Spread betting is one of the most well-liked types of bets available in sportsbooks, and it was popularized by US mathematician and bookmaker Charles K. McNeil in the 1940s. From then on, this form of wagering spread far and wide across the sports betting world as the hobby itself became more accessible.
The point spread is the margin that shows which team is the favorite and which team is the underdog in a game. Its goal is to ensure equal traction between both groups of bettors, which makes it perfect for NBA games, and it eliminates the need to tinker with the odds. This type of bet is available before an NBA event starts and in live betting markets. The following listing is an example of a point spread you can encounter at a bookmaker:
Brooklyn Nets: -3.5 1.9
Charlotte Hornets: +3.5 1.9
Here, we can see that the odds are the same, and there is a point spread of 3.5. This means that if you place a bet on the Brooklyn Nets, they must win by 4 points or more for you to not lose your stake. On the other hand, if the Charlotte Hornets lose but do so while the opposing team has an advantage of 3 points or under, this is a win for the punters who wagered on the underdogs.
The Favorite and the Underdog
The dynamic between the favorite and the team on the opposite end of sportsbooks’ expectations is at the core of what makes point spread betting possible and, frankly, necessary.
The favorite is the team that is expected to win. They have a supposed advantage over their opponents, which can be related to their experience, the scheduling, player injuries, and other factors. This is why the favorites are the ones to receive a “handicap” in the form of a negative point spread that is always preceded by a minus. In addition, this is where the term “handicap betting” originates from.
A negative point spread entails that if you wager on the favorite, their victory will not be enough for your bet to be successful. The team will need to cover a wider margin. For example, the Golden State Warriors’ point spread in a supposed game is -6.5. In other words, them emerging victorious with a 6 point advantage over the opposing team will still result in you parting with your stake. Their winning margin will need to be 7 points or above for your bet to be successful.
The situation with the underdogs is pretty much the opposite. They are, according to the sportsbook, the ones at a disadvantage during a game. Thus, the sportsbook “gives” them points to make up for that problem, and the underdogs receive a positive point spread.
All this team needs to do is lose by less than what is shown in the point spread. Therefore, if the New Orleans Pelicans were to be given a +5.5 spread during a game, for instance, this means that so long as they lose by 5 points or fewer, any bets placed on the underdog will win.
Half Point vs Whole Number
Experienced bettors will run into an impressive variety of point spreads throughout their wagering journey. Interestingly, the point spread will, more often than not, be a half point number. For instance, William Hill set the point spread between the Phoenix Suns and Orlando Magic in their March 2022 game as -6.5 and +6.5 respectively.
The reasoning behind this is the push. A spread bet can have three possible outcomes, the first of which is the favorite covering the spread, while the second is for the underdog to cover it. A third likelihood is the so-called push, i.e. for the teams’ scores to fall directly on the spread.
When a push happens, there are no winners or losers, and each punter has their stake returned to them. This is a very unfortunate outcome for a sportsbook, since no wins or losses mean that the bookmaker essentially did not earn any money from the endeavor. It is, then, only natural for a bookie to do whatever possible to avoid such scenarios, and this is where the half point spread shines.
Basically, there is no such thing as half points in NBA basketball. Setting the point spread with something that is not a whole number, therefore, renders the possibility of a push occurring impossible because there is no way for the point spread to fall on the exact numbers set by the bookie.
This does not mean that whole numbers are never chosen. On the contrary, they are not exactly rare, and you will certainly run into such listings while you wager online. Such spreads might not be as common as half point spreads, but they do pop up frequently enough, so do not be surprised if you run into them when you bet at your sportsbook of choice.
NBA Line Movement
One of the first things a novice bettor must get used to is how the odds will fluctuate as the game draws near. The same can be said about the spread itself, and there are two main possible changes.
The first possibility is for the margin to increase over time. If you observe this happening, it means that a lot of money is being wagered on the favorite, so the sportsbook is trying to tempt people into wagering on the underdog. The second scenario involves the spread number being decreased, which indicates that many punters are going with the underdog. The bookmaker, thus, wishes to increase the number of bettors who will wager on the favorite.
An important thing to emphasize is that, like the odds, the spreadline you pick will be yours until the end, so wagering at the right time is quite crucial for a bettor. This will generally differ from game to game, but the underdog will often become better to wager on as the game nears, so it will be worth it to wait in such situations.
As for what can help you in other cases, spread betting, like other types of wagers, requires you to be very knowledgeable about the ins and outs of sports betting and basketball itself. Pay close attention to statistics, and take things such as injuries into account when you are contemplating placing a bet.
Key Numbers in the NBA
Those who tend to wager on NFL events will be familiar with the concept of key numbers. These numbers are common winning margins that can be observed in a series of games. In the NBA, numbers 1 through 9 are, more or less, what can be seen as key numbers, and the number 7 has had a slight advantage over the others in terms of how often it occurs. It is also significant in the sense that such a margin at the end of a match makes the event a three possession game. In such cases, the losing team is unlikely to overcome the ones who are in the lead.
Key numbers can be absolutely crucial to keep track of if you wager on American football, but the situation is not the same with basketball. Some bettors even believe that basketball lacks actual key numbers, since the frequency of the currently accepted ones is not of great significance according to these individuals. Due to this, the matter has been a point of contention among experienced NBA punters.
All in all, it is good to have an idea about what key numbers are, but they should not be the priority of an NBA bettor. Proper analysis and research will always be far more important.
At the end of the day, spread bets are a very popular option for punters. Wagering on the spread is not as difficult as predicting the exact score of a game, for instance, nor is it as simple as a win-or-lose wager. Basically, it strikes a nice balance, which makes it appealing to punters new and old. You can also wager on the point spread during a live game as the action is in full swing.
Additionally, the fact that it makes balancing games all the more hassle-free is something sportsbooks themselves are very fond of. As for how you can wager to the best of your abilities, do not neglect to look up any relevant information, keep track of the movement of the line movement, and understand the relationship between the favorite and the underdog. So long as you are vigilant, you will quickly become great at betting on the point spread.