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Betting Odds vs. the Spread: Which Is a More Accurate Predictor?

Sports betting is not just all bundled up into one neat package. There are endless ways to approach it and you just have to go and look at the sheer number of markets available at a sportsbook for one single Premier League football match to see that.

But it’s not just the market variety, it’s the type of bets that can be played and how. Regarding that, you have probably heard of the terms "odds" and "spread". These are two methods of reporting the same thing, an implied prediction about the outcome of a sporting event.

But what do they mean and how do they relate to each other? Here we take a look at the basics of these two concepts and cast an eye over the strengths and weaknesses of them as predictors of game outcomes.

What Are the Odds?

Betting odds are a ratio of what you win in profit from how much you bet. For example, if you back Chelsea to win at 2/1, that means you get 2 units of stake back for every 1 that is bet. It’s a simple odds rating of risk.

Even though you will see those odds expressed as fractional, decimal or American odds, they are all giving the same information just in different ways. In sports betting apps the odds are usually displayed in a convenient way right near the bet type, so to bet conveniently you can choose a reliable betting app and download it to your mobile, for instance, using the following link to get a Melbet app:

What’s the Spread?

The spread is a little different because it’s not a direct representation of a match-winner. It has the additional condition of being how many points or goals one team is expected to win or lose by. This is commonly seen in North American betting, so it would be something like the Green Bay Packers favoured to win by 3.5 points.

If you bet on that, the Packers would have to win by more than 3.5 points for you to win your bet. On the flip side, a bet on their opposition means that the other team can’t lose by more than 3.5 points for your bet to win. It’s possible the team that you back wins the match, but not by enough to cover the spread. In UK betting think of goal handicaps in a Premier League match.

How Do They Help In Betting?

So which one is a more accurate predictor of game outcomes? Outright odds or the spread? Well, this will just boil down to the data that you want to get back. If you are looking at match odds, then they have implied percentages of how the game will end and how many goals or points that the outcome is recorded by, is of no importance.

So it’s more like just a straight call of which team is better, and therefore more likely to win. This commonly leads to odds-on favourites, which have very little market value for punters, but it paints a very good picture of simply which teams are expected to win.

The spread tells you how competitive a game is expected to be. If you think a match is going to be lopsided, then you take a big spread for better value. A tight one and the margins will narrow because the Spread is based on the bookies' estimation of the difference in quality between the two teams.

The spread or a handicap is a great alternative to the outright market. Because as soon as you put those ‘Win By X’ conditions in, then you are looking at better value.

The Best Approach?

You can get different information from the odds and the spread. The best way to incorporate them into your betting is to understand both and diversify so that you are ready to use both of them.

The betting odds on markets do show which teams are stronger. The spread does that too, just differently. The spread breaks it down a little further and indicates how much stronger a team is likely to be. It’s down to the punter to then pick options based on their risk assessment.

Both odds and spreads are useful tools for sports betting, but there can be limitations that creep in. Odds fluctuate a lot and sometimes may not reflect the true probability of a team winning at any given moment. In spreads, many factors like weather, home advantage, and injury news may not be fully captured by the bookmakers' calculations as they have no way of figuring out how big of a factor certain things will be in terms of goals or points scored.

Therefore, neither odds nor spread can guarantee a successful bet. You have to do your research and analysis before placing your bets and use both odds and spread as references rather than absolute truths.