One of the most basic concepts when it comes to betting on sports, especially football and basketball is the pointspread. Even people that do not bet on sports understand what it means when they read or hear that New England is a seven-point favorite against Miami. While reading a pointspread and understanding what they mean is a very basic sports betting concept, there is still more to these numbers than meets the eye.

Sports bettors place their wagers either legally, through a bookmaker/sportsbook, or illegally through privately run enterprises. The term "book" is a reference to the books used by wagebrokers to track wagers, payouts, and debts. Many legal sportsbooks are found online, operated over the Internet from jurisdictions separate from the clients they serve, usually to get around various gambling laws (such as the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 in the United States) in select markets, such as Las Vegas, Nevada, or on gambling cruises through self-serve kiosks. They take bets "up-front", meaning the bettor must pay the sportsbook before placing the bet. Illegal bookies, due to the nature of their business, can operate anywhere but only require money from losing bettors and don't require the wagered money up front, creating the possibility of debt to the bookie from the bettor. This creates a number of other criminal elements, thus furthering their illegality.
Several factors influence a point spread. It starts with power rankings. The media creates power rankings throughout the year, but those can be entirely subjective based more on feelings and emotions than actual raw data. An oddsmaker creates power rankings based on a host of statistics, some more complex than others. The rankings will include record, strength of schedule, and various offensive, defensive, and special teams metrics. They might use Football Outsiders’ efficiency metrics, they might use expected points added, or they might use a host of other internal and external options. The idea being to develop as objective an assessment as possible as to how good or bad a given team is compared to the rest of the NFL.
While home field advantage may be a sports term, it can also be linked to your house, your route to work, or even a trip to a familiar grocery store. Think about this for a second. If you've ever hosted a party at your house, you know where everything is and you would have free reign to go into any cupboard, drawer or room you that you please. That would be an example of home-house advantage. If you've ever gone to an unfamiliar grocery store (maybe you weren't around town but you needed to make a pit stop), it is going to take you a while to find exactly what it is you are looking for. Read More >>
So the sportsbooks and bookies created a point spread to make both teams equally attractive in the eyes of bettors. Carolina was installed as a 6-point favorite, which is commonly written as Carolina -6. Denver, the underdog, is commonly written as Denver +6. In other words, Denver would be credited with whatever points they actually scored — plus six. If you bet the favorite, the Panthers would have to win by 7 points or more for you to win your wager. And remember, the Panthers are favored by 6 points, so we have to subtract 6 points from their final score for betting purposes.
Anybody who wagers on the 49ers would need them to win by 7 points or more for a winning bet. Those betting on the Rams (+6.5) would need them to lose by 6 points or less (or win) for a winning wager. It's also worth mentioning that a half point is used in many point spreads (such as the -6.5/+6.5) to prevent pushes because no team can score half a point.
This is a very common occurrence in sports betting and sportsbooks have the full right to shift the spread or odds for any given match prior to it starting. Many factors can influence a change of the spread such as injuries, the number of bets coming in for either team or the weather, to name a few. Depending on the timing of placing the bet, the bettor can also have an advantage or a disadvantage depending on which way the spread has shifted.
Notice that point spreads adjust the score for the favorite team. This is easiest to see with an example: If the New York Knicks are playing the Boston Celtics, and Boston is favored to win by a 4-point spread, then a bet on Boston only pays out if Boston wins by more than 4 points. A bet on New York pays out if New York wins or if they lose by less than 4 points.
The majority of bets on any sport are usually on the final outcome of the particular contest. However, for sports like the NFL and NBA, there are 1st quarter and 1st half lines offered as well. The quarter spread is used to determine who will be the winner at the end of the 1st quarter. The same is true for a 1st half line, only the wager ends when the first two quarters are completed. Generally, the 1st half spread will be close to half of the overall spread on the game.
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