Wagering on the point spread, or the "line," involves wagering on one of two things.
- Whether a team will WIN BY MORE than the given amount of points.
- Whether a team will LOSE BY LESS than the given amount of points.
The team perceived to have the best chance of winning a game (the “favorite”) is given a handicap of a certain number of points for wagering purposes. This means those points will be deducted from their final score. This handicap is known as the "point spread," or “line” The favorite is always listed with a negative number sign in front of it.
A line of -6 means 6 points are subtracted from the favorite’s final score. If the favorite still has more points than the underdog after these points have been subtracted, then a bet on the favorite wins.
Point Spread Bet Example:
- Minnesota Vikings -6
- Green Bay Packers +6
The team perceived to have a lesser chance at winning the game (the “underdog”) is given a handicap of a certain number of points. The underdog is always accompanied with a positive number, such as +6. In this case, +6 means that for this wager in particular, 6 points will be added to the underdog's final score. If with these extra points the “underdog” has more points than the favorite, the bet has "covered the spread” and will be graded as a win.
- If you bet the Vikings -6, they are the favorites and are expected to win by 6 points. For a wager on the Vikings to win, the Vikings must beat the Packers by MORE than 6 points.
- If you bet the Packers +6, the Packers can either win the game outright OR lose by LESS than 6 points for the wager to win.
- If the Vikings beat the Packers by EXACTLY 6 points, this game would be graded as a “push.” For wagering purposes, this is a tie and all wagered money is returned. In order to avoid this, it is possible for point spreads to be set at a half point, meaning instead of -6/+6, you would see -6.5/+6.5 instead.