What Does Spread Mean in Betting?

When it comes to sports betting, most people think of point spreads and over-under betting. However, there is another important aspect of betting that many people don’t bother to research: spread. What is spread, and how is it used in betting? Let’s discuss.

What Is Spread?

To put it simply, spread is the difference between the highest- and lowest-scoring teams in a particular game. For example, in a recent game between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, the game score was 28-23 in favor of the Cowboys. The spread, therefore, is +1.0. A team that covers the spread wins, and a team that misses by more than the spread loses. In the above example, the Giants would have to win by more than 1.0 point to cover the spread. The Cowboys, on the other hand, only have to cover by 1.0 point to win.

Keep in mind: the higher the spread, the more likely a team will struggle to cover the spread. This is because there is more room for error. If one team scores 21 points and the other scores 16 points, there is a 2-point spread. If there is a 3-point spread, there is essentially no chance of the underdogs covering the spread, because there is a chance they will lose by more than 3 points. This is also the case if there is a 10-point spread. In a nutshell, the higher the spread, the harder it is for underdogs to cover it.

When Is Spread Used In Betting?

There are several reasons why you would want to use spread in your betting. For example, you may want to bet on whether a team will cover or miss the spread in a particular game. Additionally, you may want to bet on whether a team will score more or less than the spread in a game. Using spread in this manner is known as parlaying. Another advantage to using spread is that you do not have to play against the team with the worst odds. Instead, you are playing against the spread, which is always a more favorable opponent. You may also want to use spread to value the over/under amount for a game. For example, you may want to bet $10 on a game against the spread, with the bet being that the total score will be between 4.5 and 7.5 points. In the event of a tie, you would win or lose based on the total number of points scored. This is different from playing against the team with the worst odds, because in the event of a tie the worst odds team would win.

How Is Spread Calculated?

When you see a game score with a spread next to it, the information below will appear:

  • Home Spread
  • Away Spread
  • Half Time Line
  • Total

As mentioned above, the spread is simply the difference in points between the two teams. In the event of a tie (which does happen from time to time in sports), neither team wins or loses. Instead, there is a standoff — the game is a tie! In the event of a tie, the points scored by each team are added together, and the team with the most points wins. So, in the example above, if the Cowboys and Giants were tied at 21 after the first half, the total would be 42, and the Cowboys would win because they have more points.

What About The Vegas Odds?

The terms used in betting, such as spread and odds, are often confusing. You might look at a listing of odds for a particular game, and see a team that you like at 3.5, and assume that they must be an underdog. However, they might not be! If you use Vegas odds, you might discover that the favorite is at 2.0, and the underdog is at 3.5. In this case, the favorite is actually more favored to win than the 3.5 odds would have you believe!

Vegas odds are difficult to understand, because they are meant to be used in combination with other types of bets, such as spreads. To make matters more complicated, not all books combine the two, so you might have to check with the casino to find out what system they are using. Regardless, keep in mind that the higher the Vegas odds, the more likely it is that the favorite will cover the spread — so don’t be fooled by low odds!


Let’s say you like the Indianapolis Colts, and you want to bet $100 on them to win against the New England Patriots. The odds of the Patriots to win are 12/1, and you have to make a $100 bet to win $1,000. You might assume you are better off taking the Patriots, even though they are an underdog, simply because they are at a lower odds than the Colts. However, the spread between the two teams is only 3 points, so the Patriots are in fact more favored to win. After the first quarter, the score is Patriots 21, Colts 17. Your $100 bet would be worth $111.11 based on the final score.

To be clear, this is not meant to be a recommendation to bet on the Patriots, or any other team for that matter. It is simply an example of how spread and odds can interact to give you an advantage of sorts in betting.

What About Bookmaker Odds?

Bookmakers offer odds for just about every sporting event, and many will also offer odds on almost every team in a particular sport. This makes it even more convenient for users who want to bet on their favorite team, because all they have to do is search for their team in the list of odds, and click on the green button to see whether they want to bet on that team to win or lose.

Bookmaker odds are typically more favorable to the underdog, and less favorable to the favorite. It is simply a matter of public perception that the underdog will struggle to cover the spread, so in most cases it is. However, it is important to keep in mind that like Vegas odds, bookmaker odds can be deceivingly low, especially if you are looking at them on their own.

In Summary

To recap, if you are wondering whether or not to bet on your favorite team, there are several aspects of betting that you should consider. First off, are you playing against the spread or playing against the team with the worst odds? Second, is the bookmaker offering odds on your team or on the teams against you? Third, is the team you are betting on more or less favored to win than the odds would have you believe? Last but not least, does the spread value the over/under bet you are making? If you are answering yes to all of the above questions, then you might be better off betting on your favorite team, as long as you do your research first and work with a reputable sports betting site.