A point spread (or line) is a tool used by sportsbooks to attract wagers on both sides of a game. The line is most commonly used in football and basketball games. Because it’s rare for two teams in a pro sports game to be completely evenly-matched, one team will have an advantage, another will be seen as the underdog. The point spread is the handicap offered to the underdog to level the playing field, so to speak.
You may have heard the term “covering the spread” or the phrase “betting against the spread.” This means that if the favorite team wins an event with the point spread taken into account or that the underdog team wins with additional points, they have covered the spread. If the Packers win that game by more than 7 points, they have covered the spread.

*Betting $110 to win $100 obviously is not an even bet. The extra $10 (or 10%) is the sportsbook’s commission, also known as the vigorish or juice. This commission is reduced to 5% with 5Dimes and other reduced juice books, but this commission is found everywhere. You are given this back when you win, but is obviously kept by the house when you lose.
This is a very common occurrence in sports betting and sportsbooks have the full right to shift the spread or odds for any given match prior to it starting. Many factors can influence a change of the spread such as injuries, the number of bets coming in for either team or the weather, to name a few. Depending on the timing of placing the bet, the bettor can also have an advantage or a disadvantage depending on which way the spread has shifted.
The most famous historic example of this is Super Bowl III when the New York Jets stunned the football world and upset the Baltimore Colts. The Jets were 18-point underdogs, still the largest point spread in Super Bowl history. They won 16-7, and people wondered what the oddsmakers had been thinking. Noted oddsmaker Bob Martin was later asked if he was embarrassed making the Colts such huge favorites. He said he was not because in what was then one of the heaviest bet sporting events ever, his number drew a fairly even amount of bets on both sides. This guaranteed a profit for the house.

The spread on offer will refer to the betting firm’s prediction on the range of a final outcome for a particular occurrence in a sports event e.g. the total number of goals to be scored in a football match, the number of runs to be scored by a team in a cricket match or the number of lengths between the winner and second-placed finisher in a horse race.
The NFL spread (betting point spreads is also known as betting ‘sides’ since you are picking one side to win the game) acknowledges that not all teams are created equal. If they were, we wouldn’t need NFL point spreads at all – teams would be so evenly matched that every game was a toss-up (or a pick em in football parlance). Simply picking the winner would be enough of a challenge.
Absolutely. When the lines go up for the NFL, or for the first game of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, there are several days in between the open and the game itself where movement can take place. You’ll find that the betting public tends to pile in on their favorite teams once they get home from work on Friday. You can anticipate these line movements and time your bet accordingly to take advantage.

No. The point spread is not a prediction of the final score, but rather is created to generate an equal amount of betting on both sides. In a perfect world, a sportsbook will get the same amount of money bet on the Rams to cover as they get on the Patriots to cover. If there is an even amount of money bet on both sides, the house is guaranteed to profit because of the juice (more on that below) placed on bets.


Betting on the point spread is completely different from betting on teams to win a game outright. Known as "betting on the moneyline", instead of using points to handicap each side of the wager, the sportsbook will use greater payouts versus the amount risked to reflect their relative perceptions; teams not expected to win (underdogs) pay more, sometimes exponentially, than when betting on the favorite to win when wagering on moneylines.
Like many high scoring sports, NFL wagering is dictated by the point spread. The spread, or line, is a type of side bet that equalizes the chance of winning a wager. The line offered for any given team will be accompanied with a – or + symbol to indicate whether a team is a favorite or an underdog. The example below displays the spread from the Sports Insights archives at the time of kickoff:
“The Compact Negotiation Act, NMSA 11-13A-1, et seq., authorizes the state to negotiate a tribal-state class III gaming compact pursuant to the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (“IGRA”). Thus class III gaming conducted pursuant to a Gaming Compact is lawful in the state. Nothing in the Compact Negotiation Act qualifies or limits the term ‘class III gaming.’ Federal regulations issued under IGRA classify sports betting as class III gaming. 25 C.F.R. § 502.4(c).
The divisional round of the NFL playoffs concludes on Sunday, and we’ll know which four teams have a chance to win Super Bowl LIII after two must-watch games. Tom Brady and the Patriots will try to earn their fourth consecutive AFC Championship berth, but is it finally Philip Rivers’ year? In the NFC, Nick Foles led the Eagles to a stunning upset of the Bears, but can the defending Super Bowl champions take down the No. 1 Saints?
The first number (56.5 in our sample line) is the book’s predicted total score, while the second number (110 in our Giants/Cowboys rivalry game) is how much a punter has to bet in order to win $100. If you were to bet the over-under on this game, you’ll have to decide whether you think the combined score of both teams will be higher or lower than the number put up by the book. Let’s say you bet the over, assuming the game will be a shootout between two talented offenses, you’re hoping that the final score will be anything that totals 57 or more. It could be Dallas 54, New York 3, or any other point combination that adds up to 57 or more and your bet will win. Betting the under means that the two teams cannot score more than 56 points combined, or else you lose your bet.
A. It is unlawful for any person to, directly or indirectly, knowingly accept for a fee, property, salary or reward anything of value from another to be transmitted or delivered for gambling or pari-mutuel wagering on the results of a race, sporting event, contest or other game of skill or chance or any other unknown or contingent future event or occurrence whatsoever.
In the United States, it was previously illegal under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 for states to authorize legal sports betting, hence making it effectively illegal. The states of Delaware, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon—which had pre-existing sports lotteries and sports betting frameworks, were grandfathered and exempted from the effects of the Act.[6]
Spread betting has moved outside the ambit of sport and financial markets (that is, those dealing solely with share, bonds and derivatives), to cover a wide range of markets, such as house prices.[5] By paying attention to the external factors, such as weather and time of day, those who are betting using a point spread can be better prepared when it comes to obtaining a favorable outcome. Additionally, by avoiding the favourite-longshot bias, where the expected returns on bets placed at shorter odds exceed that of bets placed at the longer odds, and not betting with one’s favorite team, but rather with the team that has been shown to be better when playing in a specific weather condition and time of day, the possibility of arriving at a positive outcome is increased.
Even if you’re brand-new to betting on football, you’ve probably seen NFL spreads published in the paper or talked about on TV. The point spread levels the playing field, making betting on either the favorite or the underdog equally attractive. Either the favorite has to win by the margin listed, or the underdog has a buffer to lose the game by that margin, or win it outright.
The odds given on the spread are usually -110 unless otherwise noted. It is not uncommon to see one side of the spread being -105, with the other side being -115. If you don’t see any odds listed for each side of NFL spreads you are supposed to assume the odds are -110 on each. Not sure how to read NFL betting odds? Check out our Sports Betting Odds guide.
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The Patriots are set to take on the Rams in the greatest show on turf and money has been flowing into both sides of the Super Bowl 53 point spread. The Patriots are -3 for SB LIII according to most legal online sportsbooks but some have them listed only at -2.5. The Rams and Patriots are both offensive minded, and capable of scoring quickly; therefore, the winner will likely be whoever scores last in the game (-180). There is still no discussion of whether the roof will be open or closed at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, so weather may or may not play a factor here. Either way, make sure to get in your bet on the spread for Super Bowl 53, whether you choose the Patriots or Rams, before the 6:30 EST kickoff on Sunday, February 3rd.
When you see a moneyline value associated with the point spread, it is the percentage amount you must pay in order to book the bet. Also known as the juice or vig, if you see -11.5 (-115), it means you have to bet $115 to win $100 — a 15 percent commission for the sportsbook. The underdog may see a value such as +11.5 (+105), which means you’ll have to bet $100 to win $105 if your team successfully covers the spread.
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