Betting 101: Point Spread
The point spread is an estimation of how many points a team will win or lose by in a game. Bettors wager whether a team will win by more than the point spread or lose by less than the point spread. This is called ‘covering the spread’.
How a team covers the spread changes whether you bet the favorite (shown below as -3.5) or the underdog (shown below as +3.5).
The point spread is typically displayed at a sportsbook like this
Favorite (-): The team that’s likely to win the game. The favorite is shown with a minus sign (-) in front of the point spread. To win the bet, the favorite needs to win the game by a number greater than the point spread.
Ex: If you bet a team to cover a -3.5 spread, you need them to win the game by 4 points or more
Underdog (+): The team that’s likely to lose the game. The underdog is shown with a plus sign (+) in front of the point spread. To win the bet, the underdog needs to lose the game by a number lesser than the point spread or win the game straight up.
Ex: If you bet a team to cover a +3.5 spread, you need them to lose by 3 points or fewer or win the game straight up
Straight Up: When a team wins the game outright, they win ‘straight up’. When the underdog wins straight up, they also cover the spread and likely headline Sportscenter.
Push: When a team’s margin of victory is equal to the point spread, the bet becomes a push. The sportsbook returns all wagers and the bet is neither won nor lost. Aka, lame.
Hook: The sportsbook often adds a half-point (.5) to the end of the point spread or total. This is the hook. The hook eliminates the possibility of a push since there is no way to score half a point, yet.