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The Point Spread

NFL Football Betting: The Point Spread

By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

A standard football bet is always tied to the point spread. You’ve probably heard hard-bitten gamblers referring to this. “What’s the spread?” is a common question heard in betting circles. To the untrained ear, it sounds like underworld talk--gambling jargon that might sound a little intimidating. It’s actually quite an easy equation that you can master in a matter of a few minutes.

The point spread is a number created to give equal appeal to both sides of a football bet. In the great majority of games, one team is considered better. Therefore, the point spread is a handicap for the underdog team. It’s not enough to merely forecast that the favorite will win, but they must win by a certain number of points.

The bookie is usually looking to create an equal amount of action on both sides of the bet. In order to do that, he must create a bet of equal interest to both sides--a point spread that interests potential bettors of both teams. The favorite needs to win by a certain number of points, while the underdog can lose by a particular amount and the bet is still a winner.

Let’s look at an example:

Oakland Raiders (+6) vs. San Diego Chargers (-6)

The favored team (Chargers) is always listed in the minus-format. They’re starting the game down by 6 points in essence, while the Raiders are ahead by 6, hence the plus-sign. Just remember, minus means favorite, plus means underdog.

If this game ended up being 30-24, Chargers, both sides would receive their bets back. For a winning bet on the Raiders, they must either win or they can lose by less than 6 points. For a winning bet on the Chargers, they must win the game by more than 6 points. Let’s look at a spread that falls on a half-point, a common feature in NFL point spreads.

Detroit Lions (+5.5) vs. Green Bay Packers (-5.5)

Now you know that Detroit is the underdog, being at +5.5, with Green Bay the favorite at -5.5. In a game with a point spread falling on a half-point, there cannot be a push. All bets will either be winners or losers. Detroit, being the underdog, can either win the game outright or lose by less than 6 points for the bet to be graded a winner. Green Bay must win the game and do so by 6 points or more.

In point-spread wagering, you’re not merely picking a winner. It requires more accuracy than just merely picking the winner of a game. You have to figure out if the favored team will win by more than the number indicated by the point spread. Or if the underdog team can either win or lose by a number less than what the point-spread says.

This is a bet with two possible outcomes. It amounts to a heads-or-tails proposition. Theoretically, you have a 50% chance to win the wager, being that the outcome is restricted to only a pair of potential results, not counting ties (pushes). Obviously, the job of the football bettor is to gain an edge and be able to sense a weak point spread and eventually win more bets than he loses.

And sometimes, there are opportunities for the bettor to pounce on a flawed point-spread. The bookie puts up a point-spread not so much as an authoritative analysis of the game. The point-spreads will often times be eerily accurate, but the primary motive for posting a point-spread is usually to get equal betting action on both sides of the bet.

The bookie wants roughly the same amount of money on both sides of the bet, guaranteeing him a profit. They are not so much concerned in the actual outcome of a game. The point-spread is not some ultra-authoritative expression of a game’s probable outcome. It’s a number designed to illicit equal interest on both sides. In a lot of ways, it is tied to public opinion. This means there will be some point-spreads that are faulty, thus giving you some good wagering opportunities.

Things to Remember

With point-spreads, favorites are always represented by a minus-sign, with underdogs designated by a plus-sign.

On point-spread wagers, you usually must bet $110 in order to earn $100. Some sportsbooks (5Dimes) offer -105 bets, where you only have to bet $105 to win $100. This is how bookies make money, regardless of a game’s result.

If taking a favored team, you are “giving points,” whereas a bettor taking the underdog is “getting points or “taking points.”

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