Point Spread Definition and Examples: An Essential Guide for Punters

Point spread betting is a popular form of wagering in sports that aims to level the playing field between two teams or players. It considers the perceived gap in ability, with the stronger team being favoured by a certain number of points. By handicapping the favourite, this type of bet offers more evenly matched odds and presents an appealing option for bettors who want to put their money on either side, regardless of the competitor’s strength.

The point spread is determined by oddsmakers, who set the margin of victory for the favourite, with the underdog being given an equivalent point advantage. This balance allows bettors to have equal chances of winning, irrespective of which team they choose to support. For example, in an NFL game between two unevenly matched teams, the oddsmaker might set the point spread at -5 for the favoured team. This means that the favoured team must win by more than five points for a bet on them to be successful.

Understanding how to read point spreads and the implications of positive and negative spreads is crucial for profitable betting. Negative spreads signify that a team is favoured and must win by a specific number of points, while positive spreads indicate that a team is the underdog and can lose by less than the spread or win outright. Familiarising oneself with examples of point spread bets can greatly enhance one’s ability to make smart wagers in the sports betting world.

point spread betting

Point Spread Basics

Understanding Point Spreads

A point spread, also known as the spread, is a popular type of bet in the world of sports betting. It involves wagering on the margin of victory between two teams or players in a game. The point spread evens the playing field and makes betting on either side more attractive to bettors by offering more balanced odds.

To understand the concept, let us consider an example. Suppose we have the following point spread:

  • Sydney Sharks -3.5 (-110)
  • Melbourne Tigers +3.5 (-110)

In this scenario, the Sydney Sharks are the favourite team, and they need to win by more than 3.5 points for bets placed on them to be successful. On the other hand, the Melbourne Tigers are the underdogs and can either win the game outright or lose by fewer than 3.5 points for wagers on them to be successful.

The numbers in parentheses (-110) represent the odds associated with the bet, indicating the amount a bettor needs to stake to win $100.

Favourite and Underdog Teams

In point spread betting, teams are classified as favourites or underdogs based on their perceived level of skill and overall performance. Favourites are expected to win and are denoted with a minus sign (-) before the point spread value. Underdogs, on the other hand, have a plus sign (+) before the point spread and are not expected to win.

Favourites and underdogs serve an essential purpose in point spread betting by allowing bettors to wager on either team. This balances the odds as bettors can pick the favourite while expecting a narrower margin of victory, or they can opt for the underdog to potentially win or lose by a smaller margin than the spread.

For example, using our previous illustration:

  • Favourite Team: Sydney Sharks -3.5 (-110)
  • Underdog Team: Melbourne Tigers +3.5 (-110)

In this case, the Sydney Sharks would need to win by more than 3.5 points to cover the spread. Alternatively, the Melbourne Tigers could win, or simply lose by fewer than 3.5 points, to cover the spread as the underdogs.

Remember that point spread betting is all about predicting margins of victory, which makes it an exciting option for many sports bettors in Australia and around the world.

Sports and Point Spreads

Football and Basketball

In basketball and football, point spread betting is a prevalent way to make wagers on games. Oddsmakers at sportsbooks set a point spread to level the playing field between the favourite team and the underdog, creating a more balanced betting environment. This spread requires the favourite to win by a certain margin or the underdog to keep the game within that margin1.

For example, in an NFL game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Dallas Cowboys, the Chiefs might be favoured by 4.5 points. This means that if you bet on the Chiefs (-4.5), they need to win by 5 or more points to cover the spread and secure a payout. Conversely, if you bet on the Cowboys (+4.5), they can either win outright or lose by 4 or fewer points for a successful wager. In the NBA, similar point spread principles apply, with key numbers such as 7 (representing a 3-possession game) often impacting betting lines.

Hockey and Baseball

In hockey (NHL) and baseball (MLB), point spread betting is slightly different. Instead of a point spread, these sports use a puck line in hockey and a run line in baseball2. Similar to point spreads, puck and run lines help level the playing field in terms of betting by handicapping favourites.

In hockey, the puck line is typically set at -1.5/+1.5, meaning the favourite must win by 2 or more goals for a successful bet, while the underdog can lose by no more than 1 goal or win outright. In baseball, the run line is commonly set at -1.5/+1.5 as well. However, unlike with the puck line, games with a favourite perceived as much stronger may see a higher run line (e.g., -2.5/+2.5)3.

It is important to note that betting against the spread in any sporting event can involve additional factors such as the juice (the commission paid to the sportsbook) and potential payouts based on American odds. Sports bettors should also monitor factors such as team performance, rest, and injuries when making wagers on point spreads, run lines, and puck lines.

Although different sports and leagues may have unique rules and nuances around spread betting, the overall concept remains consistent: providing a more even betting environment through handicapping favourites. By understanding the fundamentals of point spreads, puck lines, and run lines, bettors can better navigate the world of sports betting and potentially find an edge in their wagers.

Factors Affecting Point Spreads

Injuries and Matchups

Injuries play a significant role in determining point spreads for a game. When key players suffer from injuries or are unavailable for a particular match, sportsbooks may adjust the point spread to account for their absence. This is because these players often have a considerable impact on the game’s final score and the margin of victory.

A matchup between two teams is another crucial factor when setting point spreads. The strengths, weaknesses, and the overall performance levels of each team can result in significant differences in the point spread. For example, if a team has a strong defence while their opponent has a poor offensive record, the point spread might be adjusted accordingly to reflect the expected outcome based on the teams’ performances.

Home-Field Advantage

Home-field advantage is a well-recognised factor in determining point spreads. It is often presumed that teams playing on their home ground have an edge over their opponents, largely due to familiarity with the venue, crowd support, or reduced travelling requirements. As a result, sportsbooks typically factor in the home-field advantage when calculating point spreads.

In many sports, including Australian Rules Football, rugby, and soccer, home teams generally perform better than visiting teams. Consequently, this is taken into consideration when setting point spreads for various bet types, such as covering the spread and “against the spread” (ATS) wagers. In these circumstances, the odds may be adjusted to ensure that the home team has an advantage, even if they are deemed the underdog based on the matchup.

While considering injuries, matchups, and home-field advantage when determining point spreads, it’s essential to remember that sportsbooks’ primary goal is to balance the action on both sides of the bet and thus minimize their risk. As a result, the point spreads may sometimes be adjusted to attract bets on one side or the other, rather than exclusively reflecting the differences in ability between the two competing teams.

Betting Strategies

Wagering on Point Spreads

In sports betting, point spreads are a popular form of wagering, allowing you to bet on the margin of victory for a particular game or event. The favourite team needs to win by a certain number of points, often denoted with a minus sign (-), while the underdog has a plus sign (+).

A point spread bet can either result in a win, lose or push (tie), depending on the final game score. To make the most of this betting strategy, you’ll need to be confident, knowledgeable, and neutral. Be sure to consider:

  • Research: Analyse team performance, injury reports, and other relevant data to help you make a well-informed decision.
  • Line Movement: Keep an eye on line movements and changes in point spreads, as they can provide valuable insights for your wagers.
  • Consistency in Wagering: Avoid placing large bets on a single game, and maintain a consistent wager size across multiple bets for better risk management.

Moneyline Betting

Another popular sports betting strategy is moneyline betting. Here, you simply choose which team will win the game without considering the margin of victory. Moneyline bets are low-risk since they involve fewer variables, making them an excellent choice for those new to sports betting. However, it’s still crucial to follow a confident, knowledgeable, and clear approach. Consider these tips:

  • Favourites and Underdogs: Moneyline odds show you the amount necessary to win $100 when betting on the favourite and the amount you’ll win if you bet $100 on the underdog. Be aware of the differences in potential returns and risks between favourites and underdogs.
  • Value Bets: Look for opportunities where the odds are favourable compared to your perception of the team’s chances of winning. These “value bets” can provide you with the best long-term returns.
  • Bankroll Management: Properly managing your bankroll is essential to avoid losses and maintain a responsible approach to sports betting. Allocate a set amount for each bet and stick to that limit.

Keep these strategies in mind when engaging in sports betting to increase your chances of success and make the most informed decisions possible.

Point Spread Terminology

Glossary and Definitions

Point Spread: A bet on the margin of victory in a sporting event. It aims to make a matchup between two unbalanced teams more balanced by giving points to or taking points away from each team. The favourite is indicated by a minus (-) sign alongside the number of points taken away from their final score.

Cover the Spread: When a team wins by more points than the point spread or loses by fewer points than the point spread, they are said to have covered the spread. This means that bettors who placed a wager on them would win that bet.

Spread: The number of points by which an oddsmaker expects a favourite to defeat an underdog.

Juice: Also known as the ‘vig’ or ‘vigorish’, juice is the commission charged by a bookmaker for accepting a bet. It is usually factored into the odds to ensure the bookmaker makes a profit regardless of the outcome.

Payouts: The amount of money paid to a bettor if their wager is successful. Payouts are usually calculated by multiplying the stake (the amount of money wagered) by the odds.

Key Numbers: In sports betting, key numbers are the most common margins of victory. In football, for example, key numbers include 3, as a field goal can change the score by that margin, and 7, as a touchdown and extra point achieve the same result.

Field Goal: In American football, a field goal is a scoring play where a team kicks the ball through the goalposts. It is worth three points and can sometimes be the deciding factor in a game.

Hook: A term used in point spread betting, a hook is a half-point added to the spread to avoid a push (a tie). For example, a point spread of 4.5 instead of 4 would be considered a hook.

Commission: The amount a bookmaker earns for facilitating wagers, typically taken from the juice of the odds.

For more sports betting terms click check out our betting glossary.

Resources and Tips

Comparing Sportsbooks

When dealing with point spreads, it’s important to compare the odds offered by different sportsbooks. By doing this, you can potentially find more favorable lines to increase your chances of success. Some factors to consider while comparing sportsbooks are:

  • Available markets and sports
  • Ease of use and user experience
  • Bonuses and promotions
  • Customer support
  • Payment methods


Leverage in sports betting refers to utilising the knowledge and resources available to maximise your chances of winning. Some ways to leverage your bets include:

  • Utilising data analysis and statistics to make more informed decisions
  • Taking advantage of bonuses and promotions on different sportsbooks
  • Following expert opinions and predictions
  • Managing your bankroll wisely by setting limits and sticking to your strategy


Improving your skill in sports betting is essential to increase your chances of success. Some core skills to work on include:

  • Understanding the rules and strategies of the sport you’re betting on
  • Being proficient in interpreting odds and lines
  • Developing your own betting strategies based on personal experience and research
  • Continuously learning from your mistakes and adapting your approach.