A Crash Course In Football Point Spread Betting

Football Point Spread Betting Online

Football Point Spread Bets Explained
Point spread betting can seem confusing to the first-time sports better. But it’s actually simple. In fact, spread betting is the most common way to place wagers on football. Rest assured, if the majority of bettors are doing it, it’s sure to be easy.

Having said that, if you’re new to sports betting, you’re starting from ground zero. Even simple things can seem perplexing. This tutorial will teach you everything you need to know about point spread betting in football.

You’ll learn how it works, how the point spread is different than the moneyline, and the top reasons to bet on it. We’ll also cover a number of tactics that’ll help you become an NFL spread betting pro.

Let’s start with the basics.

NFL Point Spread Basics

The best way to think about the spread is to see things from the sportsbook’s point of view. It wants to make a profit on each game. But it doesn’t want to have to do it by betting on which NFL team will win. The bookmaker can’t control the outcome of a game.

What it CAN control is the vigorish (or vig). Think of the vig as a commission the bookmaker earns on each bet it lays for bettors. Or think of it like a tax. In the same way your state government charges a tax on each purchase you make (a “sure thing” to generate revenue), the sportsbook charges a vig on each wager.

The Vig?

The vig alone doesn’t guarantee the sportbook will make money. The bookmaker is still vulnerable to lopsided bets.

For example, consider a game between the Dolphins and Patriots where 80% of bettors bet on the latter. The sportsbook would lose its shirt if the Patriots managed to win.

The bookmaker applies a point spread to mitigate that vulnerability. The spread ensures the action is balanced (or nearly so) with half of bettors laying wagers on each side. This allows the bookmaker to earn its vig without fear of losing its shirt based on the game’s outcome.

Imagine if someone offered you even money on a coin toss, but charged you 10% of your bet. The 10% would be the vig. A coin toss is a 50/50 proposition. The vig ensures the bookmaker will make money regardless of how the coin lands (assuming dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of tosses).

Here’s what a typical point spread looks like:

  • Dolphins +110
  • Patriots -110

The Patriots are expected to win. You’d need to bet $110 to win $100.

The Dolphins are the underdog. You’d need to bet $100 to win $110.

The spread is a handicap – in this case, on the Dolphins – that balances the action between both sides. Again, it guarantees the sportsbook will make money, regardless of which team wins.

Your job as the bettor is to decide which side to lay a bet on given the spread.

Point Spread Betting Vs. Moneyline Betting

I’m sure you’ve heard of the moneyline in sports betting. Placing wagers on the money line is arguably the simplest way to make sports bets. There’s no point spread to consider. All you have to do is choose which team you think will win after taking into account the corresponding payouts.

Here’s what a typical money line bet looks like:

  • Dolphins +500
  • Patriots -200

It looks similar to a point spread bet. But it works differently. Here, if you were to place a wager the Dolphins, and that team wins, you’d receive five times your bet. “+500” means the bet pays 5 to 1.

For example, bet $20 and you’d receive $100 for the win.

If you were to bet on the Patriots, the favored team, you’d be required to lay 2 to 1 odds. -200 means bet $20 and you’d receive $10 for the win. The payout is less spectacular because the Patriots are considered the favorite.

Note that a moneyline starts at 100 and is displayed in increments of 10 (e.g. +120, -200, +440, etc.). But you’re allowed to bet any amount, as long as it meets the sportsbook’s minimum requirement.

4 Reasons To Bet On The Spread

If money line betting is the simplest way to bet on football, why should you bet on the point spread? Here are four reasons:

  1. Spread Bets Are Simple
  2. Point spread betting is nearly as simple as laying bets on the money line. It’s a bit more complicated, but only slightly so. You don’t have to think about odds. You just choose the team you think will win and place your wager accordingly.

  3. It’s Easy To Exploit Value Disparities
  4. If you visit more than one sportsbook, you’ll sometimes notice different spreads for the same game. The difference indicates a value disparity. For example, suppose you see the following numbers at two different sportsbooks:

    Sportsbook A

    • Dolphins +110
    • Patriots -110

    Sportsbook B

    • Dolphins +130
    • Patriots -110

    You can tell at a glance that sportsbook B offers greater value. You’d stand to win more money if you were to bet on the Dolphins, and that team won.

    It’s easy to find these disparities. All you have to do is visit several sports betting sites and compare their spreads before laying your bets.

  5. Winnings On The Underdog Grow Geometrically
  6. Suppose you act on a hunch that the underdog will win. If the underdog does so, you stand to receive more than just even money. The more you bet, the larger your winnings.

    For example, consider the following spread:

    • Dolphins +130
    • Patriots -110

    If you were to bet $100 on the Dolphins, and that team wins, you’d receive $130 in winnings. If you were to bet $200, you’d receive $260. You bet $500? You’d receive $650.

    In other words, your potentially winnings grow geometrically according to how much you bet.

  7. You Enjoy More Betting Options
  8. More betting options is always better than fewer. While money line bets and totals bets are simple to make, it’s good to have alternatives. Betting on the point spread is one of the best since it’s nearly as simple and twice as fun.

    You can also bet on parlays and teasers, and make various types of prop bets. Those are also fun options 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’ll improve your chances of building your bankroll.

Compare The Spreads At Multiple Sportsbooks

We covered the reason to shop points spreads above. Different sportsbooks often list dissimilar spreads. Such differences indicate a disparity in value, which signals an opportunity.

Side note: if you see spreads that vary, don’t waste time. Jump on the one that poses the greatest value. You won’t be the only one who notices the opportunity. It’ll likely go away as the bookmaker adjusts the spread to rebalance the action.

Become An Astute NFL Handicapper

Handicapping is identifying factors that’ll influence the outcome of a game. Examples include the weather, playing at home vs. on the road, and the extent to which injured players will impact team performance. (That’s just scratching the surface. We’ll talk more about handicapping NFL games in the future.)

If you learn how 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 guesses on game outcomes.

The “educated” part means becoming an astute handicapper.

Disregard A Team’s “Against The Spread” Record

Sports betting lends itself to crunching numbers. Stats drive a lot of the action you see at places like Bovada, BetOnline, and MyBookie. The problem is, some stats are virtually pointless. They have zero value in terms of divining which side to bet on.

One such statistic is an NFL team’s “against the spread” track record.

Many bettors follow this number closely, thinking 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? No.

What about a team that has failed to cover the spread in 5 of its last 7 games? Is that team more likely or less likely to do the same in Game 8? Your guess is as good as mine.

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 NFL Spread Bets Simple

Simplicity is one of the hallmarks of spread betting in football. Don’t spin your wheels applying complicated formula, timing your bets, or listening to every comment made by self-proclaimed experts.

Keep it simple. Handicap games based on factors that’ll have the biggest impact. Shop around for the best spreads (i.e. find the best value). Then, place your bets and be done with it.

Driving yourself crazy with minutiae will only siphon the fun out of sports betting.

Anticipate Adjustments In The Spread

Remember that bookmakers shift spreads to ensure both sides of a bet remain balanced. Expect this to happen as various factors affect the potential outcome of a game, and bettors respond accordingly.

For example, suppose the Cowboys are playing the Giants. The Cowboys are deemed the favorite, leading to the following spread at your favorite sportsbook:

  • Cowboys -110
  • Giants +110

Also suppose that, predictably, bettors start to pile in on the Cowboys 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’ve enjoyed better odds on the favorite by laying your bets early. Had you bet on the Cowboys on Day 1, you’d only have had to bet $110 to win $100. Following the adjustment, you need to bet $120 to win $100.

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’d have only stood to win $110. Following the adjustment, you’d stand to win $130 on that same wager.

Now, let’s suppose the Cowboys’s 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 need to adjust the spread again to compensate.

Anticipate movements in the point spreads. They can (and should) inform your betting decisions.

Fade Games With Tight Spreads

This is a simple tip, but one that’ll pay dividends for years to come. Avoid games where the spread is razor thin. It’s almost impossible to forecast the outcome, even is you’re an accomplished handicapper.

And if you can’t forecast the outcome of a game, you may as well bet on a coin toss.

Don’t Be Afraid To Venture Beyond The NFL

There’s a world of football point spread betting that exists outside the NFL. College football is a perfect example. You’ll often find more opportunities there than in the NFL because bookmakers aren’t quite as astute as setting lines and deciding spreads. And if you are looking for a year round sport to bet on, my ultimate tennis betting guide will get you started on the right track.

Also, keep in mind that college football draws fewer bettors than the NFL. Consequently, bookmakers are sometimes slow to adjust their spreads to rebalance the action. Take advantage of their sluggishness.

Best Online Sportsbooks For NFL 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. Every sportsbook offers it.

Here are my top picks:

*see reviews here

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