What is Point Spread Betting? A Guide to Sports Wagering in Maryland

Fact Checked by Hunter Hewitt

Have you ever looked at a sportsbook and wondered what all the different numbers meant? Ever heard your friend talking about how he needed a certain team to cover the spread and been confused? Maybe you're a gambling veteran just looking for an edge on the sportsbooks. No matter which best describes you, you're in the right place.

The point spread is a tool used by sportsbooks to even the field between two teams of unequal strength. When two teams face off against each other and there is a large difference in skill, sportsbooks will handicap the better team and then let gamblers choose if they think that team will still win when the handicap is taken into consideration.

This guide will cover everything there is to know about betting on point spread lines in the state of Maryland. From the very basics to more advanced concepts, continue reading to buff up your knowledge on point spread bets and win some more money.

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What is Point Spread Betting?

Point spread betting is one of the most common ways to gamble on games and one of the first things that new gamblers are introduced to. It's used across virtually every sport though there are some slight differences in how it's applied.

Every game will have a point spread applied. The spread will be larger if there is a bigger difference between the talent levels of the two teams. One team will have to win the game by a certain number of points while the other team will see their bet win as long as they come within that number of points.

For example, let's say there is a game between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. The Ravens might be favored by 5 points, so they would need to win by at least 5 for their spread bet to win. If the Steelers came within 5 points, for example losing by 3, their spread bet would win.

Point Spreads Work?

As mentioned above, the purpose of point spreads is to handicap the stronger team while providing the underdog team with a chance to win their spread bet despite not winning the game. The way that this is denoted is through a number that will be placed beside the two team names on the sportsbook board.

A good example of how this would look like for college basketball when you check your sportsbook is like this:

  • Maryland Terrapins -4
  • Ohio State Buckeyes +4

If you thought that Maryland would win by more than 4 points, you should bet on that side. If you think that Ohio State will come within that many points, then you should bet that side. If the Terrapins win by exactly 4 points, it's considered a push, and you are returned your money.

Plus Sign vs. Minus Sign

The favorite, or the team that is expected to win the game, will have their point spread shown with a minus sign (-). They must win the game by this many points for their point spread bet to cash. The underdog will have theirs with a plus sign (+) and they can come within that many points and see their point spread bet win.

How to Start Point Spread Betting in Maryland

Making your first point spread bet in Maryland is an easy process. Once you've done it a few times, you'll have no trouble doing it again. The first thing that you're going to want to do is travel to your sportsbook mobile app or online website and log in.

If you haven't yet created an account yet, then you will need to go through the sign-up process with an operator such as BetMGM Maryland or others. Either way, once you've logged in you will want to deposit money into your account if you have not yet done so.

Then, browse through the different sports until you find one that you want to bet on. Pick a game and you will see the point spread wager advertised near the top because of its popularity. Choose a side and place your bet. If you picked the right side, congratulations on your winning bet!

How Are Point Spreads Used In MD Sports Betting?

Point spreads are used in Maryland gambling for a variety of reasons. The main reason is to make it easier to gamble on games between two unevenly matched teams. However, point spreads are also great tools for reading the general gambling market sentiment or comparing lines across books.

Savvy gamblers will pay attention to the way that the point spreads change across the different books. For example, Caesars Sportsbook Maryland may have different odds, but also a different spread compared to other operators. This can provide valuable insight into what the different oddsmakers are thinking, as well as where most of the dollars are going.

How to Read Point Spread Betting Odds

While the point spread number is crucial, another factor that must be considered are the odds associated. For example, two teams can both have point spreads of -4 in their games but the odds could be completely different, let's say -115 for one team and +105 for the other.

American odds are the most commonly used in Maryland and being able to read them is important for spread bets. The favored team will have their odds shown as a negative number while the underdog will have theirs shown as a positive number.

The negative number in American odds format will be at least three digits and represents how much needs to be staked to potentially win $100. The positive number will be at least three digits and represent how much can be won from a $100 bet. The return for any of these bets is your original stake plus your winnings.

  • Favored Teams Favored teams are expected to win their game and will have their point spread and odds shown with a negative number. The implied probability (including the house edge) of a favored team winning their game will always be more than 50%. In terms of what favored teams look like when betting the spread, they will always have a negative number associated. For example, the Baltimore Ravens could be favored by three points (-3), eight points (-8), or any other amount of points as the favorite.
  • Underdog Teams Underdog teams are the ones that are not expected to win the game and thus they're given a cushion in their point spread. They can lose the game, but as long as they finish within a certain number of points then their spread bet will still be a winner. Underdog teams will always have an implied probability of 50% or less. What this looks like when betting point spreads is a positive number beside the team name. For example, the Washington Commanders could be a three-point underdog (+3) and lose the game by a single point. In this situation, a spread bet on them would still be a winner.
  • Even/Close Teams In some games, the sportsbooks have a difficult time identifying a clear favorite and we end up with a very small or nonexistent spread. This could look like a very small spread, for example just one point, or even a tight spread where the odds for each side make the value virtually identical. On rare occasions, sportsbooks will not even release a spread for certain games. They do this when they think the teams are evenly matched and that just offering moneyline bets for each team is sufficient. The spread for these games can be considered zero.
  • Odds Movement One of the most important parts about spread bet odds is the fact that they are constantly moving. Sportsbooks want to encourage relatively equal betting on either side so they can turn a profit no matter what happens. Because of this, they will edit the lines to encourage betting away from popular selections. Following how these lines are moving can give gamblers an idea as to what other gamblers are betting on. While this information isn't perfect, it is something that gamblers should be paying attention to.
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Outcomes On Point Spread Betting

When you place a point spread bet, there are three potential outcomes. You can either win your bet, lose your bet, or have your bet end in a push. Here are the three outcomes are broken down so you can understand what might happen to your bet.

Winning the Bet

Winning the bet is the best possible outcome for gamblers. If you bet on the favorite and they win by more points than the spread, or you bet on the underdog and they cover the spread or win the game outright, your bet is a winner.

You will be returned your stake plus your winnings. Everyone loves a winning bet because of the new money that's given to you, increasing your bankroll.

Losing the Bet

On the other end of the spectrum, you can lose your bet. This happens when you bet on the favorite and they don't win by the necessary amount of points, or if you bet on the underdog and they can't finish within the spread.

This is the worst-case scenario for gamblers as you lose all the money that you put up as a stake for the bet.

Pushing the Bet

Last but not least, the third option is pushing the bet. This happens the least often of all three outcomes because the final score must land on exactly the spread created by the sportsbooks.

For example, if you bet on a team that is a four-point favorite and they win by exactly four points, then your bet is a push. You will be returned your stake but not receive the winnings. This can be thought of as a tie between the gambler and the sportsbook.

What Is Covering The Spread?

Covering the spread is a popular piece of gambling jargon that is used when spread betting. If a team is "covering the spread", it means that the bettor is on track to win their spread bet. Similarly, if a team had "covered the spread", it means that their bet won.

For example, if a favorite is favored by 5 points and they're winning the game by 8 points, they're covering the spread. The same goes for an underdog team that was spotted 10 points before the game and is now only losing by 2 points.

If the Washington Commanders win the game by 7 after being favored by only 4 points before the game, they've covered the spread.

What is Betting Against the Spread (ATS)?

Betting against the spread is another piece of gambling jargon and it simply means that you are placing a spread bet. Betting against the spread can be used for both betting on the favorite as well as betting on an underdog team.

This is just in comparison to betting a different type of wager such as placing a moneyline bet or betting on the over/under. Spread bets are one of the most popular bet types for any sportsbook, and betting against the spread is the term that gamblers use.

What is the VIG in Sports Betting?

The vig is the house edge that is baked into every bet. For example, most spread bets will have odds of -110 on either side, while the real odds should be +100 for a 50/50 selection. That difference in odds is the vig that the sportsbook keeps, ensuring that they turn a profit no matter what happens.

The vigorish means that there is a little bit of leeway for the sportsbooks when they make their odds as the house edge means that they can be off by a small amount. As a gambler, it means that you need to work extra hard to find odds that are mispriced enough to make eating the vig worth it.

What is the Hook?

The hook is the 0.5 that is tacked onto many point spreads. For example, many point spreads will not be whole numbers, instead, they will be decimals. You might see a spread of 4.5 points or 7.5 points, and that 0.5 on the spread is known as the hook.

Sometimes gamblers will accept weaker odds in exchange to get rid of the hook tied to the actual point spread. This is known as buying the hook and is relatively common, especially in sports like football where the scoring follows a strict structure.

There are key numbers in certain sports, mostly football, where the hook can become crucial. For example, three, four, and seven are all key numbers, and whatever team gives up the hook, for example, 4.5 instead of 4, is at a disadvantage.

NFL Betting and Points Spreads

The NFL is the largest betting market in the United States and spread betting is the most popular bet type. There are certain special features of the football scoring system that are important to understand to make sure you can make the most amount of money.


  • Picks or Pick Ems' are when two teams have a very low spread or no spread at all. This means that gamblers can pick either side and get very similar odds and potential returns.
  • Remember that just because it's a pick-em doesn't mean that the sportsbooks think both teams are exactly the same strength. Home-field advantage in football is worth about three points on NFL point spreads.


  • Spreads between two teams where one is favored by a touchdown are very common in the NFL. Because touchdowns are the most common scoring method in NFL games, many games end with a seven-point margin of victory.
  • Thus, the hook on games with seven-point spreads is crucial. For example, if the Washington Commanders are favored by seven points, some gamblers would rather buy the spread down to six-and-a-half points as insurance against the game ending on seven.

Field Goals

  • Just like how plenty of games end on a touchdown, lots of games are also won with a game-winning field goal. This is why plenty of games also have three-point spreads and sportsbooks will use that as a spread often to force gamblers to make a decision.
  • If the Baltimore Ravens are favored by three points, then they're going to need to win by more than a field goal for their spread bet to win.

Why NFL Spreads are Lower than College Football

NFL spreads are always much closer than college football. This is because there is more parity across the NFL than college football, mostly because of the fact that there are fewer teams in the league. In college football, a top team facing against a bottom feeder team means a huge difference in talent because of the vastly different resources between the two schools.

There is a much higher baseline of talent in the NFL. This means that even when the best teams are playing against the worst teams, the spread will never get too crazy. The average margin of victory in the NFL is much smaller than college football.

NBA Point Spreads

NBA point spreads look different than other sports because there is so much scoring in the sport. This means that there are more chances for the better team to show their dominance, resulting in less variance and a slightly easier time for sportsbooks to make an accurate spread.

There are no NBA teams located in the state of Maryland, though the Washington Wizards aren't too far away. Let's take a look at what a point spread might look like for them:

  • Los Angeles Lakers -10
  • Washington Wizards +10

The Wizards will need to finish within 10 points or win outright for their spread bet to be a winner.

MLB Point Spreads

Because of the low-scoring nature of baseball (and hockey), the spread bets work a little differently. Every game will have a spread of -1.5 for the favorite and +1.5 for the underdog, no matter the difference in talent for the teams. This is known as the run line.

For baseball, instead of the spread number being the most important, it's the odds of the run line that vary a lot and matter the most to gamblers. For example, if the Baltimore Orioles were large favorites, their run line might have odds of -200. However, if the game is expected to be much closer but they are still favorites, their odds for the run line might be -125.

NHL Point Spreads

The point spread in hockey works much the same as it does in baseball. What's known as the run line in baseball is known as the puck line in hockey. The favorite will have their spread be -1.5 and the underdog will be +1.5.

Like baseball, it's the odds that matter most. There are no NHL teams in Maryland but the Washington Capitals aren't too far. Let's compare two different situations:

  • Washington Capitals -1.5 (+125) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins +1.5 (-180)
  • Washington Capitals -1.5 (-225) vs. St. Louis Blues +1.5 (+150)

You can see how depending on the matchup, the puck line can be a very different bet because of the odds even though in both situations the Capitals are favored by a goal and a half.

Moneylines and Point Spread Bets

Alongside point spread bets, betting on the moneyline is also one of the most common wagers for residents of states with legalized sports betting. The moneyline is a bet on a team to win the game outright. Whatever happens in the game, whoever earns the win will see moneyline bet tickets on them cash.

It is possible for a team to win their moneyline bet while also failing to cover the spread or vice versa. This means that while the two bet types are very similar, they aren't directly linked and have independence from each other.

American odds format will be used by sportsbooks for both moneyline and spread bets. There is still a favorite and an underdog, the only difference is in the conditions that make a winning bet.

Bet on the Point Spread in Maryland Now!

Hopefully, this guide helped clarify how you can bet on the point spread in Maryland, as well as increased your understanding of some of the intricacies of spread bets. No matter what your sport of choice is, knowing how the point spread works is crucial for any gambler.

Those interested in sports gambling in Maryland can find a regulated sportsbook to sign-up with and start betting on point spreads today. It's a quick and easy process that allows gamblers to start the process and have their first wager placed within a matter of minutes.

Bonus Bets Expire in 7 Days. One New Customer Offer Only. Must be 21+ to participate & present in MD. In Partnership with MGM National Harbor. Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER. Visit BetMGM.com for Terms & Conditions. US promotional offers not available in NY, NV, or Puerto Rico.

Maryland Point Spread Betting FAQ


Noah Strang is a freelance sports reporter with extensive experience in the worlds of sports gambling and sports cards. He's worked as accredited NHL media and contributed for a variety of publications across the web. You can find more of his work or contact him at his Twitter @noahstrang_.

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