When you make a wager (bet) on the outcome of a sporting event or political race, the key phrase you’ll want to understand is “spread.” Put simply, the spread is the difference between the point-spread and moneyline odds listed on the betting slip or at the very least, the implied odds if no odds are explicitly given. In other words, the spread is the amount of credit (or debit) you’ll need to place (or collect) if you want to win your bet.
Consider the following example in which you’ve placed a $100 bet on the outcome of the next football game:
- The betting slip lists the line as 3 points (“\-3”) for the home team and “+100” for the visiting team. The implied odds are 300 to 1, so the spread is 100.
- You’ll need to bet $300 to win $100, so the net loss (or gain) will be $200.
In this case, the line and the spread have the same meaning – the visitors are 3 points better than the home team and you’ll need to wager $100 to win $100. However, in cases in which the odds are not listed on the betting slip, the spread takes on a slightly different meaning.
Consider the following example in which you’ve placed a $100 bet on the next baseball game:
- The betting slip lists the line as “Boston Red Sox -170” and does not provide any odds for the game, so the spread is useless in this case. However, you did see the “-170” before the last digit, did you not? When betting on a decimalized number, the spread values are calculated differently:
- You’ll need to bet $170 to win $100, so the net loss (or gain) will be $90.
In this case, the line and the spread have two different meanings. While the line represents the score of the game, the spread is the amount of credit (or debit) you need to wager to win your bet. In other words, the Red Sox are 1.70 points (or units) better than the Tigers and you’ll need to wager $100 to win $100 on them.
How Do You Calculate The Spread?
The spread is typically calculated by the sportsbook immediately after the last buzzer sounds from the game (or event) in which you placed the bet. In most cases, the spread is calculated with the assistance of a chart or tables, but it can also be a matter of simple arithmetic (addition, subtraction, and multiplication). Here’s how to figure out the spread for any given sporting event or political race:
Use The Point-spread To Get The Spread
In cases in which the odds are not listed on the betting slip, you can use the point-spread to determine the spread. In these instances, the point-spread is simply the difference in total points (or size of the margin) between the two teams. In the example above, the point-spread is 3 points.
If you’re uncertain which team will win the game, use the point-spread to determine the “true” line – the amount of points that the visiting team needs to overcome in order to win. For instance, if you think that the Red Sox will defeat the Tigers by a score of 5-3, the true line for the game would be “Boston Red Sox -170” rather than “Boston Red Sox -3” (or vice versa).
This is especially useful in cases in which one team is a heavy favorite to win the game and the other team is a long shot. For example, if you’re backing the Patriots in the NFL and the spread is -3 points, this means that you’ll need to wager $100 to win $100.
Use The Moneyline To Get The Moneyline
If the odds are listed on the betting slip, you can use the moneyline to get the moneyline. This is similar to using the point-spread, but instead of comparing the total points between two teams, you’re comparing the total money that will be bet on one team to the total money that will be bet on the other team. In the example above, the moneyline is “Boston Red Sox” and “Tigers” since there is more money to be bet on the home team (Boston Red Sox).
Consider the following bet on the 2014 World Cup:
- The line is selected at -3.0 and the spread is 100.0
- The payout if you wager $100 is $100 (win $100, net gain of $0)
- The payout if you wager $1000 is $300 (win $300, net gain of $300)
- The implied odds are 300 to 1, so the net gain (or loss) per $100 is 300 to 1, which is the same as saying that you’ll need to bet $300 to make $100.
In this case, you can’t really go wrong with either the point-spread or the moneyline since they both provide you with the same information – the amount of credit (or debit) you need to wager in order to win your bet. Remember, both options are presented on the betting slip or at the very least, the site where you made the bet. Additionally, you should review the site’s rules and regulations since these will sometimes differ from the terms and conditions listed on the betting slip. Also, make sure to cancel any existing wagers prior to placing new ones so that the past odds are not factored into the present calculation of the spread.
The Odds Stabilize After The First Half
Most betting sites will tell you that after the first half (or equivalent fraction) of the game has been played, the odds generally stabilize and start behaving more predictably. For example, after the first half in the NFL, the spread will be more likely to stay within five points of the line (the over/under) for the rest of the game.
Here are some general guidelines for making informed bets on sports:
Make Sure To Study The Favorite Team
If you find that a team you’re backing is a long shot, it’s usually a good idea to study the situation and learn more about why this is the case. This way, you’ll know exactly what kind of wager to place (or cancel) and when to do it. In many cases, the favorite team will be a popular choice and this will make placing a wager easier. However, being a fan of a certain team can also be a detriment to your earnings since larger bets will generally win. Never bet on a team you lack knowledge about or are unfamiliar with. Study the situation and be sure that you’re making the right wager for your own advantage. Remember: if you don’t know what a team is, why are you placing a wager on them?
Study The Opposing Team
If you’re unsure of the likelihood of your team winning, it’s usually a good idea to study the opposite team. If you bet on the Patriots, for example, you’ll need to study the Jets in order to figure out what kind of wager to make. As a general rule, it is usually a good idea to reverse teams when placing wagers since this will make it easier to win (or lose) your bets. For example, in American football, after the first half of the game, it is usually a good idea to switch the home team and visiting team so that the bettor can better determine the spread.