Over the last few years, sports betting has taken off. More states are legalizing it and more sportsbooks are becoming mobile.

This has resulted in the overall sports betting market rising exponentially. It was worth $76 billion in 2021 and by 2029, it is expected to be worth $167 billion.

If you are new to online sports betting, you need to start getting familiar with all of the different types of bets that you can make. One of those bets is the point spread of a game.

How does the spread work in sports betting? Why should you make this type of bet over other ones available?

This is your guide on point spreads.

How Does the Spread Work in Sports Betting?

Before we can go over all of the pros and cons to point spread bets, you need to understand what it is. Basically, point spread bets are bets that you can make on a more specific outcome of a game.

Essentially, you have the option to bet on a team to win by more than a certain amount of points or bet on a team to lose by less than a certain amount of points. The idea with this is to give a bettor more options and to make it a little more challenging to pick certain games.

For example, in football, say the New England Patriots are favorites by seven and a half points over the New York Jets at home. Here, you are either betting on the Patriots to win the game by more than seven points or you are betting on the Jets to lose the game by less than eight points.

Generally, point-spread bets do not cost a lot of money to get a decent return. Most of the time, they have somewhere around -110 odds. That means that you have to bet $110 to win $100.

Point Spreads vs. Moneyline

The other type of bet that a lot of people like to make is a moneyline bet. Moneyline bets are when you are betting on a team to win the game outright.

Let’s use the example above to compare the types of bets that you can make on a game. With the Patriots being favored by 7.5 points over the Jets, you may be tempted to go with a different play and pick the moneyline on one of these teams.

In this example, let’s say that the Patriots have a -350 moneyline and the Jets have a +250. That means that you have to bet $350 on the Patriots to win $100 and you can win $250 by betting $100 on the Jets.

So, the moneyline can be a lot more volatile when it comes to picking certain teams to win a game outright. With point spreads, you generally know the return that you are going to get with every game that you can pick, at least in sports like football and basketball with more points scored.

Sometimes, a bettor may feel safer betting the moneyline in sports where scoring comes at a premium. Perfect examples of this are hockey and soccer.

If the New York Red Bulls have a 1.5-goal spread against the Columbus Crew, then you are betting on them winning by two goals. There may not even be two goals scored in a soccer game.

These are things that you have to be aware of when it comes to point spreads and money lines. In sports like hockey and soccer, the moneyline can actually have lower odds than the point spread for both teams.

Pros of Point Spreads

What is the benefit of betting on a point spread in a game over betting on the moneyline? Well, it can be a cheaper way to bet on games in sports that have more points scored.

Some of the biggest cases of this are in football and basketball. If you have a game where one team is a heavy favorite to win a game, it is going to be tough to get a good moneyline on that team.

Generally, you do not want to be betting on crazy favorite odds such as a team having -300 to win the game outright. The reason for this is that in the event of an upset, you lose that entire amount rather than just $100.

Point spreads can give you more room for error in these situations because you would have to lose three bets like that to match one loss on a heavy moneyline favorite.

On the opposite side of the coin, if you want to make a little more money betting on a sport where scoring comes at a premium, point spreads can be the way to go.

Let’s use baseball as an example. There are fewer runs scored in these games than points in football and basketball, so the spreads are smaller here.

The New York Yankees can be favorites by 1.5 runs against the Boston Red Sox. This would be a situation where you could make more profit by betting the favorite on a points spread.

Instead of a moneyline where they might be -120, you could get a run spread that could have +150 odds. That means that instead of spending $120 to try and win $100, you are spending $100 to try and win $150.

Cons of Point Spreads

While there are benefits to betting on point spreads, it is not always the right decision to do so. One of the examples of when it can be a bad financial move to do so is if you bet the underdog in the above.

The Red Sox are underdogs by 1.5 runs against the Yankees. However, if you want to take that run spread, you may have to bet $160 to win just $100.

That is a situation where it is not financially feasible to bet on an underdog in a points spread. Unfortunately, in sports with more limited scoring like baseball, hockey, and soccer, that is going to happen a lot of the time.

It essentially makes betting on any underdog that is getting points to be a questionable bet because of the limited return that you are getting out of it.

In sports with more scoring like football and basketball, the cons are a little different. Here, the main con is that you are missing out on a big payday if one of the big underdogs goes on to win the game outright.

Let’s use a recent college football game as an example. The Marshall Thundering Herd traveled to South Bend to face the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

The point spread here was +20.5 for Marshall, so it gave you a much better chance of winning the bet. However, Marshall went on to win that game outright. The moneyline for that game was +800.

So, if you bet on Marshall to win the game outright, you would have won $800 on your bet instead of just $100.

While point spreads can improve your chances of winning bets in these sports, they do not have a high ceiling for return on investment either.

Shop for Point Spreads

When it comes to point spreads, you want to find the best one possible for the bet that you want to make. This is especially important in higher-scoring sports like football and basketball where point spreads tend to be more flexible.

The reason that you want to do this is that with certain point spreads, it can have a major difference in the outcome of your bet if you even adjust it by half a point.

Let’s use football as an example here. In this sport, the main ways to score are field goals and touchdowns. Those are worth three and six points each, with touchdowns usually having an extra point after.

That means that any point spread that is centered around increments of three and seven points could have a major impact on the success of your bet.

So, you saw above in your first sportsbook that the Patriots were 7.5-point favorites against the Jets. What if there was a place where you could find that same game with a -7 point spread?

If you want to back the Patriots, you should place your bet in the second book instead of the first one. In the event of a touchdown victory, you would then push on your bet instead of losing outright.

To get started, check out reviews of sportsbooks like this one:


Learn More About Sports Betting

This article should answer the question of “how does the spread work in sports betting?” Here, you should have a better idea of when you should bet on point spreads and when you should stay away from them. Plus, shop around for the best one for your type of bet.

For more relevant information, check out our other Betting articles.