|Summary: Think you will win the bet if your team wins? You better check the point spread first.|
Former Playboy columnist Cynthia Heimel once wrote that there’s not a guy in the world who doesn't have his own theories on the subject of point spreads. Whether you believe her or no, it is true whenever you get a bunch of guys together to watch a game – any game – someone immediately asks, “What’s the spread?” and for each one who walks through the door and grabs a handful of Doritos, this question is asked again. So what is a “point spread,” anyway?
The point spread (as it is referred to in football, the “money line” or “line” in baseball) is similar to a handicap in golf: it’s simply meant to level the playing field (and, of course, make it tougher to predict the money winner). So if Team Red is playing Team Blue and you place your money on Team Red and they win by one point that may not be enough to win you any dough. In fact, you might even lose your initial bet.
It works like this: Team Red’s having a great season. Every time they hit the field it’s magic; giant holes seem to open up enabling their quarterback to fly through, passes seem to seek out receivers’ hands as if they had homing devices. So here they are going up against the Blues, whose season hasn’t been quite so hot. So in order to eve
n things out a bit, odds makers in Vegas give Team Blue some advantage. Say the spread is Team Red looks like this:
Team Red -10; TEAM BLUE.
This means that if you put your money on Team Red, it isn’t enough for them to simply win, in order for you to collect they’ll have to win by at least 10 points.
So what do the odds makers look at when determining point spreads? Mostly they look at the turf (Houston often gets home team advantage for being the only team in the league who's optionally enclosed stadium field is made of astroturf), the condition of the playing field (rainy and wet, dusy and dry), home team advantage (having most of the fans on your side can do tons for a team's morale), and injuries. Even a personal problems with a star quarterback can subtly make it's way into the odds
Now you probably think, as many do, that overall you just can't beat Vegas, and you'd pretty much be right. In the 1979 Superbowl when the Pittsburgh Steelers played the Dallas Cowboys, it was a huge exception to this rule and huge sums of money were lost. Pittsburgh was initially given -3.5, but later went into the game at -4.5. When the Steelers won 35-31 anyone who took Pittsburgh at -3.5 or Dallas at +4.5 could collect. It's no wonder why this particular day is still referred to as Black Friday.