How to Bet the Point Spread

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Football and other sports are often handicapped by gamblers in terms of a point spread. The point spread is a means to allow gambling on a sporting event when one team is more likely to win. In the U.S., large gambling organizations such as Las Vegas casinos develop and publish point spreads. The point spread is designed to generate equal amounts of wagering on both teams, and may be adjusted numerous times prior to the event.

Things You'll Need

  • Betting line
  • Determine the betting line for a sporting event. These are commonly available from casino websites, or published in major newspapers or gambling guides. A betting line will be expressed as a plus or minus number attached to one of the teams. As an example the betting line on a game may list "Team A +7 1/2." The same line may also be expressed as "Team B -7 1/2."

    A sports book attempts to avoid taking a position on either team. The betting line is designed to draw equal bets on both teams so that the net amount won equals the net amount lost. The sports book makes money by paying out slightly less than even money to the winners.

    Many sports books adopt an early line, allowing a few key gamblers to make bets before the general public. This gives the book a chance to adjust the line based on the actions of its most sophisticated customers.

  • Choose your team. In the example above, Team A would win the bet if it either wins or loses the game by seven points or less. If Team B wins by eight points or more, it is said to have "beat the spread," and would be the bet winner. Choosing the underdog is known in common slang as "taking the points," while choosing the favorite is called "giving the points."

  • Place your bet.

Tips & Warnings

  • Bets which result in a tie after considering the point spread are called a "push," and the bet is refunded.
  • Betting lines often contain a 1/2-point amount. This prevents ties and allows the sports book to get a decision one way or the other and avoid the push.
  • Most handicappers consider the home-team advantage to be worth three points.
  • Rick "Big Daddy" Matthews, known as one of the world's most successful football gamblers, used supercomputers to analyze data and regularly won millions of dollars from sports books.
  • The amount wagered at sports books--the handle--on the 2008 Super Bowl is estimated at nearly $100 million. It is estimated that many times that amount is wagered between individuals.
  • Gambling on sports is not legal in most parts of the U.S.

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