Should You Buy Points on Point Spread Bets?
If you’re the kind of gambler that likes to take control and make strategy decisions, buying points on the spread might be the move for you.
In this sports-betting strategy guide we’ll tackle the hotly-contested concept of buying points. We’ll dig into how it works, whether it’s a good idea and some of the most common sports and spots where it works best.
By the time you’re done you may have a new sports betting tool in your belt, or you may come to the conclusion that buying points isn’t the right strategy for you.
Either way you’ll no longer be asking the question: “Should I buy points on point spread bets?”
Buying Points at a Glance
Here are the fast facts about buying points in sports betting:
- Buying points works with point spread bets.
- Buying points lets you move the point spread in favor of one team or the other.
- The sportsbook charges you a premium in the form of a slightly worse payout in exchange for moving the line in your favor.
- Usually it costs an extra 10% for each half point. For example, if the odds on the regular point spread are -110, buying half a point will have odds of -120.
- Buying points is mainly used for betting on football and basketball.
- Buying points is also known as “alternate point spreads” which we’ll explain in more detail below.
Point Spread Basics
Before we dig into buying points, it’s important for everyone to understand the basics about betting on point spreads.
This is for beginners so if you’re already familiar with the concept, jump to the next section on buying points.
The point spread is the expected point-margin at the end of the game. Point spreads are used in tons of sports including hockey and baseball but when it comes to buying points on the spread, people are usually talking about football or basketball.
Let’s look at an example of an NFL point spread bet. Imagine the Eagles and Redskins are playing this weekend. The point spread might look like this:
- Philadelphia Eagles -5.5 (-110)
- Washington Redskins +5.5 (-110)
In this example, the Eagles are the favorite and must win the game by six or more points to cover the point spread.
The Redskins are the underdog and can either win the game outright, or lose by five or fewer points to cover the point spread.
Both teams have odds of -110 which means you’ll win $100 in profit for every $110 you bet.
What is Buying Points and How Does it Work?
If you’ve already started betting on sports you’ve probably already bet on the point spread. Only a small percentage of people, however, actually buy points or bet on alternate spreads.
In this section we’ll break it all down step by step to make it really clear. We’ll walk you through how it works and then move on to how you can put it into practice.
The Basics of Buying Points
The main reason people buy points is because it can give you a more favorable point spread, meaning you’ll win more often.
The downside, and the thing that most people overlook, is the worse payout you get. The more you want to shift the spread, the worse the payout gets.
You can move the point spread in favor of either team and when you do it, you’ll notice that the odds for your bet change depending on how many points you want to buy.
Take our above example:
- Philadelphia Eagles -5.5 (-110)
- Washington Redskins +5.5 (-110)
If you bet on the Eagles and they end up winning the game by five points, your bet loses.
If you had bought one point on the spread to make it -4.5, however, your bet would win.
On the other hand, if you made a point spread bet on Washington and they ended up losing by six points, your bet would lose.
If you moved the spread to +6.5 by buying one point, you would win.
The trade-off is that your new bet might have odds of -130 or worse, meaning you have to bet more to win the same amount.
How Buying Points Works at Online Sportsbooks
Buying points is easy when you’re betting on sports online. There are two main ways you can do it, depending on the online sportsbook you’re using.
- Find the regular point spread bets for the game you want to bet on.
- Click on the point spread bet for the team you want to bet on to add it to your bet slip.
- Look for a button on the bet slip that says “buy points” or something similar.
- Select how many points you want to buy and review the new odds.
- Enter how much you want to bet and place your wager.
Alternate Point Spreads
Some online sportsbooks use a slightly different format to let you adjust the point spread.
They’re called alternate spreads and they’re really easy to use. Instead of giving you a tool to select how many points you want to buy, the site just lists them all out individually.
- Just find the game you want to bet on and drill down into the different kinds of wagers available.
- Look for alternate spreads which are a long list of different point spreads and odds.
- Pick the one you want and add it to your bet slip just like a regular bet.
Pros and Cons of Buying Points
A lot of the advice you’ll hear will tell you to avoid buying points, that’s it’s a sucker move.
The truth about buying points is much more complicated than that. It can be a smart move or a terrible strategy depending on lots of different factors.
We’ll explain those factors in more detail below but in the meantime, let’s look at some of the biggest advantages and disadvantages to buying points in sports betting.
Advantages of Buying Points:
- It’s more interactive - If you love getting deep into sports betting strategy and having the freedom to make more moves, buying points is a great way to spice up point spreads. Since it takes more research to buy points profitably, it will definitely get you more involved than traditional spread bets.
- You’ll win more bets - It sucks when you lose a point spread bet by one point, or even half a point. The simple truth is that buying points will make you win more bets than just taking the normal point spreads.
- Betting on spreads you’d otherwise skip - When you get some experience betting point spreads, you’ll start to spot tricky lines. When point spreads land on or around key numbers like three and seven in football, buying points can make bets a lot more appealing, even ones you wouldn’t usually make.
- It can make the favorite an absolute lock - Pushing the spread one or two points in favor of the better team can all but guarantee you a payday. Just remember that you’re accepting worse odds to do it.
- Give the underdog a better chance - If you really want to bet on a certain team but they’re a big underdog, buying a point or two in their favor can give them a fighting chance even against a much better team.
- Avoiding the push - This is one of the main reasons why experienced sports bettors buy points. We will cover this in more detail later, but we couldn’t avoid mentioning it as one of the benefits of buying points. When a point spread is a whole number it sometimes results in a tie (a push). By buying a half-point you can make sure that doesn’t happen.
Disadvantages of Buying Points
- You get a worse payout - It’s true that when you move the point spread in your team’s favor, you’ll win more often. The disadvantage is that you get a worse payout than you would have with the original spread. This is especially frustrating when your team would have covered the spread anyway.
- You don’t understand the spread well enough to buy points - Being able to profitably buy points on the spread isn’t a beginner strategy. If you don’t understand the initial odds inside-out, you’re probably not going to improve your chances by trying to buy points.
- Buying points as an excuse to bet for a big dog - Some people just want to bet on their favorite team, even when the odds say they shouldn’t. Buying points can look like an appealing way to increase your team’s chances but if the numbers don’t support it, don’t fall for this trap.
Better Point Spread vs. Worse Payout
We’ll cover lots of reasons gamblers buy points when betting on NFL and NBA games, but the biggest is the simple fact that it gives you a better point spread and a better chance of winning.
The trick to buying points profitably, however, is weighing the value of the improved spread against the worse odds and payouts that comes with moving the line.
If the original point spread bet had odds of -110 and buying a point is going to change that to -130, you have to be sure it’s worth it.
Now you have to bet $130 instead of $110 to win $100 in profit. That extra $20 might not seem like a lot but it’s an increase of over 18%.
In order to be profitable, your team’s going to have to win a lot more often to make it a profitable strategy.
General Tips for Buying Points
If it’s your first time testing the waters buying points on the spread, or you need some help to improve, follow our top three tips below:
Do the Research
It’s a simple step but it’s also the thing most people fail to do on a regular basis. Even if you’re just betting the regular spread you need to do some homework. It’s even more important if you’re buying points.
Dig into the numbers such as past scores, average points per team, recent history between the teams and try to put all the pieces together to understand the most common scoring outcomes.
Depending on the matchup and the stats, one or two points on the spread could make all the difference.
Don’t Make Buying Points a Habit
Buying points in certain situations can be a viable strategy for sports bettors. However, no matter if you’re a newcomer to sports betting and buying points or a veteran of 20 years, anyone will tell you that getting carried away buying points can be a quick way to drain your bankroll.
Going from -110 to -130 might not seem huge each time you do it but over time it adds up.
Many sports bettors stay away from buying points completely. They’re not necessarily in the right, but it further enforces the point that buying points is an option, rather than a necessity, for sports bettors.
Shop Around for the Best Deals
It goes without saying that the added costs of buying points do scare off a number of sports bettors. Usually, the cost of buying a half-point is $10 on top of a $110 bet. For NFL games where the line is +/-3 or +/-7, oddsmakers sometimes double the price.
That’s why it’s so important to shop around and find the best point spreads and the cheapest prices for buying points.
Buying Points to Avoid a Push
As we previously mentioned one of the main reasons sports bettors buy points is to get a better chance of winning, even though it comes with worse odds.
Another way buying points can be useful is to make sure your bet doesn’t end in a push. A push is gambling slang for a tie and when it happens, your bet is refunded and you don’t win any money.
Whenever the point spread is a whole number, there’s the possibility of a push.
Say you place a point spread bet on the Philadelphia Eagles as seven-point favorites against the Washington Redskins (point spread of -7). If the Eagles win 28-21 it would be a push since they tied the spread.
If you bought a half point to make the line -6.5, you’d have won instead of pushing.
While oddsmakers do their best to set accurate point spreads, it’s worth noting when it’s a whole number. Often, this gives bettors incentive to spend money on the extra points so that they can avoid a push.
More Strategies for Buying Points
When you’re figuring out whether buying points is the right strategy for you or not, remember one thing: it is all about balance. We wouldn’t recommend what some sports bettors live by, which is ignoring the idea of buying points entirely.
The idea of buying points does have merit and can be a strategy in a number of situations. However, what’s worse than ignoring this strategy is overusing it. As mentioned, you are taking a worse payout by buying points, so use this strategy in moderation.
That being said, there are only two teams you can bet on in a matchup, so let’s look at the general strategies for betting on the favorite and the underdog in a certain matchup.
How to Use Key Numbers for Buying Points
Imagine the point spread for your favorite team is +2.5 and you’re dying to make a bet on them. We know three is the biggest key number in football and it’s really common for the underdog to lose by that margin.
In this example, if your team loses by a field goal you lose your bet.
Buying a point to move the point spread across a key number can be a powerful way to use this strategy.
If you buy a point for your team in our example, the new spread will be +3.5. That means they can lose by a field goal and you’ll still win your bet.
Buying Points on Key Numbers Costs More
We’ve said that buying points (depending on the sportsbook) are generally ten cents per half-point wager. The two exceptions to that rule, are buying points on the 3 and 7.
For buying points on or around a three-point spread, expect to pay 20-25% per half-point instead of the regular 10%. For buying points when the margin of victory is around seven points, the increased cost generally goes up from 10 cents to 15 cents.
Key Numbers for Buying Points in the NFL
Everything we’ve talked about so far relates directly to the NFL and that’s because football is by far the most popular sport for buying points.
Since there’s a good chance you’ll be using this guide to buy points in the NFL, there’s one more really important concept we have to cover: Key numbers.
Key numbers refer to the most common margins of victory for NFL games and they can play a big role in point spreads and buying points.
Using football stats sites you can go back through fifteen years of football history to see what the most common point margins were in NFL games. Here’s a brief summary of what they found:
- The most common margin of victory between teams at the end of the game was three points. This happened more than 15% of the time according to the study (15.58%)
- The next most common outcome was seven points. This happened less than half as often as the three-point differential, outlining just how common it is to see NFL teams win by a field goal. Teams won games by seven points 8.74% of the time.
There are other key numbers but three and seven are by far the most important. This is because points in football are scored in increments of three and seven via field goals and converted touchdowns.
Strategies for Buying Points in the NFL
We mentioned avoiding the push before and it bears repeating because it’s one of the only times buying points has been statistically shown to be profitable.
When the spread is three points, buying a half point to move it to either +/-2.5 or +/-3.5 has been a profitable strategy.
Another time when it is more common to buy points on NFL games is what the second-most common margin of victory comes into play: seven points. The same strategy applies. Depending on how you feel about the team you’re betting on, you might want to shift the line up to 7.5 or knock it down to a 6.5 point spread.
To make sure this is all crystal clear, let’s go through some typical examples of how to buy points in the NFL. We’ll use a few common scenarios to show you how it all works.
Avoiding the Push
Let’s say the Pittsburgh Steelers are 10-point favorites over the Oakland Raiders. A good strategy, if you think they’re going to win by ten points, would be to buy a half point and scale back the line to -9.5. That way, if the Steelers do win by ten points, you’ve avoided the push and scored a win.
Buying Points on the Favorite
Do you want to bet on the favorite but feel uneasy about the line? This is another common situation when buying points comes in handy.
Say the Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams are playing and the line is -6 points in favor of LA. You might like LA, but feel it’s a steep line against a team like the Bears who have a huge defense. You might be tempted to buy a half point of a full point to make the Rams -5.5 to -5 favorites, closing the gap in what could be a really close game.
Betting on the Underdog
All hail the underdog. Inevitably, you will probably bet on the underdog in a matchup at some point. Sometimes, you might need an extra point on the spread to make it worthwhile.
Say the Cleveland Browns are +2.5 point underdogs against the Carolina Panthers. You might like the Browns but aren’t comfortable with the line. By buying a full point on the Browns, you still win as long as the Browns lose by 3 points, as opposed to 2 points on the previous line.
Buying Points and the Rise of Two-Point Conversions
There is one reason why the most common scores in the NFL have started to trend downwards in recent years. While margins of victory that include three points and seven points are still the most common, there has been a larger variety of point margins.
Prior to the 2015 season, the NFL moved back the extra point attempt from the 23-yard line to the 33-yard line. That season, conversions dropped from 99.3% to 94.2% and have been holding steady at 95% since 2015.
At the same time, teams have started to go for two-point conversions more often. During the 2018 season, teams were converting on two-point converts at 60%. This means teams were getting 1.2 points per two-point attempt and 0.95 points per one-point convert on average.
That mathematical average makes it likely that we’ll continue to see a rise in two-point conversions. This is all to say that there should be a slight adjustment to key numbers and point spreads in the future.
Buying Points in the NBA
While buying points in football is definitely the more popular, it’s also really common in the NBA. Since the scoring increments in basketball are two and three points, and it’s such a high-scoring sport, point spreads and key numbers are tricky.
In this section we’ll give you some guidelines for how to buy points profitably when betting on NBA basketball.
NBA Key Numbers
In 2018, the worst NFL team was -12.2 points per game on average, while the best was +12.5 points per game. In the NBA, the worst team had -11.7 points while the best team was up +9.8 points per game.
It’s interesting to look at this from a point differential perspective because even though there are more than three times as many points scored in an NBA game, the point margins in the NBA aren’t drastically different from the NFL.
That said, the most common margins of victory are way more similar in the NBA than in the NFL since points are scored with two and three-pointers instead of field goals and touchdowns.
Here are some of the most common point differentials in the NBA, as of the 2016 NBA season.
- 5 points (6.99%)
- 3 points (6.91%)
- 6 points (6.91%)
- 9 points (6.01%)
- 4 points (6.01%)
As you can see, key numbers are way less useful in basketball. The most common and the tenth-most-common margins are just 2% apart in the NBA compared to over 14% in the NFL.
If that’s confusing, don’t worry. It just means that key numbers are less useful in guiding our bets in the NBA compared to the NFL.
So what do we use to decide how to buy points in the NBA?
Strategies for Buying Points in the NBA
Let’s start by being blunt and honest: strategies for buying points in the NBA are rarely effective. In a game with so many points scored, being able to predict a win within a half point or even a point within the margin of victory is a tall order.
With a large separation in talent in the NBA today, there tends to be larger point spreads when good teams play bad teams. That might be something for you to consider, but the frequency of points being scored in the NBA makes it terribly difficult to accurately predict buying points on a team.
That said, some of the same concepts we explained for buying points in the NFL can be applied to the NBA too.
Examples of Buying Points in the NBA
Avoiding the Push
While avoiding the push is the main reason why people buy points, there’s an argument to be made that it is perhaps the only reason to buy points in the NBA.
Take this game for example:
- Sacramento Kings +3 (+110)
- Chicago Bulls -3 (-110)
If you want the Bulls to win but think it will be close and are scared of a push, you could buy a half point on the Bulls to make the line -2.5, usually for an extra 10 cents (-120 overall).
Betting on the Favorite
If you’re buying points on the favorite, it’s because you think the spread is too big for them to overcome.
If the Oklahoma City Thunder -5.5 (-110) are favored over the Utah Jazz at +5.5 (-110), but you don’t like the line, consider buying a full point to close the gap and avoid the spread. It will probably cost you an additional 20 cents to bring the line down to -4.5 on Oklahoma City.
Betting on the Underdog
Buying points on the underdog gives you wiggle room on the other side of the spectrum. If you like the underdog but want some breathing room, consider buying points to widen the gap.
Say you have the Los Angeles Lakers at +5.5 and +110 as underdogs to the Los Angeles Clippers at -5.5 and -110. By buying a full point on the Lakers (moving it to 6.5), you would still win if you bet on the Lakers as long as they win, or lose by six points or less.
Decide If Buying Points Is Right for You
Now that you’ve read and seen different examples for buying points in the NBA and the NFL, you just have one question to ask yourself: is it worth it?
If you can’t find an answer on your own, there is some historical data on the validity of buying points in the NFL.
In the NBA, it’s generally not considered a good practice to buy points, although avoiding the push can be the exception to the rule under the right circumstances.
Experts have looked into buying points on different scores in the NFL and again, the general consensus is that it’s usually not a winning strategy. There are exceptions, however.
Buying points on a margin of victory that includes 3 or 7 points can be profitable, even though it costs more to make that bet. Since those point differentials are common, it can make sense to pony up and pay extra to move the spread off of those key numbers.
If sports betting is legal where you live, browse our expert reviews to find the best online sportsbook in your state and start experimenting with buying points in the NFL and NBA now.
If sports betting isn’t legal yet, keep an eye on our state by state guides for the latest developments.