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What Is The Point Spread And How Does It Work?

by June 25, 2019

The point spread is one of the most popular sports betting options when it comes to betting on college football and the NFL. A point spread is a figure set by the oddsmakers that really serves as a margin of victory. The team you bet on has to ‘cover’ or beat that margin for you to win your bet.

If you’re new to this, let’s take a closer look at what it is and how it works.

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Explaining The Point Spread

The easiest way to better understand the point spread is by using an example. Let’s look at a potential matchup between the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs:

Betting Line

  • Oakland Raiders +4.5
  • Kansas City Chiefs -4.5

The first thing you’ll want to notice is either the ‘+’ or ‘-‘ sign. The minus sign denotes that that team has to win by more than that margin while the plus sign indicates that the other team can lose by that margin, or win the game, and they cover the spread in either case.

Following this example, the Chiefs are at -4.5. This means that in order to win on the point spread or cover, Kansas City would need to win the game by five points or more. On the other side of the equation, Oakland is listed as a 4.5-point underdog. This means that as long as the Raiders either win outright or lose by four, three, two or one point, they will cover the spread.

When it comes to the point spread, the team that has the minus sign is laying points and is always the favorite. On the other hand, the team that has the plus sign and is getting points is the underdog.

How To Calculate Winnings

Typically, on the point spread, both teams are assigned both a point spread number and a money line value. Now that you know what the point spread is, we’ll explain how to calculate the payout.

When there’s a minus sign in front of those odds, it suggest the amount of money you need to bet to win $100. In this case, it would be risking $110 to win $100.

If you place a $110 bet on the Chiefs at -4.5 and they win by five or more, you will get your original $110 back along with another $100 in winnings for a total of $210. If you risk $110 on the losing side, then you lose that amount.

The Point Spread Push Explained

In addition to wins and losses, the third potential point spread outcome is the “Push.” A push is any instance when the final margin of victory is the exact same as the point spread. For example, if the Chiefs were listed at -5 in the example that we used above and then beat Oakland 32-27, this would be considered a push.

Usually, the oddsmakers try to use half-points so that we don’t end up in a tie, but there are many lines throughout the week that land on whole numbers. If you push, you get your original stake back.

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Dave Golokhov is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Dave, check out his archive and follow him @davegolokhov.

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