# What Are Spreads in Betting?

One of the more interesting aspects of sports betting is that, although some consider it to be a form of gambling, it actually isn’t. The spread in betting is the difference in the point-spread between the favored team and the underdog team. The spread indicates the amount of points the sportsbook thinks the game will come down to. In other words, it’s the amount of credit (or debit) the bookmaker is willing to risk on the game. The spread is usually expressed as a percentage, but it can also be expressed as the number of points separating the two teams. For example, if the spread is 3.5, this would mean that the point-spread is 35 points in favor of the home team. Let’s take a look at how this works in practice.

## How Do Bookmakers Calculate Spreads?

The process for calculating a spread is fairly straightforward. After the points for the game have been determined (usually by the point-spread equation, which depends on the number of points scored in each quarter and how many minutes have been played in the game), the sportsbook will use the following formula to determine the point-spread for the game:

• The amount of credit (or debit)
• The amount of credit (or debit)
• The amount of credit (or debit)
• The points scored in each quarter
• The quarter the game is in (i.e., first, second, or third quarter)
• How many minutes have been played in the game so far (i.e., 1st quarter, 2nd quarter, or 3rd quarter)

For example, if you were to bet \$100 on the Arizona Cardinals (CAR) to win the Super Bowl, and the over/under is set at 51.5 points, the total bet amounts to \$105 (\$100 + \$5 for the over/under). Before the game even starts, you’ll need to place a bet of \$5 on the Cardinals to win the Super Bowl. If they do in fact win the Super Bowl, then your total profit (i.e., the amount you made after taking your original bet, in this case, \$105) would be \$100 (\$105 minus \$5). As long as the Cardinals win the Super Bowl, you’ll win your bet. However, if they lose the Super Bowl, then you lose your \$100.

Keep in mind that many books will round down any winning bets to the nearest half-point, so if you’re taking a risk and the Cardinals do in fact win the Super Bowl, you might lose a little money. Still, it’s probably wise to bet on the underdogs in football (i.e., the teams that are typically considered to be worse than their record might indicate). After all, as we know from past history, sometimes underdogs don’t always play fair, and sometimes they even win the big one.

## When Do Bookmakers Set The Spread?

There’s no set rule as to when a sportsbook will set the spread for a game. It really depends on a variety of circumstances. For instance, if a team is playing a game in a couple of hours and the spread hasn’t been set yet, it might make sense to guess that the bookmakers are waiting until closer to the scheduled playing time to set the point-spread. Similarly, if a team is close to half-time and the score is close to balanced, it might make sense to guess that the bookmakers would like to lock in a point-spread as soon as possible because there’s less of a chance that the half-time score will dramatically change the final result of the game. Of course, sometimes the spread will be set well in advance of the game even taking place. Usually this is the case with close games or games that have a lot of importance to one or both of the teams (i.e., conference championship games, divisional fights, etc.).

## Why Are Spreads Set So Widely?

If you’re unfamiliar, the spread in betting is actually measured from a ‘neutral’ point-spread. That is, if you’re betting on a team from the Atlantic Coast, then the spread is usually set to favor North teams. This is because most people in the U.S. are more familiar with the scores of North football teams (i.e., the Bears, the Packers, and the Giants), and so a bookmaker wants to give the impression that these teams are more dominant than they actually are (i.e., the point-spread is frequently wider than it needs to be, for the fear of an upset). This is also why most spread bets are placed on games that are closer to even than one might think, as too many upsets have happened in history, particularly in the early years of the National Football League.

## What Other Factors Influence The Spread?

Besides the team that you’re betting on and the point-spread, a number of other factors influence the final result of a football game. These include the quality of the teams, time of year, and the weather. With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at some of the variables that could drastically change the result of an otherwise close game:

• The teams
• Time of year
• Weather