The point spread is familiar to US sports fans, as pundits and sportsbooks use it to measure how close games are expected to be. You can pick it up easily if you’ve never heard of this bet type and use it to place wagers on your favorite sports.

The point spread is one of the most popular bets available at legal US sportsbooks, whether you’re betting on the NFL or professional lacrosse. In particular, college sports bettors love the point spread because it makes even the most uneven games exciting. Rather than placing a moneyline with almost no profit or no chance of winning, you can back the point spread and add excitement to even the most one-sided matchups.

To discover how point spread works, read our guide below. Not only do we teach you about this bet type, but give you some expert tips so you can place the best point spreads on any major league sport. 

What is Point Spread Betting?

The point spread applies an imaginary deficit to the favorite in a game and an imaginary advantage to the underdog. It’s pretty much like the favorite team letting the underdog score a certain number of points before the game starts. 

The favorite is shown with a (-) symbol next to its point spread, and this number will tell you how many points the team needs to win by. For example, an NBA team may have a point spread of -3.5. The team needs to win by four points or more for you to win your bet. If the team wins by just three points, you lose.

The underdog will have a (+) symbol next to its point spread, which tells you how many points that team can lose by with you still winning your bet. The underdog can also win the game for you to win. Unlike with most bet types, the underdog will probably have (-) American odds on the point spread.

Most sportsbooks will offer point spreads not as exact numbers but as decimals to avoid ties. However, if you do see an exact point spread like +3, you can still bet on this. If your team loses by exactly three points, you’ll get your bet back, which is called a push.

Why do Sportsbooks Offer Point Spreads?

A point spread bet is perfect for games where one team is very likely to win. Sportsbooks offer point spreads to prevent everyone betting on the same side. Point spreads often have better odds than moneylines on favorites, making them great for bettors.

You’ll often see point spreads changing in the build-up to an event. This is because the best sportsbooks want players to back both sides, so the point spread may change on one side to make it more generous. For example, with an NFL game, you may get the point spread of -3.5 on a Monday, but this may change to -5 by Friday. Point spreads also change to reflect the latest injuries and lineups information.

Top Tips for Successful Point Spread Betting

The key thing to remember with any type of betting is research. Rather than just following your gut feeling, doing research will let you back the right markets at PointsBet or any other sportsbook. In addition, as point spreads often drift to reflect public opinion, you can avoid ‘trap lines’ and place smarter bets.

In addition, look out for sportsbooks providing boosts for point spreads on major leagues. Many betting sites will likely allow you to boost your odds or cover your bet with insurance, especially if you include your point spread bets in a parlay. Claim these promotions to make the most of your point spread betting. 

Finally, consider that most point spreads include a home-turf advantage, giving three points to the team playing at home. Some teams definitely benefit from playing at home, especially those with loud and passionate fans. However, some major league franchises will perform better on the road. Be sure to check out the past result of any team before backing a point spread.