What Does ‘Covering the Spread’ Mean in Sports Betting?

What Does 'Covering the Spread' Mean in Sports Betting?

Updated: May 28, 2023

  • What does ‘Covering the Spread' mean in sports betting?.
  • If you are confused on this issue we will explain how it works in this article.

If you’ve ever explored an online bookie’s offer, you’ve surely come across the term spread betting.

Often viewed as a complicated type of bet for seasoned veterans only, spread betting is more complex than outrights, for example, yet not that difficult once you learn the basics.

Point spreads are actually fun when you get to learn how they work.

As soon as you find out how to cover the spread, there’s a big chance you won’t be going back to match winners.

Oh, and the odds are much better for point spreads, and that means more cash to win.

You’re most likely familiar with the other types of bets such as match winners and outrights.

These two are the simplest bets possible and a far cry from point spreads. On the other hand, point spreads are great in close matches when you can’t really decide who might end up the winner.

What Is Point Spread Betting?

In every sport and every match, there’s a favorite and underdog you can bet on.

Of course, there are evenly-matched teams in terms of quality often, but in more cases than not, the difference in quality between two teams is a wide-open gap.

Let’s use a basketball example for it – if the Lakers play the Knicks right now, the favorite is pretty clear.

The Lebron-Davis-led Lakers would most likely run over the Knicks who (once again) are miserable this year.

Favorites such as the Lakers would likely have pretty low odds for you to make a profit, so betting on them is out of the question.

On the other hand, betting on the Knicks will be far more profitable, but also unreasonable – there’s no way the Knicks can beat the Lakers if they played today.

Well, there is a tiny chance but still – the quality gap is too big.

This is exactly where point spread betting comes in.

The point spread can be described as the estimate of the final point difference between the two teams.

Following this logic, the favorite team is given a “handicap” indicated by a – sign – to win your bet on the Lakers, they’ll need to win and cover the spread.

Conversely, as the underdog in this case, New York would need to win by the set amount of points or not lose the game by more than the spread in order to bring you profit.

Let’s put things into perspective. As favorites, the Lakers might be given a spread of -10, for example.

Bet on this spread, and you’ll profit if Lebron and co. cover the spread – in short, they win by more than 10 points.

On the other hand, New York at +10 means that you’ll win your bet if the Knicks win by that amount or stay under the limit if they lose.

Should the Lakers falter and not destroy the Knicks by 10 or more points, you will win your bet.

What If the Point Spread ends in a Tie?

If the point spread results in a tie, for example, the Lakers win by exactly 10 points, it results in a so-called “push”.

You won’t lose or win money in this case – the bookie will simply return your stake.

Neither team covered the spread in this case and you get your bet in return.

Can the Spread Change?

Absolutely. Online sportsbooks have the full right to change the point spread as they see fit.

This happens all the time and is affected by injuries, the number of bets placed, etc.

Depending on the time you’ve placed the bet, you can be at an advantage or disadvantage depending on the shift.

Can I Bet on Point Spreads Per Quarter Instead of Full Time?

Of course. Offshore betting sites often release spreads for different points in the match.

For example, you might get a point spread for the first quarter or half in an NBA match.

It’s not much different than full time spreads except for the odds.

The odds will almost always differ since the spread is much lower for a quarter when compared to a full-match spread.

Are Point Spreads Exclusive to Basketball Matches?

No, they’re not.

Point spreads apply to NFL, NHL, football, baseball, and other sports.

In baseball and hockey, you might meet point spreads called puckline (or runline) which is essentially the same thing.

Why Do Some Spreads End in .5?

This kinds of point spreads can be a bit confusing because there’s no half-point in, for example, basketball.

However, there is in sports betting. This is done to eliminate the push.

Bookies lose money on a push since they return your stake. By adding half a point to the line, sportsbooks have more control over them and can set more specific values.

In this case, the final margin can’t land exactly on the point spread. This means that there’s no push on these lines and ensures that the bookie doesn’t lose money. Well, unless you win.

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