The point spread levels the playing field, making betting on either the favorite or the underdog equally attractive. Either the favorite has to win by the margin listed, or the underdog has a buffer to lose the game by that margin, or win it outright.
How does the point spread work?
In the example below, the Colts are the favorite. The minus sign always denotes the favorite, and the plus sign denotes the underdog. For Indianapolis to cover 3.5 points, they have to win by four or more. So in this example, if you bet on the Colts, they need to win by at least four points to cover the spread.
However, if you bet the Giants, they can lose by three, two or one point, or win the game outright, and you win your bet.
Your payout is determined by the moneyline odds attached to the point spread. A negative number (such as -110) shows how much money you must wager to win $100, while a positive number (like +110) shows how much money you will win on a $100 wager.
Typically, the odds given on the spread are -110 unless otherwise noted, like above. If one side is receiving a lot of action, oddsmakers may adjust the lines accordingly in an effort to balance the action.
What’s a push?
Sometimes oddsmakers will set the line on an even number like 3, 6 or even 10. In cases like these, if the favored team wins by the exact amount set for the spread, the bet would be considered a push and your risk amount would be returned. For example, if the San Francisco 49ers were 7-point favorites and they won by a touchdown (seven points), any wager on the 49ers at -7 would result in a push.