How to Read and Understand a Sports Betting Pointspread

One of the most basic concepts when it comes to betting on sports, especially football and basketball is the pointspread. Even people that do not bet on sports understand what it means when they read or hear that New England is a seven-point favorite against Miami. While reading a pointspread and understanding what they mean is a very basic sports betting concept, there is still more to these numbers than meets the eye.

There is a common misconception that the spread between the favorite and the underdog in any competitive sporting event is a predicted margin of victory. If someone reads that the Patriots are seven-point favorites, they tend to assume that they will win the game by a touchdown.

The true purpose of a pointspread when it is released by any sportsbook is to try and attract an equal amount of betting action on either side of a matchup. If all the early money is flooding in on New England as the favorite with a seven point spread, the betting outlet handling this action is likely to move that betting spread to 7.5 points to try and attract some money towards Miami as the underdog.

In general, the betting public tends to gravitate towards favorites when betting the games regardless of the actual pointspread. This is especially true with high-profile teams such as Dallas and Green Bay in the NFL and Golden State and Cleveland in the NBA. The sportsbooks are well aware of this phenomenon and often times they will adjust the betting spreads accordingly. This, in turn, actually adds some value to the underdog when you consider that a pointspread is nothing more than a handicapping tool that is designed to even out the match.

It is also important to know how to read and understand a sports betting pointspread as it is listed on the betting board at any online sportsbook. Using the example above, here is how that game would be posted on an actual betting board.

#101 Miami Dolphins +7 (-110)

#102 New England Patriots -7 (-110)

The first number in the listing pertains to the order this game appears on a sportsbook’s board. The next NFL game would be listed as #103 for the road team and #104 for the home team. You can think of these numbers in the same way that each horse in a race has its own betting number. The next big takeaway from this listing is that the top team is always the road team (thus the odd number) and the bottom team is playing at home.

The most important takeaway is the actual pointspread, which is seven points in this example. The plus sign is always in front of the spread for the underdog and the minus sign is used to signify the favorite. Next to the pointspread in this example is (-110). This number reflects the actual commission (or juice) that the sportsbook is charging to book this bet. If you wager $100 on New England as the favorite and the Patriots go on to win my more than seven points, you would win $100. If they won by fewer than seven points or lost the game outright, you would owe this betting outlet $110. If New England wins by exactly seven points, the bet is considered to be a PUSH and no money exchanges hands. You only pay the 10 percent commission on losing bets.

Also Read: How to read and understand a moneyline bet

The one variance you might come across in any pointspread listing is the commission owed on a bet. Instead of moving the actual spread for a game, some books will try and direct money one way or the other by adjusting the juice. For example, if there was a (-120) next to the listed pointspread, you would now owe $120 on a losing $100 bet. Sometimes a book will reduce or eliminate the juice all together to move money towards a particular side of a matchup. In this case, you might see (-105) or (+100) next to the pointspread to signify the reduced or zero commission for that bet.

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