You may think that the point spread that’s used in making lines for NFL, college football, NBA and college basketball games and the run line in MLB and puck line in the NHL are devices designed to indicate a final outcome of a specific game. That somehow those who create the point spreads and lines are doing so as a way to say that the point-differential expressed is really a projection of how much a team will actually win or lose by.
Point spreads are created by expert odds makers who love sports and betting and who know both inside out. They exist for one reason only—to help ensure that there will be action on both sides. Sportsbooks want bettors to wager on both teams. Why? If bets are spread evenly that means that the books can make money on whichever team wins. If sports bettors are wagering on one team heavily and that team wins, then the books can end up losing a whole lot of cash.
Although no odds maker is 100% effective, overall these diligent workers are pretty effective in doing just that. The best of the best can make life difficult for bettors and expert handicappers who are selling picks. If the odds maker evens out the action, then they have done their job.
Understanding how an odd maker creates a line can help the sports bettor understand what they must do to decipher that line and make a winning bet. If the odds maker’s job is to even out the ledger when it comes to how many bets are being placed on each team, then the sports bettors job is the ensure that they are on the winning side of that point spread, and the best way to do so is to use the same techniques and consider the same stats and facts that expert odds makers do.
As it is with any process, there are some standard procedures that most odds makers use when they devise point spreads. The primary tool that these people use is power rankings, which weigh various aspects of each team that contribute to a team’s strength. A power ranking is a numerical expression of the value of each team. These rankings are adjusted after each game and are influenced by various factors.
A team’s power ranking can change due to trades, injuries and recent performance. Once the odds maker creates a preliminary line, they really get down to work by comparing match-ups, how the two teams have played against one another recently, and outcomes against similar teams. Most odds makers will consider local perception of each club. How do the sports writers who know each team so well perceive them and what does the public think about each club? Also, what’s the take on the game by the players, coaches and front office?
In creating the spread or line, the odds maker needs to be able to project which team bettors will naturally take and how much of a spread is needed to ensure that there is even action. They also need to consider recent betting patterns. Was one of this week’s teams heavily bet last week and did it win? Does the public see the club as being on a roll and tough to beat? Is a large percentage of the action going to go to that club?
If that’s the case, then the odds maker has to convince a certain percentage of the bettors to go with the team that they believe will lose straight up. Thus, the odds maker has to create a point spread that will convince enough bettors that the underdog can win with the extra points awarded to them through the spread. Once the expert odds maker is satisfied, the line is released to the sportsbooks.
By the way, most sportsbooks will not automatically publish that line. They will have their own odds makers study it and they may adjust it accordingly. The book may have had a lot of action on one team and not much on the other recently and may take another half-point or point away from the favored team. Again, this is to even out the wagering on both sides and it is not an indication of how the game will actually end. It is a projection of what it will take to convince the public that either team has a chance of winning when being given or having points taken away.
As bets come in, the spread may be adjusted various times. Again, this is in an attempt to even out the betting on both sides of the ledger. In the end, the successful point spread has resulted in both team’s seeing fairly equal action and a result that sees the spread creating a point differential that is minimal once the game has been played.