Betting Basics

What is a Point Spread Bet?

The Spread 101

Everything You Need To Know About The Most Common Bet In Sports

As Sports Betting becomes legalized across the nation, sports coverage skews more and more towards the gambling public. Now, no matter what channel you turn to, the conversation usually revolves around the various bets you can make on the upcoming game. The most common of these bets being the Point Spread bet. 

But what exactly is a Point Spread? How do you win a Point Spread bet? And what’s with all the ‘+’ and ‘-’ signs anyway? Well, whether you’ve made a bet before or only associate sports betting with men who look like extras from the Sopranos, this article will help you understand the most common bet in sports.

The Point Spread

We’ve all taken a shot at guessing who was going to win the big game. Sometimes the outcome is all but decided. An undefeated goliath is set to take on a puny challenger, surely they’ll be victorious against such an easy foe. In this case predicting the winner is easy so the question now becomes, how many points will they win by? 

That margin of victory is what you are betting on when you place a Point Spread wager.

POINT SPREAD: The number of points that a team is expected to win or lose by in a game.twitter-icon

Still confused?

We’ve got you covered with our handy dandy flashcards.


Ready to test your knowledge?

Quiz: The Point Spread 101

Do you eat oysters?
The snotty thing that comes in a shell? PASS
Only if it’s a special occasion and I’m at a nice restaurant
Anytime they’re on a menu
You can find me every Tuesday at 50 cent oyster night at that place under the interstate with no air conditioning



What’s the most satisfying play in football?
Lockdown defense in the red zone
Escaping the pocket and connecting with a wide-open receiver
A huge 3rd-down sack to shift the momentum
A game-winning Hail Mary as time expires



Your thesis paper is due in two months, how are you game planning?
My outline is already done, and I’ll have the first draft finished by tomorrow
I’ve started some research
Two months? That’s a lifetime. We can pull an all-nighter
Damn, there’s a thesis paper? I haven’t been to class yet



Your car breaks down on a deserted road with no cell service – what do you do?
You sit and wait … someone’s got to drive by, right?
It’s time to go search for service, but the car has to stay in your line of sight
Sneakers were a good shoe choice because it might be a long walk ahead
Time to pull out the toolbox and fix the problem yourself



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Let’s walk through an example.

Let’s walk through an example. Imagine the lowly Jaguars are facing Pat Mahomes and the Chiefs on Monday Night Football. Now it’s highly unlikely that Jacksonville will pull off the primetime upset, so before the game, the sportsbooks decide on a number to put as the Point Spread. This is shown on the Board below.

Board 1

The point spread is the number listed after the team name, usually preceded by a ‘+’ or ‘-’ sign. In this case the point spread for this game is 13 points. Yikes, that’s a lot of points, almost two touchdowns!

Kansas City’s point spread has a ‘-’ sign in front of it. That means they are the Favorite.

FAVORITE: The team that is expected to win the game.twitter-icon

Jacksonville’s point spread has a ‘+’ sign preceding it. This makes them the Underdog, sorry Trevor.

UNDERDOG: The team that is expected to lose the game.twitter-icon

The Favorite’s point spread is sometimes referred to as ‘laying points’. In this example, the Chiefs are the heavy favorite, laying 13 points. Conversely the Underdog’s point spread is sometimes referred to as ‘getting points’. So in this case the Jaguars are getting 13 points.

The Odds for the Chiefs Point Spread are -105 and the Odds for the Underdog Jags are -115. Check out our article on American Odds here to find out what those numbers mean and how much money you’d win should you place these bets. 

Now that you know how to find the point spread, let’s figure out how to win one.

How To Win A Point Spread Bet

Board 2

You win a point spread bet when your team ‘covers the spread’. How your team covers depends on whether you are betting the Favorite (‘-’ sign) or the Underdog (‘+’ sign). 

For you to win a point spread bet on the Favorite, they would have to win the game by MORE THAN the listed spread. In our example, any result where Mahomes and co. win by 14 points or more has you cashing your ticket, as Kansas City would have covered the spread of -13. 

There are two ways for you to win a point spread bet on the Underdogs. The first profitable outcome is if they pull off the upset and come away with victory! If Lawrence and the Jaguars shock the world and beat the Chiefs by any amount of points, you’d win your point spread bet on Jacksonville. This is called winning Straight Up.

STRAIGHT UP: When a team wins the game outright.twitter-icon

The other way to win a point spread bet on the Underdog is if they lose the game by any margin LESS THAN the spread. So if Shad Khan’s jungle cats keep the game close and lose by 12 points or less you would win your point spread bet on Jacksonville as they would have covered the spread of +13.

There is one final and regrettable outcome to our example of Chiefs (-13)  vs Jags (+13). What happens if the game ends and Kansas City is leading by exactly 13 points? This is called a Push.

PUSH: When the margin of victory EQUALS the point spread.twitter-icon

When there is a Push there is no winner and no loser on the point spreads that were bet and all wagers are refunded. Lame, but fair. To eliminate the possibility of a push, sometimes point spreads have a half point or .5 attached to them. Like in this example.

Board 3

In order to win a bet on the Favorite here, you would still need Kansas City to win by 14 or more points. The Underdog however would only need to lose by 13 or less in order to cover the spread and win your point spread bet on the Jags. Or, of course, make Andy Reid get a late reservation at McDonalds and beat them Straight Up.

Since you can’t score .5 points in a NFL game, having the Hook on the end of a point spread eliminates the possibility of a Push.

HOOK: The half point or .5 attached to the end of a point spread.twitter-icon


There you have it, everything you need to know about the most common bet in Sports. We’d like to thank Pat Mahomes and Trevor Lawrence for agreeing to partake in our example game. Sorry again Jacksonville fans. Maybe next year?

For more information keep reading our other articles on Sports Betting or test your knowledge and win prizes by taking a pass on our Betting Academy Courses.

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