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The First Point Spread Posted

December 10, 2013

Trying to figure out what was the first point spread posted is like trying to find a needle in a very large haystack.  It’s nearly impossible because there are millions of point spreads posted every year and this has been going on since the 1940s.

Here is what we do know:

In the beginning

In the beginning there was sports betting.  People have been placing bets on sports since the days of the gladiators in Rome (and probably even before that).  Back in the day, sports betting involved placing a bet on a team to win or lose.  The odds were set by a central figure (a sportsbook or a bookie).  If the game was to be between two well-matched teams then this was good for the sportsbook as payouts would not be too high regardless of the outcome.

If the teams were paired off in such a way that they were highly unmatched then the odds for the underdog would be high and for the favorite they would be low.  This meant the person placing a bet on the favorite had to bet high to win only a little.  To really make money one would need to bet on the underdog to win. Odds were that the bettor would lose his investment, but if the underdog pulled off a surprise victory the payout could be enormous.

And then it happened

Charles K. McNeil

In the 1940s there was a math teacher from Connecticut by the name of Charlie McNeil.  Along with teaching he supplemented his income as both a bank analyst and a professional gambler.  His favorite type of gambling was sports betting and one day McNeil decided to move to Chicago and open shop as a sportsbook. When he did, he introduced the concept of betting a point spread – a concept he developed in order to make more money off of more games.

The idea caught on and soon you could find a sportsbook almost anywhere you looked.  They would give you a point spread on nearly any type of sporting event on which you wanted to place a bet.

Look how far

In the 70 years since its introduction, the point spread has come a long way.  While it hasn’t changed much in terms of principles and techniques, it certainly has grown, becoming a worldwide favorite way to bet on the outcome of different sporting competitions.   Today it does not matter where in the world you are, you can place a bet for a game using the spread.  The point spread has crossed into every single sport from college and pro football to college and pro basketball and more … coming full circle and having an impact on the sporting event that started it all: the Olympics.

Old Charlie did not know when he created this style of sports betting that it would become a worldwide phenomenon or even that it would be the preferred way of betting on sports 70 years after he introduced it.  He probably just wanted a way to make a little more money off of people willing to bet on sporting events.

It’s funny how things happen and how one man with an untested idea about betting the point spread is able to change the way we approach an industry.  Even with something as simple as sports betting you never know what will catch on and endure and which practices will be left behind.

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