Sports Betting Basics: What is a Point Spread?

Point spreading is a term used in sports betting. Let us look at sports betting and how the point spread works.

In sports betting, there are always two teams or players competing against each other per match. Because competitors are rarely equal, the chances of winning often favor one over the other. This competitor, the better of the two, is known as the "favorite," and the opposite team or player is called the "underdog."

Now if you were a bettor, where would you put your money? Common sense will tell you to wager on the favorite. And this is what happens. Most people just bet on the favored team or player, leaving only a few risk-takers to gamble on the underdog.

To level the sports betting field and make it more exciting, the point spread was invented. A point spread is a handicap given to the underdog to even things out for bettors. With a point spread, the favored selection must not only win the match, they must also win by at least a certain number of points. If the favorite wins the match but with a lesser point lead than is required, they win the match - yet the bettors who picked them will lose.

For example, let us say that Team A is expected to beat Team B in a basketball final. We want to Team A to win by at least 8 points. The point spread will read thus:

Team A - 8 vs. Team B.

This is from the favorite's bettors' standpoint. If we were to bet on the underdog instead, we will write the point spread as:

Team B + 8 vs. Team A.

Now according to the rules of point spread sports betting, Team A must meet two conditions for its bettors to win:

- The team must win the game - The team must win by at least 8 points

On the other hand, bettors for Team B will win their bets if:

- Team B wins by any margin - Team B loses by less than 8 points

Now, what if Team A wins by exactly 8 points? In that case, there is a tie and everyone gets back their money.

Let's say that Team A beat Team B with a score of 112-108. We compare this "against the spread" (known as ATS in sports betting) and what do we find?

112 - 108 = 4

Team A has won by only 4 points, 5 points short of the point spread requirement. So Team A does win the championship, but its bettors won't be celebrating.

See? Point spread betting adds excitement to an otherwise boring, lop-sided match. It gives sports fans and bookies something to look forward to.