What Is Spread Betting?

Spread betting is one of the most common bet types in all of sports betting, and is particularly popular when betting on the NFL and NBA.

The spread is essentially a sportsbook's way of leveling out two unequal opponents, and Dimers.com breaks it all down for you below. 

The underdog team is given a 'head start' in the form of points. To cover a spread, a favored team/athlete needs to win the game by the specified amount of points. Meanwhile, an underdog can either win, or lose within the number to cover.

The line can move prior to games and even during the match. It will fluctuate depending on injuries, momentum and, naturally, the scoreboard.

What's more you can bet on spreads within a particular period of time, such as a half in football, in addition to the standard full game spread betting

Spread Example:

  • New England Patriots -3.5
  • Denver Broncos +3.5

Using the example above, if you bet Denver at +3.5, they would need to lose by 3 points or less – or win outright – to cover the spread.

Conversely, if you bet New England (-3.5) at the spread, the Patriots would need to win by 4+ points to ensure a profit. 

In the event of a push – where the bettor and sportsbook tie –  your stake will be refunded. 

Push Example:

  • Bet: New England -3 vs. Denver  
  • Final: New England 24-21 Denver

Given the Patriots only won by 3 points, and not MORE THAN 3, this is considered a push. You would be refunded your bet, and yes, sadly that means no profit.

MORE: What Sports Can I Bet On?

Alternate Spread

You will also see alternate spreads available for sports games. Often the spread number is shifted slightly, enabling you to choose between multiple options – all of which give you either a better chance of covering, or larger odds.

However, make sure you shop around to check if any book is offering a bigger spread number. Not sure where to look? Read on!

Dimers' Best Odds section provides you with the juiciest odds from the United States' best sportsbooks. We've also listed today's best promotions available with each sportsbook. Don't say Dimers ain't good to you!

MORE: Top 10 Sports To Bet On

What is a puck line or run line? 

The puck line and run line are the spread within Hockey and Baseball respectively. They are absolutely 100% the same as spread betting in the NFL, CFB, NBA and every other sport. The reason they have their own name is because the sports are uniquely low scoring.

Both the puck line and run line largely sit at either +1.5 for the dog and -1.5 for the favorite. Rarely will you see this move – unless you have the LA Dodgers playing the Colorado Rockies!

MORE: Where Do Sports Odds Come From?

What does PK or Pick 'Em mean in spread betting?

Seeing PK or Pick 'Em on a spread betting is fairly common with soccer and occurs often in Premier League, MLS, Liga MX and La Liga betting. It can occur in other sports too when a match is incredibly tight and too close to call.

Often it looks like this: if you choose a team with PK next to their name, all they need to do is win the game – there's no cover needed. If the squad gets a W, you'll receive a nice little payout in your account.

MORE: Most Common Sports Betting Mistakes

What is a teaser?

Teasers are a form of a parlay and involve the manual adjustment of the spread line. 

This type of bet allows you to shift the point spreads or totals to suit you. Often this will see a dramatic decrease in odds, in exchange for friendlier spreads. 

Sportsbooks will generally give you the opportunity to adjust the spread by 6.0, 6.5 and 7.0 points within NFL betting, 0.5 to 1 in Baseball and Hockey, while Basketball generally allows anywhere from a 4.5 to 7.5-point shift.

No different to a parlay, all legs need to be correct for you to win. 


  • Pittsburgh Steelers (-3) vs. Chicago Bears
  • Detroit Lions (+10) vs. New York Jets

If you feel Pittsburgh may win handily in their matchup you could move them to -9.

Additionally, you may think the Lions are going to keep it close, so you tease/adjust the spread to +3. 

If the Steelers were to win by 10+ points and Detroit lost by 2 or less – or won outright – you would win this teaser parlay. 

Be mindful when placing teasers, some sportsbooks may void a leg or the entire teaser if one leg is a push.

With betting options like points totals, prop bets and spread betting in play it can be hard to know what each bet means and what is best for you.

Where Does the Spread Come From?

It is crucial then that we understand not only what a spread bet is but where it comes from and how it can be manipulated.

How is the Spread made?

Like most sports betting odds, the spread line isn't an exact reflection of an outcome's probability. The aim when an oddsmaker or sportsbook comes up with a line is – in an ideal world – to attract bettors for both sides/teams. 

If the Dallas Cowboys should be +5, sportsbooks will likely shift the odds in their favor to, say, +3. They know diehard Cowboys fans will bet on Dallas no matter what and in doing so, the sportsbook has an extra two points in the bank. There are other factors of course, and the spread isn't strictly determined by the above. 

Sports statisticians and mathematicians are heavily involved in the sports odds you see on a betting site or app. The Xs and Os of the spread comes from examination of the wider betting market, statistics and data. Some of the research conducted may involve comparison of teams or players in key categories which may influence the outcome.

It certainly isn't this simple, but so we understand the principal, if Kansas City and Patrick Mahomes were playing the worst statistical pass defense, there's no doubt KC would be favored. The Chiefs' strength would exploit the weakness of the opposition. 

Why are the Spread odds -110?

Like any business, sportsbooks want to make a profit. Odds of -110 is essentially inclusive of a tax paid to the sportsbook. When there are odds of -110, you must bet $110 to make $100 profit. Other times you'll see -107, -102 odds, which also ensure you pay the sportsbook a brokerage fee of sorts. If the odds were +100 or -100 there'd be no 'vig' or 'juice' for the sportsbooks and they'd only get their cut if they ended up winning the bets against the bettor.

MORE: How to Read Vegas Odds

When does the points Spread change?

Often there are sportsbooks that will release their initial spreads to professional bettors to get a feel for how accurate the line is. From there, they may adapt or adjust the spread before releasing it to the public.

Once out in the public betting market, the spread will increase or decrease depending on where most of the 'public money' is going. If a team has a +3.5 line, they are the underdog and can lose by under that specified number – or win outright. Conversely a -3.5 line spread means the team are favored and must win by above the specified number.

MORE: Where Do Sports Odds Come From?


  • New Orleans Saints +6.5: This means New Orleans must win, or lose by 6 points or under, for the bet to payout.
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers -6.5: The Bucs must win by a touchdown or more in order to generate a payout for Bucs -6.5 bettors.

When should I bet on the Spread?

There are two main options when it comes to the spread. 

If you're confident about the number you're seeing, then you should pull the trigger. When it comes to NFL betting, late Sunday night is a great time to check Dimers for the best spreads and odds across the United States. But, beware, betting the spread this early is fraught with danger because inactives are likely to be announced later in the week and thus moving the - and + lines a point or two either way.

Another alternative is to bet just before the game, we're talking 5 to 10 minutes prior to kickoff.

Why so late? Well, you're hoping the public is going to be piling money on the other team which will swing the spread bet back in your favor.

MORE: What Is the Moneyline?

Why do sportsbooks have similar Spread lines?

Due to the globalization of sports betting it isn't uncommon for sportsbooks to simply copy the spreads of other books. This method is cost effective and they end up with the same odds without all the data and betting analytics study. 

We don't know which books copy others but we do know how you can find the best spread odds for every major sport in the United States.

MORE: What Is Over/Under Betting?

How do I take advantage of Spread odds?

Sportsbooks look to make money off of you. So, how do we fight back and win money from the sportsbooks?

The answer is simple – take advantage of what is known as the 'edge'. What is the edge, you ask? 

Well, this is where the probability of an event occurring is more likely than the sportsbooks' odds. In other words, our predictive analytics model suggests a team has a much better chance of covering the spread than the sportsbooks think! 

Taking these bets gives you a better chance of being a successful gambler in the long run. Of course, the higher the edge, the better. While you're not guaranteed to cover the spread, taking picks with an edge gives you a greater chance of being profitable well into the future. This is super important when trying to be a successful sports bettor.

For every major sports contest including the NFL, NBA, College Football and Basketball, MLB and more, Dimers shows you the edge and exclusive promo codes to sign up with America's best sportsbooks.

MORE: What Age Can I Bet On Sports?

For a breakdown of how to bet every major sport in America and around the world, check out our guides to sports betting:

Now you know everything there is to spread betting, go and have some fun! Always remember to gamble responsibly and keep Dimers on hand to help you find your next winner.

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