What is a Point Spread?
A point spread wager allows you to bet on the outcome of a game with a sportsbook like BetMGM North Carolina while taking into account which team is the favorite and which is the underdog. Rather than betting on the overall outcome of a game, you can place spread bets on either the favorite or the underdog to "cover the spread". For a favorite to cover the spread, they must win by more than the point spread total. For an underdog, they must either lose by less than the point spread total, or win.
For example, let's say that the Carolina Panthers are a 3-point favorite against the Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday. You will see a point spread line that looks something like Panthers -3 Chiefs +3. If you bet on the Panthers to cover the spread, they will need to win by more than 3 points for your bet to cash in. If you bet on the Chiefs, they will need to lose by less than three points, or win outright.
How Does Point Spread Work?
The point spread exists to even out the betting odds for the favorite and underdog. If one team is heavily favored, the spread will get larger, instead of the odds getting longer for the underdog and shorter for the favorite. The point spread has less to do with who wins the game outright and more to do with the final score.
Usually, the odds for a point spread are -110, meaning you'll need to place a $110 bet to win $100 with a sportsbook like Caesars Sportsbook North Carolina.
How to Read a Point Spread
There are multiple aspects to point spread lines that are each important to understanding the overall wager. You need to understand the spread, the favorite, and the underdog if you want to understand spread betting.
The spread tells you which team is the favorite and what the expected margin of victory is between the two teams. If one team is favored by about 5 points, you might see a +5 next to the underdog and a -5 next to the favorite. Sometimes the spread includes a half-point like 4.5 or -4.5. The point spread will vary based on how big of an underdog/favorite there is, and what sport is being played. For example, a common NFL point spread betting line would have a 3 or 7-point spread, while an NHL game might have a 0.5 or 1-point spread.
The underdog is the team that is predicted to lose the game. You will see a positive number next to the underdog when reading a point spread line. If you want to place a bet on the underdog, they will need to either win the game, or lose by less than the spread amount (the number next to them when reading the line).
The favorite is the team that is projected to win. You'll see a negative number next to the favorite, indicating the number of points they are projected to win by. There is only one way to win a point spread wager when betting on the favorite, and that is for the team to win by more than the spread total.
Even or Pick ‘Em
If two teams are so evenly matched that there is no favorite or underdog, you might see "pick 'em", "PK", or "evens" next to the line for the game. These games usually have odds of around -110 for each team, but there will be no spread betting option. Evens are very uncommon in high-scoring sports like NFL or NBA games, but quite common in low-scoring sports like hockey and soccer.
Potential Outcomes of Point Spread Betting
You might be surprised to know that there are more than two potential outcomes when it comes to point-spread betting. Your bet can win, lose, or, in some instances, "push". We'll break down what each of these scenarios looks like below.
Your point spread bet wins when the team you choose to cover the spread does so. If you bet on the favorite, they need to win by more than the spread. If you bet on the underdog, they need to lose by less than the spread, or win. For example, let's say you place a College Football spread bet on the NC Tar Heels against Appalachian State. Since the Tar Heels are 7-point favorites, they'll need to win the game by more than 7 points for your bet to cash in.
Your point spread bet will lose if the team you wager on fails to cover the spread. If betting on the favorite, this means that they either lose the game outright or win by a margin of victory that is less than the spread amount. If betting on the underdog, this means that they lose by a larger margin than the spread. Sticking with the above example, let's say you bet on the Tar Heels but they only win by 6. Even though they one, your bet will lose since the spread was 7 and they failed to cover.
A push happens when the final score reflects the spread exactly. Let's say that, using the same example again, the Tar Heels win by exactly 7 points. Since they were 7-point favorites, this results in neither a win nor a loss for those betting on either team. Instead, those who bet the spread on this game will have their original wager refunded. This is called a "push".
Terms Points Spread Bettors Need to Know
Like most aspects of sports betting, point spreads have some commonly used lingo that is important to know. Find definitions for common terms related to spread bets below.
Against the Spread (ATS)
"Against the spread" is a term you'll hear get thrown around a lot in relation to point spreads. You may also see it abbreviated as "ATS". In summary, betting against the spread with a sportsbook like DraftKings North Carolina means betting on the underdog in a spread, whereas betting "with the spread" refers to betting on the favorite. You may also see the term used to reference a team's record regarding the point spread. For example, "the Kansas City Chiefs are 3-0 against the spread this year." That simply means that in the three games the Chiefs have played, they have covered the spread in each game, whether or not they actually won the game outright.
The vig is short for vigorish, and this term can be used interchangeably with "juice". The vig is simply the way that sports betting apps and sites tweak the odds in their favor to remain profitable. When it comes to point spreads, the odds for either side tend to be -110, which means you must bet $110 to win $100. In this case, the 10 is the vig: The sportsbook is essentially assuming that people will bet on the favorite and underdog roughly an equal amount of times, meaning roughly half the bets will win and the sportsbook will make about a 10% profit on the market.
The hook is present in many point spread bets, and is represented by the half-point you see in the game's line at sportsbooks like FanDuel North Carolina. The half-point eliminates the chance for a push when betting the spread on this game, because it is impossible for a team to win or lose by exactly half a point. Thus, even if the game's margin of victory is one of the numbers on either side of the fraction, there will be a team that covers the spread and one that does not.
Key Numbers in an NFL Point Spread
People planning to bet the spread on an NFL game should be aware of some critical numbers that indicate common margins of victory in these matchups. In the NFL, the most common margin of victory is three points at 14% of games, followed by seven points at 9% of games, and finally, six and ten which both occur in roughly 6% of games. If you can find lines for NFL games with a spread of 2.5 or 3.5 points rather than exactly 3, your bet will likely have a higher chance of winning and a lower chance of pushing.
Point Spread vs Moneyline
Both the point spread and moneyline are markets that revolve around the final score of a given competition. Although these two bet types are quite different, they are also closely related.
When one team is highly favored, the point spread gets larger, while the moneyline betting odds for the underdog get longer and the odds for the favorite get smaller. This means that people placing a moneyline wager on a heavily favored team will have to bet a lot of money to win a small amount. Meanwhile, the odds for the spread don't change in a lopsided matchup, but the spread itself gets larger.
How to Bet Point Spread in North Carolina
Point spreads can provide an excellent opportunity for bettors looking to make money wagering on various sporting events. In order to be successful betting the spread, you should follow the following tips used by professional bettors:
Use Multiple Betting Sites
It doesn't matter what type of sports betting you are doing; shopping around for the best lines is always critical to a successful strategy. You can set up an account with multiple betting sites and go line shopping for the best lines and most favorable spread before placing your bet. For example, if there is a close matchup this weekend between two NFL teams, you might find that one betting site's lines include a spread of 3.5, while another site has a spread of 3. You'll likely want to choose the spread with a hook, so that if the margin of victory ends up being 3, you can still have a winning bet.
Take Advantage of North Carolina Sports Betting Promotions
All major online sportsbooks in North Carolina offer sports betting promotions that can add value in the form of odds boosts, bonus bets, or "risk-free bets." Most sportsbooks run promotions for new users as well as for sports bettors who have been with the platform for a while. It's always worth checking what promotions are available before placing a wager. Promotions might enhance betting odds or increase your winnings if your bet hits.
Understand Home-Field Advantage
Understanding the advantage held by the home team is critical for people who are placing spread bets on their favorite games. The significance of home-field advantage varies from game to game and even from team to team. It is also stronger in some sports than in others. Make sure you are up to date on how a game might be affected by where it is being played, before you place your bet.
Understand Key Numbers
Certain sports, in particular football, have some key numbers that refer to margins of victory. These numbers are critical for bettors to understand, since point spread betting depends on how many points a team wins by. Three points and seven points are the two most common margins in professional football. Understanding how common each number of points is can make the difference between a winning and losing bet.
Monitor the Over/Under
The over/under, also called "totals" lines, is a market that allows people to bet on the total number of points that will be scored between two teams in a game. Monitoring the over/under market is an important strategy employed by experienced bettors. A larger over/under will usually correlate to a positive point spread change. In other words, if a game is likely to be high scoring according to the over/under, it is more likely that there will be a large margin of victory, especially if two teams are not very evenly matched.
Consider the Moneyline
The moneyline for each game gives each team's odds of being the straight-up winner. You can learn to read these odds to determine whether the spread is more favorable for one team or another. Point spreads change based on how big of a favorite and underdog a game has, so checking the moneyline odds can give you useful information regarding your point spread bet.
Start Point Spread Betting in North Carolina
Point spread betting can be one of the most lucrative and engaging methods of sports betting if you follow some basic guidelines and take your time to do things right. Although moneyline bets are a bit more straightforward, point spread betting is a more nuanced way of wagering on the final score of a game, without only focusing on who will win.
Point spread odds are even for the favorite and underdog, which can make it more fun to wager on games that are likely to be a blowout. Points spreads also offer better odds for people who want to wager on the favorite in an uneven matchup without needing to bet a huge amount of money to earn significant winnings.
Point Spread North Carolina FAQs
The point spread gives information on how many points one team is likely to beat another team by. If there is no favorite or underdog and a competition is evenly matched, there will be no spread.
The spread depicts the likely number of points that one team will beat their opponent by. Betting on the spread is all about deciding whether or not the underdog is likely to lose by less points than is indicated by the spread.
If you see -7 next to a team's line, it means that they are favorites to win the game by seven points. If you place a spread bet on this team and they win by less than seven points, your bet will lose.
If you see lines for a football game where one team has -7 next to their name, it means that they are projected to win the game by seven points. If you bet on them and they win by fewer points or lose, your bet will lose.
A spread line with -3.5 next to a team's name means that they are favored to win the game by 3.5 points. The half point is called the hook, and this functions to make sure that no spread bets can result in a tie, or "push".
Adam Wernham has over eight years of professional copywriting experience. Growing up in the Bay Area, Adam developed strong ties to local teams including the Giants, Warriors, and 49ers. His passion for sports and writing make him a strong voice on all things sports betting and a great asset to the BetCarolina.com staff.