Point Spread Betting

Newcomers to odds and sports betting often wonder what all the numbers and symbols mean. For most sports fans, they are accustomed to the point spread.

Simply put, it’s a number that the oddsmaker puts up that he figures will generate betting interest on both sides - the favorite is favored enough to make favorite bettors interested and the underdog is not such a longshot that underdog bettors refuse to try their luck with it.

So when you see NFL odds for the week and see the point spread in the Washington vs Dallas game. It shows:

Dallas -4.5, -110
Washington +4.5, -110

The favorite team (also known as the chalk in betting lingo) is designed with the minus (-) value, so the Cowboys are favored by 4.5 points in this game. The underdog is shown with a plus (+) value. The Redskins, therefore, are 4.5 point underdogs.

Hold on for a minute and we’ll explain that -110 value in a second.

So, if you figure the Cowboys can win the game by 5 points or more, then you can wager on them. If they win the game 20-14, then they win by 6 points and have covered the 4.5-point spread.

If they win 20-17, then they win by 3 points and have NOT covered the 4.5-point spread. If you’re still not sure, take the final score and subtract the favorite value from their total or add the underdog total to their score to see who has more points.

That’s the simple math of the point spread, sorta like spotting your kid brother a 5-point lead in your game of one-on-one basketball in the driveway. You are older and a better player, so he gets a head start.

In the 20-14 example:

Dallas 20 – 4.5 = 15.5

That is still more than the 14 points scored by Washington, so they win against the spread (ATS).

In the 20-17 example:

Dallas 20 – 4.5 = 15.5

That is less than the 17 points scored by the Redskins, so they lose against the spread (ATS). So you can win the game straight-up (SU) but lose it against the spread (ATS).
You can also run the numbers from the underdog perspective.

Dallas 20
Washington 14 + 4.5 = 18.5 (so they lose the game SU as well as ATS)

Dallas 20
Washington 17 + 4.5 = 21.5 (so they lose the game SU, but win ATS)

What does -110 Mean?

Now for that -110 value. What the heck does that mean? Traditionally, bettors pay a 10-per-cent commission (aka juice or vig) to the sportsbook. This is the sportsbook’s fee for brokering the wager. So -110 indicates you must risk $110 to win $100.

Some sportsbooks reduce the juice. That means you can earn the same $100 payout but risk less money to do it. For example, if you see -7.5, -107, then you only need to wager $107 to win $100 (a saving of $3). If you see -7.5, -102, then you only need to wager $102 to win $100.

When you hear or read about ‘price shopping,’ this is what they mean. If you could go to The Sports Authority and buy an NFL jersey for $110 and the exact same jersey was at the sports store across the street for $102, it would make sense to pay $102.

That’s what sports betting price shopping is – you get the product (the Cowboys at -4.5 points) for cheaper than at the other sportsbook.

What happens when I win?

You get your $110 back plus the $100 you won.

What happens when I lose?

You lose the $110, try to figure out what went wrong and see if you have better luck next time.

Check out the latest odds here at Odds Shark and compare the betting line value the various sportsbooks bring to the table.

Enjoy the site and good luck!