Point Spread: How point
spread works, betting the spread explained
The point spread is the most
popular form of sports betting odds, yet the novice bettor
struggles the hardest with understanding how the point
spread works. In this article we will explain to our
readers, in the most basic terms and with examples, how the
point spread works, how to bet the spread and shed some
extra light on terms such as "ATS" and "cover the spread".
For our examples we would use football as the sport of
choice, but keep in mind that the point spread is a betting
option with many other sports.
Let's begin with a
rudimentary explanation of what is point spread. In
its simplest form, the point spread is a scoring handicap
given to one of the teams, i.e. a certain amount of extra
points are given to one team and taken from the other.
How does the point spread work? Pretty simple, actually,
but best learned through example:
Let's take the current
point spread at the popular sportsbook
Bookmaker, where
the point spread on the Steelers vs Broncos game is
currently posted as "9" Steelers and "+9" Broncos. What
this means is that the Broncos would be given extra 9 points
(plus sign in front of the number) at the end of the game by
the bookmaker and if after adding the extra 9 points the
final result favors Denver  the Broncos have covered the
spread and this is what "cover the spread" means, i.e.
the point spread bet is a winner. The opposite is true with
the Steelers  the point spread posted by the sportsbook
takes away 9 points from the Steelers final score (hence the
minus sign in front of the spread) and in order for them to
cover the spread and you to win the bet, Pittsburgh must win
the game by more than 9 points.
Let's say that the
final score if Steelers 31  Broncos 27. In this case the
Steelers fail to cover the spread, since the point spread on
Pittsburgh was 9, and 319=22, which is less than the
Broncos' 27 points. On the other side, Denver does cover the
spread, since the extra 9 point spread points are enough for
them to beat the Steelers. And this is how betting the
spread works. One can choose to bet the spread on either
team, i.e. you can bet that the Steelers will cover the
spread or bet on Denver to cover the point spread. As you
can see from the above example, they are not the same thing,
each bet could have a different outcome.
And what if the point
spread leads to a draw? Using the same example from before,
what if the final score is Pittsburgh 31  Denver 22 and you
wagered on the Broncos to cover the spread? The final points
of Denver 22 plus the 9 point spread will result in a 3131
draw between the teams. This is called "no action" and
results in the sportsbook giving you back the wager you have
made, i.e. you neither win or lose money on the bet. But
what would happen if the point spread underdog wins the game
outright? Naturally you would win the bet, since the team
would be a winner even without the extra points added.
As you can see, betting
the spread and understanding how the point spread works is
very simple. The plus sign in front of the point spread
number means that the team will be given the handicap of
those points at the end of the game, while the minus sign
means that this number of points would be taken from the
team from their final score. The latter is also called "ATS",
which is an acronym for "against the spread". In the above
example, the Steelers are listed with 9 points spread, i.e.
they are 9 against the spread or the ATS on the Steelers is
nine points.
Simply put, when
betting the spread one should look at the numbers and see if
the etra points given or taken from each team would make a
difference in the final result. If you think that Team A
would still beat Team B even with the point spread number
taken away from their final score, then you should bet the
spread on Team A. The opposite is true if you think that
Team B will win or lose by a margin enough to be covered by
their point spread. 



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