Betting Pointspreads at Online Sportsbooks

The most common way to bet on any football or basketball game is with the use of a pointspread. This is a handicapping tool used by Oddsmakers to level the playing field between the favorite and the underdog in any matchup.

The pointspread for football games tends to revolve around scoring increments as follows:

  • A three-point spread relates to a field goal.
  • A seven-point spread relates to a touchdown plus extra point.
  • A 10-point spread is a combination of both.

Keep in mind that the spread is not the projected margin of victory. It is used to balance out the money bet on either side of a game. Online sportsbooks such as Vice make the bulk of their money on the 10 percent commission tacked onto to losing bets. That is why it is always in their best interest to keep the booked action on a game as balanced as possible.

How Does a Pointspread Work?

A typical listing for a NFL game at any online book would appear as follows:

Chicago Bears           +7 (-110)

Green Bay Packers    -7 (-110)

The road team is always listed first. The favorite is designated by the minus sign (-) in front of the spread. The underdog is designated by a plus sign (+). The (-110) next to each team signifies the 10 percent commission (or juice). Some books will alter these numbers as another way to balance out the bets.

In this betting scenario, Green Bay is a seven-point home favorite. To cash a winner on the Packers, they would have to win this game by eight points or more. Chicago would need to pull off the upset and win straight-up or lose the game by six or fewer points to pay off a winning bet.

If Green Bay would win by exactly seven points, the game would end as a PUSH (or tie) with no money changing hands. That is why most online books will add a half point to the spread. In this example, a 7 ½-point spread adds value to Chicago as the underdog. If the spread would be 6 ½ points, that edge swings towards Green Bay as the favorite.

Spreads for basketball games work the exact same way but they are not as dependent on scoring increments as football. The three ways to score in basketball are successful two-point shots, three-point shots and one-point foul shots.

Betting Tips for Pointspreads

Spreads for football are set well in advance of the games (usually a week). Spreads for basketball games are usually released a day in advance.

The two main strategies are:

  • Betting a spread when it is first released
  • Tracking point movements before a bet is placed.

As a general rule, you should bet favorites right away if you love the opening spread. There is a good chance that spread will increase based the betting public’s heavy lean towards favorites. If you love the underdog in any particular matchup, you might want to pull the trigger on a bet closer to kickoff or tipoff.

The actual spread for any game you bet on is the posted number at the online book when the bet is placed. This is another reason why tracking line movements is a very important part of the betting process.