How to Read Point Spreads

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Point spreads are a popular type of sports bets especially popular in football and basketball. They take into account not only the winner of a sporting event but also the margin of victory. To learn how to read point spreads and make effective point spread bets read the full review below. Make sure you know how to read odds first. Likewise, points betting can be part of a parlay bet.

What Are Point Spreads?

Point spreads are a number set by bookmakers which provide an advantage or disadvantage to opposing teams. The number set is the margin of victory required to successfully win the bet. There are always two numbers provided for each game: a (+) number and a (-) number. Both numbers are generally the same value. 

The (-) number is given to the team which is favorites and the (+) number to the underdogs. For the favorites to win the wager, they will be required to win in excess of the point spread. This is referred to as ‘covering the spread.’ For an underdog wager to win, the team/player will be required to not lose in excess of the spread. It’s important you know how to read point spreads in order to judge the best chances of winning the spread.

how to read point spreads

Point Spread Example

LA Rams vs. NY Giants: -7/+7

In this game, the Rams are favorites and the Giants are underdogs. Thus, the Rams begin the game with a -7 handicap and the Giants begin with a +7 advantage. To win a wager on the Rams, the Rams need to win by more than 7 points. For a bet on the Giants to payout, the Giants must lose by less than 7 points. 

If the final score of the game ended at 20-15 with a Rams victory, the Giants would still win the wager. However, if the Rams won 25-15 they would have successfully covered the spread and won any wagers placed on them.

What is a Push?

A point spread push occurs when the victory margin falls directly on the number of the spread. 

For example, let’s say Team A is given +10 points in a basketball game for a point spread. If the team then loses by exactly 10 points the bet would be a push. In the case of a push bet, your wager will be returned but not paid out. 

If the bet is within a parlay wager, the odds for that bet will be taken out of the total wager. The remaining wagers will be paid out as a parlay with one less selection.  

Point spreads may include a half-point in their handicap, also known as the hook. The hook takes away the chance of pushing on a wager by creating an uneven score. For example, if the spread is +5.5, there is no way a team can win or lose by that amount in a basketball game. 

Point Spread Odds

The odds to point spread bets are usually around the even mark for football and basketball wagers. Hockey and soccer wagers can sometimes provide slightly skewed odds due to the difficulty in balancing goals. Generally, -110 to -120 odds is the benchmark for most point spread bets based on the sportsbook.

The odds will never be exactly 1:1 as the sportsbook always charges ‘juice.’ The juice is a commission kept by the sportsbook as a brokerage fee.

How to Read a Point Spread

Point spreads are relatively easy to decipher. They usually come in the form of two numbers that are the same, one positive/one negative. The positive number is always associated with the underdog and the negative number is always for the favorite. When figuring out if your bet won, add or subtract the number from the final score. 

How to Read a Point Spread: Example

NY Knicks vs. LA Lakers: +12.5/-12.5

Final Score: 50-62

In this case, the Knicks lost by 12 points but will still win the wager as they have a +12.5 spread. (50 + 12.5 = 62.5) On the other hand, a wager on the Lakers would lose even though they won the game. (62 – 12.5= 49.5)

Live Betting Point Spreads

Point spreads can be available during live in-play betting. Live point spreads will change according to the state of play of the game. For example, let’s take a football game which started off with Team A +10 underdogs. As the game progresses the team may be doing much better than expected. The point spread will change accordingly to a number the sportsbook believes is better suited to the game.

As the state of play is always changing in live bets, the points spread will fluctuate quickly as well. In order to lock in a wager as a particular point spread you may be required to act fast. 

Why Bet Point Spreads?

The reason point spreads are so popular is because they can even out an otherwise lopsided matchup. With football and basketball point spreads both teams are given the same chance to win the wager. The number which is provided as the point spread is meant to create a level playing field. Thus, the odds on most point spread wagers are close to even money. 

If you’re looking to wager on a favorite, knowing how to read point spreads can turn an otherwise measly payout into sizable winnings. In some cases, favorites may receive odds as low as +110 or +120. By adding a spread to the bet the odds can jump all the way to -120 if your team can cover.

Conversely, without spread bets, if you think a team will likely lose, you won’t be able to intelligently wager on them. However, thanks to spread bets, you can still bet on teams that you’re confident are going to lose but will win the spread.

Point Spread Betting Tips

When placing point spread wagers it is important to find the best possible margins. These numbers are the key to making successful point spread bets. Naturally, finding the best requires knowing how to read point spreads.

Different bookmakers may provide different numbers, so if you’re getting the same odds, its best to shop around. By using multiple sportsbooks you can get slightly better spreads when betting on sports which can ultimately be the difference between winning and losing.

Another useful tip when point spread betting is to exploit line movement. The spreads change over time in most sportsbooks based on developments. By keeping your ear to the ground you will be able to get better odds whenever there is a movement in the spread.

FAQ

What is point spread betting?

Point spreads are set by bookmakers on two opposing teams. The number set is the margin of victory required to successfully win the bet. There are always two numbers provided for each game (+/-). Both are generally the same value. 

Negative odds (-) are given to the favorite to win. Likewise, positive odds (+) to the underdogs. For the favorites to win the wager, they will be required to win in excess of the point spread. This is referred to as ‘covering the spread.’ For an underdog wager to win, the team/player will be required to not lose in excess of the spread.

What odds do point spreads provide?

The odds that a point spread provide may vary based on the sportsbook. The purpose of a point spread is to level out the playing field between two teams/players. Accordingly, most point spread bets provide odds close to even money. The average odds for a point spread wager is between -110 and -120.

What is a push in point spreads?

A push is when a point spread is matched exactly by the final result. For example, if a team gets a +3 point advantage and then loses the game by 3 points, the bet will result in a push.

What is point spread juice?

While point spread wagers are supposed to be close to equal odds, the odds given by sportsbooks are slightly less. This is due to the commission taken by the bookmaker known as ‘juice.’

Which sports can I bet on using point spreads?

Once you know how to read point spreads, there are many sports you can bet on using point spreads but the most popular are football and basketball. Hockey, tennis, and soccer are some other top sports available for point spreads.