Point spread bets are a popular type of bet that are also sometimes called “straight bets.” The goal in point spread betting is to pick which team (or person) will win an upcoming matchup. The purpose of the point spread format is to account for underdogs and favorites.
In every matchup, one team is considered better or more likely to win for various reasons. If there was no point spread in play, it would be easy for every sports bettor in the world to simply place bets on the favorite every time and win a ton of money from sportsbooks.
In order to account for that, point spread bets require that the favorite team win by a certain number of points for that game to be considered a win. Conversely, the underdog team can lose by up to X number of points and still be considered the winning team by the sportsbook.
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Point Spread Betting Example
Let’s say you want to wager on an upcoming NFL game. In this game, we have the Kansas City Chiefs playing against the Denver Broncos. The Chiefs have been playing great this year and they are widely considered to be the favorites to win this match. The Broncos have been playing poorly lately, so they are considered the underdogs.
The sportsbook analyzes the game and decides to offer bettors the following point spreads:
Kansas City Chiefs -6.5 (-110)
Denver Broncos +6.5 (-110)
There are a couple of things going on in this bet so let’s break it down one at a time. First of all, the Chiefs are listed at -6.5 because they are the favorites. This means they are “giving” 6.5 points to the Broncos. In this case, the Chiefs must win by 7 points or more for it to be considered a win.
The Denver Broncos are “receiving” 6.5 points because they are the underdogs in this matchup. If you place a bet on the Broncos, you will win the bet if they either win the game outright or they lose by less than 7 points.
Note – The half point is used because it prevents the game from landing on that exact score. Some sportsbooks do not use half points, though. In that case, a result that ends on the exact point spread is considered a push. Nobody wins or loses any money.
The -110 next to each team means that you will have to wager $1.10 for every $1.00 in potential winnings. For example, if you wager $110 on the game and win the bet, you’ll receive $100 in winnings. That little extra money that you have to wager is how the sportsbook makes its money.
Why Sportsbook Use Point Spreads
Sportsbooks use point spreads in order to get an equal amount of money on each side of each bet. The best case scenario for a sportsbook is to see the same exact amount of money on Team A and Team B. By adjusting the point spread, the sportsbook attempts to make it equally likely for either team to win the bet.
This is done so that sportsbooks can make a profit no matter who wins the match. When a sportsbook gets an equal amount of action on both sides of the bet, they can simply use the losing bets to pay off the winning bets. That little -110 number we talked about above ensures that the sportsbook turns a profit no matter who wins.