How to Play the Sports Spreads

Spreading the Wealth


The increased turmoil in the economy has led hordes into sports betting and trying their hand out in the gambling arena to get out of the rat race. Gamblers nowadays are no longer satisfied with a mere “win or lose” outcome, especially when one team is particularly favored to win with little chance of an upset. That is why the concept of sports spreads was introduced.

In a nutshell, sports spreads come into play to prevent bettors from rooting for the favorite simply because they have the better chance of winning flat out. Sports spreads can be credited to Charles K. McNeil, a Mathematics teacher turned bookie.


Spreads level the playing field with bettors giving the underdogs a second look if they can “cover” the spread. Covering the spread means that the favorite wins big enough to negate the effect of the spread. This illustration is made clearer when a favorite wins by seven points in a -6.5 spread.

The reverse is also true for the underdog when it uses the spread to its favor. If the underdog loses but the spread pushes its score higher than the favorite, then it is as if the underdog won altogether. For example, the underdog wins if it loses by only one point in a +14.5 spread.

The Push

The whole idea is to create a 50-50 market with an equal opportunity of winning for both sides. Of course, everyone knows that the winner in such a situation is the bookie that collects commission, also known as vigorish, from both sides. A reason for the half point in spreads is to avoid any ties. This technique is known as the push and has become revolutionary in the way betting resolves all deadlocks faced.

Side Bets

A lot of side bets are involved in sports spreads. One of the more popular ones is the over/under, where bettors guess the combined final score of both teams. These figures normally enter the picture for prolific, high-scoring games such as basketball and football rather than baseball and hockey.

Be Careful

Internet betting has made everything so much easier as all one needs to do is to check the spread and see which side he or she wants to play along with. The temptation of betting too much over spreads is obvious because of its relative ease and the desire to compound wins or breakeven earlier losses. The dangers it presents are obvious: winners can easily be wiped out and losses can easily double, triple, or even quadruple if money management is not practiced properly.

A final note to consider is that sports spreads are normally based on trends or previous meetings between two teams. It is critical that careful research is done before pacing any bets. Of course, this is not a perfect world, and anything can happen once the ball starts rolling. That is the reason nothing is ever decided on paper. Keep sampling out different handicappers that offer the most reasonable spreads and find a rhythm to go along with it.

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