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When it comes to betting on sports, one of the most important concepts a bettor needs to understand is that of a point spread. Also known as the “line” (short for betting line), the point spread indicates by how many points (or runs/goals), that a team needs to win by for that bet to pay out. If the point spread is the Patriots -6.5 versus the Bills, that means they have to beat the Bills by a minimum of seven points for them to win against the spread (ATS). When tracking teams throughout the season, their ATS record is an indication of their record when using the final point spread. Often times, a half-point is added to the point spread to prevent ties, also known as “pushes,” where neither the bettor or sportsbook win and the money bet is simply refunded.
Let’s take a look at a few other key concepts when it comes to point spreads.
How Is The Point Spread Created?
Though there is no exact published formula to how a point spread is created, there are a few common themes that oddsmakers use when coming up with point spreads through each game in a season. In general, oddsmakers make what are known as Power Ratings for each league, and these rank every team and assign them a point total. These are then adjusted after each week of play based on results.
To take it a layer further, each team’s roster is examined, and a value is assigned to each player, with the team’s rating assuming every player on the roster will be available. By also rating each player, lines can be adjusted when certain players are expected to miss time, hence the importance of the injury report and the focus that bettors and bookmakers place on them each and every day.
Point spreads also generally have baked in a certain amount of points for home teams. In football, for example, a general rule of thumb is that the home team will have three points baked into their side of the line by default, whereas neutral field games have zero points baked in for either side.
A term you will hear quite often amongst more serious bettors is the concept of “shopping lines.” While point spreads are often the same across different sportsbooks, very often, you will see different sportsbooks posting different lines. If you are looking to bet a certain team, it’s always a good idea to look at the different sportsbooks you use to see if one offers a more favorable line for that team than the others.
If you are betting on the underdog, for example, you’ll want to ensure you get as many points as possible so that when the game begins, you have the biggest advantage that you possibly can. In a sport like football, there are key numbers that the game often lands on, such as three (a field goal) or seven (a touchdown). In this case, it’s always a good idea to look around at different lines to be on the right side of those key numbers, especially if the point spread is hovering around a number that could make or break your bet, such as three or seven.
While the point spread is often posted well in advance of a given event, many times, you’ll see that line move as the game approaches. In football, for example, oddsmakers often post a point spread a full one week before the game kicks off. They do this to allow for professional bettors to bet into those lines, which allows them to adjust accordingly.
That’s why the sportsbooks will take lower limit bets when a spread is first posted, which allows them to use the smartest bettors’ opinions to their advantage, and they then adjust the line for the rest of the public to bet into. In an ideal world, sportsbooks want near equal action on both sides so that they can just collect the “vig,” or added cost to place a bet that bettors must pay.