often referred to by punters as “vigorish” or simply “vig.” Beyond the point spread, you’ll encounter another numerical value typically ranging from 102 to 120, signifying the bookmakers’ commission.

In our earlier example of Cowboys +4.5 (-110) and the Patriots -4.5 (-110), this implies that you need to stake €/$/£110 to secure a €/$/£100 return. Irrespective of the game’s outcome, the bookmakers retain a profit of €/$/£10.

To illustrate, let’s say you placed a bet on the Cowboys and emerged victorious. In this scenario, you’ll receive your initial €/$/£110 stake back along with a €/$/£100 reward, resulting in a total payout of €/$/£210 from the sportsbook. Conversely, if you wagered on the Patriots and they didn’t secure the win, you would forfeit your €/$/£110.

Even if you were to place another €/$/£110 bet and win in the following week, the sportsbook won’t reimburse the €/$/£10 vig from your previous wager.

What if the Point Spread is a Tie?

This scenario commonly arises with point spreads that lack the .5 increment. In certain cases, you might encounter spreads such as Cowboys +4 (-110) and Patriots -4 (-110). For instance, if the Patriots secure a 21 to 17 victory, the spread results in a tie.

This tie occurs because the Patriots won by a margin of 4 points, while the Cowboys managed to avoid losing by more than 4. In such situations, sportsbooks will refund the wagered amount on both sides, ensuring a fair outcome for all bettors.

What is Point Spread and Odds Movement?

Sportsbooks employ a strategic approach to profit from point spreads – their goal is to balance the bets evenly on both sides. This equilibrium ensures that when it’s time to payout the winners, there are ample funds generated from the losing wagers to cover everyone’s earnings while still yielding a profit.

In instances where one side garners more bets than the other, sportsbooks take action by adjusting the point spread. This adjustment is aimed at enticing more bettors to favor the less popular side. It’s worth noting that alterations in the odds for the spread typically precede changes to the actual point spread value.

For instance, let’s consider the Patriots with a point spread of -4.5 (-110), attracting a substantial number of bets. The sportsbook might tweak the odds to -4.5 (-115) or (-120) before modifying the -4.5 value itself. This maneuver serves to enhance the sportsbook’s earnings from the losing bets, ensuring they have the necessary funds to cover the winning ones.

Point Spread Betting Strategy

Many novice bettors often assume that placing bets on the favorite guarantees the path to victory. However, sportsbooks operate with a more nuanced approach. They craft point spreads designed to create a near-even playing field.

This equilibrium means that merely betting on the favored team isn’t sufficient for a win. They must secure victory by a specific margin in order for your point spread wager to pay off. When delving into spread betting, it’s essential to assess which outcome holds a higher likelihood, rather than automatically favoring the team expected to win. This forms the cornerstone of a sound sports betting strategy when you’re in pursuit of the most favorable point spread line.


Point spread betting stands as a prevailing choice in American football and basketball wagering. Prior to kick-off, bookmakers meticulously formulate these spreads, setting the stage for dynamic betting opportunities.

These spreads don’t merely serve as betting options; they offer invaluable insights into the bookmakers’ game predictions. Armed with this knowledge, you can strategically enhance your betting repertoire. In essence, exploring point spreads is a wise move, and experiencing it firsthand is the best way to appreciate its value.

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