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Betting the Point Spread

Point Spread Betting

Point spread betting was invented in the 1940s to resolve the issue of uneven betting on an upcoming match between a strong team and a weak team. The problem was that bookmakers wanted to offer bets on upcoming matches but when one team was widely believed to be the better team, all the action would go to that team. In that case, the bookmaker would lose a lot of money covering all those bets.

The bookmakers wanted to create a system that generated equal betting action on both sides of any match. If they were able to get an equal dollar amount riding on both sides of the bet, they didn’t have to worry about winning or losing; they made their money by charging a commission on each bet.

The answer they came up with was point spread betting. It’s a system in which the sportsbook stipulates that the stronger team must win by a certain number of points for it to be considered a win. For example, if there is an upcoming game between the Patriots and the Chiefs, the point spread might look like this:

New England Patriots:        -7.5
Kansas City Chiefs            +7.5

In this example, the New England Patriots would have to win by at least 8 points for it to be considered a win. If the Patriots win but fail to “cover the spread,” it is counted as a loss for anyone who bet on the Patriots. In that case, anyone who bet on the Chiefs would be credited for a win.

The easiest way to think about it is to look at the point spread listed above and subtract 7.5 points from the Patriots’ final score. Then you compare that adjusted score to the Chiefs’ actual score and you will know the winner for betting purposes. For example:

Patriots final score:            28
Chiefs final score:            21

Subtract 7.5 from the Patriots:    20.5

After subtracting the points from the Patriots, you can see that their adjusted score is now lower than the Chiefs’ final score. In other words, the Patriots failed to cover the spread. Even though they won the game, they did not win the game by enough points. This bet would be considered a loss for whoever bet on the Patriots.

Many times you will notice the sportsbooks use half-points to set the spread even if half-points aren’t possible in the game being played. The reason for the partial points is to prevent any instances of a tie.

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