Point Spreads Explained

The first step to learning about sports betting is to understand point spreads. Most people are intrigued by betting lingo but lack the basic understanding of what it all means. Below we will explain point spreads and we will then be on our way to the fun world of sports betting!

What is a Point Spread?

In any basketball or football game there are two teams that are playing against one another. Those teams are rarely exactly matched – meaning that typically one team will have a better chance at winning the game then the other one will. If bettors were permitted to bet on who was simply going to win, the smart bettors would of course bet on the better team which would likely win more than 50% of the time in the process.

If winning were that easy for everyone – Las Vegas sportsbooks would stop taking any bets! This is where the point spread comes in place. The basic function of the point spread is to help balance the likelihood of each team winning by adjusting the final score by the point spread. After this adjustment, you get the Against the Spread result (ATS result for short).

How to Read the Point Spread

New York Giants -7 vs. Philadelphia Eagles

The better team, referred to as the Favorite is expected to win the game and must “give” or “lay” points to the weaker team. The favorite is listed with the minus sign along with the number of points they are favored.

In the above example the New York Giants must not only win the game, but they must win the game by more than 7 points for Eagle bettors to have a winning ATS result. An Eagles bettor will win his bet if: Philly wins the game by any amount of points or Philly loses the game by less than 7 points.

There is also the chance that the final score could land exactly on the spread number (example: the Eagles win 28-21 when -7) which is called a “push” or “no action” and a refund is then issued to the bettors on both teams.

The same game and point spread can be considered from the weaker team’s perspective – the Underdog (the Eagles in our example) is not expected to win the game and therefore receives or “gets” points given to them by the stronger team. When a game is stated from the Underdogs perspective, the team is listed with a plus sign along with the number of points they are underdogs by (example: Eagles +7 vs. New York Giants).

Please keep in mind that Philly has +7 and New York has -7 is the same point spread on the same game but it is simply stated differently.

Mathematical Conclusions

For some a mathematical approach is helpful. You can determine the ATS winner by subtracting the point spread from the favorite’s score (the minus sign before the number) and then compare it to the underdogs score. Or by adding the point spread to the underdogs scores (the plus sign before the number) and then compare to the favorites score.