Point Spread Betting
Point spread betting is an extremely popular way to bet on sports because it evens out the odds for both sides. Point spreads force favorites to lay a certain number of points and underdogs to take them when deciding a betting winner.
This is an effective way sportsbooks even out two teams’ chances of winning and try to draw an equal amount of betting to both sides. Indiana online sportsbooks post point spreads for just about every major pro and college sport.
Point spread bets are booked at currently posted moneyline odds that are usually close to even for both teams. That effectively lowers the risk of betting favorites and increases an underdog’s chances of winning compared to standard moneyline betting.
On this page you’ll find a complete guide to point spread betting including:
- How to bet point spreads for the first time
- How to read point spreads
- How point spreads differ from sport to sport
- Who sets the spread
- Why you should bet point spreads over other bets
- How to avoid making the biggest point spread betting mistakes
Current point spreads at all Indiana sportsbooks
Point spreads are most popular for football betting and basketball betting, but are available for most sports. Check the feed below for current point spreads posted at top Indiana online sportsbooks for upcoming games. Click on any odds to jump to the online sportsbook, claim your bonus or free bets, and register a new account.
What is a point spread?
A point spread bet is a bet in which you either “lay” or “take” the points from a line set by oddsmakers to determine a betting winner. That means you have to deduct the spread number from the favorite’s final score, or add it to the underdog’s, to determine which side wins the bet.
Example: The Chicago Bears are a -7 point spread favorite over the Pittsburgh Steelers. That means you would need to deduct seven points from the Bears’ final score to determine which side wins a spread bet.
If the Bears win 27-19, they win by eight points and “cover the spread.” In other words, an NFL spread bet on the Bears at -7 wins. If the Steelers win outright, or the Bears win by six points or less, the Steelers cover and spread bets on the Steelers +7 win.
Finally, if the Bears win by exactly seven, it’s a push and all bets are returned.
What does +/- mean in point spread betting?
Point spreads are expressed by either positive or negative numbers. There’s a plus sign in front of the spread for underdogs that tells you to add the points to the team’s final score to determine the betting winner.
If the spread is posted as +3.5 you should add 3.5 points to the team’s final score to determine the betting winner. So the underdog can win outright or lose by three points or less to win against the spread, otherwise known as covering.
Conversely, there’s a minus sign in front of the spread for favorites that tells you to deduct the points to the team’s final score to determine a betting winner.
If the spread is posted as -4 you should deduct four points from the team’s final score to determine the betting winner. In other words, the favorite must win by five points or more to win against the spread, or cover.
Winning by exactly four would result in a push and all bets are returned.
How much does a point spread bet pay off?
You book point spread bets at the currently posted moneyline odds for each side, which means you get paid at those odds if your side wins. Point spread odds are usually set at -110 for each side, but the price can change based on how much is bet on a certain team.
At -110, sportsbooks earn a standard house edge, or vig, on all spread bets. This assumes there’s an equal amount of betting on each side. They will change either the odds or the spread itself to try to get back to even if there’s more betting on one side.
As a bettor, -110 odds means you have to bet $110 to win $100 plus your bet back. As long as there’s an equal amount of betting on both sides, -110 odds means a sportsbook will take in $110 for every $100 they pay out, leaving the rest as its profit.
How much should you wager on a point spread bet?
We can’t tell you how much you should bet on point spreads. That’s really a personal decision.
However, we can tell you it’s a good idea to base such decisions on your personal finances; only bet with disposable income, and never bet more cash than you can realistically afford to lose.
It’s a good idea to set aside a betting bankroll for yourself and make sure it’s an amount of money you won’t miss.
Then, try limiting yourself to betting just 1% of that bankroll on any individual bet. Or, set a unit amount of 1% of that bankroll and wager from one to five units on any point spread bet based on your confidence in each bet.
That means a one unit bet when you’re pretty sure the Green Bay Packers can cover at -7 over the Dallas Cowboys and a five unit bet when you’re almost 100% sure the Kansas City Chiefs will cover at -3.5 over the Denver Broncos.
Just remember that oddsmakers get it right a lot of the time when setting spreads. Betting against the spread is something that should only be done when your own exhaustive research tells you they might be getting it wrong.
And even then, you should be careful about placing all your eggs in one basket and risking any more than just a small percentage of your total bankroll.
Why are baseball and hockey point spreads so similar?
In relatively low-scoring sports, there’s usually a standard point spread set for just about every game. Instead of the spread changing, the odds are adjusted based on each team’s chances of covering.
In NHL betting, this is the puck line. In MLB betting, it’s the run line. These standard betting lines are most often set at 1.5 goals or runs and booked at varying moneyline odds.
Once again, the big difference between this and standard point spread betting is that the puck and run lines rarely change — only the odds do. Of course, you can also bet alternative puck and run lines at increased or decreased moneyline odds as well.
In-game point spreads
In-game or “live” betting could very well be the most exciting way to bet on sports. It’s most certainly the fastest. It involves betting on games in the middle of the action at odds that are constantly changing.
Indiana online sportsbooks post full game, quarter, and half in-game point spreads for most games and adjust those lines based on live scoring and the time remaining.
It’s up to you to get a bet down before the action and the line changes again, making mobile sportsbook apps the best way to go for live betting.
See our list of the best sportsbook apps in Indiana.
Why bet the point spread over moneylines, totals, or props?
If there’s one clear reason to bet point spreads over other bets it’s that the spread evens out the odds.
Betting against the spread means you don’t have to risk a huge amount for very little reward betting favorites. Plus, the spread gives underdogs a realistic chance at becoming a betting winner, even when their odds of actually winning a game are slim.
Just remember, oddsmakers set spreads for a living and they’re really good at it. Do your research before placing a point spread bet.
Point spread and odds movements explained
Sportsbooks will move their point spreads to attract more money to the side less customers are betting on. Read on to find out why and how this works.
What does ‘against the spread’ mean?
Betting ‘against the spread’ is simply another term for placing a point spread bet.
It doesn’t matter what side you bet on, you’re betting ‘against the spread’. In other words, you’re betting that either the favorite or underdog will ‘cover the spread’.
Favorites cover the spread when they win by more than the spread set by oddsmakers. Underdogs cover when they win outright or lose by less than the spread.
What does ‘public betting’ mean?
‘Public betting’ is a reference to what side of a point spread bet the majority of the money is being bet on.
Why does the point spread move/change?
Sportsbooks might change the spread for a game based on injuries to key players, roster moves, or even reports of inclement weather that might impact scoring.
They may also change the spread for a game when more money is bet on one side or the other.
Sportsbooks set spreads to try to draw an equal amount of betting to each side, realize the vig, and ensure they don’t have to sweat the actual outcome of the bet. If more is bet on one side, they’ll move the line in an effort to even things out again.
This kind of line movement only happens at the sportsbooks that see more money bet on one side or the other.
That’s why a local Indiana sportsbook may start out with the same point spread for an Indianapolis Colts game found at a Vegas sportsbook, but end up with a different one by kickoff
How are NFL/NBA/NCAA point spreads set?
Oddsmakers use a number of different factors to set point spreads for betting on the NBA, betting on the NFL, etc. They begin with a deep look at the two teams’ recent and historic results, scoring, and defensive averages.
They then consider injury reports, historical matchup data, and the impact weather and scheduling may have on scoring on the game. Finally, they take a close look at where other sportsbooks are setting the line and adjust accordingly.
3 biggest point spread betting mistakes
Here are three mistakes you should try to avoid when betting against the spread:
- Too many bets. Just because sportsbooks set a spread for every game doesn’t mean you have to bet them all. Your goal should be to research each game, identify spots where oddsmakers may have set the spread too high or low, and take advantage.
- Accounting too much or too little for a home field advantage. Oddsmakers build the home field advantage right into the spread, so you need to consider how much weight you should give it. Study the home and away records of the teams involved and you can avoid the mistake of accounting too much or too little for the home field advantage.
- Guessing. Sports betting isn’t about guessing. Betting against the spread requires real research. Turn your guesses into educated guesses and informed picks by doing your homework.
Extra point spread FAQs
When was the first point spread offered at a sportsbook?
Point spread betting was invented by Charles K. McNeil, a Connecticut math teacher-turned-Chicago sportsbook operator. He started offering point spread bets in the 1940s as a way to attract betting to both sides of a contest and earn a consistent vig.
Why are college point spreads so much bigger than pro point spreads?
Point spreads are consistently larger in college basketball betting and college football betting because of the disparity between perennial favorites and underdogs. In other words, there’s more parity in most pro spots and a big difference between the haves and have-nots in the college ranks.
How accurate do point spreads end up being?
Oddsmakers are stunningly accurate in setting most point spreads. That’s why you need to be selective in the number of point spread bets you make. Ensure you’re only betting against the spread based on what your research tells you about a game and how accurate oddsmakers have been in setting a line.
How much extra work goes into setting the Super Bowl point spread?
Like any other game, oddsmakers set the point spread for the Super Bowl by taking a number of different factors into consideration.
This includes the teams’ recent and historic results, scoring averages, injury reports, historical matchup data, and the impact weather may have on scoring. They also take a close look at where other sportsbooks are at.
Because NFL oddsmakers have just these two teams and one game to focus on, they have proven to be even more accurate than normal.