Point Spread Betting Guide

March 31, 2020
Point spread

Here is what you need to know about point spread. When you dive into a world of sports betting, you may get puzzled by so many markets and opportunities to bet on different outcomes. That kind of diversity may be a bit too much for a novice sports bettor.

To skip those rookie mistakes, we at Game Advisers portal decided to write several in-depth guides. And they are about the most common betting markets that you can see at sportsbooks. 

Doing that, we will try to educate our readers and to help them learn about every popular betting market. 

History of Point Spread

Before the invention of the point spread, sports bettors had only one choice when they wanted to bet on a specific game. Every bookie offered money line bets, and there were only two possible outcomes: favorite win or underdog win. That business system was bad both for bettors and bookies. Bookies were at the risk of losing a big chunk of money if underdog would win the game. 

The solution came in the 1940s when the this betting was invented. The inventor was bookmaker Charles McNeil. He took some ideas from other professional bettors and bookmakers and created this trendy betting market. The invention of it ensured that bookies would make a profit in the long run.

Also, bookies were able to offer more games. Because before this market was implemented, bookies used to provide only the games where teams were evenly matched.

Shortly after it was invented, it became one of the most popular betting markets. Because it offered a wide choice of possibilities to the bettors. Point Spread betting market gives the flexibility to the bettors to make the best possible decisions when they choose the bet. 

What is Point Spread?

Today, the point spread or ATS is the most popular betting market in the US. Despite the fact that this market is offered by almost any book in the world. It isn’t easy to understand the rules, and it takes a bit of time to understand how it works. 

In the games where teams are not evenly matched, bookies set it so that every team in the game has an almost 50% chance of winning the game. That way, sportsbooks try to ensure that bettors will equally play on both sides of the spread. 

In the point spread betting we have two types of teams: 

  • The team that is expected to win that is called a favorite, and that team always has a minus spread. The minus spread is the number of points that the favorite team needs to cover to win the bet. 
  • The team that is considered to be an underdog. The underdog always holds a plus point spread. That means that the underdog team can lose by a certain amount of points and still bet to be “in green.”

This is how some of the point spreads look in the most popular US sports. 


In the NFL, it is the extremely popular betting market. The teams get an advantage or disadvantage any given Sunday. 

Example of NFL Point Spread:

New England Patriots (-4.5) 1.95

Miami Dolphins (+4.5) 1.95

In this example, New England Patriots are set as -4.5 favorite. And that means they need to win the game against the Miami Dolphins by 5 points or more. The bettors who took this spread will win the bet if Patriots win by five points or more.

On the other hand, Miami is set as a +4.5 point underdog. And that means that if they win the game or lose up to 4 points, bettors who backed +4.5 point spread will win the bet. If they lose by 5 points or more, bettors who backed +4.5 point spread will lose the bet. 

So if New England wins 24-21, they won by 3 points difference! and they didn’t cover the spread, but Miami has covered the spread as they stayed within those 4.5 points. 

No matter if it is college football point spread or super bowl, rules are the same as in the NFL point spread. 


In basketball it works the same way as in the football. In the NBA, there are always teams that are much stronger than the others, and that’s why the NBA point spread betting is a prevalent market. We will also explain it on the next example:

GS Warriors -15 (1.95)

Boston Celtics +15 (1.95)

Warriors are set as -15 point favorites in this game, and to cover the spread, they need to win by more than 15 points difference. Celtics are +15 points underdogs, so if they win or lose by 14 points or less, they will cover the spread. 

Here we also have an interesting situation. If Warriors win this game by exactly 15 points difference, we will have a PUSH bet. Both bettors that played -15 point spread or +15 point spread will have their stakes back. 

This is an example for NBA point spread, and it is the same with all basketball games and competitions, like college basketball or European basketball. 

⚾MLB and ?NHL

In professional baseball and hockey, sportsbooks offer the point spread betting, but in those two sports, this market isn’t such a popular market among bettors. The main reason for that is the fact that most of the games finish with a low number of goals (runs), so the bettors prefer the moneyline market in MLB and NHL. 

Still, if you want to bet on point spread market in those sports, you will be able to do that with the same rules as in NFL and NBA games. 

At the end

Hope we managed to explain to you what is a point spread betting in US sports. It is crucial to understand how it works as there will be a significant number of opportunities to beat the spread and to make some decent money betting on NFL, NCAAF, NBA, and NCAAB. Now it’s your turn to take what you’ve learned in this article, blend it with your experience, predictions, and research, and start winning against the sportsbooks for yourself. 


What does point favorite mean?

If some team is -5.5 favorite, it means that they would need to win the game by 6 points or more to win the bet.

What does a 4-fold bet mean?

If you read out comprehensive sports betting glossary (link towards betting glossary), then you saw that a 4-fold accumulator is one bet with four selections. If all four selections are correct, then you will win the bet.  

What is a reverse line move?

Reverse line move (or simply RLM) refers to a line or odds movement that is not logical. For example, many bettors play on the favorite, but the odds are still getting bigger and bigger.