What is a Spread Bet?

The point spread (runline in baseball) is the handicap, or head start, that the linesmaker gives to the underdog. Rather than just winning outright, the favorite must win by more than the point spread ("cover the spread") for bets on the favorite to win.

Let's say the Indianapolis Colts are playing the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL. All signs point to the Colts being the favorite and the Cardinals being the underdog. The linesmaker might decide to give the Cardinals a four-point head start, which would look like this:

Colts -4
Cardinals +4

If you bet on the Colts, you'll win your bet if they win the game by more than four points (i.e., if their score is higher even after you subtract four points from it). If you bet on the Cardinals, however, you'll win your bet if they lose by no more than three points (i.e., if their score is higher after you add four points to it). If the point adjustment results in a tie (in this example, if the Colts win by exactly four points), the wager will be graded "Push" and your money will be refunded. How much you stand to win is determined by the moneyline odds attached to the point spread. When no odds are listed, the line is standard (i.e., -110).