How Does Betting The Spread Work

The sportsbook sets a number called the spread. The number/spread predicts the victory margin in a sports match. When you know how the spread works in betting, you can assess a team’s potential, make better decisions, and increase your winning chances. Today’s article will answer how does betting the spread work. Read on!
How Does Betting The Spread Work

How the Spread Works?

You have a favorite team in any sporting event. Likewise, you have a team called the underdog with higher chances of losing. Betting the spread aims to balance the skill gap between two teams. It gives the underdog team an advantage in the form of points. At the same time, the favorite team with a higher chance of winning must overcome a point deficit.

How to Read the Spread?

How Does Betting The Spread Work

A number with a plus or minus sign (+ or -) represents the spread in betting. The minus sign means negative spread, which indicates the favorite. So, this number shows the number of points a team needs to win and make your bet successful. For instance, a -3.5 spread means the favored must win by more than 3.5 points.

On the other hand, a positive spread (+ sign) is for the underdog team. The number indicates the points a team can lose to make your bet successful. For example, a +5.5 spread means the underdog team can lose up to 5.5. point. So, if this happens, your betting becomes successful.

My Experience with Betting the Spread.

Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks are my favorite basketball teams. A few months ago, I was watching a match between these two teams. So, I went to an online casino with a sports betting platform to see the spread. I saw that the sportsbook had set the spread as Lakers -4.5.

I bet on the Lakers because I estimated they would beat the Knicks by 5 or more points. On the other hand, some players bet on the Knicks. However, the Lakers won the game by 105-100. I won my bet because the Lakers won by 5 points. Knicks bettors lost their bets because their team lost by 5 points. So, the Knicks failed to stay within the +4.5 spread.

Spreads in Different Sports

How Does Betting The Spread Work

Although the spread has the same principle across sports, you must understand the differences. Otherwise, you may not align your betting strategy with that specific spread and lose your bet. Here is a quick overview of how does betting the spread work in different sports.

Sport Spread Name Typical Range Common Values
Football Point Spread 1 to 14 3, 6, 7
Basketball Point Spread 1 to 10 Varies
Baseball Run Line Usually, 1.5 -1.5, +1.5

Let me explain spreads in famous sports like basketball, baseball, and football betting.

The Point Spread in Football

The point spread in football is larger than in other sports. It ranges between 1 and 14 points because football has a lower-scoring nature. Common values in football point spread include 3, 6, and 7 with half-point increments (for example -3.5) to avoid ties.

The spread affects football betting because the underdog team with large points is at an advantage. Likewise, a favorite football team with high spreads must perform well to dominate and cover the match.

Also Read: What is Alternate Spread in Betting

Point Spreads and Home Court in Basketball

Basketball spreads are smaller than other sports. These range between 1 and 10 points. These spreads are smaller due to basketball’s higher-scoring nature of the game. Home-court plays a crucial role in basketball betting. A team playing at home has an advantage of 2 to 3 points in the spread. So, you can develop a strategic choice and bet on underdogs at home to increase your winning chances.

The Run Line in Baseball

The run line is “the official name” of the spread in baseball. Most sportsbooks set the run line at 1.5 runs. The favorite has -1.5, and the underdog has a +1.5 spread. Unlike basketball and football, baseball does not have half points.

So, the favorite team must win by 2 or more runs. Similarly, the underdog must lose by 1 run or win the game with a big margin to cover. The run line is one of the most popular basketball bets because it offers better odds than simply picking the winning team.

Tips for Betting the Spread

How Does Betting The Spread Work

Betting the spread does not mean picking winners. You must find value and make better and more informed decisions. So, how do you do this? Let me give you some tips based on my personal experiences with spread betting.

Research is Important

If you think betting the spread will immediately increase your winning chances, you are wrong! So, do your homework by performing thorough research. Although you can analyze team statistics, look at recent performance, read injury reports, and examine head-to-match matchups, I am talking about creating a “Power Ranking” system.

I don’t rely on overall win/loss records. Instead, I develop my own power rankings for teams in football, basketball, baseball, and other sports. I assign a numerical value to each team based on different factors. For example, these factors are:

Recent Performance The last 5 to 10 games’ results and points scored
Home vs Away Does the team dominate at home? Does it struggle on the road?
Strength of Schedule Did the team win against the top-performing opponent? Or did it defeat the weaker ones?
Injuries Does the team have the best players missing? How will it impact the team’s lineup?
Advanced Statistics I look at metrics like defensive/offensive efficiency, turnover margin, etc.

Also Read: How to Bet on NHL

Assign Weights

The next step is assigning weights to these factors because I believe these elements are not equal. Therefore, I decide which factors carry more weight in my ranking system. Sometimes, I focus more on the team’s recent performance than its overall record. You should do the same. It works!

Calculate and Rank

Once you have assigned the weights, it is time to give each team a score based on the factors and weights. So, this allows you to rank each team from top to bottom. The purpose is to create a clear picture of who is the favorite, underdog, and likely to win your bet.

Focus on the Odds to Win

Sportsbooks usually display odds as -110, +150, etc. What do these numbers represent? They tell you two things:

  • The probability of a sports team winning or covering
  • Your potential payout

For example, -110 is a negative odd that indicates a favorite team. On the other hand, +150 is a positive odd that represents an underdog team. Here, -110 means you must wager 110 euros to win 100 euros. +150 means if you bet 100 euros, you can win 150 euros. I suggest calculating the odds and the potential payouts. Then, compare them with your analysis of the team’s chances.

I don’t chase big payouts; I look for bets where the odds align with my analysis.

Underdogs are not Always Underdogs

Most people choose the favored team. But I say don’t underestimate the underdog. A large spread often makes an underdog team a tempting proposition, especially if you have done your research and your analysis says they have increased chances of winning the game compared to the suggested odds.

Do you remember the 2016 Super Bowl and the match between Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers? Denver Broncos was the underdog with a 5.5-point spread. The Broncos upset the favorite “Carolina Panthers” 24-10. The Broncos had a strong defense that dominated the Panthers’ high-powered offense. By the way, I lost that bet. But I learned a lesson that underdogs are not always underdogs.

Find the Best Lines

Another tip I want to give you is about finding the best lines. All sportsbooks have different lines. Some may have similar lines, but most have different ones. I remember the match between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. I was more interested in betting on the Eagles as underdogs.

One sportsbook offered the Eagles +3.5. The other one offered +4. So, I thought, how many points will the Eagles lose? I thought the Eagles would lose by 3 points. Therefore, the extra half-point at the second sportsbook was the deciding factor in my bet.

Final Words About Spread Betting

Always remember that spread betting is all about research, strategy, and improving your skills. You must research, analyze, and calculate odds, consider underdogs, and find the best lines. Otherwise, you may not make better decisions and increase your winning chances.


Written By

Qazi Raza

My name is Qazi Raza. I work as an editor at We focus on telling Swedish casino players about the best-unlicensed gaming websites. I know a lot about how online casinos work. I can tell you which websites are safe and which ones will pay out your winnings. I also share tips to help you make the best betting decisions. My goal is to guide Swedish players to great casinos outside the licensed system. I want our users to have fun gaming experiences.