If you are new to the exciting world of betting on sports, Point Spread Betting can seem confusing at first. Luckily, it’s actually fairly simple! In fact, spread betting is the most common way to place wagers on football. Rest assured, if the majority of the bettors are doing it, it’s sure to be easy.
But we here at GoodSportsBooks know that if you are new to it, you’re pretty much starting from ground zero and even the easiest things can seem perplexing. That’s why this tutorial was written. Today we’re going to teach you everything you need to know about point spread betting in football!
You’re going to learn how it works, how the spread is different from the money line, and you’ll learn some of the top reasons to bet on it. We are also going to cover a number of tactics that will help you become an NFL spread betting pro.
Let’s go ahead and get started off with the basics!
A Couple of NFL Point Spread Basics
The best way to think of the spread is to take a look at your chosen sportsbook’s point of view. They’re going to want to make a profit on each and every game, but it doesn’t want to have to do it by betting on which NFL team will win. The sportsbook cannot control the outcome of a game.
However, there is something it can control. The vigorish, also known as just the “vig”. You can think of the vig as the commission a bookmaker earns on each bet that it lays for bettors. It’s kind of like a “tax”. In the same way the state you live in probably charges you taxes on each purchase you make, it’s a “sure thing” to generate some revenue. The sportsbook charges a vig on every wager.
Let’s say there’s a game between and Dolphins and the Patriots where 80% of the bettors placed bets on the latter. A sportsbook would lose its shirt if the Patriots managed to win. So, the sportsbook will apply a point spread to mitigate its vulnerability. This spread will ensure that the action is balanced (or almost so) with half of its bettors laying wagers on each side. This would allow the sportsbook to earn its vig without the fear of it losing most of its assets based on the outcome of the game.
Imagine if someone offered you even money on a coin toss, but charged you 10%o f your bet. That 10% would be the vig. You see, a coin toss would be a 50/50 proposition so the vig ensures that the sportsbook will earn money regardless of how the coin lands, assuming that there are dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of tosses.
This is what a typical point spread looks like:
- Dolphins +110
- Patriots -110
This tells us that the Patriots are expected to win and you would need to bet $110 to win $100. The Dolphins on the other hand are the underdog. On that side, you would need to bet $100 to win $110.
The spread is a handicap, in this case, on the Dolphins and this balances the action on both sides. Again, it guarantees the sportsbook will make money regardless of which team wins.
As the bettor, your job is to decide which side to lay a bet on given the point spread.
Point Spread Betting vs Moneyline Betting
You have probably heard of the Moneyline in sports betting. Placing wagers on the moneyline is arguably the simplest and easiest way to make sports bets. There would be no point spread to consider. The only thing you have to do is bet on which team you think will win after taking into account the corresponding payouts.
This is what a typical moneyline bet looks like:
- Dolphins +500
- Patriots -200
This looks similar to a point spread bet but works differently. In this example, if you were to place a wager on the Dolphins and they win, you would receive five times your bet. (em>”+500″ means that the bet pays 5 to 1. Placing a bet for $20 in this example would net you $100 if win.
Now, if you were to bet on the favored team, the Patriots, you would be required to lay 2 to 1 odds. -200 means that if you bet $20 you would receive $10 for the win. The payout here is much less spectacular because the Patriots are considered to favorite here.
A Note Here –
A Moneyline starts at 100 and is displayed in increments of 10, (eg, +120, -200, +440, etc, etc), but you are allowed to bet any amount as long as it meets the sportsbooks requirements.
4 Reasons to Bet on the Spread
You may be thinking right about now that if moneyline betting is the easiest and simplest way to bet on football, then why would anyone bets on the point spread? Here are four reasons to consider:
- Spread Bets are Simple
Point spread betting is almost as simple as laying bets on the moneyline. It’s a little more complicated, but only a fuzz. You don’t have to think about the odds. You just choose the team you think will win and place your wager accordingly.
- It’s Easy to Exploit Value Disparities
If you were to visit more than one sportsbook, you’ll sometimes notice that there are different spreads for the same game. The difference in these indicates a value disparity. For example, suppose you see the following numbers at two competing sportsbooks:
- Dolphins +110
- Patriots -110
- Dolphins +130
- Patriots -110
You can tell just at a glance that Sportsbook B offers a greater value. You would stand to win more money if you were to bet on the Dolphins and they won.
It’s easy to find these disparities. All you would have to do is visit several sports betting sites and compare the spreads before you place your bets.
- Your Winnings on the Underdog Grow Geometrically
Suppose you want to act on the hunch that the underdogs will win. If the underdog does so, you stand to receive more than just even money. The more you bet, the larger your winnings.
Let’s look at this spread as an example:
- Dolphins +130
- Patriots -110
If you were to bet $100 on the Dolphins and they pull a win, you would receive $130 in winnings. If you were to bet $200, you would receive $260. Bet $500? You would receive $650, and on and on.
In other words, your potential winnings can grow geometrically according to how much you bet!
- You Will Enjoy More Betting Options
More betting options are always better than fewer. While moneyline bets and totals bets are simple to make, it’s always good to have alternatives. Betting on the spread on one of the best since it’s early as simple and twice as fun!
You can also bet on parlays and teasers and make various types of props bets. Those are always a lot of fun in terms of variety, but nothing compares to the intuitiveness of a point spread bet.
Now that you know how NFL spread betting works and the reasons to do it, let’s discuss a few tactics that will improve your chances of building your bankroll.
Comparing the Spreads at Multiple Sportsbooks
We have covered the reason to shop points spreads above. Different sportsbooks often list dissimilar spreads. These differences indicate a disparity in value which signals an opportunity.
If you come across spreads that vary greatly, don’t waste time! Jump on the one that poses the better value. You aren’t the only one that is going to notice this opportunity and it’ll likely go away as the bookmakers adjust the spread to rebalance the action.
Become An Astute NFL Handicapper
Handicapping is identifying factors that will influence the outcome of a game. Examples can include weather, playing at home versus the on the road, the extent to which injured players will impact the team’s performance, etc. These examples are only scratching the surface. We’ll talk more about handicapping games in the future.
If you learn to handicap football games, you’ll enjoy a better grasp of whether a particular spread offers good value. Remember, smart sports betting isn’t about luck. It isn’t about throwing caution to the wind and hoping for the best. It’s about making educated decisions on game outcomes. The educated part means becoming an astute hanicapper.
Disregard a Team’s “Against the Spread” Record
Betting on sports will lend itself to crunching numbers. Stats drive a lot of the action you’ll see at places such as Bovada, BetOnline, and MyBookie. But here’s a problem. Some stats are virtually pointless and have zero value in terms of divining which side to bet on.
One such statistic would be an NFL team’s “against the spread” track record.
Many bettors will follow this number closely thinking that it’ll give them an edge on upcoming games. It won’t. Following it is a waste of time.
For example, consider a team that has managed to cover the spread in 5 of its last 7 games. Does that data make it more likely that the team will cover the spread in Game 8? Nope, not at all.
What about a team that has failed to cover the spread in 5 of its last 7 games? Is this team going to be more likely or less likely to cover the spread in Game 8? Your guess is just as good as ours, and that’s the point! It’s just a guess, so don’t waste time analyzing a team’s “against the spread” record.
Keep Your Bets Simple
One of the hallmarks of spread betting in football is simplicity. Don’t spin your wheels by applying a complicated formula, timing your bets, or listening to every comment made by self-proclaimed experts.
Just keep it simple. Handicap games based on the factors that will have the biggest impact. Shop around for the best spread. Find the best value, then place your bets and be done with it. Driving yourself crazy with the minutiae will only siphon the fun out of sports betting.
Anticipate Adjustments in the Spread
Remember, bookmakers are going to shift spreads to ensure that both sides of a bet remain balanced. You can expect this to happen as various factors affect the potential outcome of a game and the bettors respond accordingly.
For example, let’s say that the Cowboys are playing the Giants. The Cowboys are deemed the favorite which leads to the following spread at your chosen sportsbook:
- Cowboys -110
- Giants +110
And now let’s say that, predictably, bettors start to pile in on the Cowboy’s side of the bet causing the action to become lopsided. The bookmaker must adjust the spread to rebalance things. Here’s what the spread might look like after the adjustment.
- Cowboys -120
- Giants +130
The first thing you should notice is that you would have enjoyed better odds on the favorite by laying your bets early. Had you bet on the Cowboys on day 1, you would only have had to bet $110 to win $100. Following the adjustment, you would now need to bet $120 to win $100.
But, on the other hand, waiting for the adjustment gives you better odds on the underdog. Had you bet $100 on the Giants on day 1, you would have only stood to win $110. Following the adjustment, you would stand to win $130 on that same wager.
Now let’s suppose that the Cowboys starting QB suffers an injury before the game. That could cause an inordinate number of bettors to bet on the Giants, once again throwing off the balance in the action. The bookmaker may adjust the spread again to compensate.
Always anticipate movements in the point spreads. They can, and should, inform your betting decisions.
Fade Games With Tight Spreads
This is a really simple tip, but one that will pay dividends for years to come. Avoid games where the spread is razor-thin. This makes it almost impossible to forecast the outcome even if you are an accomplished handicapper. If you cannot forecast the outcome of a game, you may as well be betting on coin tosses.
Don’t Be Afraid to Venture Beyond the NFL
There’s a whole world of football point spread betting that exists outside of the NFL. A perfect example would be College Football. In fact, you’ll often find more opportunities there than you would in the NFL because the bookmakers aren’t quite as astute at setting lines and deciding spreads. If one was looking for a year-round sport to get into to bet on, this guide to Ultimate Tennis Betting can get you started off on the right track.
Also to keep in mind is the fact that College Football draws fewer bettors than the NFL. Consequently, bookmakers are sometimes slot to adjust their spreads to rebalance the action. You can take advantage of their sluggishness!
The Best Online Sportsbooks for NFL Point Spread Betting
The good news is that you can bet on the point spread at all online sportsbooks. As always, I recommend staying with the reputable ones. As I mentioned, spread betting is the most common type of bet made on football games and every sportsbook offers it.
Here are our top picks:
Click here to check out full reviews of each of these sports betting sites, as well as others that we have personally worked with.
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