When it comes to betting on football and basketball, a bettor must have a solid understanding of the point spread if they hope to have a profitable season.
The point spread is a handicap placed on one team, for betting purposes only, and it is designed to give both teams in any game an equal chance at winning in the eyes of sports bettors.
How the Point Spread Works
When two teams meet on the playing field or on the basketball court, one team is typically better than the other. If all sports gamblers had to do was to pick the winning team in a game, everybody would simply wager on the best team and collect their money.
Using an example from Week 2 of the 2007 NFL season, the Atlanta Falcons were visiting the Jacksonville Jaguars. There was little doubt Jacksonville was the better of the two teams and if all one had to do was to pick the winning team, nearly every bettor would have taken the Jaguars.
What the sportsbooks and bookies did, however, was to create a point spread, to make both teams equally attractive in the eyes of bettors.
In this case, Jacksonville was installed as a 10 point favorite, which is commonly written as Jacksonville -10. Atlanta, the underdog, is commonly written as Atlanta +10.
If you bet the favorite, Jacksonville, the Jaguars have to win by 11 points or more in order for you to win your bet. Remember, the Jaguars are favored by 10 points, so we subtract 10 points from their final score for betting purposes. If Jacksonville were to win 24-13, Jaguar bettors would win their wager. If the Jaguars were to win 23-14, Jacksonville bettors would lose because they did not win by more than 10 points.
If you bet the underdog, the Atlanta Falcons, you win your bet if the Falcons win the game or if they lose by 9 points or less. Because the Falcons are the underdogs, we add 10 points to their final score for betting purposes.
If the Jaguars were to win the game by exactly 10 points, 24-14, it would be a tie or a push and all wagers are refunded to bettors.
Jacksonville did defeat Atlanta as expected, but the Jaguars failed to cover the point spread when they won by a score of 13-7.
Money Lines Versus Point Spreads
In the case of football and basketball, not only will you see a point spread, you will usually be given the option to also wager on the game with the money line in which all you have to do is pick the winner of the contest. There is one drawback, however, and that is if you want to bet on the team expected to win, you can find yourself risking much more than you stand to win.
Deciding when to bet using the point spread and when to use the money line is just one of the decisions bettors have to make on an ongoing basis. There are no rules etched in stone when to use the point spread and when to bet with the money line, but an excellent article looking at this problem when betting the NBA can be found here at the Top Betting Reviews website.