What is Spread When Betting?

When someone decides to place a bet on sports, the lines are usually fairly easy to understand. The bookmaker will offer odds on whether a certain team will beat another team. If you’re placing a bet on football, the lines will be more complicated but won’t change that much. You’ll typically see +400 on the Browns and -300 on the Steelers but those are just two examples.

The way sports betting lines are set up can be a little confusing. What is spread when betting?

The answer is a little more complicated than you’d probably think, but when you break it down, it’s not really that difficult to understand. The first step is to figure out what kind of spread you’re looking at. There are four types of spread which could come up in a football betting scenario.

Money Line

This is the simplest kind of spread and the most common one as well. It’s also the kind of spread that most people are familiar with when they first get into sports betting. In a money line bet, you’re simply betting on the favorite to win. The favorite is the team you think will win the game and the bookmaker is offering those odds. In the United States, most sportsbooks will list NFL teams along with College Football and Major League Baseball teams. In the UK, you might see Premier League teams listed as well.

Teams are assigned a “spread” of points when they play against each other. For example, the New York Giants are a popular football team in the US and they’ve been assigned a spread of 12 points against the New York Jets. The idea is that the bookmaker wants to create an even playing field by giving the teams the same number of points to work with. When a football game is over, the score of the game is posted along with the point spread and your winnings are based on whether or not the points you bet on your team beating the spread won or lost.

Point Spread

This is the most basic type of spread and it’s also the one that you’ll see most often in the news when a big college or professional football game breaks out. A point spread can be simply defined as the difference in points between two teams that are playing. For example, the Houston Texans are a professional football team and they’re playing against the New England Patriots. The Texans are a popular team and they’re currently 3.5 points underdogs against the Patriots.

When a point spread is used for NFL football (in the United States), the public can get excited about large point spreads as they are more common than you might think. In the last 20 seasons, there have been only five games where the spread was under 10 points. The most common type of point spread is +10 or -10, but there have been times where the spread was significantly higher or lower than that. In 2014, the New Orleans Saints upset the New England Patriots 17-16 and the spread at the time was 40 points.

Double/Quarter/Half-Point Spreads

These are simply defined as splits of the point spread. A double point spread is twice as much as the normal point spread. A quarter point spread is 1/4th of the normal point spread and a half point spread is 1/2 of the normal point spread. These types of spreads are often used in conjunction with money line betting when a team is a popular choice but is a little bit more complicated to compute. It’s not always easy to find information regarding these types of spreads but they can be worth checking out when they’re available.

Time Spread

This is the opposite of a money line bet in that you’re not choosing a favorite but instead you’re deciding which game will start first. The time spread can be a bit more complicated to understand but it’s similar to picking a winner of the University of Alabama vs the University of Georgia football game. The problem with time spread betting is that there’s usually a time delay before the game starts so you don’t know exactly what the spread will be at the time the game starts. If you’re looking for an easy way to make some money, time spreads are usually not that good of an investment to make.

Time spreads are often used in conjunction with money line bets and you’ll sometimes even see them advertised together. However, you can also use them alone when you want to bet on when a certain game will start. You just have to use a little bit of common sense here. For example, when there’s a conflict regarding a college football game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Alabama Crimson Tide, the starting time of the Georgia game is favored as it will be the first game on TV and fans want to see their favorite team play first. Therefore, when there’s a conflict, time spread bets generally go toward the team that will play first. In 2015, the Kansas City Chiefs played the San Diego Chargers on December 17th and the Chiefs were 6.5 point underdogs according to the spread at the time. The game started at 3:00 pm Mountain Time and the Chiefs won 13-10 as a result of Tyreek Hill’s 80-yard touchdown catch which was the first TD reception of his career. This was a huge upset as the Chiefs were picked to win by most sportsbooks.


These are simply defined as bets placed on whether or not a team will score more points than the bookmaker is willing to lose on that team. For example, the San Francisco 49ers are a football team and they’ve been assigned an over/under of 28 points to beat this season. The over/under is simply the amount of points the team is allowed to score plus the points the bookmaker is willing to lose on that team. You’ll sometimes see these types of bets placed on events like March Madness where a team is involved. An over/under is generally accepted by most sportsbooks but money line bets are also common here as well.

The advantage of an over/under bet is that you know exactly what you’re getting into. There are no hard feelings if your team doesn’t score enough points to make up for the points the bookmaker is risking. You might not like losing money on a team you like but an over/under bet usually works out better because there’s no chance of you being wrong. When there is a big game between two evenly matched teams and the spread is somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 points, this type of bet can be appealing as it’s basically a 50/50 shot at winning or losing. For example, in the 2014 NFL season, there were 11 games where the spread was 40 or more points and 10 of those games were won by the team that scored less points than predicted. Therefore, when betting on over/under bets it’s important to look at the entire roster of a team before making your choice as there are many cases where a team is completely unproven and the numbers might not represent their true ability. Just because a team is ranked highly in the preseason doesn’t mean they will reach their full potential come game day. Just look at the New England Patriots in the 2015 season as they were ranked #1 in the preseason but were completely ineffective for the first month and a half of the season before Tom Brady figured it out and started playing well. The team that scores more points than the over/under is the team that wins the bet regardless of whether or not they’re the favorite.

More Than One Team

This is where it gets a little bit complicated, but if you’re used to dealing with odds in general, it won’t be very difficult to understand. When someone decides to bet on more than one team, the bookmaker will typically offer odds on whether or not both teams will win. It would be similar to betting on the NFL championship game as that’s often referred to as a “prop” bet. This type of bet is also known as a “parlay” bet in some parts of the world (such as the UK) and there are ways to make money off parlay bets that don’t require you to risk as much as you would if you were to bet on just one team. Just know that these types of bets are a little more complicated and if you want to make money off them, you’ll need to be sure that you’re skilled at calculating the odds of multiple teams winning or losing simultaneously.