How Does Point Spread Work?

How does point spread work? Does it have the potential to fatten your player balance?

Table of contents

If you’re new to sports betting and you’re looking to try out different betting markets, chances are that you've heard about point spread betting and the crave bettors have for this betting market. But what is spread betting? How does it work? Let's cover it in details, shall we?

What Is Point Spread Betting? 

Point spread betting is a type of wager that predicts the final result of a match based on points assigned by oddsmakers.

Unlike moneyline bets, players don’t predict which team would win, lose or draw in a match.

Instead, predictions are based on the margin of victory or loss in a game.

Basically, at the start of each game, bookmakers assign handicap points to both the favourite and the underdog. If you’re rooting for the favourite team, they must win the game by more than the given spread. A wager on the underdog is hoping that they lose the match by fewer points than the spread. 

For example, here is an NFL Super Bowl LIV game of the San Francisco 49ERS vs Kansas City Chiefs 

point spread betting example

Things look fairly the same among these teams, however, you will notice a slight difference in the spread. Obviously, the Kansas City Chiefs are the favourites to win, which is deduced by the minus sign (-) in front of their spread. That means the San Francisco 49ers are the underdogs, confirmed by the plus sign (+) in front of their spread

The 1.5 spread means that the Chiefs have to win the game by 2 or more points to cover the spread. 

Based on the final result, the Chiefs ended up lifting the Super Bowl trophy 31 - 20. The 11-point margin was greater than the 2 points needed, meaning they covered the spread. 

How Does Point Spread Work? 

Spread betting is one of the easiest betting options, but for newcomers, it can be quite complicated than they actually are. To have spread betting explained fully, let's reconsider the following game:

  • San Francisco 49ERS (odds -110) +1.5 
  • Kansas City Chiefs (odds -110) -1.5 

As you already know:

  • A minus sign (-) means that the team is the favourite 
  • A plus sign (+) means that the team is the underdog

The number of points after the points, in this case; 1.5, represents the number of goals/runs, the favourite must win by to cover the spread (for you to win the bet).

You also need to understand how odds work. In this case, the odds are the same (you will find -110 next to both spreads). This means that you will need to wager C$110  to win C$100. However, you don't have to wager exactly C$110. However, it is advisable to bet that amount if you want to win C$100 in profit which will bring your total win to C$210. This means the sportsbook takes a 10% cut from your bet (known as vig or juice). 

Another NFL example:

NFL Team Odds

Obviously, the Bills are the favourite while the Jets are the underdog. To cover the spread, the Bills will have to win by 14 or more points. Anything less than that and the bet is lost.

Point spread bets are the same for the NFL (Football) as they are for the NBA (Basketball). To help you understand it better, let’s look at a basketball example. 

Here, you have an NBA game: 

nba point spread betting

You can tell that the New York Knicks are the favourite (-) and the Celtics are the underdog (+). This means that the New York Knicks are expected a win by 3 or more points to cover the spread. The odds are no different. You will need to wager C$107 to win C$100.

What Does Covering The Spread Mean?

A point spread refers to the number of points set by a sportsbook by which a team (the favourites) must win for that bet to payout. If a team wins by the assigned number of points, then it can be said that you have "covered the spread".

For example: 

NFL Team Odds
New England Patriots-17
Cleveland Browns+17

The minus sign means that the New England Patriots are the favourite and must score more than 17 points to cover the spread and win the bet.

If the Patriots are able to score several touchdowns and a field goal to achieve an 18-point margin above the Browns, then it can be said that the bet is won and you have covered the spread. 

Keep in mind that winning the game doesn't necessarily mean covering the spread. If the Patriots end up with a 31 - 18 in the game, this will mean a win for the team, however, you will lose the bet. The reason is that there is a 13-point margin rather than the expected 18-point margin required to cover the bet.

How To Bet The Spread Online?

Placing a spread bet at a sportsbook is very easy. Here is a step by step guide on how to about it: 

  1. Select the desired sport 
  2. Click on the spread you want to bet on

    The spread should automatically be added to your bet slip

  3. Head to your bet slip and enter your bet amount
  4. Click "Place Bet" and submit your bet


How To Bet Against The Point Spread?

While sportsbooks decide on the favourite, it doesn't necessarily mean that things will go their way. To understand what it means to be against the spread, take the following NFL game below:

  • Kansas City Chiefs +7.5 (-225)
  • New England Patriots -7.5 (-130)

The New England Patriots are favoured in this bet, so betting against the spread means choosing the Kansas City Chiefs to win the game.

For the Chiefs to win the bet, the point difference at the end of the game must be less than 8. This means at the end of the game, if you add 7.5 points to their final score and if the difference is not 8 or more, then the Patriots lose the spread. The following outcomes will mean a win for you if you bet against the spread

Kansas City Chiefs 21New England Patriots 24
Kansas City Chiefs 30New England Patriots 27
Kansas City Chiefs 28New England Patriots 34

Betting against the spread is quite tricky since oddsmakers perform their research on the market before choosing the favourites, underdogs, and the numbers points.

It is most likely that the favourites will win the game, however, the margin might not always be correct. If you're willing to take the risk, then making some research on the teams’ previous games, home/road performance, current form, current players (injuries should be taken into account), and the weather should give you an idea if the favoured team can cover the spread.

How Does Point Spread Betting Work In Basketball?

Here, we have the point spread for an NBA game:

  • Boston Celtics (+7) -110
  • Los Angeles Lakers (-7) -110

The points don't really differ from a regular NFL point spread. Here, the Lakers remain the favourite (due to the - sign). To cover the spread, they will need a 7-point margin over the Celtics in the final score.

How Does Point Spread Work In Football?

Consider the following NFL game:

  • Green Bay Packers (-3) 
  • New Orleans Saints (+3)

The Green Bay Packers are favoured in this game and will need a 4-point margin to cover the spread. This means the Green Bay Packers have to be four points ahead of the New Orleans Saints at the end of the game for your bet to turn green.

Should I Make Spread Bets? 

Spread bets are one of the hottest betting markets for Basketball and Football fanatics. If you're a newcomer, you might want to perform some research before considering spread bets. In fact, moneyline bets would be a better option to go for. Just like the regular odds on a game, lines do move on a spread bet, so the points required to cover the bet will constantly change. There are several reasons for this which include;

  • Player injuries
  • Change of venue
  • Weather conditions

Due to these and many other factors, it is recommended that you wait until right before a game starts before you place your wager as this will give you all the necessary information to make the right bet.


A plus (+) in betting spread refers to the underdog, the team set by the oddsmakers to lose the game by a certain number of points, while the minus refers to the favourites, the team set to win the game by a certain number of points.

A +7 refers to the underdog, which means the team will lose the game by 8 or more points.

Yes, sportsbooks do offer point spread lines for each quarter and the half in basketball and football.

A push occurs when the final score lands exactly on the bet.

For example, if the Boston Celtics (-7) need to win a game by 8 points to cover the spread, but instead, the final score is 30 – 23 (a perfect 7-point margin), this is known as a push.

In this case, bettors will get their money back. Sportsbooks prefer this from happening by adding a .5 to the spread.

Betting against the spread means betting on the underdog to win or the favourite to lose.

In the case of the Boston Celtics that need an 8-point margin to win, betting against the spread means predicting that the game will end with the Celtics having fewer points (i.e. 7 or fewer).

Alternate spreads refer to lines that oddsmakers offer that differ from the original spreads for a game.

These alternate spreads have the potential for payouts that are many juicers – or much worse – than the original spread.