What Is The Spread In Betting?


Understanding the basics of sports betting is very important if you want a real chance of succeeding with your bet slips.

However, if you’re new to sports betting, you might wonder what a spread is in betting.

Don’t worry, that’s why we are here at Online Gamblers to teach you how to become a successful bettor. Let’s look at simple explanations and practical examples below, where we will focus on making your introduction to spread betting as smooth as possible.

But before we start, keep in mind that there are never any guarantees for winning. Betting is a form of entertainment, so we highly suggest that you set an entertainment budget before you start playing. Legal sportsbook sites offer responsible gamling tools that can help you keep track of your activites.

Now, let’s learn and nail those bets!

What Is A Point Spread In Betting?

sports bettingImagine you’re watching team A play against team B. The team A is a strong favorite.

Betting just on the winner (a “moneyline” bet) might not offer much return if you pick the favorite team A, or it could be quite a gamble if you choose the underdog team B.

That’s where the point spread comes in to level the playing field.

The point spread acts as a handicap in a contest to offer balanced odds for both teams.

The points of the favorite team A will be subtracted from their final score, while the points of the underdog team B will be added.

This spread helps bettors judge which team might win and how much they might win or lose from a bet.

For Example:

If the Miami Heat are listed as nine-point favorites against the Orlando Magic, they are marked with a -9 spread.

If you bet on the Heat, they need to win by more than nine points for you to win the bet.

As a result, a +9 on the Magic means they need to either win or not lose by more than nine points for your bet to pay off.


Spread Vs. Moneyline

Moneyline is another popular type of betting. A moneyline wager involves betting on who will win or lose a game without considering the margin of victory.

For example, if one of the two teams playing had a +120 moneyline, a $100 bet would win you $120.

This differs from the spread mentioned above, where oddsmakers set the odds to ensure the teams are as evenly matched as possible.

Other Popular Sports Bets

Beyond spreads and moneylines, sportsbooks offer bettors other sports bets:

  • Parlays combine multiple bets into one larger bet for higher potential payouts, where the odds of several bets are multiplied into one. However, you must win all included bets in your parlay to collect a win.
  • Props focus on specific outcomes, such as a player’s or team’s performance. They can also include unusual bets, such as the color of the Gatorade poured on the Super Bowl-winning coach.
  • Futures involve predicting long-term outcomes, like which team will win the championship or who will be the MVP. These wagers are settled based on results at the end of a season or tournament.
  • Totals (over/under) are the expected combined points scored by both teams in a game. Bets on the “Over” must exceed the total score, whereas “Under” bets win if the score remains below it.

Understanding the Odds and Payouts

Sports betting oddsAlongside the point spread, you’ll notice odds expressed as numbers like -110, +100, etc.

These numbers tell you how much you need to bet to win $100 or how much you win if you bet $100, respectively.

For example, -110 means you need to bet $110 to win $100, whereas +100 means a $100 bet wins you an additional $100.

When setting a point spread, oddsmakers primarily consider the skill level difference between the two teams.

They typically rely on their power rankings to help set the spread for each game.

Additionally, several other factors influence the spread, including player injuries, game location, current form, and weather conditions.

Practical Examples Across Sports

Each sport has its own vocabulary in spread betting. Here’s a brief look at how spreads work differently in the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL.

NFL And NBA Spread Betting

Betting on NFL or NBA teams involves comparing a favorite and an underdog.

For example, if the point spread for an NFL game is set at -3/+3, the favorite must win by more than three points to “cover the spread.”

MLB Run Lines

In Major League Baseball, they refer to the spread as the “run line,” usually set at 1.5. This means the favorite needs to win by at least two runs.

A typical outline might have an MLB team at -1.5, meaning they must win by two runs for a bet on them to succeed.

NHL Puck Lines

Similarly, in the NHL, they call the spread the “puck line,” also commonly set at 1.5 goals. If you bet on an NHL team at -1.5, they need to win by at least two goals for your bet to win.


Responsible Betting

responsible gamingSpread betting can make watching sports even more exciting.

Whether you’re rooting for the underdog to pull off an upset or the favorite to dominate, understanding spreads will enrich your sports experience.

Always bet responsibly, and consider it a way to add excitement, not a primary income stream.

So, the next time you’re getting ready for game day, consider the spread and odds and maybe place a small bet to test your new knowledge.

If gambling stops being fun, or if you’re facing challenges with your gambling habits, please contact the National Council on Problem Gambling:

Tips For Responsible Betting

Betting can lead to significant financial and personal issues when not practiced responsibly. Here are some tips for betting responsibly:

  • Set Limits: Before betting, decide how much money you can lose and stick to that limit.
  • Understand the Odds: Knowing the odds of the games you’re playing can help manage expectations.
  • Keep It Fun: Betting should be seen as entertainment, not a way to make money.
  • Take Breaks: It’s essential to take breaks to assess your betting and avoid becoming too engrossed.
  • Know When to Stop: Recognize the signs of problem gambling, including chasing losses, gambling until you have no money left, or borrowing money to gamble.


A point spread is a handicap used in sports betting to level the playing field by adjusting the scores of the favorite and underdog teams.

In point spread betting, points are subtracted from the favorite’s score and added to the underdog’s to create more balanced odds.

Spread betting offers more balanced odds and can provide better returns on predictable games compared to the simpler win/lose moneyline bets.

Betting odds, like -110 or +100, indicate how much you need to bet to win $100 or how much a $100 bet will win, respectively.

Besides spreads, popular bets include moneylines, parlays, props, futures, and totals (over/under).

Consider factors like team form, player injuries, game location, and weather conditions which can influence game outcomes.

An NFL point spread example is -3/+3, where the favorite needs to win by more than three points to cover the spread.

NBA uses point spreads like -7/+7, while NHL uses puck lines typically set at 1.5 goals, requiring the favorite to win by two goals.

If gambling stops being fun, or if you’re facing challenges with your gambling habits, please contact the National Council on Problem Gambling:

Gita Puikevica-Puikevska is a dedicated content creator based in Riga, Latvia. Her degree in technical translation and passion for music mirrors her creative approach to content writing. She is committed to keeping players informed with the latest gambling-related news and insights. Gita's commitment to promoting responsible gambling practices in the United States showcases her dedication to making a positive impact in the online gambling community.

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