Betting Intelligence Guides

Spread Betting: Building A Winning Strategy With One Of The Most Basic Bet Types

Although spread betting is the most common way of betting on sports, it is often considered to be the most difficult to win. For spread betting markets, sportsbooks present bettors with a 50/50 proposition where the team they select is asked to cover a margin. For instance, the sportsbook might offer a betting market where the home team is the favorite by 6.5 points (-6.5), and the away team is the underdog by 6.5 points (+6.5). Both sides of the bets are offered at “even” odds (e.g. -110, +110). And, the bettor is left to decide which team will “cover the spread.”

Spread bets are particularly difficult to win because they are among the most efficient markets. Simply put, the greater the volume of bets placed on a particular market, the better the sportsbooks are at pricing the market. High betting volume results in exceedingly accurate price discovery. But, there is still an edge to be gained. Our hope is that by following the strategies below, you can increase your win rate in the fun but frustratingly difficult spread betting markets.

Spread Betting: Building A Winning Strategy With One Of The Most Basic Bet Types
Spread Betting


Fade The Public

One of the most popular ways to approach and find an edge on spread bets is to watch how the public is betting and bet the opposite side of the market.

The key to this strategy is aligning yourself with the sportsbook rather than with the public. Remember that sportsbooks’ primary objective when setting lines is to mitigate and manage risk. When the sportsbook sees an overwhelming percentage of bets being placed on one side of the market, they will adjust the spread to incentivize bettors to take the other side of the market.

You can find edge, or at least more favorable spread margins, by identifying the side of the market the public is hammering, and taking the opposite (more favorably priced) side of the market.

Get Your Bets in Early

Another great technique to implement when betting spreads is to get your bets in early. This is true for two reasons: (1) Spread markets are least efficient the moment they open because they have the least amount of action placed on them at that time, (2) Professional bettors (“sharps”) tend to place their bets early, meaning that tracking the “public money” or “public bet percentage” just after the market opens, should give you good insight into how sharp sports bettors feel about the opening line and allow you to align yourself with their opinion.

Let’s take NFL spread betting for example. While Week 2 is heading towards Sunday Night Football or Monday Night Football and most recreational bettors are focused on those games, direct your attention at the opening lines for Week 3. Check out a historic line movement tracker to get a better understanding of when sportsbooks typically release the spreads markets for upcoming games. You’ll start to recognize patterns (e.g., the NBA spreads are consistently made public a certain number of hours before tipoff) and will be able to anticipate when lines are going to be released.

Avoid Parlaying Spread Bets

While parlays are perhaps the most exhilarating type of sports betting and can be thoughtfully incorporated into a successful sports betting strategy, they should not be employed to combine multiple spread bets.

If we consider that spread bets are meant to be 50/50 propositions, then a quick crunching of the numbers illustrates just how challenging it is to hit multiple spread bets on the same ticket.

Parlay Odds of Hitting
2-Game 33%
3-Game 14.3%
4-Game 6.7%
5-Game 3.2%
6-Game 1.5%

If you’re planning to spread bet, consider placing your bet as a stand alone bet, rather than combining it into a multi-leg parlay.

Research How Often the Team Covers the Current Spread and the Historic Spread

When evaluating a spread bet, you’ll want to understand how often the team you’re considering betting on covers the current spread and how often they cover the historic spread.

Let’s break that down with an example.

NCAA Basketball Spread Example

Here, you can see that Louisville is a 18.5 point underdog (+18.5) in their game against Duke. When evaluating this bet, you’ll want to know how often Louisville has covered an 18.5 point spread (the “Current Spread”). You can see that they’ve covered the Current Spread in 4 out of the last 5 games. This means that, with the exception of their game against Pittsburgh, Loiusville hasn’t lost a game by more than 18.5 points.

You’ll then want to evaluate how Louisville has historically performed against the spread (e.g. +10.5 against Clemson, +16 against UVA, +20 against Miami) (the “Historic Spread”). You’ll see that Louisville has consistently been underestimated by the sportsbooks and has covered the spread 4 out of the last 5 games.

The Current and Historic Spreads will give you insight into the margin a particular team is getting beat/winning by and whether the sportsbooks are consistently underestimating/overestimating the team.

Whether you’re a novice sports bettor or a seasoned sharp, our hope is that these quick tips will help you develop or refine your strategy and start winning more spread bets. So, in conclusion, the next time you bet the spread, try: (1) Fading the public, (2) betting early, (3) resisting the urge to parlay spread bets, (4) and researching how often the relevant team covers the Current and Historic Spreads.

Outlier Team
February 23, 2023
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