Apply the spread. In point-spread betting, the actual final score of the game is only the starting point. Say Chicago beats Detroit 24-17. Because Chicago was the favorite, you subtract the point spread from its final score. That's the purpose of the minus sign in the spread. The spread was 6, so you take 6 points away from Chicago's point total, giving you an "adjusted" score of Chicago 18, Detroit 17. If you'd bet on Chicago, you'd have won the bet. Now, say Chicago won the game 20-17. Subtracting the 6 points from Chicago's total gives you a final score of Detroit 17, Chicago 14. If you'd bet on Chicago, you'd have lost.
If you wager $100 cash on odds of +100, you are staking $100 cash to win $100 cash. Your total potential return is $200, which is your initial stake plus your winnings. If you wager $100 free play on +100, however, your total potential return is just the $100 winnings. Whether you win or lose, your free play is used up. Obviously, free play bonuses aren't worth as much as cash bonuses, so that means it's up to you to squeeze as much value out of them as possible.
Of course, it wouldn’t be. Everyone would bet on Mike Tyson, and the sportsbook would lose all of their money and close the next day. So what the sportsbooks do is they assess who is the favorite and who is the underdog and assign a value to how much in each direction they think they are. Let’s look at what the odds might look like for our fictitious fight and break down what everything means.
It is a very good idea to shop around to find the best line when you are betting on sports. Books may offer slightly different lines, and you might be able to gain a point or half a point in your favor on certain markets. Consider an NBA game between the Heat and the Lakers – one firm has the Heat 9.5 point favorites and another have the Heat as 8.5 point favorites. You back the Heat with the second firm and they win by exactly nine points. Here you’ve gone from a loss to a win simply by shopping around, and in the long run this will make a big difference to your bottom line.
The optimal situation for bookmakers is to set odds that will attract an equal amount of money on both sides, thus limiting their exposure to any one particular result. To further explain, consider two people make a bet on each side of a game without a bookmaker. Each risks $110, meaning there is $220 to be won. The winner of that bet will receive all $220. However, if he had made that $110 bet through a bookmaker he would have only won $100 because of the vig. In a perfect world if all bookmaker action was balanced, they would be guaranteed a nice profit because of the vig.
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:
The only real downside to betting basketball point spreads is that the sportsbook charges a vig. While this is a downside, it is to be expected and is no different from placing any other sports bet. Obviously, the sportsbook has to make money somehow because they have to pay employees, pay for their servers or equipment, and pay for their customer service to keep you happy. This really isn't a negative about point spread bets, but just something that you should be aware of.
We go in depth on this in the advanced guide on understanding value that we referenced earlier, but we will give you a brief intro on it here. If you’re able to calculate the percentage chance that you have to win in order to break even, and you can figure out the percentage chance that you think you’re going to win the bet, you can figure out very quickly if there is value.
You can never rule out the weather in sports. If there is a team or contestant who does better in certain conditions but worse in others, you’re going to see a line movement if the conditions change. For example, a football team that has a strong passing attack might become less of a favorite if rain pops up in the forecast. Often, the line does not shift as quickly as it should in response to changing weather conditions, which can create some good opportunities to find value.

Ideally, the lines I release will balance the action equally, so that the winners get paid out from the pockets of the losers and we take the vigorish. That’s an ideal that rarely happens – especially in sports without a pointspread, like NASCAR and golf. If Team A is getting too much action, I’ll move the line toward Team B to try to achieve that balance. My personal preference is to tweak the vig from –110 to –105 or +100 before taking the bigger step of moving the spread a half-point or more.
Let’s say that the Mavericks and the Magic are playing in an upcoming game, and both teams are equal counterparts. Let’s say that the odds for that game are as follows. You will never see these odds, though, because in this example, the sportsbook is not set to make any money if they achieve their goal of getting money on both sides of the bet. But we need to look at it for you to better understand things.
We already mentioned how using multiple betting sites allows you to take advantage of multiple bonus offers. That's not the only benefit either. Since point spreads vary between sites, one of the best ways to beat these wagers is to compare the different spreads in order to find which one is the most favorable. This doesn't take nearly as long as you might think, and it will make a huge difference to your bottom line over time.

Let’s say you decide to bet $100 on the Packers to win by more 7 points and the final score is Packers 30, Seahawks 21.  The Packers have won by 9 points, meaning they’ve covered the spread, and you’ve won the bet. The -110 means that your $100 bet will win you a total of $190. That total includes your original bet amount, so your total profit is $90.