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Point Spread Betting – A Complete Guide

Point spread bets are wagers on the number of points a team is expected to win by. You can bet the spread on many US sports, including baseball, hockey, and basketball. You can even bet on teasers which put you in control of the points in the spread. On this page, you will find point spread betting explained. We’ll show you how point spread betting works and how to place your bets. Keep reading to find out more.

Point Spread Betting – A Complete Guide
Point Spread Betting

What is Point Spread Betting?

Sports spread betting is one of the most popular types of wager found at online sportsbooks. It’s a great bet to use in games that feature a lot of points, such as basketball or football. You can place point spread bets on single games or combine multiple picks in one parlay.

Point spread betting is like a handicap. At the start of a game, the favorite is given a points handicap, set by the bookmaker. The underdog is given a head start by the same number of points.

When you back a team, they must win the game after the spread has applied to their total points.

Here’s an example:

In college basketball, the Buffalo Bulls travel to the Toledo Rockets.

The Bulls are given a +2.5-point advantage, while favorites Toledo are given a -2.5-point handicap. That means the bookmaker thinks the Bulls will lose by 2 or 3 points, and they think the Rockets will win by 2 or 3 points.

You decide to bet on the Bulls +2.5.

The score ends 73-75 to the Toledo Rockets. But with the spread added, the score is now 75.5-75 to the Bulls. The Bulls pull into the lead and win the bet.

How to Place a Point Spread Bet

It’s easy to get started with point spread betting. Here’s our simple guide on how to place a point spread bet.

1 – Choose a sport
You can place point spread bets on many sports, including baseball, hockey, basketball, and football. Choosing the sport you know most about is a good place to start.

2 – Choose your selection
Find the spread in the game or match you want. Click on the team you want to bet on and it will appear on your bet slip.

3 – Set your stake
Enter the amount you want to bet on the spread. The bet slip will automatically calculate your potential winnings.

4 – Click on the ‘Place Bets’ button
Once you have entered your stake, hit the ‘Place Bets’ button to confirm your wager.

Point Spread Bets in US Sports

Now you know how to place a point spread bet, let’s look at how you can use it in different US sports. Market odds are displayed in brackets below.

Football: Point spread betting is available on all NFL games. The spread can be as wide as +9/-9 points, depending on who is playing.


Chicago Bears +6 (-100)
Kansas City Chiefs
-6 (-120)

The Chiefs are favorites and are handed a 6-point handicap. For the Chiefs to win the bet, they must win by over 7 points. The Bears are given a 6-point advantage at the start. The score is 23-11 to the Chiefs. But with the spread applied, the final spread score is 18-17 to the Bears.  

Football point spread bets can also end in a push. This means there is a tie between the two teams. In our example, let’s say you bet on the Chiefs and they won 22-16. The final score would be 16-16 after the Chiefs’ 6-point handicap is applied.

The push means your stake is returned. In a parlay, where you cover several spreads in one bet, a push usually means the bet is removed from the parlay, however sometimes it can mean the whole bet loses.  

Basketball: Point spread bets in basketball can be exciting because of the big point totals. In some states, you can also bet on college basketball.


Orlando Magic +8 (-110)
Brooklyn Nets
-8 (-110)

In a close game, it finishes 108-104 to the Nets. With the handicap applied, however, the Magic end up with the higher points total.

Hockey: The point spread in hockey is called the puck line. Generally, point spread betting is tighter in hockey. The puck line is usually +1.5 / -1.5. The underdog is given a +1.5 goal advantage and the favorite a -1.5 goal handicap.

Notice the difference between the odds for the moneyline bet (to win the game) and the spread.


Ottawa Senators
Columbus Blue Jackets


Ottawa Senators +1.5 (-150)
Columbus Blue Jackets
-1.5 (+130)

The Senators are outsiders in the moneyline odds but are odds-on to win when given a 1.5 goal head start. With a -1.5-goal handicap, the Blue Jackets have gone from being odds-on to outsiders.

You bet on the Blue Jackets to win on the spread and they win the game 5-3. With the 1.5 goal handicap, the score becomes 3.5-3 and your bet wins.

Baseball: The point spread in baseball is known as the run line. It’s very similar to the puck line in hockey.

One MLB team is given a run advantage and the other a handicap. Usually, the handicap is in half points like -1.5 or +1.5. That means the favorite must win by 2 runs or more, while the underdog can lose by 1 run and still win the bet.

Chicago White Sox
+1.5 (-130)
Houston Astros
-1.5 (+110)

The Astros are given a -1.5-run line handicap and are now outsiders. The White Sox have a 1.5 run advantage and are favorites.

You bet on the White Sox to win and the score ends 6-5 to the Astros. With the 1.5 run advantage, the adjusted score is 6-6.5 to the Sox. You win the bet.

Understanding Teaser Bets

You’ve had point spread betting explained, now it’s time to look at teasers.

Teasers are special point spread bets where you’re in control of the spread. Let’s say the regular point spread betting market is +/- 5.5 in an NBA game. You can adjust the spread down to +/- 0.5 or up as high as +/- 11. The bookmaker will recalculate the odds accordingly.

Teasers are great if you fancy a favorite to steamroller an underdog in a game. You can take a much wider spread but enjoy higher odds as a result.

Some sportsbooks offer bigger teasers like super teasers and monster teasers. These give you an even wider spread of points to choose from.

Important Things to Consider

Now you know how point spread betting works, let’s examine some point spread betting strategy. Even with a few simple tips, you can enjoy more success with your bets.  

Push/tie: Some point spread bets use whole numbers, like football. This can mean the spread bet can end in a tie or a “push”. With a push, you will get a refund on your bet.

Run line and puck line: A puck line or run line won’t end in a push as the spread is made in .5 increments. The score in baseball and hockey is always a lot tighter. You should reserve your point spread bets on those sports for games between a hot favorite and a big underdog.

Backing underdogs: Underdogs will always receive a positive handicap in point spread betting. That’s why it can pay to back the underdog. Do your research and try to find value in an underdog who may pull off an upset.

Line movement: Sports spread betting is about keeping an eye on the line. A spread that started the week at +/- 6.5 might end the week at +/- 4.5. Betting on the favorite here is obviously better at the end of the week when it’s close to game day.

Understanding the PK: The PK in point spread betting is the “pick”. It’s a match-up where neither team is the underdog or favorite. When you place a PK wager, it’s a straight bet on which team you think will win.

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Sports Spread Betting FAQ

A point spread is a handicap placed on two teams competing in a match. It indicates the number of goals or points the bookmaker thinks a team will win or lose by.

The underdog receives a points boost, while the favorite receives a negative handicap. If you bet the underdog, they must win the game when their extra points or goals are added. If you bet the favorite, they must win after having their handicap subtracted from their points total.

Point spread bets have fixed odds. You can’t win more money if your team wins by more goals or points.

Covering the spread means betting on one team to win the point spread bet. The underdog must win with their additional points, or the favorite must win with their handicap added.


Jon Young

Jon is a magazine editor and writer with over 15 years’ experience in the gambling industry. He has written articles on everything from video slots and roulette to sports betting, poker, and strategy.

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