Point Spread Betting
While live in-game wagering and fantasy-style prop betting have gained ground in recent years, its still the good old football point spread that dominates each weekend. Why? Its traditionally the most fun way to bet football and its simple and easy to understand.
But how is the point spread set and what do all the numbers on a football betting odds screen mean? NationalFootballPost.com takes you through the basics of the football point spread.
How Do I Read a Point Spread?
Known as the line or the spread, it is sometimes (wrongly) thought of as what the oddsmaker thinks will be the margin of victory by one team. In reality, the point spread is set by betting experts, tested against real professional bettors and then refined based on what number they believe will encourage the same number of people to bet on the underdog as the favorite. Check the example below in an all-New York game.
The negative value -9 indicates the Giants are favored by 9 points. The positive value (+9) indicates the Jets are underdogs of 9 points. To place a bet on the favored Giants means they must win by at least 10 points to cover the spread. The underdog Jets can lose by eight points and still cover the spread. If the score is 21-10 for the Giants, they won by 11 points, which is more than nine, so they have successfully covered the spread and you have successfully won your bet. If the score is 30-24 for the Giants, they have won the game by six points, which is less than nine points so they failed to cover the spread and you have lost your bet (even though the Giants won the game).
Current football odds boards will usually include the ‘juice’ component of a point spread as well, which is traditionally -110. This is the standard commission charged by a sportsbook for booking the bet. It means you pay a 10 % fee to make your wager. You get that $10 back if you win (along with your profit), but you lose it if you lose. Basically, you wager $110 to make a $100 profit. Or for smaller bettor, you wager $11 to win a $10 profit.
A typical game line would look like this:
|NY Giants||-9 -110|
|NY Jets||+9 -110|
How is the point spread set?
There is a little bit of art, a little bit of science and a little bit of math that goes into setting the point spread each week. And if the oddsmaker is being honest with you, he’ll tell you its a little bit of guesswork too.
As soon as Saturday NCAA games and Sunday NFL games are over, you can usually find point spreads for next weekend’s games. These are ‘opening lines’ and are posted for a) early birds who want to get action right away for the following week and b) oddsmakers to get an early reading on how the betting public will react to the odds.