In this guide, we will explain what point spread betting is and how it works.

Point Spread Betting For Beginners

Point spread betting is a form of sports betting where you place 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. He started his own betting business and began offering point spread bets on American football. This bet’s popularity increased over time, and it’s now used by bookies worldwide, including in the UK.

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

What is point spread betting?

Point spread betting is also known as “betting the spread” or “handicap betting”, because 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 strategy 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. 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 from bet365

point spread odds

In a Euroleague basketball match between Anadolu Efes and Baskonia, Anadolu Efes is the favourite. In a standard win/lose bet, the odds on Anadolu Efes winning would likely be very poor. In this case, the money line odds are set to only 1.20, meaning that Anadolu Efes is very likely to win the game. Simply put, if you bet £100, you’ll receive £120 in return (1.20 multiplier x £100 wager), which means that you will have made a £20 profit.  

However, with a point spread of -9.5 on Anadolu Efes, the odds on them would be much better, because the team would need to win by at least ten points for you to win the bet. In this case, the odds are set to 1.90, and if you bet £100, you’ll receive £190 in return (1.90 multiplier x £100 wager), earning a £90 profit.  

The point spread bet for Baskonia will be +9.5, which means that the point difference must be 9 or less. If you bet £100 on Baskonia, it doesn’t matter if Baskonia loses, because as long as they lose by nine points or less, you will win the bet of £190 (£90 profit).

Additionally, you might see spread bets without decimals. Take a look at this example from MansionBet.

spread bets without decimals

In this NBA basketball match between the NY Knicks and the GS Warriors, the spread bet is set to -5. This is a similar scenario to our prior example. The Warriors would need to win by at least six points for you to win the betting slip. Again, if you bet £100 on Warriors, you’ll receive £190 in return (1.90 multiplier x £100 wager), and earn yourself a £90 profit.

However, without the decimals, a push bet is likely. If either team ends up winning by exactly five points, a push occurs, and the bet becomes void. You will get your stake back, of course. 

This is why most 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 information, here is what you would receive from a typical bookie such as10bet betting site (read 10bet Review):. 

types of handicap wagers

All in all, by offering these types of handicap wagers that include spread, money line and totals, a bookie can provide 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 who don’t know much about the sport in question. 

How to bet on the point spread?

Now that you understand how point spread betting works, you need to learn how to make these bets. The technical part is simple and works in the same way as all other 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 that 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 to guide you. Plus, the odds don’t reflect the specific chance of something occurring. 

It’s also crucial for you to follow the sport that you’re betting on, as things can 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 teams change, and more, so that 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. However, that doesn’t mean that 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 has changed and what your bet is. Advanced punters make sure to follow any changes so that 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, and baseball, as well as in a hockey game, as our example from Unibet shows.

unibet hockey odds

Sometimes, you’ll also have opportunities for bets for tennis and golf, but this is not very common. If you follow one or more of the sports mentioned above, point spread betting could be ideal for you.

Sometimes, there is no spread to bet on because the teams are evenly matched. This is not a very common occurrence, 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 of the knowledge about point spread betting that you’ll ever need. We’ve made sure to explain what this type of bet is and how it works. We’ve also made sure to share with you how you can put this knowledge into practice. 

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