Point Spread Betting for American Sports
Point spreads are the most common way US sports are wagered. To explain, if a game has Patriots -9.0 / Vikings +9.0 the Patriots are 9.0 point favorites and the Vikings are 9.0 point underdogs. You can bet on either team which, unless otherwise stated, requires you to risk $1.10 for each $1.00 you want to win. For Patriots bettors to win they need their team to win by 10 or more points; if 9 points it's a push (no action). Vikings bettors win if their team either wins the game or loses by less than 9 points.
The reason point spreads are used is because most recreational bettors prefer to wager even money propositions. In the above example if there was no point spread only moneyline betting would exist. So, if odds makers are giving the New England Patriots a 73% chance of winning a game, in order to take bets and still have a small profit margin, the bookmaker would require Patriot bettors stake $3.00 or more for each $1.00 they want to win. With a point spread, the odds are balanced and therefore it cost just $1.10 to win $1.00, or even less at reduced juice sportsbooks.
Point Spread Betting Strategy
Strategy for betting point spreads is obviously different for each sport and league, but some general tips I can give that apply to them all:
- Take advantage of Sports Betting Bonus Offers - The best way to beat sports betting is open accounts at multiple betting sites, shop the lines and claim bonus and promotion offers. Right now www.justbet.cx is offering an 80% up to $400 bonus to players using code FREE80, and www.topbet.com is offering a 50% up to $250 cash bonus to players who use code 250FREE. Having the extra bonus cash to wager with can offset the bookmaker advantage.
- Use Multiple Betting Sites - The reason to use multiple betting sites is point spreads vary between sites. Although it may seem inconvenient, one of the biggest keys to beating sports over the long term is always betting with the best price. If you want to bet the Celtics and see Topbet has them at -5.0 and Justbet has them at -4.5 then obviously you want to make the wager at Justbet.
- Be Careful of Road Favorites - Many novice bettors fair to understand just how great a factor home advantage is when wagering on sport events. When looking at the board for potential wagers, these bettors tend to get excited and bet lots of superior teams favored on the road against a weaker opponent. As explained in my article handicapping the market, the betting market is much more advanced than this - for the most part point spreads are always going to be 50/50 propositions.
- Understand Key Numbers - In NFL football most games are decided by 3 or 7 points. Therefore when shopping the odds the difference between -7.0 and -6.5 is far greater than the difference between -5.5 and -5.0. With some betting sites odds, certain games are priced different than risking $1.10 to win $1.00 (which is called -110 odds). Here you might see Jets -7.0 -115 / Giants +7.0 -105. In this case the Jets are risk $1.15 to win $1.00 and the Giants risk $1.05 to win $1.00. When line shopping be aware of key numbers, so you can know if it makes sense to pay more. For example BetOnline -7.0 -110 or Bovada -6.5 -120, in this case Bovada is near certainly offering the better bet.
With these general tips now covered, allow me to share some point spread betting tips specific to each of the two most popular US sports, football and basketball.
Point Spread Betting in Football
One of the best ways to beat football point spread betting is to use teasers. A teaser is a form of a parlay bet that uses a modified point spreads. The overall best teaser odds in the industry come from www.bovada.lv who offers 3-team 6-point teasers at +180 (risk $1.00 to win $1.80). To explain how these work, each point spread you select is moved 6 points in your favor. For example, if you're interested in betting Jets -7.0, Patriots -3.5 and Bills +7, a teaser gives you a single wager on Jets -1.0, Patriots +2.5, and Bills +13. In order for your bet to win, all three of your selections must be correct. Of course, the example I just gave you is a sucker bet. If you want to learn how to beat this form of wagering you'll most certainly want to read my article on football teasers.
Another way to beat football point spreads is to shop for off market prices. If you're shopping online betting sites and see every site is offering Vikings +7.0, but then find Bovada is offering +7.5 there's a good chance the wager at Bovada is +EV. For more on this, and to learn another strategy for making football point spreads profitable read my article on buying half-points in football.
Finally, always consider whether or not the point spread and betting total are correlated. If they are, a parlay wager is better. For example, a college football point spread +24.5 parlayed with under 48 points in the same game might be a great parlay bet. This is because if the +24.5 team covers the point spread, chances are increased the game also goes under the posted total of 48.
Point Spread Betting in Basketball
Most online betting sites offer bettors the ability to purchase half-points at 10 cents each. For example if the Lakers are -6.5 -110 you have the options to wager -6.0 -120, -5.5 -130 etc. A great strategy for betting basketball point spreads is to shop dozen of betting sites for the best line, find the best and then purchase as many half points possible (so long as they are priced 10 cents each).
What's helpful to know is the most common margins of victory in NBA basketball and their frequency of occurrence are: 5 points (6.63%), 7 points (6.59%), 8 points (6.24%), 6 points (6.03%), 4 points (5.95%), 9 points (5.77%), 2 points (5.58%), 3 points (5.35%). I should note this is not the result of variance. The reason certain margins of victor occur more frequently than others results to end game strategy such as the winning team running the clock, or the team behind intentionally fouling.
The key here is to target the point spread 5 and 7 as these are virtually tied as the most common margin of victory. Also worth noting is while most betting sites are only willing to sell 2 or 3 half points for 10 cents each, after which point they start charging more, BetOnline.com sells up four half points at this price.
To show this can be exploited let's find a point spread of -8.5 -110, which is a 50/50 proposition. If instead you purchased them to -6.5 -150, you'd win instead of lose the 6.24% of the time they win by 8, and the 6.59% of the time they win by 7. Add these together and we get 50%+6.24%+6.59%=62.83%. If you go to our odds converter you'll see the implied probability -150 is 60%. This means you need to win 60% of the time to break even, however our handicapping shows the actually probability of winning is 62.38%.
If we risked $150 to win $100 on this -150 line, 62.38% of the time we win $100 (EV $62.38) and 37.62% of the time we lose $150 (EV: -$56.43), this gives us an expected profit of $5.95 for every $150 we risk. From here we can see our expected ROI is $5.95/$150=3.97%.
Point Spread Betting Warning
To provide you a quick warning, if you only make large +EV bets such as the basketball one I just showed - betting sites will limit the amount they allow you to wager. It's not uncommon for online bookmakers to spot an advantage player and say "okay you can keep wagering here, but the maximum you're allowed to bet per game is $500.00". If you keep betting and winning they might then cut the limits further. For this reason you should attempt to camouflage the fact you're sharp by also making some wagers in their casino and making other random bets.
Know that there are dozens of reputable online betting sites to wager at, so it will take sharp bettors months if not years to run through all the options while still having large limits. If down the road you find yourself running out places to bet, www.bookmaker.eu is very friendly to professionals and is willing to take $20,000+ bets on most point spreads, while remaining happy to pay bettors that win. This is because they are the largest betting site by a mile, in terms of volume, on US sports, and don't mind allowing sharps to wager in order to offset their risk.