Sports Betting Strategy

The Point Spread & Handicap Sports Betting

Point spread and handicap betting are very similar in that they both follow the same basic principle. These types of wagers involve a sportsbook making an adjustment to the points or goals scored by a team. The adjustment is made to account for the difference in perceived strengths of the teams involved with the weaker team receiving a handicap in order to create a more even sports betting matchup. Here is a look at how the point spread and handicap sports betting work.

Point Spread & Handicap Betting Explained

The term handicap betting is used in the United Kingdom and Europe but it’s mostly referred to as a point spread in North America. The general idea is to theoretically even the playing field so the size of the point adjustment depends on the teams involved. The spread is bigger when the matchup is perceived as being more lopsided while the spread is smaller when the matchup is perceived to be a lot closer. The point spreads and handicaps are used across all sports but are most popular in football and basketball betting.

Point Spread Examples

If the New England Patriots were to play the Cleveland Browns in a regular season game then the point spread would likely be fairly large to account for the difference in team strengths. The Patriots might be listed anywhere from minus-9.5 to minutes-12.5. Meanwhile, if New England was to visit the New York Jets then they would likely be a smaller favorite like minus-3.5. There are also cases where the Patriots would be considered underdogs, which is most likely when they are playing as the road team. If New England was to visit the Green Bay Packers, they could be listed at plus-2.5 to account for being the road team in a fairly even matchup. The point spreads can differ depending on the matchups and across all sports with football and basketball the most popular.

Handicap Betting Explained

In soccer, baseball and in hockey the handicap betting is more popular, with small numbers for each matchup since there is less scoring in those sports than in football and basketball. The favorites could be listed anywhere from -0.5 to -3.0 while the underdogs could get anywhere from +0.5 to +3.0. The handicap betting in these sports is a lot like the point spreads in football and basketball but the lesser scoring means smaller handicaps for these matchups.


It’s easy to understand how the point spread and handicaps work in sports betting but you need to be able to understand value and when to take certain lines depending on matchups in order to become a successful sports bettor. Everything from the reasons the lines are what they are to how to find value and how to capitalize on unique opportunities must be taken in to consideration. The best handicappers in the world are able to understand how these lines work and exploit them to their advantage in order to build up their bottom lines.

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