Unless you’ve been living under a rock with your eyes closed and your fingers in your ears, chances are you’re familiar with spread betting.
It’s one of the most common types of sports betting you’ll find anywhere — but despite that, most people are surprisingly bad at it.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though. And in this spread betting guide, we’ll reveal the secrets and strategies that the world’s sharpest sports bettors use, including which are the best sports to do it in.
Looking for the best spread betting sites? Then make sure to check out BetOnline – it’s our top pick today.
Ready to take your sports betting to the next level? Let’s get started.
What is Spread Betting?
Before we share what spread betting is, it might be helpful to provide a brief primer on how sportsbooks actually work.
Generally speaking, a bookie’s aim is to have an equal amount of money bet on both participants in a certain game. That way, the bookie can take the money bet on the loser and hand it over to those who bet on the winner, collecting a healthy vig for their troubles.
What sportsbooks want to avoid are situations where there’s a significantly larger outlay on one side than the other. While these could potentially be profitable for the betting site, they could also be disastrous — especially if it involves paying out a ton of people who took long odds.
So how do bookies encourage people to bet equally on each side? By offering incentives to do so. This involves giving better odds to the underdog; exactly how much better will depend on how much money is being bet on one side versus the other.
One of the most common is the point spread. In a point spread situation, the bookie will give a certain number of points to the underdog; the favorite will then have to win by more than the spread in order for people who bet on them to collect.
As money is a bet on one side or the other, the spread will move; in games that are expected to be close, it’s not unusual to see the early favorite become a slight dog as the match moves closer.
How Spread Betting Works: An Example
To better understand how spread betting works, let’s look at a specific example. Take this example from the NFL:
- Detroit Lions +7.5 (-115)
- Kansas City Chiefs -7.5 (-110)
Here, the Chiefs are favored by 7.5 points against the Lions. Essentially, the Lions will begin the game with a 7.5-0 lead, at least for sports betting purposes.
That means, for you to win your bet on the Chiefs, they’d need to win by at least 8 points (the extra half-point is there to prevent pushes). So if the final score is 23-17, Chiefs, everyone who bet on the Lions would win.
That second number is equally important. It shows you how much you’d stand to win if your bet is successful. If you take the Lions and the points, you’d need to bet $115 to win $100 (for a total return of $215). On the other hand, if you bet on the Chiefs and won, you’d need to risk $110 to earn $100 (for a total return of $210).
As you might expect, spread betting doesn’t work for all sports — only the ones that, you know, have points. You can’t bet the spread in boxing, for example, and while spread betting is possible in games that continue until a predetermined total is reached, like tennis, it’s fairly rare.
Advantages of Spread Betting
There’s a reason why spread betting is one of the most popular forms of sports wagering — actually, there are several reasons. Let’s look at a few of them now.
Easy to Understand
Most people — even those who have never gambled on sports in their lives — intuitively understand the concept of a point spread. As a result, it’s a perfect way for sports betting newbies to get their feet wet.
Point spreads are also easy to keep track of during the heat of the action. You know exactly how many points your team needs to win, so you can easily track your bets (even across multiple games) while conversing with friends or researching other wagers.
Makes Games More Entertaining
A big reason why many people bet on sports is to add a little extra excitement to watching the games, and point spreads are a perfect way to do that. It doesn’t matter if the game is close or a blowout — knowing what the real score is will keep you engaged until the final whistle.
This can lead to feelings of ecstasy or heartbreak as well. Have you ever heard of a “backdoor cover?” That’s when the underdog scores what seems like meaningless points at the end of the game — not enough to affect the outcome, but enough to cause thousands of winners to instantly morph into losers.
If you spend enough time around sports bettors, you’ll know that everyone has their favorite backdoor cover story.
While certain niche bets, like some props, may only be available at one or two sportsbooks, you’ll find spreads at every sports betting site on the internet. This means you have a world of options, and you don’t have to accept the first line you come across.
In fact, there’s a strategy known as “line shopping” that involves betting on a game that has the best odds at a certain sportsbook — and that’s it. You don’t have to know anything about the teams or players involved; just knowing that you’re getting an extra point or two can make for a massive edge in the long run.
Of course, to take advantage of line shopping, you’ll need to make accounts at multiple sports betting sites — a strategy we’ll cover more in-depth later on.
Perfect for Both Live Betting and Futures
Spread betting is equally fun and effective for games that are currently happening as it is for those that are months in the future. No matter when the game occurs, you can likely find a line for it.
Many bettors like to take advantage of the superior odds they get on futures bets before dialing in their wagers during in-game action. This involves a certain amount of bet-hedging but remember — your objective is to win money, not bets.
Disadvantages of Spread Betting
Of course, as attractive as spread betting may be, it’s not perfect. There are some serious drawbacks you should consider before diving head-first into the world of betting spreads, such as:
Spread Betting is Extremely Volatile
For many sports, the lines are constantly in flux, and what seemed like great odds yesterday could seem like a sucker’s bet today. As a result, knowing when to bet on spreads is as important as knowing how.
You don’t want to be on the wrong side of a point swing, as even a point here or there could make the difference between being successful or running in the red.
Successful Spread Betting Requires Deep Statistical Analysis
While we mentioned that it’s possible to be a successful sports bettor just by line shopping, the fact of the matter is that betting spreads successfully often takes more work than that.
Most sharp-spread bettors spend a massive amount of time researching each game and deciding what they think the spread should be before they go looking for great odds. This involves learning a ton about each team and all the players, as well as digging into advanced analytics and other obscure stats.
In fact, many advanced punters will go as far as to create their own sophisticated, proprietary algorithms for betting spreads. You don’t have to do this to be successful, of course — but it doesn’t hurt.
Games Can Turn on a Dime
Remember what we said about backdoor covers earlier? While they make for great gambling stories, their very existence means that you’ll never feel truly comfortable when betting spreads.
Spreads are designed to make the games feel close, regardless of what the actual score is, so you’ll almost always be engaged in the game until the very end. This is great for watchability, of course, but it’s probably not great for your ticker.
And remember — the players (hopefully) don’t care about the spread or your bet on it. They may be perfectly ok with allowing that uncontested layup or letting the running back waltz through the line untouched in the last minute, as long as it doesn’t affect the outcome.
For those of us watching at home and clutching now-worthless bet slips in our hands, though, those meaningless points meant more than they could possibly imagine.
Best Sports for Spread Betting
Not all sports are created equal when it comes to spread betting. Some — like boxing and MMA — don’t have spreads at all, while others — like tennis — have spread options that usually aren’t that popular.
Other games seem to be custom-made for this sort of bet, however. In this section, we’ll look at three of the most popular sports for spread betting — as well as share some tips on how to bet those spreads successfully.
Whether you call it football, soccer, footie, or something else entirely, the fact remains that the sport is ideal for spread betting. That may seem strange since scoring is at such a premium in the game, but it’s nevertheless a punter’s dream.
What makes spread betting in soccer different from other sports is the possibility (and prevalence) of draws. It’s rare that an NFL game will end in a tie, and basketball and baseball will just keep going until a winner is declared, but soccer has draws all the time.
This means that you’ll often see half-point spreads. These are designed to reward the underdog that managed to keep the game tied while punishing the favorites who couldn’t seal the deal.
It’s rare to see spreads of more than 1.5 goals, especially in situations where both teams are likely to be somewhat evenly matched, like World Cup play.
Strategies for Soccer Spread Betting
In most sports, betting on the underdog is the smarter play, but that’s not the case with soccer. Not only will favorites win in this sport the majority of the time, but soccer’s scoring system (which uses things like goals scored and goal differential as tiebreakers) rewards teams for keeping the pressure on all matches long.
This means that a favorite is more likely to keep attacking the goal even after they have the match safely in hand. The losing team, on the other hand, is more likely to become demoralized and allow a lead to get out of hand.
Before you place a bet on any match, though, you should do your research and learn what each team has at stake. Later in the season, when one team might need to make up a goal differential, you’ll have more confidence in your spread bets — provided you know whether one (or both) team needs to win by several goals to advance.
American football is perhaps the quintessential spread betting sport. Most casual punters instinctively describe the games in terms of points given, so betting on the spread comes quite naturally to anyone who’s followed the game for a long time.
There’s one key way in which American football spread betting differs from soccer spread betting, though, and that’s in the way points are counted.
In soccer, every goal is one point. In football, though, the most common scoring plays are either 7 points (for a touchdown) or 3 points (for a field goal). It’s also possible to have 2-point plays, as safeties exist, but those are much less common.
As a result, most spreads will be within either 3 or 7 points.
Homefield advantage is a big thing in American football as well. In the NFL, if two teams are believed to be evenly matched, traditional wisdom dictates that the home team should be about a 2.5-point favorite.
Strategies for American Football Spread Betting
The most important thing to keep in mind when betting on American football spreads is the scoring system. Most games are decided by 3 or 7 points — which means that the difference between a 6.5-point spread and a 7-point spread is massive, but the difference between a 4-point spread and a 4.5-point spread is much less so.
That means that when you shop for lines, you should look for odds that make sense, given the scoring system. Taking the Lions at +3 (-105) may seem like a better bet than getting them at +3.5 (-110), but keep in mind that losing by three points is extremely likely in the NFL. Getting that extra half-point — and keeping yourself out of field goal range — is much more valuable.
You should also take into consideration the over/under when looking at point spreads, as the two are often correlated. For example, let’s say that the Chiefs were -10 versus the Lions, making them overwhelming favorites. Then, you look and see that the over/under is set at a mere 31.5.
Does that make sense? For the Chiefs to win by 10, there would need to be a fair bit of scoring — but a line of 31.5 doesn’t allow for much of that. The only scenarios that would make sense would be something like a 21-10 game or perhaps 24-7 or 14-3.
In that case, if you like the Chiefs -10, it might make sense to create a same-game parlay and take the over as well.
Finding strategies like this — ones that let you effectively double down on a logical betting strategy — can go a long way toward improving your bottom line.
Of the sports mentioned so far, basketball point spread betting is the most volatile. That’s because there’s a ton of scoring in a basketball game; it’s not uncommon for both teams to score more than 50 times each, whereas there might only be one or two scores in a soccer match and five or six in a football game.
You’ll also often see one team go on an extended scoring spree, which can radically affect the spread. What was a tightly-contested game in the third quarter can become a blowout after one team goes on a 16-2 run to start the fourth.
As a result, if you’re betting point spreads in basketball, you’ll just have to strap in and try to survive the ride. This is especially true for in-game betting, as it’s easy to get carried away by a single run and lose sight of your overall strategy.
Strategies for Basketball Spread Betting
There are a few strategies that are important in basketball that don’t show up as often when betting point spreads in other sports. This is true for NBA playoffs, too.
The first is the line movement. Since there are games every day during the NBA season, you don’t have a lot of time to get your money down — and the biggest point spread swings usually happen immediately after the lines are released.
That makes timing your bets critically important. If you can’t be one of the early worms who pounces on the opening lines, you’ll need to wait a bit for the dust to settle so you can see where the lines moved — and where the value might be.
As a result, waiting until right before tip-off is a smart plan if you missed the first few minutes after the lines dropped. By this time, most of the action should have died off, giving you a true view of the spread (although you have to be careful here as well, as it’s not uncommon to see last-minute flurries of action).
Given the grueling schedule NBA players must navigate, taking a look at each teams’ schedule is a good idea as well. Even the most prolific scoring teams will often see a dip in efficiency at the tail end of a road trip, so factor that into the likelihood of them scoring enough points to cover.
In some cases, teams will give stars a night off to manage their load; this obviously affects the game outlook, so check the starting lineups and injury reports before putting money down.
Strategies for Betting Spreads Like a Pro
Now that you have a solid grasp on what spreads are — and which sports are best to bet on — it’s time to take a closer look at some winning spread betting strategies.
Maintain Accounts at Multiple Sportsbooks
It’s almost impossible to be successful in betting spreads if you limit yourself to a single sportsbook. You need to be able to spot — and take advantage of — outliers when you encounter them, and the only way to do that is by maintaining accounts at multiple betting sites.
Now, that doesn’t mean you should sign up for every sportsbook you can find; far from it. Rather, you should still stick to ones that are reputable and trustworthy.
If you’re not sure which ones can be trusted, we’ve listed a few of our favorites below. No matter which bookies you choose, though, it’s absolutely essential that you don’t limit yourself to a single site.
Research, Research, Research
Research is the backbone of every successful sports betting strategy, and spread betting is no exception. The more you know about all the participants involved in the match at hand, the better you’re likely to do.
This principle extends beyond just knowing a lot about the players and coaches, though. It also means taking the time to search for the best lines and pouncing on them.
After all, there’s not a sports betting strategy in the world that can compete with an extra point from the bookies.
Use Deposit Bonuses to Your Advantage
Having accounts at multiple sportsbooks isn’t just about getting a few extra points here and there — it’s also a great way to get your hands on some bonus cash.
Most bookies offer some sort of incentive for new players to sign up, be it a deposit match, free bet, or straight-up cash. Regardless of what form their offer takes, you can use those bonuses to give yourself a boost on your spread betting efforts.
These bonuses can come in especially handy if you’re betting spreads as part of a parlay, as you can take longer odds than you normally would since you’re not actually risking anything.
Common Spread Betting Mistakes to Avoid
While knowing the best strategies to use when betting spreads is important, sometimes sports betting empires are built by avoiding mistakes rather than by cornering all the angles.
Below, we’ll look at some of the most common errors that handicappers make when betting spreads (and we see these all the time, regardless of experience level).
Overreacting to the Latest Results
When doing your research, always look at each team’s overall body of work, not just their most recent performance. While looking at the most recent results is valuable, doing so can also cause you to overreact to outliers while ignoring more bedrock principles.
For example, you may be tempted to bet on the Chiefs -7 simply because they won their last game by 21. However, that game is in the past, and it has very little bearing on the next matchup.
Unless the previous game featured an injury or suspension that’s likely to greatly change a team’s performance moving forward, you should always treat the most recent result as a single data point, nothing more.
Falling for the Gambler’s Fallacy
This is very closely related to the previous point.
The gambler’s fallacy is the belief that a certain result is “due” because it hasn’t come up in a while; it’s like betting on black in roulette because the last five spins have come up red.
However, recent results don’t necessarily impact the likelihood of future ones, so don’t pick a team because you think they’re due for a good (or bad) performance.
Betting with Your Heart
Betting with your heart isn’t just a mistake in spread betting — it’s a huge error in sports betting, period.
If you have a favorite team, you need to be able to evaluate them with the same steely-eyed analysis that you’d use on any other team. If you just can’t bear the thought of betting against your beloved Cowboys, you’re better off avoiding their games entirely.
On the other hand, if you can find other people who bet with their hearts, you’ll have yourself a very profitable gambling opportunity.
Not Shopping Around for the Best Lines
Yes, we’re going to keep harping on this because it’s just that important.
Taking the first line you see is like accepting a car salesman’s first offer. You can do it — but you’re probably not going to get a great deal if you do.
It’s much better to spend a few extra minutes looking around to see if you can get better odds. In the day of the internet, all it takes to find a great line is a few clicks, so you really don’t have any excuses.
Top Sites to Use for Spread Betting
Many sports bettors are intrigued by the idea of gambling on the internet, but they’re not sure which sites they can trust. While the list below isn’t exhaustive, it includes five of the best sportsbooks on the internet today.
Each one is trustworthy, reliable, and has a ton of betting options (and a killer deposit bonus to boot).
BetOnline — Best Spread Betting Site Overall
One of the great things about BetOnline is that they drop their lines very early — some of the earliest in the business, in fact. This makes them the standard by which many other sites’ lines are judged, and they should be the first place you check when shopping around.
When you make an account, enter code BET1000 to earn a 50% deposit match up to $1,000. If you’d rather deposit with crypto, you can get a 100% match up to $1,000 with code CRYPTO100. The crypto bonus has a 14x wagering requirement, while the fiat money rollover is 10x.
Bovada — Best Spread Betting Site With Low Wagering Requirements
On the other end of the spectrum, you should check Bovada for its excellent assortment of daily specials. If you’re looking to get in on a last-minute spread bet, you’ll find some great ones here.
During our Bovada review, we found that if you deposit using traditional methods, you can get a 50% match up to $250 (no code necessary), while Bitcoin and crypto players qualify for a 75% match to $750 by entering BTCSWB750. Both offers have a 5x wagering requirement.
BUSR — Best Spread Betting Site for Horse Racing
BUSR has a ton of action on just about any sport you can imagine, so you’ll find spreads for days here. While not as well-known as the two bookies above, that will likely soon change if they keep offering great odds and a wide variety of markets.
Enter SPORTS100FP when making your first deposit to get a 100% match up to $1,500. This offer includes a 20x rollover and a $100 minimum deposit, as our BUSR review shows.
MyBookie — Top Spread Betting Site for Mobile Bettors
Basketball bettors will feel right at home at MyBookie, as their NBA spreads are the envy of the industry. They’re also a fantastic spot for betting props if you feel like branching out a bit.
When you make your account, include code MYB50 to get a 50% match up to $1,000. To get that money, you’ll need to fork over at least $50 and satisfy a 10x rollover requirement.
Everygame — Best Bonuses of All Spread Betting Sites
Everygame is perhaps the preeminent sportsbook for European action, which means that soccer-spread bettors should spend a lot of time here. They also take action on American sports, of course, making them an excellent one-stop shop.
Here you can get a 100% match up to $750 if you use code 3XBOOST250. This bonus will be given out in $250 increments over your initial three deposits and comes with a 4x wagering requirement.
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Expert Guide to Spread Betting: FAQs
What Does a Minus Spread Mean?
A minus spread means that the team in question is laying points, which is to say, they’re the favorites. If you bet on them, they’ll have to win by more than the number listed in order for you to win your bet.
Why Does Point Spread Change?
Point spreads can change for any number of reasons, including new information becoming available about either of the teams or lots of money being bet on one side.
Remember, the bookies’ goal is to have an equal amount of money wagered on each side, so they’ll move the line to incentivize the public betting on whichever side is getting neglected.
Can You Win Real Money Betting On Point Spreads?
Yes, you can win real money betting on point spreads at any reputable sportsbook.
Is Betting Point Spreads a Smart Play?
Betting point spreads can be a smart play — if you know what you’re doing. As with any other sports bet, though, most people end up not winning any money at the end of the day.
Still, the simplicity and short odds offered by point spreads make them a good place for newbie handicappers to start.
Check these out before you leave:
Ready to Start Spread Betting Online?
If you’re looking to get into sports betting — or you just want to take your existing handicapping efforts to the next level — then spread betting is for you.
It’s one of the easiest and most fun ways to get in on the sports betting action, and we’ve listed five of the best sites for trying your hand at betting spreads. Thanks to the magic of the internet, it’s never been easier to put some money down on your favorite team. Looking for the best sites? Check out BetOnline!
Just don’t let it get out of control — and give us 3 points on the Raiders, would you?
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