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Point Spread: How point spread works, betting the spread explained


 The point spread is the most popular form of sports betting odds, yet the novice bettor struggles the hardest with understanding how the point spread works. In this article we will explain to our readers, in the most basic terms and with examples, how the point spread works, how to bet the spread and shed some extra light on terms such as "ATS" and "cover the spread". For our examples we would use football as the sport of choice, but keep in mind that the point spread is a betting option with many other sports.

 Let's begin with a rudimentary explanation of what is point spread. In its simplest form, the point spread is a scoring handicap given to one of the teams, i.e. a certain amount of extra points are given to one team and taken from the other. How does the point spread work? Pretty simple, actually, but best learned through example:

Point spread picture

 Let's take the current point spread at the popular sportsbook Bookmaker, where the point spread on the Steelers vs Broncos game is currently posted as "-9" Steelers and "+9" Broncos. What this means is that the Broncos would be given extra 9 points (plus sign in front of the number) at the end of the game by the bookmaker and if after adding the extra 9 points the final result favors Denver - the Broncos have covered the spread and this is what "cover the spread" means, i.e. the point spread bet is a winner. The opposite is true with the Steelers - the point spread posted by the sportsbook takes away 9 points from the Steelers final score (hence the minus sign in front of the spread) and in order for them to cover the spread and you to win the bet, Pittsburgh must win the game by more than 9 points.

Another excellent guide that would teach you what it means to cover the spread can be found by following the link. Not only will you get a different perspective on how the spread works, but you will also learn more about how to bet the spread and what to look for and watch out for when doing so.

 Let's say that the final score if Steelers 31 - Broncos 27. In this case the Steelers fail to cover the spread, since the point spread on Pittsburgh was -9, and 31-9=22, which is less than the Broncos' 27 points. On the other side, Denver does cover the spread, since the extra 9 point spread points are enough for them to beat the Steelers. And this is how betting the spread works. One can choose to bet the spread on either team, i.e. you can bet that the Steelers will cover the spread or bet on Denver to cover the point spread. As you can see from the above example, they are not the same thing, each bet could have a different outcome.

 And what if the point spread leads to a draw? Using the same example from before, what if the final score is Pittsburgh 31 - Denver 22 and you wagered on the Broncos to cover the spread? The final points of Denver 22 plus the 9 point spread will result in a 31-31 draw between the teams. This is called "no action" and results in the sportsbook giving you back the wager you have made, i.e. you neither win or lose money on the bet. But what would happen if the point spread underdog wins the game outright? Naturally you would win the bet, since the team would be a winner even without the extra points added.

 As you can see, betting the spread and understanding how the point spread works is very simple. The plus sign in front of the point spread number means that the team will be given the handicap of those points at the end of the game, while the minus sign means that this number of points would be taken from the team from their final score. The latter is also called "ATS", which is an acronym for "against the spread". In the above example, the Steelers are listed with -9 points spread, i.e. they are 9 against the spread or the ATS on the Steelers is nine points.

 Simply put, when betting the spread one should look at the numbers and see if the etra points given or taken from each team would make a difference in the final result. If you think that Team A would still beat Team B even with the point spread number taken away from their final score, then you should bet the spread on Team A. The opposite is true if you think that Team B will win or lose by a margin enough to be covered by their point spread.

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