What Is the Point Spread?

Ever want to bet on a football game and find yourself questioning what the plus or minus number next to a team’s name is? That’s the point spread.

In the Westgate Las Vegas SuperContest, contestants are picking professional football games against the point spread. In the SuperContest, the point spread for each game is released in the middle of the week and is a contest line, meaning the point spread, once released, doesn’t change throughout the week. Regular point spreads are flexible leading all the way up until game time.

What Is the Point Spread?

This is one of the most common questions in sports betting, especially to new sports bettors.

The point spread is how teams are handicapped against one another.

Although each team may roster the same number of players, play by the same rules, or even run some of the same plays, the two sides are almost never equal in skill. To account for that inequality between the two teams, a point spread is used to handicap the two sides of a matchup.

If you look at the odds board and see a football team’s name followed by a minus sign and a number, that reflects the team is favored by that number of points. In the case that you see a plus sign and a number, that team is the underdog in the matchup. The minus sign means that the team’s final score will have the spread number subtracted from it. The plus sign means that the team’s final score will have the spread number added to it.

In summary, the point spread is the calculated prediction of how much a team will win or lose by.

For example, let’s say Rich Ryan’s New York Jets are facing off against Donnie Peters’ New England Patriots in New England. The Patriots, being the juggernauts they are, are favored by 8 points. If you check out the lines at your local sports book, you’ll see this written as “New England Patriots -8” on the board. The Jets will then be listed as “New York Jets +8” for the opposite side.

– New York Jets +8 (-110)
– New England Patriots -8 (-110)

Let’s take a look at an example of how this might play out.

If you place a wager on the Patriots -8, they’ll need to win by 9 points or more in order for you to win your bet. If the Patriots win by exactly 8, the bet will push and you would get your wager back, with no profit or loss. If the Patriots win the game by a field goal, so 3 points, they would still get the victory, but in the sports-betting world they would fail to cover and all bets placed on the Patriots -8 would lose.

Example final score:

– New York Jets 20
– New England Patriots 24

Example final score adjusted with the point spread if you bet on the New York Jets:

– New York Jets 28
– New England Patriots 24

Example final score adjusted with the point spread if you bet on the New England Patriots:

– New York Jets 20
– New England Patriots 16

Now that you’ve learned about the point spread, find out what people are referring to when they reference the “juice” or “vig” in sports betting.