Spread betting was created to help even the playing field in sports wagering. In most contests, there’s a favorite and an underdog, and more times than not, the favorite will win. Of course, that’s not always the case, but often the team that is supposed to win does and most people will bet on that team. The spread was invented by bookkeepers to neutralize this phenomenon and to encourage bets on both sides.
The basics of spread betting were in full force in Super Bowl XLIII when the Pittsburgh Steelers met the Arizona Cardinals. The Steelers took the game by a score of 27- 23. But if you bet on Pittsburgh against the spread, you lost. The Steelers were at minus-seven, which meant for bettors that picked them, the team from the Steel City had to win by more than seven for their wager to payoff.
The smart money was on the Cardinals who were at plus-seven. With spread betting in force, the Cards got seven points on top off their score in the actual game. Anyone who put cash on the Cards would have won their bet as long as Arizona won outright or lost by less than seven.
The final score of Super Bowl XLIII may have been Steelers 27 and Cardinals 23. But for bettors, bookmakers and handicappers, the score that determined which bet paid and which didn’t was Arizona 30 and Pittsburgh 27.
Spread Betting Explained
Sometimes sports spread betting will utilize a half-point spread. In other words, you may see a team listed at plus-6 ½ or minus-3 ½ . That half-point negates any chance that there will be a “push.” A push occurs when two teams tie due to the spread. The seven-point spread in Super Bowl XLIII could have ended with a push. If the score had been Steelers 30 and Cards 23, then the plus-seven for Arizona would have made the spread score 30-30, which means there would have been “no action;” that is no winner and no loser. All bets would have been off and all money would have been returned to the bettors.
In spread sports betting, the payout is considered to be even money (1:1), but it’s not really. Every wager carries a commission, which is known by many names, including “vig” or “vigorish.” The commission paid by the bettor is 4.545%. If the payout odds were truly 1:1, then an $11 wager would result in a $22 return. But that doesn’t happen in spread betting. An $11 bet pays $21, with the other buck, which goes to the bookmaker, being the vigorish. The real odds are 1:0.954.
There are many factors to consider when playing the spread. Sports handicappers will use a number of methods to make their sports picks against the point spread. Some of these include how the teams have done against one another recently? Did one club blow out the other or were the teams fairly evenly matched? Is there a true home field advantage or does one team do exceptionally well on the road? Will the weather be a factor, limiting offense or defense?
Injuries that could impact the contest also need to be studied. These are especially important if they happen after the spread has been set and the spread hasn’t been readjusted to reflect the influence of the injury. As an example, if Kurt Warner had gone down with an injury the day before Super Bowl XLIII, then Pittsburgh at minus-seven would have looked like a very good bet. The odds would have changed if that had happened, but it takes anywhere from a minute to 24 hours for bookmakers to adjust the spread depending on how public the injury is. For the sports bettor, taking old odds on the heels of breaking news can be very advantageous.