The main goal for each sportsbook is to set the best line possible in order to create even action on both sides of the game. In a perfect world, the book would have 50 percent of the handle come in on the favorite and 50 percent of the action come in on the underdog. If this happens, the sportsbook would be guaranteed a profit because of the 10 percent vig they charge on most point spread wagers. When a book has serious one-sided action, they will attempt to counter that by moving the line in the direction that's taking the most money and try to entice bettors into betting on the other side.
The way the sportsbook does this is by putting out a betting line that is based on how many points they think the better team is going to win by. This is a lot like how our older siblings would "spot us" a few points when we played each other in basketball as kids. For example, let's say that Florida Gators are playing the Arkansas Razorbacks. Let's also say that Florida is the better team and the sportsbook thinks they are going to win the game by seven points. They can't just let everyone bet evenly, or everyone would bet Florida and clean them out. Enter the point spread. The sportsbook would set the point spread on this game at -7 for Florida to win. The negative sign before the number signifies that this team is the favorite to win. This means that if you want to bet on Florida, they have to win by more than 7 points for you to win your bet.

Here in this point spread example for the NFL, the Falcons are playing the Panthers. Atlanta has been set as a three-point favorite on the betting line. That means that for Atlanta to cover the spread that has been set, they will need to win by at least four points. And for Carolina to cover the point spread, they can do so with a loss by two points or less, or obviously a win straight up. If the Falcons win by exactly three points, the bet would result in a push with no payouts.
It is a pretty simple concept once you get the hang of it, and you will also start to see profitable opportunities in football and hoops where wagering on the moneyline makes more sense than betting the point spread. If you really like an 8-point underdog in the NFL and think they will win, you can take the 8 points and hope they cover the spread. Or you can check out the moneyline option where they might be +280 and make more money betting them to win ($280) than on the point spread ($100).
If you're just getting started with NFL betting, the most important thing you need to do is learn how the lines work. But this is easier said than done because NFL lines can seem like learning Greek to new bettors. Fortunately, learning football betting lines won't take you nearly as long to master as the Greek language. In fact, you should have a good understanding of the matter just by looking at the following information on how NFL betting lines work.
Which brings me to my next point. If you are serious about getting into sports betting, it is vital to have more than one sportsbook to make a wager at. Shopping around for the best lines will help your bankroll and you will be able to turn a bigger profit. If you see a pair of sneakers for $110 at one store, and the exact same pair is $102.99 at another store - which store are you buying them from?

What does this mean for how you win a point spread bet? Glad you asked. To win a point spread bet, you pick the team that you think is going to "win" after the point spread differences are calculated in. Let's look at an example that will make this clearer. In the above chart, we see that you can bet the San Diego Chargers at -3. This means, as we already stated, that the sportsbook thinks the Chargers are the favorites and that they are going to win by three points. Here are three potential scores of the game:


These are the handicap bets that we have already talked about. These are your straightforward bets that pay out according to the spread and odds posted. Draws are treated as a loss with this format. If you just scrolled to this section first, scroll up and read the general section about handicap bets because this type is addressed extensively with some great examples there.
Typically hockey is not a popular sport when it comes to point-spread betting because most games are decided by only a goal or two. Sports like football and basketball are better for point-spread betting mainly because they are higher scoring sports. However, Proline does offer NHL point-spread betting and it can get confusing so let’s take a look at how it works.
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 or in a more favorable position because of factors like playing at home. If all you had to do were pick the winning team in a game, everybody would simply wager on the best team or the home team in a even matchup and bypass all the lines and collect their winnings at a high rate.
Point spreads are more common in the United States, but you can see them throughout the world. A point spread, in theory, is the sportsbooks attempt to create a "level playing field." Let's look at an exaggerated example that will make this clearer. Let's say the New England Patriots are playing a game against a junior varsity high school football team. They're also using deflated footballs, and the Patriots get to see the high school team's playbook before the game. If a sportsbook were to allow you to bet on which team would win, everyone would bet on the Patriots as they would probably annihilate this other team.

Since draws are more common in soccer, most soccer markets offer 3-way spreads. When making a Soccer Spread wager, the team you wager on must cover/beat the goal spread. This means that the favored team must win by more than the outlined number of goals or the underdog will receive that number of goals as a head start. If you wager on the spread draw, you are wagering that the game will end in a draw when the spread value is applied to home team. (The team displayed first)


Sometimes a line will move far enough to create a “middle” opportunity. Say the Texas Longhorns end up facing the Wisconsin Badgers in the first round of March Madness. If you have Texas early as a 5-point favorite, and I move the line to Texas –7 later in the week, then you can also place a bet on Wisconsin +7. If Texas happens to win by six points, both your bets cash in. Texas winning by either five or seven gives you a win and a push. Any other result creates a win and a loss, so you’re only risking the vigorish.


Overtime and the shoot-out does count for NHL point-spread results in Ontario. Whenever you see a game -0.5 essentially both teams have a spread of -0.5 and your team has to win the game for you to win the bet. Lately there have been more -1.0 / +1.0 NHL spreads in Ontario. If you choose the -1.0 spread and the game goes to overtime you cannot win the bet. You can only push the bet if your team wins in overtime or the shoot-out. Conversely, if you choose the +1.0 spread and the game goes to overtime you cannot lose the bet but will push the bet if your team loses in overtime or the shoot-out.
Sometimes with NFL odds you’ll see a spread posted as a whole number. Decimals or fractions are usually utilized to ensure there won’t be a tie. If in our example the spread was reset to 10 with the Colts favored and they win by 10, then the game is considered to be a tie, which in betting terms is called a push. If there is a push all bets are off and the sportsbooks return all wagers back to the bettors.
Oftentimes you’ll see a point spread that has a half-point added to the number. Of course, there’s no such thing as half a point in a football game, so why do we so often see point spreads with a (.5) attached to the score? Sportsbooks do this to make sure there isn’t a chance of a push.  Let’s take another look at our game from above with the half point added.
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