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Sports Betting 101: What is a Point Spread in Sports Betting?

If you’re new to sports betting, you may have heard the term “point spread” being thrown around. But what exactly does it mean, and how does it affect your bets?

Sports betting has become a popular pastime for many, with millions of dollars being wagered on games and matches every day. However, for beginners, the terminology and rules can be overwhelming and confusing.

Understanding the point spread is essential for anyone looking to bet on sports. It’s a way for sportsbooks to even out the playing field and encourage betting on both teams. In this article, we’ll break down the basics of the point spread and how it works in sports betting.

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What is a Point Spread in Sports Betting?

Point spread in sports betting is a type of wagering where a bookmaker assigns a handicap or point spread to a particular sporting event in order to create a level playing field for both teams or players. 

The point spread is essentially a prediction of the margin of victory for one team over the other. In order to win a point spread bet, the bettor must correctly predict whether the favored team will win by more points than the point spread or whether the underdog will lose by fewer points than the point spread, or win the game outright.

Point spread betting is commonly used in sports such as football, basketball, and hockey.

How Does Point Spread Betting Work?

The point spread is determined by oddsmakers who use a variety of factors, such as team records, injuries, and recent performance, to set the line. The goal of point spread betting is to create a more even betting field, as it allows bettors to bet on the underdog team and still have a chance to win.

In point spread betting, the bettor must not only pick the winning team but also correctly predict the margin of victory. If the favorite team wins the game but does not cover the point spread, the bettor loses the bet. Conversely, if the underdog team loses the game but covers the point spread, the bettor wins the bet. 

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Example of Point Spread 

The table below shows some examples of what a point spread looks like. In the first example, New England is favored to win by 7.5 points, meaning they must win by at least 8 points for a bet on them to be successful. 

On the other hand, Miami is the underdog and is given a 7.5-point advantage, meaning they can either win the game outright or lose by up to 7 points for a bet on them to be successful. 

The point spread is meant to balance the betting action between the two teams by giving the underdog a better chance to cover the spread and win the bet.




Point Spread 

Football  New England vs. Miami New England -7.5, Miami +7.5
Basketball Los Angeles Lakers vs. Phoenix Suns Los Angeles -3.5, Phoenix +3.5
Baseball New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox New York -1.5, Boston +1.5
Hockey Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings Chicago -2.5, Detroit +2.5
Soccer  Manchester United vs. Liverpool  Manchester United -0.5, Liverpool +0.5


Why Does Point Spread Change?

One of the primary reasons for point spread changes is the betting market. As more people place bets on one team, the sportsbook may adjust the point spread to encourage more balanced betting. This is because sportsbooks want to minimize their risk and ensure that they make money regardless of the outcome of the game.

Injuries to key players can also impact the point spread. If a star player is injured or unable to play, this may cause the sportsbook to adjust the point spread in favor of the opposing team. This is because the injured player’s absence may weaken the team’s overall performance and decrease their chances of winning.

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Tips for Betting on Point Spreads

When betting on point spreads, follow these tips: 

  • Research and understand the teams involved: Before placing a bet, it’s important to research the teams involved in the game, including their recent form, injuries, and head-to-head records. This information can help you make an informed decision when betting on the point spread.
  • Look for value: When betting on point spreads, find value in the odds offered by bookmakers. This means looking for odds that are higher than what you believe the true probability of the outcome is.
  • Set a budget and stick to it: Betting on point spreads can be risky, so set a budget for your bets and stick to it. Only bet what you can afford to lose and never chase your losses.
  • Consider the weather and other external factors: The weather and other external factors can have a significant impact on the outcome of a game, so take these into account when betting on point spreads.
  • Shop around for the best odds: Different bookmakers may offer various odds for the same game, so shop around and find the best odds available. This can help you maximize your winnings and minimize your losses.
  • Avoid betting on your favorite team: While it can be tempting to bet on your favorite team, this can lead to biased decision-making and cloud your judgment. Remain objective when betting on point spreads and make decisions based on the available information.
  • Consider alternative markets: Point spreads are just one type of betting market. Consider exploring alternative markets, such as over/under bets or moneyline bets, to find the best value and increase your chances of winning.


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Understanding point spreads is a crucial aspect of sports betting. It not only determines the outcome of a bet but also the potential payout. Knowing how to read and interpret point spreads can give bettors an advantage when placing bets and increase their chances of winning. 

As with any form of gambling, it’s important to bet responsibly and within one’s means. With this knowledge, beginners can confidently enter the world of sports betting and make informed decisions.

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