When it comes to football, point spreads are the most familiar and recognizable form of betting. Football point spreads have become common place in both the betting world and everyday football jargon. Vegas’s point spreads are commonly discussed in the media leading up to big games, and football fans have become fluent in the language of the bets.
Because of this, point spread betting is often the first place new football gamblers flock to.
Simple and tantalizing, point spreads are often highly profitable with both inexperienced and veteran bettors, but it’s important to know what the odds are that you’re look at and how to bet on them.
The Basics of Point Spreads
A point spread bet presents a line on a game and offers even money for both sides of the bet. A typical point spread will be presented in the following way.
@ New York Giants -3.5 New England Patriots
The favorite (in this case the Giants) are positioned on the left, with the underdog (Patriots) on the right. The Giants are -3.5, meaning those who take the favorites need New York to win by four or more points to win the wager. New England is +3.5 as the underdog. A bettor who takes New England in this example will win the bet if the Patriots win the game, or lose by a margin of only three or less. A favorite must “cover the spread,” while an underdog is afforded the luxury of being able to lose within the point spread.
In the event that a game’s outcome perfectly matches the point spread, the bet pushes. Spreads with half-points, such as the one above, cannot push and always result in one side winning. If a bet is listed as OFF, the house is not taking bets. This is usually due to a lack of information, such as a major injury.
Traditionally, in point spread betting the home team loses three points in the spread. Thus, if the two teams are considered even on a neutral field, the team with home field advantage would typically be a three point favorite (-3). An underdog with home field advantage will push the spread down, and a favorite with home field advantage will extend the line further.
In the event that a game is considered perfectly even after factoring in home field advantage, the game is a “pick ‘em” or “pick”. A pick ‘em is represented in a point spread as PK, and is essentially a line of -0 or +0 for both teams. The winning team in a pick ‘em pays out regardless of the score and will only push in the event of a tie.
What Point Spreads Tell Us
The common misinterpretation of a point spread is that it’s a prediction. Not quite. Rather than a prediction, it’s better to think of a point spread as a proposition.
In creating a point spread, Vegas is creating two sides of a bet that are equally likely (or at least perceived as equally likely by the field of bettors collectively). The odds makers in Vegas typically position the line closer to even when the outcome of the game is more in question, but this does not necessarily indicate that the score will be close.
For example, two high-powered offenses pitted against each other in a shootout are likely to end up with a double-digit score difference by the end of the game.
However, if Vegas were to create a large spread between two close teams, the bets would immediately flood to the side of the underdog. Thus, Vegas will create a small spread to even out the bets. Conversely, a team may greatly outmatch its opponents, but Vegas odds are reluctant to go too far.
A huge spread makes an underdog too tempting, with a strong possibility that they’ll play the opponent tough. Larger spreads are more common in college football, in which teams can have a greater disparity in talent. In both the NFL and college football, spreads tend to be more conservative than a prediction would be, however. In reading a point spread, understand that closer spreads are an indication of a lower level of confidence in the game’s outcome, while larger spread indicate clearer favorite.
Point Spread Betting
Our Daily Picks offers weekly point spreads for both college and pro football. Point spread betting online has become incredibly popular due to both its simplicity and profitability. Follow our Twitter for weekly picks and further strategy and analysis regarding point spreads.