What is a Spread in Sports Betting?

What is a Spread in Sports Betting?

betJACK Training Camp
3 years ago
4 min read

Spread betting (sometimes referred to simply as the line) is one of the most popular bet types. It refers to the margin that one team is expected to win or lose by, which is represented by a (-) or (+).

Spread betting is a handicap of sorts, and it levels the playing field somewhat when one team is expected to triumph over another. 

To help you prepare the perfect spread in sports betting, we explain everything you need to know to bolster your odds and, hopefully, pick a winner! 

The Spread in Sports Betting Explained 

When you place a spread bet, you’re concerned with the margin of winning or losing. Let’s look at an example to get things started – remember a (-) indicates a winning margin: 

Cleveland Browns (-3) (-)110 

Cincinnati Bengals (+3) (-)110 

Above, the Browns would need to win this football matchup by at least three points for you to win your spread bet.

Conversely, if you backed the spread on the Bengals, they could lose by one or two points and you would still win your bet. So, for instance, if the game finished 24-22 in favor of the Browns, your bet on Cleveland would actually lose, as they only won by two points.

When making a spread bet, the key thing to remember is that the number placed next to the team you bet on is the margin they have to win or lose by for your bet to come in. If you’re interested in other bets, this NFL betting guide will help.

What is the Significance of Half Points in Spread Betting? 

Half points play a really important part in spread betting, as there is no way to score half a point in most sports. This makes it easier to pick a winner. Here’s what we mean: 

Cleveland Browns (-3.5) (-)110 

Cincinnati Bengals (+3.5) (-) 110 

Here, the use of the half-point eliminates the possibility of a push bet, which is what occurs when you receive your money back as no winner was determined by the sportsbook. Because it’s impossible for the Browns to win by 3.5, an outcome must occur. 

So, for instance, if the Browns won 25-21, you would win your bet because they won by four points, which is above the (-)3.5 threshold. 

Half points make it easier for bettors and the sportsbook and rule out the need to return your stake.

Is Spread Betting the Same in all Sports? 

The spread in sports betting is one of the most common ways to place a wager on any sport because it generally results in something close to doubling your money – presuming you win, of course.

Most sports that have a large scoring distribution, like basketball and often football, are almost always very close to even money. Sports with a lower-scoring distribution like soccer, and hockey, can have spreads that are still something like (-)200. 

This is typically the best possible line from an odds standpoint, but the gap between a (-)1.5 and (-)2.5 spread is drastic in a sport like baseball, where many games might only be won by one or two runs.


Key Numbers to Consider for the Spread in Sports Betting: A football example

Key numbers are important to remember when considering a spread. For example, football’s two most common scoring outcomes are seven and three points because it’s three points for a field goal and seven for a converted touchdown. As such, games will often be won and lost by these totals.

If Ohio State were a five-point favorite and the odds movement throughout the week shifted that number to (-)6, it’s not a huge deal.

This is because the likelihood that the score fell between five and six is very low compared to a spread that moves from (-)2.5 to (-)3.5. Since football games regularly end with a three-point difference, this line movement is significant because it moved through a key number.

If you’re new to betting and key numbers seem a little complicated, here is a beginner’s guide to sports betting.

The verdict: Should you place spread bets?

Ask any sports betting fan, and they will tell you that the spread bets are where it’s at! After all, covering the spread is a great way to maximize your odds and improve your potential profit margins. 

The good thing about spread betting is that it’s easy to understand, and the odds are clearly represented. From this perspective, not a lot can go wrong, providing you know what you’re looking for in the market. 

If you’re looking for inspiration about other types of sports bets to try, be sure to check out our training camp for a run-down of other ways to place wagers on your favorite sports and teams. 

The Spread in Sports Betting FAQs 

What does covering the spread mean?

Covering the spread is another way of saying that you have successfully put together a spread bet in sports betting. In other words, if the Bengals won 25-21 against the Ravens and you had them at (-)3.5, you could say that you have successfully covered the spread. 

Can you place a spread bet on the NBA?

Yes, you can place a spread bet on most sports. However, in basketball, it’s common for the spread to be something like 7-9 points, or thereabouts. Close matchups might have a spread closer to 3.

Are spread bets better than the moneyline?

It’s hard to say whether one type of sports betting is better than another as every bettor is different and has their own goals. However, the spread typically offers you the chance to double your money, which isn’t always the case with a moneyline.

📕Want to learn more about sports betting? Visit betJACK Training Camp for more sports betting terms and resources!

Share article on: