How the Point Spread is Made

Many sports bettors, both starters and veterans, can not understand the true meaning of the point spread and the thought process which goes behind the making of the spread for each game. The point spread is not designed to be a true representation of how much better one team is than others, but is designed to appeal to an equal amount of money on both teams, so that the sportsbooks are ensured a profit.


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Many times you may see that the point spread is made to create a case where half of the bettors select one team and the other half of the bettors place bets on the other. That is close, but it is not totally correct, as not all sports bettors  bet the same amount. If a sportsbook gets 50 wagers on the Lakers for $110 each, but gets 50 bets on the Spurs for $330 each, the player creating the point spread (the oddsmaker) has not done a very good setting the point spread, although the same number of gamblers are wagering on each team.

The sportsbooks know that the so-called wise guys (smart bettors) will bet more money on the average than a typical gambler, so the point spread is made with trying to beat the wise guys. If a sportsbook has the smart guys on one team and the general public wagering on the other side, they typically will root for the public, with the knowledge that the public gamblers are more likely to give back their winnings on another game.

One of the most well-known stories involving the point spread occurred after Super Bowl III when the New York Jets, who were 18 point underdogs, upset the Baltimore Colts. A reporter questioned oddsmaker Bob Martin whether he was embarrassed about creating that point spread, and Martin answered that was one of the best numbers he ever created because it split the betting money down the middle.

Since bettors risk $11 to win $10, any time the money is close to even on a specific game, the sportsbooks are glad because they ensure a profit without any risks. If a sportsbook gets $33,000 in bets on Team A and $33,000 on Team B, they make $3,000 no matter who wins the game. Such a scenario does not occur nearly as often as the sportsbooks would like, but it will occur on occasion.

For a number of years, the point spread for the upcoming football games was launched every Sunday night by the Stardust Race and Sportsbook and it was almost a circus like atmosphere, when lottery numbers are drawn to see which bettors would have the first chance of betting into the unveiled point spread. The Internet sports betting is so popular that it has taken away a lot of the thunder from the Las Vegas sportsbooks, and almost all sportsbooks now are satisfied to follow the general point spreads of other sportsbooks.

A sportsbook that varies its line too much from the consensus line of the other sportsbooks is likely to get many bets on the team providing the best odds, and puts itself at financial risk should that team cover the point spread. If all sportsbooks had the Steelers as 7 point favorites over the Jets, but one sportsbook launched point spread of Pittsburgh -5, they would get a great amount of money bet on the Steelers, and very little at all on the Jets, and sportsbooks don’t like being exposed to those type of situations in which they can stand to lose a lot of money.

The next time you see a point spread, keep in mind that the person taking the bet does not necessarily believe the favored team is that many points better than the underdog, however, they do think the point spread will yield an equal amount of money bet on both teams.


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