How to Understand the Spread in Sports Betting

The sports betting market is a massive one, and with the growing number of people engaging with the industry, there is plenty of opportunity for newcomers to get in on the action. However, with the complexities of betting strategies and sports knowledge, it can be hard to know where to start.

The spread in sports betting refers to the amount of money that is being bet on one side or the other of a sporting event. For example, if you were to bet on the result of the Superbowl this year, the spread would be the amount of money that you would need to wager in order to receive your payout. Your vigorish (sports jargon for the commission you have to pay to bookmakers) would be the other amount you need to wager in order to receive your money back, which is usually the same as the amount you put in.

The spread can vary from game to game, venue to venue, and even team to team. The amount of money being exchanged in any given scenario depends on a variety of factors, and it is always important to consider the underlying trends and statistics before placing a bet.

The spread in sports betting is often complicated, and it is essential that you put in the required research in order to fully understand how it works and the role it plays in your betting strategy.

The Basics

The spread in sports betting can be difficult to understand, even for experienced bettors, because it is a combination of so many factors. However, once you do have a grasp of the basics, it makes all the difference. The following will go over some of the most important things you need to know about the spread in sports betting so that you can make the right decision when placing your wager.

The Vig

One of the first things you need to concern yourself with when placing a bet is the vig, or the sports betting commission you have to pay to bookmakers. This is generally between 1.5% and 2% for major sports, and it can be even higher for lesser known sports and events. The vig in most places is already built into the prices listed on betting sites (examples include TopBet and Bet365) so you do not usually have to worry about it, but you should know what it is before making a wager.

The vig in most sports is set by the bookmakers in order to make a profit off of sports betting, and in theory, it should not matter which side you choose because your payout should be the same regardless of the result. However, in practice, the variance in the vig can be significant, so it is always best to choose a side with a smaller variance as far as the vig is concerned.

VT (Variance Tolerance)

One of the key differences between successful and unsuccessful sports bettors is that successful ones are generally more tolerant of fluctuations and uncertainties in the spread. When picking a wager, it is always best to look for one with a high variance tolerance, which will help you deal with sudden changes in the odds and make you a more appealing option to the bookmakers. Knowing how your preferred bookmaker’s spread is likely to vary will give you an idea of how much you can afford to lose in case your prediction turns out to be incorrect. For instance, if you were to back the New England Patriots in the Superbowl and they end up losing by 3 touchdowns to the Philadelphia Eagles, you would lose £38.80 on a £100 bet, but you would only lose £13.20 on a £50 bet. In other words, you would lose more on the £100 bet but would it be worth it? Probably not!


Another important factor to consider when choosing a wager is the size of the bet. The bigger the bet size, the less you will have to wager in order to make a profit, but on the other hand, the more you will have to wager in case your prediction is incorrect. For example, if you bet £10 on Manchester United to win the Premier League, you are essentially placing a £10 win bet on the team. If Manchester United end up winning the Premier League, you would win £100, but if they do not, your £10 win bet would be deemed a loss.

In general, you should bet on the side that you think is going to win. This is generally considered to be a safe way to go, but it is essential that you do your research first. If you are not confident that you can pick winning sides, it could be a good idea to avoid betting altogether. Bookmakers love to feel that they are providing useful information to customers, and when somebody places a bet that they think is going to lose, they will often offer advice or assistance in order to try and get that bet to win (this is generally known as ‘helpful’ policy or ‘sportsmanship’).

Odds vs. Spreads

The odds in sports betting are the tools used by bookmakers in order to rationalise and standardise the results of games, and they are one of the most important factors to consider. One key difference between successful and unsuccessful gamblers is that successful ones usually prefer betting on odds because it is much easier to make a profit off of them. In the example above, if you had placed the bet on Manchester United to win the Premier League based on the odds available at the time, you would have made a modest profit of £77.20 because although Manchester United did not win the Premier League, they were the heavy favorites to do so.

Odds are generally expressed as the amount of money that is being wagered on one side of a sporting event. For instance, if you wanted to bet on the New England Patriots in the Superbowl, the odds would be 1.78 (meaning there is a 78% chance that the New England Patriots will win). In theory, you should be able to place a profit-making wager on just about any sporting event based on the odds available because bookmakers always want to make a profit from customers, but in practice, this is not always the case. Take the New England Patriots for example. They are a very popular team with gamblers, and this has led to a number of complaints from the bookmakers because apparently, the Patriots do not follow the ‘popular team’ rule when it comes to betting. This is because the Patriots do not allow betting on every game, and when they do decide to allow it, bets usually win because the odds are usually so skewed in the customers’ favor. Therefore, when betting on the Patriots, it is usually advisable to avoid bets with large sums of money.

The opposite of odds are spreads, and these are the amounts of money that are being wagered on one side of a game or event. The spread can be positive or negative, and it is always good to look for a wager with a positive spread because this means the bookmakers have confidence in the outcome of the game or event, which in turn makes you more likely to win your bet. In the example above, if you wanted to bet on Manchester United to win the Premier League, the spread would be -£82.80, which means there is a 82.8% chance that Manchester United will lose the game. As you can see, a positive spread makes it easier for winning bets and harder for losing ones.

The Role of the Spread In A Winning Betting Strategy

Based on the above, it is clear that the spread plays an important role in your winning betting strategy, but it is also important to remember that it is not the only one. When picking a wager, it is always best to look for the one with the highest variance tolerance and the smallest bet size because these two factors will help you maximize your profits while minimizing your losses. However, if you are not sure which side to choose, it is usually best to go with the favorites because this is where the majority of the betting money is being wagered. When it comes to picking a wager, remember that the goal of the game is to make a profit, so it is always tempting to go with the safer side because this is usually where a lot of the betting money is, but it is important to remember that you should always put your own interests first.