If you have ever thought about making a bet on a basketball or football game, you probably came across a term called point spread. And if you are like some casino gamblers who have had a mild curiosity about sports betting at some point in time, but have shied away only after coming across some of the confusing numbers and terms often thrown about at online sportsbooks, you are not alone. However, just like anything that is new or unfamiliar, it can often look intimidating from the outside, but in reality, with a little explanation is as easy as pie.
The two main sports in which a point spread is used are football and basketball. The reason it is used is basically to protect the sportsbook. Most games will have a favorite and an underdog, which in some cases can be markedly apparent. In those situations, in which it is almost 100% likely the favorite is going to win (although we know in gambling nothing is 100%) all bettors will wager on the favorite. And if that happens, there will be no losing bettors to offset the payouts the sportsbook will be responsible for dishing out.
Using the betting interface of an online sportsbook as an example, let us take a look at what the point spread is. When making a bet in an online sportsbook you will see a link to view the current lines. These are the actual games, which list a variety of stats including the type of bet, point spread and buy points. For now, we will only focus on straight bets and will go into parlay and if-bets in another article. The point spread is usually expressed something like this:
Miami Dolphins -14 vs. Oakland Raiders OR Oakland Raiders +14 vs. Miami Dolphins OR Miami Dolphins -14 vs. Oakland Raiders +14
All three of these are exactly the same point spread, which states the Miami Dolphins are the favorite to win by 14 points over the Raiders. In order for a bet to win on the Dolphins, the Dolphins must win by more than 14 points. If they only win by 13 points, then the bet loses. Balancing the wins and losses is what the point spread essentially does. All bets are given an Against the Spread Score (ATS) which is used to determine the payouts of each bet. I should also mention that if a bet is made on the Raiders in the above example, and the Dolphins win by 8 points, the bet wins and is given an ATS score as well. If the Dolphins win by exactly 14 points, the bet is considered a push and all bets are returned.
Hopefully this clears up any wonder about the point spread. However, when it comes to making smart sporting bets, this is only one part of the big picture. Always do your research ahead of time on the specific game you want to bet on. This entails knowing both teams inside-out, including their past track records and current lineup.