Some professional or seasoned bettors only use the point spread bets and are wildly successful. Their success comes from making correct picks, not from overcomplicating the situation. We're going to walk you through the basics, and the mechanics of a basketball point spread bet, discuss the popularity and benefits, and offer some tips and strategies to help get you moving in the right direction towards profitability with these bet types.
Another thing to consider is popular winning margins, which are particularly applicable to football. Consider that many tight games may finish with either a three point or a seven point margin. If the point spread is around either of these marks, make every attempt to be the right side. For example, if you were to back a team that is either 2.5 or 3 point favorites, you’d want to back them at the 2.5 mark, as if they were to win by 3 you’d win as opposed to a push.
Reading sports betting lines becomes easier with practice and experience with different sporting events. What looks like a jumble of letters and numbers actually gives a lot of information in a tiny amount of space. Different sports have different types of wagers available, such as the run line in baseball or the puck line in hockey, both of which replace the money line found in our football example. The more experience you have watching and gambling on different sports, the faster you’ll be able to read betting lines.
If you bet $100 on the Magic, you would get $105 in return. If you bet $100 on the Mavericks, you would get $90.91 in return. You might be asking yourself why they aren’t paying out the same amount on both sides of the game. The reason is that the difference is the house rake. Sometimes referred to as the vig or the juice, this is the small percentage that the sportsbook takes off the top for facilitating the action. The percentage that the house takes will vary, and different sides of the bet will pay for it.

We already know that the only thing that causes the moneyline to shift are the bets that are coming in. However, we should talk about what factors will cause the betting patterns of the public to change, and in turn, cause the moneylines to move. This will go hand in hand with the following betting strategy section. If you can master predicting when and how lines are going to move, you will crush sports betting and moneyline betting.


We already know that the only thing that causes the moneyline to shift are the bets that are coming in. However, we should talk about what factors will cause the betting patterns of the public to change, and in turn, cause the moneylines to move. This will go hand in hand with the following betting strategy section. If you can master predicting when and how lines are going to move, you will crush sports betting and moneyline betting.
The second number in our example (-110 for both teams) tells you how much you have to wager in order to win $100. It’s an easy way to calculate how much you’ll win if your bet pays off, presented in units of $100 at a time for simplicity’s sake. Most of the time, these two numbers will be the same, because oddsmakers want to set lines so that they get as much action on the underdog as on the favorite, guaranteeing them a profit. If a book gets a single bet of $110 (by a customer hoping to win $100) on the Cowboys and a single bet of $110 on the Giants, it will have taken in $220, but will only have to pay back $210 to whichever customer wins the bet. That’s a guaranteed profit of $10, and since sportsbooks take far more than a single bet in either direction, they stand to earn that seemingly small amount of profit many times over. The $10 difference between what you wager and what you win is known as juice or vig in the sports betting industry, and it’s the way books earn their bread and butter.
Here you can see that the Rams are +3.5, while the Cowboys are -3.5.  So for this example the Cowboys are 3.5 point favorites, while the Rams are underdogs of 3.5 points.  If you were to bet on St Louis you would need them to lose by 3 or fewer points or just win the game outright.  If you were to bet on Dallas you would need the Cowboys to win by 4 or more points.
This also comes into play on games that you think the line is correct. For example, let's say you think the line of Florida -7 is correct, so you elect not to bet it because there is no value. This doesn't mean you should never look at this game again. If the line happens to shift in either direction, you can make a bet that has value. If the line moves to Florida -6, you place a bet on Florida because you originally thought they would win by seven. If the line moves to Florida -8, then you place a bet on Arkansas at +8 because you originally thought Florida would win by seven and Arkansas would lose by seven. The next strategy tip is a good idea to help you be ready for these situations.

Oddsmakers want you to gamble on underdogs as well as favorites. They set points spreads that encourage balanced betting. They analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each team, factoring in won-loss record, strength of schedule, results against common foes, key injuries, recent performance and previous games between the teams. They also rate the value of home field advantage and consider the game day weather forecast where relevant. If they see heavy wagering on the favorite, they will increase the point spread during the week to spur more betting on the underdog. If more money is going on the underdog, the spread will decrease as game time nears.

With NFL odds the over/under can vary but usually it’s somewhere between 35 and 47 points. Let’s say in the Colts and Bengals game that the total is posted at 37.5. If Indy scores 27 and Cincy gets 13 points, the total would be at 40 and the over would win. But if the Colts rack up 35, and they shut out the Bengals, the total of 35 would be under.

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 negative (-) sign indicates that the Cowboys are the favorites, while the positive (+) sign indicates that the New York Giants are the underdogs. With the spread set at 2.5 points, a bet on the Cowboys would mean that they would have to win by more than 2.5 points (3 or more) in order for you to win that bet. A bet on New York would mean that the Giants would have to either lose by 2.5 or less points (2 or less) or win the game outright in order for your bet to win.
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.

Let's say you decide to bet $100 on Liverpool, and they lose the game by two goals. You would push on the first half of your bet and win the second half of your bet. You would receive your $50 back for the push and $43.48 in profit on your second bet. Basically, the sportsbook would hand you back $143.48 total, which would include $50 for the push, $50 for your original bet, and $43.48 for the push.


Let's use this formula to calculate the implied probability of the Celtics winning their game against the Grizzlies. We know the odds are -240, which means we'd have to risk $240 for a total potential return of $340 (the initial stake plus the $100 winnings). So the calculation here is $240 divided by $340. This gives us an implied probability of 0.7059.
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:
Without point spread betting, placing a wager on our team to win these games would be financial suicide. Point spreads create an even playing field for sports bettors. Even if your team is supposed to lose by 20 points, you can still bet on them if you think they're going to have a better day than predicted. If you've ever wondered why someone was still cheering and going nuts at the end of a blowout, you can bet they were sweating a point spread bet.
Shopping betting lines is one of the most important things you can do when betting point spreads in basketball. While the majority of sportsbooks will have the same line, it's fairly common that you can find lines that are a half or full point different. This can have a huge impact on your bottom line. If you don't think a half point or one full point makes that big of a difference, just ask anyone who has bet sports for a while. They will inform you that getting an extra half point is like winning the sports betting lottery.
Remember earlier when we said that most point spread bets in basketball pay out at -110? Well, this is where the vig is located. Sportsbooks will work to get equal amounts of money on both sides of a game and make their money off of the vig. If they are successful in doing so, it does not matter to them who wins the game. For example, let's look at our earlier example. Here are what the odds would look like at the sportsbook:

While we're going to cover this extensively in the moneyline section of the Basketball Betting Guide, we'll touch briefly on what the -110 means here. -110 refers to the moneyline payout for a particular bet. If you were to bet $100 on a basketball point spread paying -110 and win, you would be paid out a profit of $90.90. The easy way to figure out the amount you will get paid with minus moneyline odds is to divide your bet size by the absolute value of the betting odds and multiply that number by 100.
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The term moneylines can have two definitions: a type of bet and also the odds attached to certain bets. Starting with the type of bet, moneyline bets simply focus on the outright winner of a game. With point spreads, you have to consider a margin of victory. With totals, you’re looking at the combined score of the two sides involved in the game. But if you’re betting on the moneyline, your only focus is who will win the game outright. There is no tying; just winning or losing. But there is more to understanding the moneyline, including the odds and what they tell you. Read on below to get a better idea of how they work.
For beginning sports gamblers, moneylines (sometimes called money lines or American odds) can be confusing. Unlike point spreads, which are concerned with who wins and by how much, a moneyline is solely dependent upon who wins. Moneylines are used most commonly in low-scoring games like baseball or hockey, but they may also be used in boxing and other sports.
Let's look at a different option. We bet the Cowboys +3, and the final score is Chargers 21, Cowboys 19. Even though the Cowboys lost the game, we still win our bet because they lost by less than three points. How much are we going to get paid on this bet? Well, we look in the parenthesis and see we will get paid at -120. This means that for every $100 we bet, we will get paid $83.33 in profit.

Oddsmakers do more than pick the winners and losers of each game. They weigh myriad factors to determine which team is favored by how many points. They set an early point spread on each game, then adjust it up or down based on betting patterns. If the Dallas Cowboys are 6-point favorites over the New York Giants, they must win by seven or more points to pay off winning bets. If you wagered on the Giants, you win your bet if New York either beats Dallas outright or loses by five points or fewer.

This is different from a moneyline, where payouts can vary greatly because there is not point spread that is installed. It is simply picking the winner straight up. Therefore, a bet on the favorite would not profit as high as it would betting the spread since no points are given. Payouts on the point spread are not always the same, but they do not vary like a moneyline.


As an illustration, let's look at Super Bowl futures. Sports books list each NFL team with corresponding odds to win the Super Bowl. For example, the Ravens may be 5-1, the Redskins 12-1, the Cardinals 100-1, etc. If you place $10 on the Redskins and they go on to win the Super Bowl, you collect $120 plus your $10 back for a total payoff of $130. It does not matter whether your team covers the point spread in the Super Bowl. For the purposes of future book betting, the team has to win only the Super Bowl.
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