What is Point Spread Betting and How Does it Work?

When it comes to betting on American sports, point spread is a term that is synonymous, especially when it comes high scoring NBA and NFL betting. Although point spread betting can rear its head in other sports under different names.

The spread is often used to balance out two teams, so that each team can becomes an attractive option for bettors; even when one team is hugely unfavoured on the moneyline.

So what is spread betting and how does it work? Below we will cover all of your questions as well as show you how to spread bet!

Sports Spread Betting Explained

As we mentioned above, the point spread is basically an equalizer for two competing teams; a way of balancing out the odds by adjusting the points on the winning teams final score.

The stronger team in a match up will be considered the favourite and will therefore have points deducted from their total; indicated by a minus number next to their name.

This then leaves the less favoured team, which as you can guess will also have a number assigned to them; but in this case it will be a positive number which will be added to their total.

Best Spread Betting Sportsbooks

The above sportsbooks are what we feel are the best when it comes to NFL and spread betting. they offer generous spreads as well as great odd for other American Football betting markets. So be sure to check them out, especially their welcome bonuses.

Point Spread Betting Examples

Spread betting is most commonly associated with American football, due to the high scoring capacity of the game. It also improves the odds when compared to outright betting chances of a winning bet when backing the lesser fancied team.

Sometimes it’s hard to visualise how it works so here are some spread betting examples, one will be an example of a tight game and the other an example of a bigger point spread.

Close Spread Example

Examples of Sports Spread Betting for NFL and American Football Games

As you can see in the example above, Kansas are the favourites with a -1.5 spread. This would mean the Chiefs would need to win by a minimum of 2 points for you to win the spread bet. On the flip side of the spread, the 49ers have a +1.5 point differential; so would need to win or lose within 2 points.

Let’s say the 49ers pull the game back with just seconds on the clock and decide to go for the 2 point conversion to for the win; rather than send the game in to overtime. They fail to get the ball in the end zone and the Chiefs win 21-20. If you backed San Francisco then you would still win the bet as Kansas failed to cover the spread.

Big Point Spread Example

NFL point spread betting explained

In this scenario, New England are the heavy favourites with a -7.5 point spread over Kansas. It is expected that the Patriots would win the game by at least a single score. So the high differential pulls the game back in line.

But Kansas City defensive fail to contain the Patriots offence, so New England run out 34-24 winners. Even with the 7.5 points deducted from their total, they have covered the spread, so the bookmaker has to pay you out.

As some spread betting odds can be on the lower end of the scale, requiring large bets to be placed for a decent return; a lot of gamblers like to opt for parlays for their point spread wagers

This where a gambler has several spread bets they fancy, so they put them all on the same betting slip. By doing this you are accumulating the odds which would result in a bigger payout. The more games you add the higher the return, but the risk of losing the bet all together also increases.

Calculating Point Spreads

Things work a little differently with point spread betting meaning how the spread is calculated is a little more complex. But hopefully we will be able to break that down with spread betting explained in simpler terms.

To begin with the online sportsbooks use what are known as power rankings to calculate the spread. These are based on a range of contributing factors such as roster strength, finishing drives, turnovers and efficiency.

They then compare those metrics with some off field factors like home-field advantage, rest time between games and even predicted weather conditions. From there they are able to formulate the point spread, which can then give online gamblers an indication as to how the game is expected to finish; although it can change as the game approaches.

Why Does Sports Spread Change?

It’s actually quite common place for point spreads to change at sportsbooks prior to kick off. The metrics we mentioned above are variable, meaning they can change at a moment’s notice. So if a prominent player such as the QB, his top receiver or running back or even a pass rusher gets injured, then this will have an effect on a game’s outcome; as can a weather change.

Also, heavy betting on a specific team is enough to move the chains when it comes to the spread, especially as the kick off draws closer. That’s why it’s sometimes a good idea to bet early if you fancy the underdog, to get better odds.

Covering the Point Spread Meaning

You have probable heard people asking their gambling friends about covering the spread after a game has finished; such as “did Dallas cover the spread”.  In the big spread example above, New England winning by 8 points or more would be covering the spread. Whereas if Kansas kept the game tight and only lost by a single field goal, anyone backing them would have covered the spread.

How to Make a Spread Bet

Those who are used to gambling online will be familiar with this process, but for those who are new to sportsbooks or NFL betting here is a basic example of how to place a point spread bet.

  1. Pick your bookmaker
  2. Pick A-Z or Browse All in the sports tab
  3. Select NFL or American Football for UK gamblers
  4. Find the game you want to bet on and click your chosen spread, for UK bettors this will be under the handicap tab.
  5. Your bet will then appear on your betting slip
  6. Select the amount you want to bet and tap confirm.

Once you have completed the steps above you are good to go. So you can sit back and enjoy the game, or not depending on how your bet is going.

Point Spreads Key Numbers

In NFL there are specific points awarded for certain successful outcomes of a drive, these make up the key numbers for point spreads. Teams can benefit from scoring a field goal, a touchdown which carry three and seven points respectively. A touchdown and field goal would be worth ten points, so this makes the key numbers 3, 7 and 10.

As the more likely methods of victory are single TD’s or FG’s, most point spreads with be around the 3 and 7 point mark; usually 2.5/3.5 or 6.5/7.5. Games where the spread is closer to 10 points tend to be more successful for underdogs but have a much lower return.


Hopefully we have been able to answer all of your questions or improve your knowledge of point spread betting. This article should give you everything you need to start placing those spread bets, as well as providing some online sportsbooks where you can place them. But should you require a little further clarification then check out this post.

Spread Betting FAQ

What is a Point Spread?

Spread betting is a fairly understood term in America, but is more commonly known as the handicap in the UK. It is a margin by which a favourite has to win the game by or the underdog to lose a game within in order for a bet to be successful.

What are Point Spread Values?

Each point spread will be a positive or negative value. If the number next to a team is positive, that team is the favourite, If the number is negative then that team is the underdog.

What Does Against the Spread Mean?

Betting against the spread simply means you don’t believe the favourite will cover the spread. So they would have to win by less points than the points to be deducted for you to successfully bet against the spread.