The ultimate guide for the sharp bettor

What is Spread Betting in Sports Betting?

Spread Betting Spread Betting has three potential outcomes: wins, losses, or pushes. Ultimately, these three outcomes hinge on three factors: the favored contender, the underdog contender, and the actual spread number pre-set by the sportsbook.
Matthew Merola
Author:
Matthew Merola
Updated:
11 October 2021
Table of Contents

    What Is Spread Betting?

    A lot of betting games you’ll find in a sportsbook, online or offline, hinge on an unambiguous, binary, and black-and-white win-lose outcome. From moneyline betting, which entails wagering on a certain team winning or losing, to parlay or teaser bets where every leg must win (or push) for the bettor to win, or over/under bets where one scenario wins, most bets are contingent on fairly clear cut winning.

    Unlike those other forms of sports betting, however, spread betting entails wagering within a certain margin of points to win, as opposed to wagering on a hard figure or number. This might be preferable to other betting games, as you don’t necessarily need to hit a definitive number of goals, touchdowns, home runs, or score points to win; just fulfill a certain margin.

    But what should perspective spread betters know about the rules of the game beyond fulfilling a certain score margin to win? Find out through this comprehensive, in-depth guide. 

    How Spread Betting Works

    Spread wagers have three potential outcomes: wins, losses, or pushes. Ultimately, these three outcomes hinge on three factors: the favored contender, the underdog contender, and the actual spread number pre-set by the sportsbook. These spread scoring units will vary depending on:

    The parameters of the respective event or game being wagered on
    Whether or not one side is perceived to have a home-field advantage
    If each side is priced equally as “evens” or “pick ‘ems”

    Irrespective of these factors, most bookmakers will charge for wagers evenly, across both potential outcomes of the wager. This charge is often known as “vigorish”, AKA “vig”, and most sportsbooks will fix the vig at -110, meaning that if they want to win $100, a bettor would have to pay a $110 vig stake and have their wagered outcome fall within their preferred spread margin.

    If the bet in the hypothetical wins, then the bettor will be able to take home $100, plus the amount equivalent to their stake, so they would walk away with a $210 award. The winning outcome wouldn’t have to fall within the exact number of score points predicted by the bookmaker, but within a higher or lower margin of score points than the spread.

    If the bettor was betting on:

    The Favorite: Then their favored team’s winning score must exceed a greater margin of victory than the point spread pre-set by the sportsbook. 

    The Underdog: Then their underdog team must lose within a margin below the spread, or beat the odds and handily win the game to cover it.

    Whether you’re betting on the favorite or the underdog, these are generally how spread bets shake out. Alternatively, if the score winds up being IDENTICAL to the point spread number that the bookmaker pre-set or predicted, then your wager will just be counted as a “push”.

    While these betting outcomes won’t qualify as losses on your overall gaming record, they also won’t qualify as wins either. Instead of gaining or losing any money, the bettor will simply be refunded the money they wagered for their betting stake. As you can imagine, this isn’t a preferred outcome for the house either; they’re a business, they’ll want to fulfill a profit motive, and they’ll want to do whatever they can to keep staying afloat.

    So in order to avoid such a push outcome, the bookmaker may fix the point spread at ½ or .5 of a point. This half-point is sometimes known as the “hook”, and it’s this single hook that can sometimes make or break a spread betting outcome. For example, imagine that the Philadelphia Eagles are favored 6.5 points over the Dallas Cowboys in a Monday night game. 

    Even if Jalen Hurts came through in the clutch and scored the game-winning touchdown for the Eagles, the bettor who bet on them as their favored team would still lose their wager, as that game-winning touchdown still failed to exceed the 6.5+ margin of victory. But whether you’re spread betting on the favored team or the underdog team, why should you place it?

    Why Spread Bet?

    In both casino gaming and iGaming, spread betting persists as one of the most popular forms of sportsbook betting for a reason. Because your bet is contingent on a range of results as opposed to one definitive result, you’ll have slightly better odds of winning than you would through other betting games.

    Furthermore, most major sports can exceed extremely high scores. For example, in 1966, the Washington Football Team and New York Giants set the record for the all-time highest-scoring NFL game, a total of 113 combined points with Washington beating New York 72-41. 

    In the NBA, the all-time highest-scoring game occurred in 1983 when the Detroit Pistons beat the Denver Nuggets 186-184. With scores potentially escalating this high, it might be wiser to bet on a range of score points as opposed to just one solid, hard outcome. Ultimately though, what you choose to do is ultimately a matter of personal choice and preference. 

    Spread Betting Tips

    Before you consider placing a spread bet, you should also consider keeping the following three pointers in mind: 

    Understand the rules and parameters around your preferred sportsbook platform. Review the fine print as carefully as you can.

    Never wager more than you would be comfortable losing. From injuries changing the over/under, to extremely wide score point margins, a lot can change, and you have to be comfortable with contending those ever-changing risks.

    Consider sticking exclusively to sportsbooks that operate on a half-point spread, so you won’t risk your wager becoming a push bet.

    Once you’re ready to bet, it’s time to pick your favored online sportsbook platform. Currently, 13 states, as well as Washington D.C., all offer legal online sports betting services. 

    Depending on where you live, you could currently have as little as one option or as many as 20, but that number is only expected to keep growing in the coming months. Ultimately, your best bet for following the best betting options will be following OddsSeeker.

    Sports Betting Strategies

    Want to bet like the best of them? Read these detailed strategies written by expert sports bettors to help you understand the sharpest ways to bet!

    Sports Betting Calculators

    The best bettors only strike wagers when they know their exact risk & exact reward - use these calculators to help yourself make the best bets.