Point Spread Betting Explained

In this piece, we wanted to explain what point spread betting is and how it works.

Point spread betting is a form of betting on sports where you’re placing wagers on a team winning by a specific number of points or goals. 

A math teacher from Chicago by the name of Charles McNeil invented the concept of the ‘point spread’ in the 1940s, according to the history. He started his own betting business and began offering point spread bets on American football. The bet’s popularity increased over time, and it’s now used by bookies worldwide, including the UK.

By the end of this guide, you’ll know exactly how to place a point spread bet in the sportsbook you ordinarily use. Let’s begin.

What is point spread betting?

Point spread betting is also known as ‘betting the spread’ and ‘handicap betting’, as the bookie has effectively given an advantage to a specific team. Why? In every point spread bet, since you’re betting on a team to win by a particular set of points, a number of points are taken away from the team that has a bigger chance to win and allocated to the underdog. 

This is often necessary for matches where one team is the clear favourite. If you were simply to bet on them winning, the odds would likely be relatively low. Instead, here is how betting odds work for point spread. By giving a point spread, or a handicap to the underdog, the bookie can offer better odds to the punter. In other words, a point spread can even out the odds. 

To make these things clearer, let’s use a simple example.

In a match between Team A and Team B, Team A is the favourite. In a standard win/lose bet, the odds on Team A winning would likely be very poor. However, with a point spread of -4.5 on Team A, the odds on them would be much better because the team would need to win by at least five points for you to win the bet. 

The point spread bet for Team B will be +4.5, which means that the point difference must be four or less. It doesn’t matter if Team B loses, because as long as they lose by four points or less, you will win the bet.

Additionally, you might see spread bets without decimals. However, without the decimals, a push bet is likely. That’s because if the spread bet were -4 and the team ended up winning by exactly four points, a push occurs, and the bet becomes void. You end up getting your stake back, of course. 

This is why best online bookies and punters prefer to use decimal points for point spread bets because they eliminate the chance of a push occurring since no team can win or lose by half a point.

To make more sense of all of this, here is what you’ll get from a typical bookie. 

All in all, by offering these types of handicap wagers, a bookie can give competitive odds to both teams, even if one of them is a clear favourite. As for you, betting can be more fun and exciting, as you stand to win a lot even if you’re betting on the favourite. However, bear in mind that this type of betting requires better knowledge of the sport and the teams. It’s not a good idea for those who are beginners in the world of betting or don’t know much about the sport in question. 

How to bet on the point spread?

So, now that you know how point spread betting works, you need to learn how to make these bets. The technical part is simple and works in the similar ways as other bets (for example totals and moneyline bets) in most sportsbooks today. All you need to do is choose a bet and decide how much money you want to wager.

However, choosing the right bet is not as easy as you think. You need to be a big fan of the sport you’re betting on because point spread betting is better suited for more advanced punters. You can’t merely follow the odds, as they are often not enough. Plus, they don’t reflect the exact chance of something occurring. 

It’s also crucial for you to follow the sport you’re betting on, as things change leading up to a match, and bookies will always make sure to adjust the bets. This means that a point spread might change over time. Many factors influence the spread, and it can easily happen that a player is substituted or injured, the weather changes, the form of one of the team changes, and more, so the bookie is forced to make a change in the bet as well. 

In many instances, the bookie will change the spread because people are betting on only one side. That way, they attract more punters to the opposite side, but that doesn’t mean you need to follow them as this won’t reflect the reality of what can happen in the game itself. 

This can be good or bad, depending on how the spread changed and what your bet is. Advanced punters make sure to follow this change so they can get the best number possible. Naturally, this doesn’t need to be the same with all bookies, and if the spread changes to your disadvantage, you can always choose a different bookie. 

Bear in mind that most bookies will likely offer point spread bets for American football, basketball, hockey, and baseball. Sometimes, you’ll also get bets for tennis and golf, but this is not very common. So, if you follow one or more of these sports, point spread betting could be ideal for you.

It can also happen that there is no spread to bet on because the teams are evenly matched. This is not very common, as there’s almost always enough of a difference between two teams to warrant a spread, but it’s still possible, and you’re likely to run into such occasions if you start betting on the spread more often.


We hope that this guide has given you all the knowledge of point spread betting you’ll ever need. We’ve made sure to explain what this type of bet is and how it works, and we’ve also made sure to tell you how you can put that knowledge into practice. 

All that’s left for you to do is join a great betting site that caters to UK punters and start betting the spread. Good luck and have fun.