What Is Point Spread Betting?

Samu-Ville Lampiranta
By Samu-Ville Lampiranta
Sports & Casino Expert
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Updated Jan 17, 2023
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Read time 8 min

Point spread betting is a popular market, especially in basketball, and you can find some very lucrative odds depending on the spread. However, there are also some risk factors involved. Read on to discover more about the pros and cons of spread betting before starting your journey in point spread betting. 

Point Spread Betting Explained 

Point spread betting is a form of handicap betting. It is the most common betting type in some parts of the world, like the United States, but it’s safe to say it is popular around the globe. It consists of a situation where, out of two teams, one is given a virtual advantage or disadvantage in the point spread bets to level the field. 

Let’s take an example: there’s a basketball match between the Boston Celtics and the Charlotte Hornets. Celtics is the heavy favorite, so the odds for the team to win are only 1.20 – not much of a profit even with bigger stakes. 

But with point spreads, the Hornets can be given an advantage of, let’s say, 23.5 points, which raises the odds for the Celtics to 1.80. The odds are much better, but for you to win, Boston needs to win with a margin of at least 24 points. 

In other words, the spread reveals the favorite to win the match. In the case above, the spread could just as well be Celtics -23.5, or Hornets +23.5. Usually, though, there are more lines available than just one, and you can adjust the line and the odds to suit your risk profile. 

Live Betting or Pre-Match Betting? 

Point spreads are also available in live matches, and betting while the match is underway can have some benefits. Let’s take the example above, the match between Boston and Charlotte. The Celtics are the favorite, but what if Charlotte starts the match sharp and takes a 12-0 lead in the first few minutes of the match? 

In this case, the odds for Boston might go up momentarily. If you seize this opportunity, you might benefit from better odds if the Celtics turn the match around. Of course, this works the other way, too – if Boston rushes into a strong lead, the odds will plummet. 

Most Common Sports Offering Point Spread Bets 

Any sport with goals, points, runs, or something similar can offer point spread markets. In ice hockey or soccer, you can consider the handicap markets as point spreads. But it’s more common to refer to the markets as spreads in basketball and American football. 

Point Spread Bets – NBA

Point spread betting is very popular with basketball fans. You can easily find point spread markets on all NBA matches throughout the season, since virtually every sportsbook offers them. And you don’t have to settle for just the NBA – point spreads are common in every other basketball league as well. 

In addition to the match point spreads, you might also be able to bet on a halftime point spread or quarter point spread. You can also make combo bets by selecting the spreads from more than one NBA match. 

Point Spread Bets – NFL

Much like with NBA betting, NFL is the other top league where point spreads are very common. The popularity of the NFL in general probably explains why this bet type is especially popular in North America. 

 Similarly, you’ll find quarter and halftime point spreads offered in NFL matches too. Combo bets are also available, so you can try your luck and benefit from more lucrative odds by adding more matches to your coupon.

Is Point Spread Better Than Moneyline? 

In moneyline bets, you bet on the eventual winner of the match once potential overtime is played. When there is a clear favorite in the match, the moneyline odds might not be too tempting. Point spread betting is one way to improve the odds, but the risks are higher. 

You are much more likely to win a moneyline bet, but if you can make the spread, you’ll win more. There is no definitive answer as to which bet type is better, since it all depends on what you are looking for. 

How To Make A Point Spread Bet 

So what does point spread mean in betting? Now that you know, it will probably not come as such a  big surprise that this is one of the most popular betting types. It’s a great way to enhance your odds, but it comes with some risks. That’s why it’s good to keep a few things in mind before you start betting on spreads. 

You should check out the teams’ performance in the last few matches. Even if the other team is on top of the standings and a favorite to win the match, the opposing team might be on a hot streak. Adjust the spread accordingly so you’ll have better chances of winning your bet. 

You should also consider the risks and adjust your gambling budget accordingly. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket – it’s a good idea to diversify and potentially consider moneyline bets as well. Single bets are the safest alternative, so you might want to stick to those especially if you are just making your first point spread bets. 

Point spread betting can make watching your favorite team’s matches a lot more exciting, so this bet type could be worth getting familiar with. Just start cautiously and you’ll soon master the art of handicap betting!

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Samu-Ville Lampiranta
Samu-Ville Lampiranta
Sports & Casino Expert

Samu-Ville knows the ins and outs of online gambling having worked in the industry since 2013 in various roles from customer support agent to content writer and manager. He knows how to look at casinos and sports betting sites from both sides of the fence, and uses his experience to give his articles a unique view from the inside.