What is the Spread Betting? How Does It Work?
What is the Spread?
The Spread, or simply “the spread,” is a sports betting number made by oddsmakers in sportsbooks and used as a handicap between two opponents. Since not all teams are equally skilled, oddsmakers use spread betting to level the playing field.
Spreads are fast becoming part of the mainstream sports conversation, used in sports betting as a crucial equalizer when comparing teams for NFL and college football betting and NBA and NCAA basketball. In baseball, the Spread is called the running line, and in hockey, it is called the hockey line.
How to read the Spread
Let’s take the example of the Spread in Super Bowl LIV between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams to see how to interpret the Spread and what each side and number mean.
Oddsmakers scrutinized both teams and determined that the match likely by one Point. They assigned a handicap of 1.5 points. Adding 0.5 to this and another betting handicap (such as Over/Under) is called a peg. It avoids the possibility of the result ending in exact numbers, as half points are not possible in big sports.
Oddsmakers think Los Angeles is likelier to win the game, so they have them as points favorites in this game. Bettors can identify spread Favorites by the minus sign (-) before their handicap. Los Angeles has a handicap of -1.5, which means oddsmakers expect them to win by one or more points. To win Los Angeles’ spread betting, the Rams must win by more than one Point. Even if they only win by one Point, the Bet will lose.
If oddsmakers think the Rams might be the winner, then the New England Patriots might be the loser, which spreads out the losers. A plus sign (+) in front of a handicap indicates an underdog. The 49ers are a +1.5 underdog in this game, meaning the oddsmakers believed they would lose, but only by one Point. To win this point bet against the Patriots, New England needs to win the game outright or lose by precisely one Point. If they lose by two points or more, the Bet is lost.
For many handicap bets, sportsbooks assign a second set of odds as the price of the Bet. These prices are called vig or juice. For our example above, sportsbooks give a vig of -110 to favorites and losers. It means that a bettor must wager $110 to win $100.
Los Angeles Rams eventually won the Super Bowl 31-20. The 11-point lead is larger than the -1.5 point gap, which means they have closed the gap.
How to bet on the Spread
Before placing a spread bet, you must decide who you think will cover the Spread and whether you bet now or later, as the Spread may change. Then you’ll want to know about the energy/juice in the Spread and how much you can win.
Which team will cover the Spread?
The first step is deciding which team you think will cover the Spread. Do you want to earn points by betting on the favorites, or do you want to earn points by betting on the losers?
Why do spreads change?
Like all sports betting markets, spreads are an active market. Oddsmakers can and will adjust spreads based on a variety of factors, including:
- Where do professional bettors bet
- The amount credited on one side of the spread relative to the other
- Breaking news related to the game (injuries, weather, etc.,.)
What does -110 mean?
You need to know how odds work in spread betting. In the Super Bowl example above, you’ll notice -110 next to both spreads (assuming you’re using American odds). It is called vig (short for vitality) or juice. Sportsbooks charge the price when betting on this market, similar to the rake in poker. If the vig is -110, you must bet $110 to win $100.
How much can I win?
The amount you can win from a spread bet depends on two things:
- Amount you bet
- The odds price when you bet
Many American bettors bet on a “win” basis when betting odds with a minus sign (-), which means they decide how much they want to win before determining how much to risk. Above, we mentioned that at -110 odds, you would need to bet $110 to win $100. Likewise, if the odds are -120, you must bet $120 to win $100.
Use the betting calculator to calculate how much is winning based on different odds and stakes.
How to determine the Spread?
The most significant factor that oddsmakers consider when making spreads is the difference in skill level between the two teams. Most oddsmakers have their power rankings to help determine the Spread for each match.
There are other factors at play, including:
- current form
- Venue of the match (home-field advantage)
Spread Betting in Baseball
Spreads in baseball odds are the running lines. In MLB, the running line is almost always set at 1.5, meaning the favorite must win by two or more points.
The Philadelphia Phillies (-1.
The Washington Nationals (+1.5) are underdogs at -185, which means Washington running line bettors need to bet $185 to win $100. The Nationals won the game, so they covered the runs, but it could also lose an inning and still be covered.
Point Spread Betting in Hockey
The Spread on hockey odds is the hockey line. The hockey line in the NHL is at 1.5, meaning the favorite team has to win by two or more goals.
We see that the Boston Bruins (-1.5) are the favorite team with a vig of +145. That means a $100 bet will pay $145 if the Bears win by two or more goals.
The San Jose Sharks (+1.5) are the underdogs with -165 vitality. Bettors need to wager $165 to win $100 on the Star Hockey Line. Boston won outright 4-3, but San Jose covered the hockey line as it lost just one goal.