What does Cover the Spread Mean? – How To Read The Point Spread

The point spread is an estimate of the final point difference between the teams in an event. A handicap of the point spread value is given to the favourite team so bettors can choose sides at equal odds.

“Cover the spread” means that a favourite wins an event with the handicap taken into account or the underdog wins with additional points.

The spread goes beyond classifying a team as the favourite or the underdog and assigns a numerical value to the perceived difference between teams.

Take a matchup between the San Antonio Spurs and the Charlotte Bobcats. The Spurs are clearly favoured to win as they are a much stronger team, making betting on the matchup lackluster at best.

But what if the Bobcats were given an extra 4 points? A few more people would bet on the Bobcats. What about 12? Sportsbooks set a spread at a value which accurately represents the perceived difference in value between the teams.

Say the sportsbook set the line at:

San Antonio Spurs -12.5 1.91
Charlotte Bobcats +12.5 1.91

Oddsmakers have assigned a “point spread” to the matchup, which basically gives the underdog team an artificial “head start”.

The Point Spread is +12.5 for Charlotte, which means that when they start the matchup and the real score is 0-0, Charlotte will actually be leading 12.5-0 for the purposes of picking a winner.

Say at the end of the matchup, the real score is Charlotte 100 and San Antonio 109.

If you picked San Antonio on the moneyline, you would have picked correctly because they won the matchup.

But with the point spread, it’s a different story.

Because the Bobcats started with an artificial 12.5 point lead, it gets added to their real score at the end of the game. Adding the 12.5 points to their real score of 100 gives them an adjusted score of 112.5, which is now better than the Spur’s real score of 109!

In this scenario, the Charlotte Bobcats are said to have covered the spread, meaning that they won the game with their head start.

On the other hand, if the final score at the end of the game is Charlotte 80 and San Antonio 98, then Charlotte’s adjusted score is 92.5 (12.5-point head start plus a real score of 80). However, even with the head start, Charlotte’s adjusted score (92.5) is less than San Antonio’s real score of 98.

This time, the San Antonio Spurs have covered the spread.

Of course, if the Charlotte Bobcats won the matchup outright, then they automatically cover the spread.

While sometimes a source of confusion for people new to making picks, all the point spread really does is makes picking either team equally attractive!

Why Do Some Spreads End In .5?

There is no such thing as a half point in sports, but there is in sports betting!  The half point ensures that a side will win and that the match will not end in a push, where the spread equals the actual difference in points between the two teams.  In a push all bettors get their money back, which is no good for the oddsmaker!  Half points also give oddsmakers more control over lines, allowing them to set more specific values.