Point Spread in Sports Betting | Beginner’s Guide

Point Spread In Sports Betting

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3 months ago
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Cincinnati Bengals offense runs off of the field vs. Cleveland Browns

Understanding the Point Spread in Sports Betting (With Examples)

When it comes to sports betting, the point spread is one of the most popular wagers you can place. But what does it mean to “cover the spread?” And how does point spread betting work in different sports? 

To answer these questions, we run through everything you need to know about point spread betting and introduce you to some examples featuring leading Ohio sports teams. 

What is the Point Spread in Sports Betting?

In sports betting, the point spread is a form of handicap betting that a sportsbook offers to level the playing field. Essentially, the sportsbook provides the underdog with a headstart while handicapping the favorites. 

In other words, they increase the spread of the points, allowing them to offer different odds based on each team’s likelihood of winning.

Once the sportsbook has set the odds, it’s up to you whether you cover the spread or bet against it. Let’s take a look at an NFL point spread example to show you what we mean:

Cincinnati Bengals -5.5 (-120) vs. Cleveland Browns +5.5 (+110)

In this Battle of Ohio example, the Bengals are favorites to beat the Browns. We know this because they have been given negative odds, while the Browns have positive odds. 

In this game, the sportsbook has given the Bengals a 5.5-point handicap while providing the Browns with a 5.5-point headstart. But what does that mean for your bet? 

Well, if you fancy the Bengals to win and cover the spread, they would need to win the match by six points or more to recover the deficit given to them by the sportsbook. 

Conversely, if you back the Browns for the upset, provided that they don’t lose by five points or more, you would still win your bet. 

So, if the match finishes 21-16 in favor of the Bengals and you backed Cincinnati in a point spread of 5.5, you would actually lose your bet, as their winning margin is only five. 

The point spread is actually one of the most popular wagers you can place, and it’s available in so many sports, as we explain below. 

Point Spread Betting in Different Sports

As explained above, the point spread is a common wager that people place on American football. But it’s not just the NFL where point spread betting is super popular. One thing to know about spread betting is that it is often called different things, depending on the sport you’re betting on. Let’s take a look at some more examples. 

NHL - puck line betting

In ice hockey, a point-spread bet is known as the puck line (for obvious reasons!). As scorelines in hockey are usually much lower than they are in football, the point spread is tighter. Here’s an NHL puck line example: 

Columbus Blue Jackets +1.5 (+110) vs. Boston Bruins -1.5 (-110)

Here, the sportsbook has the Bruins as the favorites over the Blue Jackets, even with a 1.5-point handicap. So, if you think the Blue Jackets will win on the ice, they would need to avoid defeat by at least one point to cover the spread. 

So, if the match finished 5-4 in favor of the Bruins, you would win your bet on the Blue Jackets, as the Bruins’ margin of victory is less than the 1.5 puck line set by the sportsbook.

MLB - run line betting

In baseball, a point spread bet is more commonly referred to as the run line. As is the case with the puck line in hockey, the run line is often tight due to the lower-scoring nature of baseball fixtures. Here’s what an MLB run line bet might look like: 

Chicago Cubs -1.5 (-120) vs. Cleveland Guardians +1.5 (+120)

Here, the Cubs are strong favorites to defeat the Guardians, as indicated by their negative odds and the fact that the sportsbook has given them a 1.5-run deficit. 

If you agree with the sportsbook and think the Cubs will win, they would need to win by at least two clear points to cover the spread. So, for instance, if the match finished 6-2 in favor of the Cubs, your point spread bet would win, thanks to their margin of victory. 

NBA - point spread betting

There isn’t a fancy name for NBA point spread betting, but it is worth noting that the spread is often wider than it is in other sports, given the high-scoring nature of each match. Let’s take a look at an NBA point spread to show you what we mean:

Cleveland Cavaliers -7.5 (-110) vs. Detroit Pistons +7.5 (-110)

In this NBA point spread example, the Cavs have been given a 7.5-point handicap by the sportsbook, meaning they would need to win the fixture by at least eight points for you to cover the spread. 

So, if the match between the Cavs and the Pistons finishes 115-105 in favor of the Cavs, you would win your bet, as the ten-point winning margin sufficiently covers the spread. 

Understanding Point Spread Betting Odds

Now that you understand the concept, we want to finish by touching on the odds set by the sportsbook in a point spread. In the American format, the favorite is always given negative odds, while the underdog is given positive odds. 

Sometimes, the sportsbook will set the same odds for both sides of a point spread bet, while other times, they will denote a favorite and an underdog. Here’s an example: 

Cincinnati Bengals +5.5 (+120) vs. Dallas Cowboys -5.5 (-110)

If you fancy the Bengals, a $100 bet would return a profit of $120 if they cover the spread. Conversely, if you fancy the Cowboys, you would need to place a $110 bet to win a profit of $100. 

With that, you are now armed with all of the information you need to place a point spread bet on your favorite team this season, and we wish you all the best as you make your predictions! 

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