A point spread in sports is a figure set by oddsmakers to provide an advantage or disadvantage based on the margin of victory or defeat for a given team. The “favorite” team (labeled with a “-” sign) would be at the disadvantage as they would need to win the game by a set number of points while the “underdog” team (labeled with a “+” sign) would be given an advantage to not lose the game by a set number of points. The reason oddsmakers do this is to provide betting interest for both sides due to one team typically being better than the other.

Here is an example of an NFL game where point spreads are utilized and how it would look:

New York +4.5 (-110)

As you can see, Dallas is the 4.5-point favorite which means they would need to win the game by five points or more to win the bet. Conversely, New York is a 4.5-point underdog which means they would need to win or not lose the game by more than four points to win the bet.

If Dallas wins 20-17, then they win by three points and did NOT cover the 4.5 points, but New York has “covered the spread” because they stayed within 4.5 points.

What Happens if I Win My Point Spread Bet?

You get your original \$110 bet back plus the \$100 you won for a total of \$210.

What Happens if I Lose My Point Spread Bet?

You lose the \$110, so you can see that the sportsbook will get an extra \$10 and still end up ahead even if you place another \$110 wager and win it next time.

What if the Point Spread Result is a Tie?

This is a very common occurrence in sports betting and is known as a “push.” When this happens, the sportsbook simply refunds your money. An example of a push would be if Dallas was a 4-point favorite vs New York and they only win by four points. Neither team covers the spread in this case.

What Does Pk or Pick’em Mean in the Point Spread?

PK or Pick’em means that the matchup is so close that there’s neither a favorite nor an underdog. Whatever team you pick to win when betting on the point spread simply has to win the game and the margin of victory doesn’t matter.

What Does -110 Mean?

The -110 on either side is like paying a tax or commission to the sportsbook. Bettors would pay 10 percent (aka juice) to the sportsbook, which is essentially a fee for brokering the wager. So, the -110 indicates that a bettor must risk \$110 to win \$100. Some sportsbooks will even reduce the juice for you which means you can earn the same \$100 payout but risk less money to do it.

For example, if you see -7.5 (-107), then you only need to wager \$107 to win \$100 (saving you \$3). If you see -7.5 (-102), then you only need to wager \$102 to win \$100.

What Happens when the Point Spread Changes?

This is a very common occurrence in sports betting and sportsbooks have the full right to shift the spread or odds for any given match prior to it starting. Many factors can influence a change of the spread such as injuries, the number of bets coming in for either team or the weather, to name a few. Depending on the timing of placing the bet, the bettor can also have an advantage or a disadvantage depending on which way the spread has shifted.

Here is an example of a change in the spread:

Monday

New York +4.5 (-110)

Thursday

New York +3.5 (-110)

If bettors had wagered on Dallas on Monday, that means they would be at a disadvantage compared to bettors who waited until Thursday as the Thursday bettors now only need Dallas to win by four points instead of five. But it can also go the other way:

Monday

New York +4.5 (-110)

Thursday

New York +7.5 (-110)

If bettors had wagered on Dallas on Monday, they would now have the advantage over the bettors who waited until Thursday as the Thursday bettors need Dallas to now win by eight points or more instead of only five.

Can you Bet on Point Spreads for Different Parts of the Game such as a Half or a Quarter?

Yes, in fact, sportsbooks also release spreads for different points in the match like after the first quarter or first half. Oddsmakers will set spreads for those different checkpoints and it’s up to you as the bettor to determine which team will lead or trail by a certain number of points after that unit of time.

Here is an example of a first-half spread:

New York +2.5 (-110)

As you can see, Dallas is a 2.5-point favorite to lead the first half by three points or more whereas New York is a 2.5-point underdog which means they would need to be ahead or not trail by more than two points at the end of the first half.

Are Point Spreads used Differently in other Sports?

Yes, football and basketball are the two main sports that use point spreads. The spreads are determined by oddsmakers with no set limit for the margin of victory or defeat.

In baseball and hockey, point spreads are called “runline” or “puckline” and are set at -1.5 or +1.5 with the -1.5 given to the favorite and the +1.5 given to the underdog. The reason these are preset is scoring in these two sports is much lower than in basketball or football.