Online Sports Betting- Betting The Pointspread

The use of a pointspread is the most common way to bet on a football or basketball game. Oddsmakers use the spread in points as a handicapping tool to even the playing field between the favored team and the underdog.

A popular misconception is that the pointspread is the predicted margin of victory. In reality, the pointspread is designed to balance out the money bet on either side of a particular matchup. Spreads in football games are built around the two primary ways to score points plus a combination of the two as follows:

  • Field Goal (3 points)
  • Touchdown and Extra Point (7 points)
  • Combination (10 points)

Spreads in basketball games are designed to balance out the sides but they are not necessarily tied to ways to score. The primary scoring increments are two-point buckets and three-point buckets along with one-point foul shots.

How to Bet The Pointspread

When it comes to actually placing a bet using a game’s pointspread there are a few things to keep in mind. First, the road team is listed before the home team. Second, the favorite is designated by a minus sign (-) and the underdog is designated by a plus sign (+). A typical pointspread for an NFL game would be listed as follows:

New York Giants        +7 (-110)

Philadelphia Eagles    -7 (-110)

In this betting scenario, New York is a seven-point road underdog. The (-110) refers to the standard 10 percent commission (or juice) you have to pay to place the bet. For example, you have to risk losing $110 to win $100 betting this game.

The Giants would have to win the game straight-up or lose by six or fewer points to cash a winner. Philadelphia would have to win by eight points or more to pay off a winning bet.

If the Eagles win by exactly seven points, the game would end as a PUSH (or tie) with no action on that bet. Most online books will add an extra ½ point to a spread to avoid any ties.

Opening Spreads vs. Closing Spreads

Pointspreads for football games are normally released a week before the game since they are usually played on Saturdays for college games and Sundays for the pros. Spreads for a college or pro basketball games are set a day in advance.

When first posted at an online sportsbook such as HRWager, the betting line is known as the ‘opening spread.’ As betting money comes in a particular game, an online book might move that spread in an effort to keep the money balanced on either side.

Using the example above, if all the early money comes in on Philadelphia, the spread might move to 7 ½ points to attract more betting action towards the Giants.

Once you place an actual real money bet at an online book, you will lock in the current spread at that time. The closing spread refers to the actual number right before kickoff or tipoff.

This is why tracking line movements is a big part of the betting process. Football spreads move gradually over the course of the week. Basketball spreads can move over the course of a day before the game gets underway that night.

If you love the opening spread for the favorite, you might want to bet it right away. The betting public naturally leans towards betting favorites, so that spread is likely to increase. If you love the underdog in a particular matchup, you might want to wait on that bet to see if the spread moves higher in your favor.