Point spreads are one of the most popular forms of sports wagers, and they might be the most commonly known to a sports betting novice. The point spread is essentially defined as a projected margin of victory or defeat for the two teams in a given matchup.
- For example, if the Cowboys and Giants are squaring off and the point spread is Cowboys -3, that means Dallas is expected to win by at least three points. Those betting the Cowboys and “giving up” those points are banking on Dallas to outscore the Giants by at least that much in that game.
- Conversely, those who bet the opposite sides – the Giants +3 – are banking that even if the Giants lose, it will be by less than three points.
- If the Cowboys win the game but only do so by exactly three points, then the line is considered a “push”. Bettors who wagered either side of the game get their bets refunded.
Payouts on point spread bets depend on the odds assigned to either side of the wager. A favorite may nevertheless have better payout odds than an underdog, depending on the size of the spread. To utilize another NFL example, say the Rams are listed as 14-point (-14) favorites over the 49ers. Despite the fact Los Angeles is clearly expected to win the game, the odds of a two-touchdown or greater win in football are worse than one by a lesser margin.
Therefore, your payout if you bet the Rams to win by 14 or greater might be -105 (must bet $105 to win $100). Alternatively, your payout if you take the 49ers to cover – i.e. lose by less than 14 points – might be slightly worse at -115 (must bet $115 to win $100)
Point spreads are set by oddsmakers with the idea of getting wagers to come in on both teams as evenly as possible. Sportsbooks naturally want to avoid being “overexposed” to one side of a wager as much as possible. This helps prevent some potentially sizable losses for the casinos.