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Betting Against The Spread

Betting Against The Spread

Sadonna Price
Sadonna Price
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What Is Point Spread Betting
How Does Betting Against The Spread Work
Calculate Payouts Against The Spread

It’s usual for a sporting event to have a favorite entering a certain game. This is why the point spread was born. It’s the way the oddsmakers even the field and make the favorite’s odds more attractive.

When you bet “against the spread,” or ATS, you’re betting not for the outright winner. The favorite has to win by a set number of points (the spread) to “cover the spread” and get the payout.

Let’s review the basics.

What Is Point Spread Betting?

Point spread betting is the way for the oddsmakers to level a sporting mismatch. A moneyline bet consists of picking the outright winner. The spread gives a margin of victory that a team has to cover to win the bet.

This is a great way because it makes a bet profitable for the favorite and the underdog. It’s the way the oddsmakers try to get it to a 50/50 situation. However, the bettor needs to remember that even if the team he bet on wins the match, it doesn’t mean the bet cashes. The team has to cover the point spread for it to get the payout.

Just like the moneylines, a negative (-) number in the odds tells who the favorite is. Hence, a positive (+) number will show you the underdog. To “cover the spread”, the favorites need to win by more points than the spread. The underdogs can’t afford to lose by more points than the spread shows.

ATS (Against The Spread) Betting

Let’s exemplify an ATS bet to illustrate better how these bets work. We’re taking an NFL game for this example since the NFL betting market is one of the most popular sports in ATS betting.

  • Chicago Bears +4.5 (-110)
  • Dallas Cowboys -4.5 (-110)
  • Total O 48.5 (-110) U 48.5 (-110)

In this case, the Dallas Cowboys are the favorites to win the game by 4.5 points. You can see this from the negative number of points in the spread. Point spreads will often have half-points to avoid “pushes” or ties in the bet.

Keeping up with the example, the Cowboys’ handicap is 4.5 points. This means you need to take those points away from their total score when the game ends.

If the Cowboys would still win the game after subtracting the 4.5 points, then they “covered” and won the bet. The Cowboys need to win by five or more points to get the payout.

As for the Bears, they are getting a 4.5 point margin in their favor. This means that you add 4.5 points to their total score at the end of the game.

If adding these points means they have more total points than the Cowboys, then they are “covered.” The Bears can win or lose by less than four points and still cash the bag to win the bet.

If the game ends with a Cowboys win by three, the Bears are the ones winning the bet.

These are some examples of potential outcomes of the game. The team in bold would be the winner of the bet since they are the ones that covered the spread.

  • Chicago 24-21 Dallas
  • Chicago 17-24 Dallas
  • Chicago 14-17 Dallas
  • Chicago 21-26 Dallas
  • Chicago 28-Dallas 31

As you can see, even if Dallas wins the match, they do not always win the bet. This is because their margin of victory wasn’t enough to cover the spread.

What Can Change The Point Spread?

Point-spreads are subject to change based on many factors. The public bettors can make the oddsmakers switch the odds depending on where the money is going. Injuries, weather reports, and other external factors can also play a part.

Sportsbooks will change the betting line if one side receives big amounts of wagers or if a significant player misses the game.

For example, let’s say Dak Prescott gets injured a couple of days before facing the Bears. Dallas will lose their starting QB; thus, their offense will struggle to score points.

The oddsmakers will adjust the line to give Dallas a more achievable margin. It can go down to -2.5, meaning that the Cowboys won’t have to win by five anymore, but only by a field goal.

There are odd circumstances where the sports betting sites may reduce the vig to lure bets on a specific team.

As a heads up, look for the sportsbooks that offer spreads at -105 odds instead of the regular -110. It’s a way to make a bit more profit, which is what we all want. Some sportsbooks will have point-spreads paying +100 from time to time.

This is known as an even-money bet, meaning the payout if your team covers is the same as the amount wagered.

Calculating Payouts Against The Spread

As you can notice in the example above, the point spread comes with a three-digit number next to it. It is like a moneyline number if you will. Those negative numbers (-110) show how much you must bet for you to win $100.

You can see “even bets,” where the payout is the same no matter who you bet on, like in our example, where both spreads pay -110. However, that’s not always the case. Let’s look at another example.

  • Seattle Seahawks -5 (-115)
  • Carolina Panthers +5 (-105)
  • Total 0 40.5 (-110) U 40.5 (-110)

As you can see, the Seahawks are five-point favorites. The bettors are being charged a premium to bet on them. On the other side, the book is trying to make the bettors wager for the Panthers’ spread with the enhanced -105 odds.

If the game ends Panthers 21-28 Seahawks, the Seahawks win the bet because they covered the five-point margin of victory.

Do Other Sports Have Spread Betting Options?

Betting ATS on the NFL or college football is as popular as it can get. However, there are other sports where you can bet on point spreads.

You can find these in basketball, hockey, baseball, and soccer. Some may have variants of it or use a different term, but they follow the same principles. For example, in hockey, the spread is called puck line, in baseball, it is a run line, and in soccer, a goal line.

All those are spreads. In hockey and baseball, you can find them almost always at a 1.5 spread.

Thirsty For More Betting Knowledge? Check Our Sports Betting Guides Hub.


About the author

For almost two decades, Sadonna has remained at the forefront of the gambling industry in the US and abroad, covering the latest news and legal update...

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