Bookie Beater Academy

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Sports Betting for Rookies Part 3 – The Line

Ok so far we have mastered reading the odds and calculating probability, now it’s time to look at the spread or point spread.

The point spread is the most common and popular bet among gamblers. The purpose the point spread serves is to level the playing field between two teams by means of a handicap from the oddsmakers who set the lines. 

As ever, it is best to use an example to explain this more clearly. 

   Moneyline  Spread 
Tampa Bay -140   -2.5 (-110)
New Orleans +120    +2.5 (-110) 


The moneyline we have already discussed in our reading the odds, in simple terms it is the straight bet odds. In this example Tampa are clear favourites but the disadvantage by taking the moneyline is you will only get $71.45 return if you bet $100 so your exposure is greater than your return. 

By betting on the spread, however your returns would increase to $91 with the remaining $9 being the vig or the juice (the profit margin of the sportsbook). Conversely, if you bet $100 on New Orleans on the moneyline you would return $120 BUT as they are underdogs you may want to use the spread as a ‘safety net’, increasing your statistical likelihood of winning but reducing your payout to $91. 

The moneyline to spread conversion varies from sportsbook to sportsbook but broadly speaking for football for instance it will look something like this: 

Point Spread Money Line
-2 -130/+110
-2.5 -140/+120
-3 -155/+135
-3.5 -175/+155
-4 -200/+170
-4.5 -220/+180
-5/-5.5 -240/+190
-6 -270/+210
-6.5 -300/+220
-7 -330/+250
-7.5/-8/-8.5 -360/+280
-9/-9.5 -400/+300
-10 -450/+325


-1 -115 51.10% 1 -104 48.90%
-1.5 -121 52.30% 1.5 100 47.70%
-2 -132 54.30% 2 +109 45.70%
-2.5 -143 56.30% 2.5 +118 43.70%
-3 -156 58.20% 3 +129 41.80%
-3.5 -170 60.10% 3.5 +140 39.90%
-4 -184 61.90% 4 +150 38.10%
-4.5 -199 63.60% 4.5 +162 36.40%
-5 -222 65.80% 5 +179 34.20%
-5.5 -247 68.00% 5.5 +198 32.00%
-6 -276 70.10% 6 +219 29.90%
-6.5 -309 72.10% 6.5 +243 27.90%
-7 -349 74.20% 7 +270 25.80%
-7.5 -397 76.30% 7.5 +302 23.70%
-8 -458 78.40% 8 +341 21.60%
-8.5 -536 80.50% 8.5 +388 19.50%
-9 -656 82.80% 9 +456 17.20%
-9.5 -832 85.20% 9.5 +545 14.80%
-10 -1069 87.30% 10 +651 12.70%


We can go into further detail by considering probability percentages, like this NBA chart:

But we are probably getting ahead of ourselves. I do suggest though that you take a screenshot of those two charts as they will come in very useful once you are confident enough to bet.

Betting Against the Spread & Covering the Spread 

When you bet against the spread, it’s not enough for the favorite to win the game; now, they have to win by more than a specified amount (the spread) in order for them to cover the spread. 

Very simply covering the spread means that the favourite (the team with the negative number against it) wins with the handicap taken into account or the underdog wins with either with or without the additional points given. 

So in our example if you backed Tampa on the spread and they won by 3 points or more, you win. If, however they won by 1 or 2 points you still lose your bet 

If you backed New Orleans and they either won outright OR lost by less than 2.5 points your bet is a winning one.  

This may seem very obvious but it doesn’t stop people getting confused. If New Orleans win outright without having to use the spread you DO NOT get the moneyline odds! 

When to Bet on the Spread 

There are a number of factors to consider when betting on the spread as opposed to the moneyline. The key factor is covered in our calculating probability video.  

IF your own assessment of the underdog means you think they will win the game without the need for the spread then the moneyline is the way to go.  

On the flip side if you believe through your own research that the favourite will win by more than the allocated spread then you are best going against the spread. In both cases the reason is you will get a better return on your bet. 

Changes to the Spread 

Sportsbooks can change the spread for any number of reasons from changing weather conditions to injuries or changes to the lineups and even because they feel their odds maker hasn’t correctly assessed the probabilities. 

IF the spread changes after your bet is made this does not affect your bet, so if you backed Tampa cover the spread at 2.5 and it moves to 2.0 and the result is a 2 point win you still lose the bet.

This can work in your favor or against, it is up to you to decide whether betting early will benefit you in terms of potential spread moves or not. 

Do Other Sports have Point Spreads? 

Betting against the spread on the NFL is by far the most popular form of spread betting, but there are other options. 

You will also see point spreads in hockey, baseball, soccer and even tennis. The principle is the same but the terminology is different:

In hockey, the spread is called a puck line; in baseball, it is a run line; and in soccer, it is a goal line.Puck lines and run lines are almost always fixed at 1.5.

While it is important for you to learn all the basics we are covering in this series, it is more important that you seek the advice of experts when you decide to start sports betting like you would with any other investment (check out our Sports Betting as an Investment video). 

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