Basic Strategy for Betting Point Spreads

Basic Point Spread Strategy

If you place wagers on US sports, then chances are high that you've heard of point spreads. Here's how they work; if a game has Patriots -9.0 and Vikings +9.0, the Patriots are 9.0 point favorites and the Vikings are 9.0 point underdogs. Unless otherwise stated, no matter which team you bet on, you'll be required to risk $1.10 for each $1.00 you want to win. For Patriots bettors to prevail, they need their team to win by 10 or more points. A 9-point Patriot victory would be a push (a tie). For Vikings bettors to take home the victory, they need to either win the game or lose by less than 9 points.

Point spreads are used since 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, then in order to take bets and still have a small profit margin, the bookmaker would have no choice but to require Patriot bettors to stake $3.00 or more for each $1.00 they want to win.

With a point spread, the odds are balanced, so you usually have to risk just $1.10 to win $1.00. This makes the point spreads appealing to recreational bettors, who often think it's easy to make money from them. We have to be honest with you; it's NOT easy, but it IS possible. The strategy we cover in this article should help!

Recommended Reading

We've provided a brief explanation of point spreads in our introduction here, but if you'd like to know more about this type of wager then please read our beginner's guide to betting point spreads.

Simple Tips for Point Spread Betting

Strategy for betting point spreads is obviously different for each sport and league, but these four tips are general enough to apply to them all.

  • Take Advantage of Bonus Offers
  • Use Multiple Betting Sites
  • Be Careful of Road Favorites
  • Understand Key Numbers

Let's go over each of these tips in a little more detail.

Take Advantage of Bonus Offers

One way to make money from sports betting is to open an account at an online betting site and take advantage of their sign up bonus. This gives you extra money to wager with, and since point spreads are so straightforward, it can be relatively easy to meet the associated wagering requirements and still come out ahead. Repeating this process at multiple betting sites will maximize your potential returns! We just ask that you please stick with reputable sites, like any of the ones that we recommend.

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Use Multiple Betting Sites

We already mentioned how using multiple betting sites allows you to take advantage of multiple bonus offers. That's not the only benefit either. Since point spreads vary between sites, one of the best ways to beat these wagers is to compare the different spreads in order to find which one is the most favorable. This doesn't take nearly as long as you might think, and it will make a huge difference to your bottom line over time.

Let's take a hypothetical game between the Buffalo Bills and the New England Patriots as an example. One site might have the spread as follows.

Bookmaker A
Bills v Patriots
Point Spread
Bills
+ 7
Patriots
-7

Another site might offer a slightly different spread.

Bookmaker A
Bills v Patriots
Point Spread
Bills
+ 7.5
Patriots
-7.5

If you're betting in favor of the Patriots, then you should be betting with Bookmaker A. If the Patriots win by more than seven points, then you'll win with either bookmaker. However, if they win by exactly seven points, you'll lose with Bookmaker B. With Bookmaker A, you'll push and get your stake returned.

On the other hand, if you're betting on the Bills, then Bookmaker B will be your best option. A Bills loss of exactly seven points would be a push at Bookmaker A, but it would be a win for you at Bookmaker B.

It's only a half-point difference, and that might not seem like a lot. The bookmakers tend to be very accurate with their spreads though, and an extra half-point in your favor can easily add up to extra profits over time.

Be Careful of Road Favorites

Many novice bettors fail to understand the impact of home advantage when wagering on sport events. When looking at the board for potential wagers, these bettors tend to get excited and bet on lots of superior teams favored on the road against weaker opponents. The betting market is so much more advanced than this, and for the most part point spreads are always going to be 50/50 propositions.

Please Note

We're not saying that you should never bet on road favorites. Just make sure that you have good reasons to do so. Keep in mind; they don't just need to win, they need to win by a greater margin than the spread suggests they will.

Understand Key Numbers

While understanding key numbers is beneficial for betting point spreads on any sport, key numbers are known for having the most significance in football. In NFL football, most games are decided by three or seven 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 differently than risking $1.10 to win $1.00 (which is called -110 odds). For example, you might see the Giants priced at -105 and +7 in a game against the Jets. Now, you only have to risk $1.05 to win $1.00. This is obviously better odds, but it's very likely that they will lose by exactly seven to give you a push. Taking -110 and +7.5 with an alternative bookmaker is actually the better bet.

Getting your head around these kind of intricacies, as well as knowing the relevant key numbers, is vital if you want to bet on the point spreads successfully.

Now that we've got the basic tips covered, we want to provide you with some point spread betting tips specific to two of the 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 using modified point spreads. Each point spread you select is moved 6 points in your favor. For example, let's say you're interested in betting on the following.

  • Jets at -7.0
  • Patriots at -3.5
  • Bills at +7

A teaser would give you a single wager with the following spreads.

  • Jets at -1.0
  • Patriots at +3.5
  • Bills at +13

Each selection is obviously easier to get right with the spread moved in your favor, but you do have to get all three correct in order for your wager to win.

Recommended Reading

If you want to learn how to beat this form of wagering, you'll definitely want to read our article onĀ betting football teasers.

Another way to beat football point spreads is to shop for off market prices. For example, let's say you're shopping online betting sites and see every site is offering Vikings +7.0. Then, you stumble upon one site that's offering +7.5. There's a good chance that this is a +EV wager, simply because it is out of sync with every other site. Please note that this strategy isn't quite the same as simply shopping for the best lines. Here, you're specifically looking for wagers that are +EV because they're against the market.

It's also important to consider whether or not there's any correlation between the point spread and the betting total. If they are, a parlay wager is a good way to get maximum value. For example, a college football point spread +24.5 parlayed with under 48 points in the same game might be a great parlay bet. If the +24.5 team covers the point spread, then there's an increased chance that the game also goes under the posted total of 48.

Finally, you might want to think about learning the correct strategies for buying half-points in football. While many people are against this method, we're here to tell you that there are some circumstances where buying points can be profitable.

Point Spread Betting in Basketball

Buying half points is a strategy that can work for basketball too. Most online betting sites offer bettors the ability to purchase half-points at 10 cents each. Let's say the Lakers are -6.5 at odds of -110 for example. Here of some of the options you can expect to see.

  • Lakers -6.0 at odds of -120
  • Lakers -5.5 at odds of -130
  • Lakers -5.0 at odds of -140

A great strategy for betting basketball point spreads is to shop dozens of betting sites for the best line, and then purchase as many half points as possible (provided they are priced 10 cents each).

When using this strategy, it's helpful to know the most common margins of victory in NBA basketball and how often they occur.

Common Margins of Victory in NBA Games

This information shows us that nearly half the games finish with one of the eight point margins listed, and this isn't the result of variance. Some margins of victory occur more frequently than others because of end game strategy. The winning team is often found running the clock, while the losing team if often found intentionally fouling.

The key here is to target the point spread five and seven, because these are virtually tied as the most common margins of victory. It's important to recognize that most betting sites are only willing to sell 2 or 3 half points for 10 cents each, after which point they start charging more. Some sites sell up to four half points at this price though.

To show how this can be exploited, take a point spread of -8.5 at odds of -110. This is a 50/50 proposition. Let's assume you've purchased enough points to move the spread to -6.5 at odds of -150. Now, you'd win instead of lose 6.24% of the time they win by 8, and 6.59% of the time they win by 7. Add these together with the 50% from the original proposition, and we get 62.83%.

Go to our odds converter, and you'll see that the implied probability of -150 is 60%. This means you need to win 60% of the time to break even. However, our handicapping shows the actual probability of winning is 62.38%.

If we risked $150 to win $100 on this -150 line, 62.38% of the time we would win $100. And 37.62% of the time we would lose $150. This gives us an expected profit of $5.95 for every $150 risked.

Warning

If you only make large +EV bets such as the basketball example above, betting sites will limit the amount you're allowed to wager. It's not uncommon for online bookmakers to spot a skilled bettor 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 decrease your limits even further. That's why we recommend trying to hide the fact that you're so sharp. By placing some random wagers and occasionally spending some time at their casino, you'll have a much better chance of staying under the radar.

This is also another good reason for using multiple sites. Since there are so many different reputable betting sites to choose from, it would take you a long time to get limited at every single one of them.

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