How Does Spread Betting Work?

Now that the 2021 NFL season is underway, states throughout the United States are setting new sports betting records. Other sports bring in plenty of betting action as well, but the NFL is king when it comes to legal sports betting. 

NFL point spreads are a big focus for most sports bettors, but not everyone that bets on the NFL knows what that means. There are a number of great ways to bet on professional football, and you don’t always have to focus on this option. 

If you do want to take your sports betting to the next level then it would be beneficial to know how spread betting works. 

Explanation of Spread Betting

Spread betting is basically a two-step process as you have to determine which team will win an NFL game, and also decide how far the final spread will be. This adds a degree of difficulty to moneyline betting, but it also offers a chance at a much better payout. 

The best way to explain spread betting is to take a look at a real-life example using two of the better teams in the NFL. This will not only show how spread betting looks at the sportsbook, but also how much money can be won.


Kansas City Chiefs -4.5 -110

Dallas Cowboys +4.5 -110

The first thing to note is that the Chiefs are the betting favorites in this matchup. The team that has a (-) sign is the favorite and that makes the Cowboys (+) the underdogs. 

In this particular situation, the Chiefs would have to win the game by at least five points for them to win the bet. You can actually bet on Dallas to win the bet, and they don’t have to win the game to make you a winner.

As long as the Cowboys are able to lose by four points or less then they would be the right team to wager on. Spread betting does give you some more options, which can help when it comes to betting on sports. 

You will also see that the payout for each side of a spread bet is the same most of the time, but that doesn’t have to be the case. In this example above a bet of $110 would earn a payout of $100. 

Why Do the Lines Move?

Now that you have a better idea of how spread betting works, you are likely going to start paying close attention to the odds. One thing that you will notice is that spread betting odds typically move often, especially when it comes to the NFL.

Sportsbooks like to post spread betting odds almost a week in advance of a game, and a lot can change during that time. When it comes to the NFL, spread betting odds are usually moving due to injuries, or COVID-19-related illnesses.

You are also going to find that different sportsbooks will have different spreads for NFL games. Not only do you want to try to make the right pick, but it’s wise to shop around and find the best spread betting odds.