What is a Point Spread in Massachusetts?
Point spread betting is particularly popular for certain relatively high-scoring sports such as football and basketball. The spread is the number of points by which one team is expected to win - you then use your skill and judgment to decide whether or not the result will reflect that margin.
How Does Point Spread Betting Work?
The best way to understand how a point spread works is to think about it as a handicap. Indeed, you will sometimes see such a bet referred to as a handicap.
Virtually all online sportsbooks such as BetMGM Massachusetts will offer point spreads about upcoming fixtures. The sportsbook in question handicaps the favorite by giving the underdog a notional start to level the playing field.
As a result, the odds about both sides in the game should be roughly equal - usually -110/-110 each side. You then have to decide whether or not the favorite will win by more than the start their opponents have been given. Whichever way you bet, the payout should be the same amount.
A favorite that duly triumphs by more than the margin quoted is said to have "covered the spread" - and if you have wagered on it to do so, you are a winner.
How To Read Point Spreads in Massachusetts
The point spread is such a popular way of wagering on sports that you should expect to see it displayed prominently next to each fixture on a sportsbook's home page or app. You may be confused when you first encounter it. Here is a brief, simple guide to reading point spreads.
One of the teams in any game is likely to be less expected to win than their opponents. This side is the underdog, and in the points spread it will be given a start to level up the odds. If the Boston Celtics are facing the Miami Heat and are given a start of three points, you will see a number with a plus sign next to it. In this instance, it will be +3.0. In effect, you can add three to the Celtics' total of points in the game - will that be enough for them to beat the Heat?
The favorite, meanwhile, is the team that is expected to win the game. To even up the odds, the sportsbook effectively takes some points away from this side. So if the New England Patriots are favored to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Steelers are given a 1-5-point start, you will see a minus sign next to the Pats on the spread - in this instance, -1.5. You then decide if the Patriots will win by two points or more to cover the spread.
Betting odds are not set in stone. From the moment they are released, they are subject to change - and that is true for point spread lines as much as any other market.
For instance, in the example above the Patriots are initially quoted at -1.5 on the spread. However, if the sportsbook in question is then hit by a flurry of bets on that outcome, it may move the line in an attempt to balance its book on the game. You may just a few hours later see the Pats quoted at -3.5 for the same game.
There are other reasons for line moves, such as late injuries or suspensions. Whatever the reason, as you become more experienced in sports betting, you will become more adept at interpreting line movement so that you can place your wager at a time most advantageous to you.
Point Spread Bets Using American Odds vs. European Odds
Most sportsbooks offering their services to bettors in Massachusetts will use American odds, also known as moneyline odds, on all the markets available through a website or app. This is a style of betting odds used only in the USA and Canada.
The favorite's price comes with a minus sign; odds of -150, for instance, show you must stake $150 to take a $100 profit. The underdog, meanwhile, has odds with a plus sign; a price of +250 means you win $250 for every $100 you wager.
European odds are also called decimal odds. The main difference between them and the US style is that the price includes the stake that is returned as part of your winnings. So moneyline odds of +120 are equivalent to 2.2 in European odds.
A pick'em is a game in which the teams are so evenly matched that the outcome is seen as genuinely 50-50. You may also see such an event described as a "pick" or even just a "PK".
In these circumstances, each side is just as likely as the other to win the game outright, so there is no scope here for a point spread.
Outcomes of Spread Betting in Massachusetts
When you are trying to win a point spread wager, it's essential to remember that it doesn't actually matter which team wins the game in question. What is important is the margin of victory.
Win the Spread Bet
To win a spread bet, you need to wager on the correct outcome. So if the Boston Celtics are -3.5 on the spread before an NBA game and they win by four points, you have made a winning bet and will collect a payout.
Lose the Spread Bet
However, if in the same example, the Celtics win the game by two points, your spread wager is a loser. Even though the Celtics have emerged victorious, their margin of victory was not wide enough to cover the spread, and you have a losing bet.
Point Spread Tie (Push)
There may be occasions when the favorite wins by exactly the margin of the spread. If the New England Patriots are -5.0 before an NFL game and win by five points, such an outcome is called a "push". If this happens, all bets are refunded. Sportsbooks usually try to avoid a "push" by including a half-point in their spread odds.
Massachusetts Sports for Betting the Spread
There are ways of enjoying point spread betting on all the major sports that Massachusetts fans enjoy. However, NFL point spread betting is particularly popular.
- NFL Point Spread
One of the reasons why football point spread betting is so popular is that the sport is relatively high scoring, so there is plenty of scope for larger margins of victory. Another is that the fortunes in an NFL match can swing wildly, even in the fourth quarter, which keeps the interest high right until the end. New England Patriots fans will not need reminding that the Pats won Super Bowl LI after being 25 points behind the Atlanta Falcons.
- NBA Point Spread
Basketball is, after football, the most popular sport for a point spread bet. The fact that it is such a high-scoring sport makes such a wager hugely tempting. Boston Celtics fans may wish to forget that their heroes were nine-point favorites over the Miami Heat on the spread before game six in the 2022 NBA playoffs - and the Heat won by eight.
- MLB Point Spread (Run Line)
Sportsbooks tend to refer to the point spread in baseball as the run line. Margins of victory tend to be much smaller in baseball - you will normally find the Boston Red Sox quoted at either -1.5 or +1.5, depending on whether or not the Sox are favored to win the match in question. A two-point margin of victory is usually required in baseball to cover the spread.
- NHL Point Spread (Puck Line)
Much like baseball, the point spread in hockey has a different name - although, as in the MLB, the standard spread here is +1.5/-1.5. If you are wagering on the big ice action, you will find the spread is called the puck line. So the Boston Bruins will be either -1.5 or +1.5, depending on whether they are fancied to win or the underdog.
Massachusetts Point Spread Payouts Explained
Winning bets on point spreads are paid out in precisely the same way as any other type of wager you place with a sportsbook. It is essential to remember, however, that one team winning a game does not automatically mean you have won your point spread bet.
If the New England Patriots are -5.5 on the point spread to win their next NFL game and they win by four points, for instance, Pats fans will be celebrating. But they have won by fewer points than were needed to cover the spread. Anybody who backed their opponents at +5.5, meanwhile, will be happy - even though the team they wagered on lost the game.
What Does “Covering the Spread” Mean in Massachusetts?
Covering the spread is key to anybody who backs a favorite to win by more than the margin quoted by a sportsbook. If the Boston Celtics are -4.5 favorites for their next NBA game, it is not enough for them to win by three or four points.
Only if the Celtics win that game by a margin of five points or more will they be said to have covered the spread - and, in doing so, generated a payout for fans who predicted that would be the case and backed their hunch with a wager.
What Does “Against the Spread” (ATS) Mean?
If you bet against the spread, it means you tend to look for opportunities to wager on the underdogs in each game. Just as betting with the spread refers to wagering on the favorite to overcome the start given to their opponents by a sportsbook, going ATS suggests you like to look to the other side of the market.
So if the Boston Red Sox were +1.5 in an upcoming game and you felt they would either win, or lose by just one point, you would bet on the Sox against the spread. ATS is also a term used to track how well a team has historically fared against the spread in its games.
What Does the “Vig” Mean?
The vig is a term you may have heard around sports betting. It is short for "vigorish", a term that means the juice, the cut or the take. Essentially, the vig is the margin imposed by a sportsbook, or any gaming operator, on every bet or market to ensure that the house makes a profit. That explains why the odds on a typical point spread are -110/-110 rather than +100/+100.
Spread Betting Strategies for Massachusetts Bettors
As you become more adept at playing on point spreads, you will wager in a more strategic manner on your favorite sports and teams. There are several ways in which you can increase your chances of making this type of bet profitable for you.
Learn How Point Spreads Work
The first step is to understand how point spreads operate. Once you appreciate that this is a handicap bet, you can see that this is a consideration of how much one team will lose or win by, rather than a simple judgment of the chance of them being victorious or not. You can also see how the ebb and flow of a game will make the point spread change as the action unfolds.
Take Advantage of Massachusetts Sports Betting Promotions
All leading sportsbooks will offer Massachusetts sports betting promos and bonuses - especially to new customers. You can use the bonus funds to bet on point spreads, just like any other wager. Look out too for odds boosts that may be applied to a point spread or low-juice offers that cut the margin and give you an extra sliver of value for your bet.
Use Multiple Betting Sites
There is nothing to stop you from opening more than one sports betting account in Massachusetts. One result is that you will be able to compare the odds available on point spreads from rival operators. DraftKings Massachusetts may be offering a different spread than the Caesars Massachusetts Sportsbook, for instance - you can work out which will give you a better return for your stake. You can even place multiple bets at varying prices to cover every outcome.
Understand Key Numbers
There are certain key numbers that you need to understand if you want to make the most of your point spread betting. For instance, look at the margin of victory recorded in recent games by the teams in action - and check back over recent years to see how previous meetings have finished. Also, be aware that NFL games are won by three points and seven points more than other margins.
Place a Point Spread Bet in Massachusetts
Now that you understand how point spread betting works, you are ready to enjoy this type of betting at sportsbooks in Massachusetts.
Always remember to take out of your calculations your thoughts on which side will win the tie, or lose it. What matters is what you believe the winning margin will be - and how that stacks up against the spread on offer.
You will probably gravitate more toward football and basketball, which are the sports most associated with spreads. However, there is still plenty of value to be found in wagering on hockey and baseball.
One of the main attractions of point spread betting is that it gives you a chance to get decent odds about a favorite that is a short price on the moneyline. If you are convinced the New England Patriots are going to win their next game emphatically, and by more than the spread, you will get a much better return by wagering on them on the spread.
Ultimately, the point spread is a handicap and a challenge to your sports knowledge and expertise. If your bet on a game lands, it can be as much fun as any other type of bet available.
Massachusetts Point Spread Betting FAQ
Yes, once betting is live in Massachusetts you will be able to place point spread bets with sportsbooks in the state. The point spread is one of the most popular ways of wagering on sports, and you should see it prominently displayed on each game on your chosen website or app.
A point spread is a handicap bet, whereby a sportsbook levels the odds about each team in a game by giving one of them a start. You have to decide whether or not the favorite will win by more than that number of points, runs, or goals - and place your bet accordingly.
A +7 spread is a bet in football or basketball that means one side is handicapped to score seven points more than the other. In this bet, the underdog is given a seven-point start. You have to work out whether or not the favorite will win by more than seven points to cover the spread and earn you a payout.
Covering the spread refers to a successful wager on a favorite in point spread betting. If the Boston Red Sox are -1.5 on the spread in their next game and the Sox win by two runs or more, they are said to have covered the spread - and any bettor who wagered on them to do so gets a payout.
A negative spread refers to the number of points a favorite has to win by to cover the point spread. That number will come with a minus - hence the term negative spread. If the New England Patriots are -6 on the spread in their next NFL game, the Pats must win by at least seven to cover the spread.
An award-winning contributor covering sports betting and casino gaming around the world for decades, Martin Booth is one of the most trusted voices in online gambling. From legislative updates to breaking down the top betting apps, Martin covers a gambit of topics for BetMassachusetts.com.