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Best Sportsbooks US / Betting Guide / Sports Betting Spread Explained

Sports Betting Spread Explained

Publish Date: 30/03/2022

What is the Spread in Sports Betting?

What is the spread in sports betting? If you’ve never seen it before, you might think that it looks quite complex at first glance. However, it’s actually pretty simple…

In this article, not only will you find the ins and outs of the betting spread explained in full, we’ll also give you our tips and tricks for betting against the spread. By the end of this article, not only will you be able to understand the spread, you’ll also have the tools required to win spread bets.

So what is spread betting - The basics

What is the spread in sports betting? Well, to understand what the spread is and fully answer the question we first have to understand the betting rules of a moneyline and how it works. If you’re not already aware of the moneyline, it is your bread and butter when it comes to sports betting. The moneyline shows you the straight odds for both outcomes of a particular sports game or event. There are two different sides of the count to be aware of here — the favorite and the underdog. The favorite is the team that has a higher chance of winning and therefore has shorter odds and spreads. The underdog is the team that has the least chance of winning and therefore has longer odds and spreads.

Let’s take a look at a moneyline example below:

  • Rams -140
  • 49ers +120

In this example, we can see that the Rams are favorites, as they are offered at minus odds/spreads. The -140 represents the amount that you would have to stake in order to make a potential profit of $100 should you bet win. The 49ers are the underdogs in this contest and are thus offered at plus odds/spreads. Here, the +120 shows you how much profit you would make on a winning bet with a $100 stake.

If we convert these odds to percentages, it works out as follows: the Rams have a 58.3% chance of winning, while the 49ers have a 4.5% chance. As you can see, the contest is heavily more weighted toward the Rams.

The purpose of the spread is to change that, so let’s take a look at how it does it…

So what is the spread in sports betting?

The spread essentially exists to even up the contest, by deducting points from the favorite and giving the same amount to the underdog. For you as a bettor, you are now betting against the spread rather than the real final result. It is also worth knowing what the spread is if you want to understand the betting parlay meaning and how this and other betting types fit into the bigger picture.

Let’s take a look at how it works in practice by reusing the NFL example from above:

  • Rams -7.5
  • 49ers +7.5

Here we can see that the Rams are favorites and the 49ers are underdogs, as was the case with the moneyline, only the scores have now been evened up. If you were to bet on the Rams on this line, you would need them to win by 8 points or more in order for your bet to payout. If you were to bet on the 49ers, your bet would still payout in the event of them losing, so long as they stayed within 7 points of the Rams.

How do the odds work when betting the spread?

Now that we’ve answered the question “what is the spread in sports betting?”, let’s take a look at how the odds work with the spread. With the moneyline, the odds for each team are vastly different, because the odds and spreads reflect the difference in the two teams’ chances of winning. The spread, however, has evened up the score. As a result, the starting odds and spreads will always be the same.

Typically, the odds for the spread on all sports will start at -110. However, if the sportsbook sees a lot of money coming in on one side in particular, especially if they’re working on some new sportsbook promotions, they may shorten the odds on that side to -115 and lengthen the other to -105 to try and even things up.

Can the spread change?

Just like the odds and spreads, the spread can also change in the run-up to a game. This can be influenced by both factors relating to actual sport and the betting activity that the sportsbooks are seeing happening behind the scenes. For example, let’s say the spread of the above example is released the Monday after the prior weekend’s fixtures. On Wednesday we find out that Matthew Stafford is injured and the Rams need to use their backup QB instead. As well as the moneyline odds changing to reflect this, the spread would almost definitely shrink, perhaps to say, 3.5.

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What is the spread in sports betting? Frequently asked questions

So, what is the spread in sports betting? We feel like we’ve answered that question as best we can. However, we understand that you will most likely have some other questions about the spread and how it works. That’s why below our experts have answered the most commonly asked questions that we see come in regarding spread betting in sports.

What if the two teams are evenly matched?

Technically speaking, you could get a points spread of zero, however, this is extremely rare. In most cases and especially in football, the smallest spread you will see is 0.5. This is what is known as a pick’em.

Why are half numbers common in the spread?

You may have noticed that in the above example, we used figure 7.5. With NFL games, the spread almost always contains .5 numbers. This is the same for most sports, however, in the likes of basketball, round numbers are common. The reason that half numbers are used is to eliminate the probability of a tie altogether. If we refer back to the above example, with a 7.5 spread, it’s clear that the favorite needs to win by 8 points or more and the underdog needs to stay within seven points. However, if the spread was 7 and the game ended with a points difference of seven, then both sides would have a claim to the win. Half numbers give the sportsbooks an easy way of eliminating this possibility.

Is it better to bet on the underdog or the favorite against the spread?

There’s no straight answer to this as it depends on the league, the sport, the team, and even components like whether you’re live betting or making a pre-game wager. The best time to get a picture of whether to bet against the spread on a team is around mid-season. By this point, you can check a team's record against the spread. For example, you might think the Lions are a chumps bet with a 1-8 record mid-season. However, on closer inspection, you might see they are actually 6-2 against the spread as they tend to keep games close. In this case, an underdog spread bet might be worth your while.

Can you have multiple spreads on the same match?

If we refer back to the original question here and consider what is the spread in sports betting, there is a reason that it is generally referred to as “the” spread, as there is only one spread per game. When you see a basic betting line in the US, it will typically show three markets — the moneyline, the spread, and the total. In the UK, multiple spreads for the same game is common, but not here in the US.

Does the spread work the same in every sport?

What is the spread in sports betting, and does it work the same for every sport? While the principle of the spread remains the same for all sports, there are some small differences in how it works with some sports. In some sports and leagues, including the NHL and the MLB, the spread even has a different name. This question actually deserves a bit of a breakdown, so we’ll take a look at it in more detail below.

Spread betting explained - The differences between sports

Now that we’ve extensively answered the more general question of “what is the spread in sports betting?”, and answered your most frequently asked questions, let’s now take a look at the detailed differences between sports.

Football and basketball

We’ve thrown these two in together, as the spread works very similarly when it comes to betting on both the NFL and the NBA. They are both high-scoring sports and the spread numbers can vary massively in range from 0.5 right up into double figures.

Baseball

In baseball, the spread is actually referred to as the run line, however, it is mostly different in name only, and it functions the same as the spread in the sports mentioned above. The one major difference though, is that the spread is always lower, due to the low-scoring nature of the game. In fact, if you were to ask us what is the spread in sports betting for baseball, the answer is almost always 1.5. In rare cases, you might see a 0.5 or 2.5 spread in baseball, but 90% of the time it will be 1.5.

Hockey

Just as is the case with baseball and the MLB, the points spread in hockey also has its own unique name. What is the spread in sports betting for hockey and the NHL? It’s actually known as the puck line. As is also the case with baseball, hockey is a low-scoring sport, and this is reflected in the spread. The most common spread in hockey is also 1.5, however, unlike with baseball, this can change and fluctuate quite a bit. In particularly one-sided games, it’s not that unusual to see an NHL puck line of 4.5.

Soccer

Soccer is probably the sport in which the actual functionality of the spread differs the most from other sports. This is because the Asian handicap model has been adopted, meaning that unlike other sports, where only round and half numbers are used for the spread, you can actually get .25 and 0.75 spreads in soccer.

This is because, unlike the sports mentioned above, tired games are very common in soccer. If you bet on a +0.75 underdog, then your bet would payout in full if the team wins or ties the game. If they were to lose by one goal, then half of your stake would be refunded.

What is the spread in sports betting? A final recap

So, we’ve pretty much covered all of the essential information regarding the question, what is the spread in sports betting? Basically, the most important thing to remember is that it is used to even up a contest, and the odds for both spreads in a game will almost always be the same at -110. If betting the spread, just remember to check each team’s form against the spread rather than their win-loss ratio. This is a great tool to use if you’re utilizing betting deals more often than not, so knowing your spreads can make you all the wiser!

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What is the spread in sports betting? FAQ

❓ How does the spread work in sports betting?

Full details of the spread and how it works in action in relation to sports betting can be found here at PromoGuy. What we’ve created is an extensive guide that will not only explain the spread in detail, but also provide you with tips and tricks for betting the spread. Follow the link to find out more.

👓 How do you read the spread?

It’s not only about how you read the spread, it’s about understanding the spread and how you can bet against it. In fact, reading is the easiest part. In our article, you can find the betting spread explained in full, as well as some advice on how to bet it.

🤔 What does +1.5 mean in betting?

+1.5 is an example of an underdog line in the betting spread. Have you never heard of the betting spread? Or perhaps you have and want to fully understand how it works and how you can wager on it. Follow the link to our site at PromoGuy, where we’ve explained the spread in full complete with tips and tricks.

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