Point Spread Betting Guide

On its most basic level, a point spread bet is a wager on the difference between the winning side and the losing side of a sporting event. A point spread bet can take several forms; however, what you’re betting on is not who wins or loses, but how much they win or lose by.

Though these betting lines are pretty common for team sports, online sportsbooks in Tennessee also accept spread wagers for individual sports like golf and tennis. Point spread bets have even entered the realm of esports wagering. You can wager on the spread of an event by themselves or as part of a parlay with other types of bets.

Just like with moneyline wagers and point total bets, success depends on many factors. A primary one of those is your research on the events in question themselves. Timing is a crucial element, as well. That not only applies to when you place your bet but when you cash out as well. Of course, placing your bet is the first step.

Check our feed below for the current point spreads posted at TN online sportsbooks. Sports include the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, NCAA basketball, NCAA football and more. Use the drop-down menus to switch between sports or to see the moneyline or totals boards.

How to bet the spread at a TN online sportsbook

In Tennessee, you have a selection of legal online sportsbooks. You can download each sportsbook’s app or visit its desktop website.

From there, create your account. You will need to share some personal information, including your name and address. A legal sportsbook will ask for your Social Security number to verify your age, identity, and for tax purposes. The next task is making a deposit. Many Tennessee sportsbooks offer promotions on your first deposit as a new customer.

Now you’re ready to start betting. Most sporting events at the sportsbook will include wagering on the spread. Ascertaining the value of those markets requires some understanding of how point spread odds work. It’s important to consider the house edge and why sportsbooks offer point spread bets.

How the point spread works

Let’s say that you’re looking to bet the spread on a University of Tennessee football game. Let’s say the Volunteers are a slight favorite. The point spread, for example, is Tennessee -3.5 (-110). That half of a point on the -3.5 line is what’s known as a “hook.” It exists to prevent a bet from being graded a “push,” as it’s impossible to score half of a point in football.

Should you decide to make this bet, you would need Tennessee to win by more than 3 points. Even if the Volunteers still win this game, but only by 3 points or less, your bet would lose. The -110 tells you what the payout would be if your bet does win. In this instance, your payout would be $210 if you wagered $100, and Tennessee wins by more than 3 points.

In a straight bet, the house edge on this line would be 4.5%. Essentially, the house edge is the amount of money the sportsbook collects on each market it posts. The point spread element of these markets increases that percentage, however. Since you not only have to pick the winning side but also the winning margin, the sportsbook has a better shot of keeping your money.

Betting on the underdog with a spread bet

The same thing applies if you place a spread bet on the underdog. Those bets can be easier to win, in theory, but most often result in a win for the sportsbook.

To continue using our example, let’s say the Volunteers’ opponent in this game is Vanderbilt. Further suppose that the point spread line on this contest for the Commodores is +3.5, -110. Many times the potential payout for both sides of a point spread will be the same. For the sportsbook, this is a way to ensure it will make money no matter the outcome.

If you decided to make this bet on this game, you could win in one of two ways. Should Vandy upset Tennessee, regardless of the score, you would win. If the Commodores lose by 3 points or less, you would win that way as well. The only way you lose a point spread bet on an underdog is if the favorite beats that underdog by a margin greater than the spread. In this case, if the Volunteers win by more than 3 points, your bet would lose.

While novice bettors might think that betting on the underdog is smarter, that isn’t true at all. These teams are the underdog for a good reason, and the spreads are usually quite accurate. When you consider a market, you should assume the bet is set up for you to lose. Some factors could mitigate that risk, however, and one of those is the movement of spreads.

How and why the line moves on a spread bet

Bettors have some control over where these lines sit. Like most other businesses, sportsbooks react to customer behavior. If most of the action goes on one side of a market, the sportsbook will adjust. One way to do this is by lengthening the odds on the side that bettors are avoiding to entice other bettors to effectively even the action.

The action on the market is the primary reason oddsmakers move point spread lines. There are other factors; however, that could change lines before a game, such as:

  • Player injuries
  • Change of venue
  • Weather conditions
  • Player discipline
  • Coaching decisions

Because of these factors, it might be wise to wait until right before a game starts to place your wager. The advantage of doing so is you are working with as much information as possible.

There’s a risk in that strategy, however. The odds could also move in the sportsbook’s favor if you wait too long. Which method is best depends on the unique circumstances of each market. Many football bettors are eager to bet the spread earlier in the week when uncertainty around a matchup can result in inaccurate betting lines.

As the oddsmakers are paying close attention to the news, you should be as well. If a vital update drops, you will be quick to react in your best interest. Although TN sportsbook apps are happy to take your money on as many individual point spreads as you care to wager on, there could be a better way to place bets on multiple spreads. That method is a parlay bet.

Using spread bets as part of a parlay wager

Parlaying multiple individual point spread lines into one bet is a way to increase your reward and your risk. When you place such a wager, each point spread line is known as a “leg.” Assume you want to bet the spread of a Memphis Grizzlies game and three other NBA games.

Instead of making each bet separately, you could opt to parlay each as a leg of one bet. The risk increases because you must pick the correct side in each leg. If your prediction holds in even three of these four legs but not the fourth, your bet is a loss.

In exchange for increasing your risk, the sportsbook will give you a better payout than if you had bet on each of the spreads individually. At most sportsbooks, you can parlay spreads with moneyline and point total bets.

It’s important to learn the house rules for each sportsbook regarding parlays before placing the best. Although some TN laws and regulations govern these wagers, some aspects will differ from one book to the next. An example of this is sportsbooks letting you cash out your bet early. The house rules on this can differ greatly, and whether or not doing so would benefit you is another element of risk.

Why sportsbooks may offer cash-out betting

Sometimes, games don’t go as expected. For spread bets, this can mean the favorite is winning by a huge margin, or the underdog seems about to pull off an upset. A sportsbook will sometimes let you cash out of a bet before the outcome is official. It’s entirely up to you. Whether doing so is wise depends on many factors.

Using our Tennessee-Vanderbilt example, assume it’s the third quarter, and the Volunteers are up by 17 points. Your sportsbook app might offer you an immediate payout of $150. That is smaller than the $210 you could collect at the end of the game. If you think the Commodores might be able to trim that lead to less than 3 points over the final quarter, it may be wise to take what the book offers now. Making $40 profit off your wager is better than losing it.

At the same time, you’re forfeiting your chance to make a $100 profit. If you’re confident that the Vols will maintain a lead of more than 3 points, you could be better off turning down this offer. Regardless of the bet type, there is always an element of reward and risk. Wisely navigating between the two is key to betting successfully.