What Does Betting Against the Spread Mean?

Betting Terminology
January 2, 2023

Betting against the spread, aka ATS betting, is a way to get better returns on tips that are heavily tipped as favorites or underdogs. Basically, the ATS meaning is explained in this guide. We’ve outlined the basics of ATS and shown you how to bet against the spread.

This is useful if you subscribe to our premium Telegram tips. If you’re not already subscribed, click here for more info. Our experts often suggest ATS bets, so it pays to know what they are. With that being said, here’s our guide to betting against the spread.

What Is A Point Spread Bet?

A point spread bet, sometimes shortened to spread bet, is a wager that aims to level the playing field. Specifically, a point spread bet puts one team at a disadvantage before the start of a match. To win the match, the team at a disadvantage must beat the spread i.e. score enough points to overcome the deficit. Alternatively, if you’re betting on the underdog, they have to avoid losing by more than the spread.

What Does Betting Against The Spread Mean?

Betting against the spread (ATS) means you’re picking a team to cover the spread. So, the ATS meaning in a football game against the Buffalo Bills and the Green Bay Packers refers to the team you’re picking to cover the spread.

For example, the oddsmakers believe the Bills are favorites to winsthe game. Therefore, they set a point spread of -5.5. That means the Bills start with a 5.5-point disadvantage. To put it another way, the Bills have to win the game by at least 5 points to cover the spread.

Betting on the Bills “laying” 5.5 points means you’re betting against the spread. You can, of course, take the other side of the bet. In this case, the Packers would be +5.5. That means they can’t lose by more than 5.5 points. Backing the Packers at +5.5 also means you’re betting against the spread.  

Case Study: NFL Bets Against The Spread  

Now we’ve given you a basic ATS meaning, let’s expand on our previous example. You’re interested in NFL bets against the spread and you see that the Buffalo Bills are playing the Green Bay Packers. The Bills are tipped as the favorites.

You could make a moneyline bet, which means you’re simply picking the Bills to win by any margin. However, the odds aren’t great, so you decide to look for more value by betting against the spread. Because the Bills are tipped as the favorites, the oddsmakers have tried to (theoretically) level the playing field (i.e. reduce Team A’s assumed advantage) by creating a point spread of 5.5 points:

  • Buffalo Bills -5.5 (-120)
  • Green Bay Packers +5.5 (-120)

This spread means that the Bills need to score at least six points to win. Why? Because the five-point spread means the Bills start the game with -5 points. It also means that the underdogs, the Packers, can’t lose by more than five points.

One final point to note is that spreads often include half points. In our example, the spread was 5.5 points. This is to avoid ties. A team couldn’t beat the spread and win by five points, for example, because the line is 5.5. Therefore, they need to score six or more points.

Betting Against The Spread Results

Now we’ve explained how American odds work and given you a point spread, let’s see how these NFL bets against the spread can play out.

As a sports bettor, your job is to predict whether or not a team will beat the spread. Betting against the spread on the Bills means you want them to win by more than five points. Betting against the spread on the Packers means you don’t want them to lose by more than five points.

Let’s say you bet on Team A and they win by four points. Although they won the match, they didn’t cover the spread so your bet loses. If you’d bet on Team B and they lost by four points, you’d win the bet because the margin of defeat was less than five points.

How To Calculate Payouts Against The Spread

You’ll notice there are odds connected to each point spread. In this example, you can bet on the Bills to beat the spread at -120. The way American betting odds work means that you’ll win $120 for every $100 you stake in this example.

You don’t need to stake $100. That’s just the easiest way to show you stake vs. potential profit. You can calculate your potential profit by using the following equation:

  • Stake / odds X 100 = profit
  • e.g. stake $60 / 120 odds = 0.5 X 100 =$50 profit

You receive your stake back on winning bets, so you can combine that with your profit to get the total return for your ATS bet. That’s just about all you need to know about betting against the spread. You should now know what ATS means and, in turn, how to make these types of bets. Look out for some top ATS betting tips on our Telegram channels.


Why bet against the spread instead of for one team?

Betting against the spread can often get you longer odds than a moneyline. Because the team you’re betting on has to cover the spread, it’s harder for them to achieve a positive result. Therefore, the returns can be more lucrative with ATS bets compared to moneylines.

What are trends and how do they affect against the spread betting?

Trends refer to previous events and their potential impact on future outcomes. For example, if the Dallas Cowboys have beaten the spread five times in seven games, the results suggest there’s a positive trend i.e. the Cowboys have a strong chance of beating the spread in future games.

When should you bet against the spread?

Betting against the spread is a good way to get longer odds on teams you believe are either heavy favorites. Teams that are highly tipped often have short odds when you make moneyline bets. However, spreads are designed to even the playing field. Therefore, you can often get better returns, even on heavy favorites.

How can you beat the spread?

You need to know the ATS meaning before you can beat the spread. ATS stands for against the spread. That means you’re betting on a team to beat the point deficit set by the oddsmakers. For example, if a team is -3.5, they have to win by at least four points to beat the spread.

Can a tie happen in point spread betting?

Yes, but it’s rare. Oddsmakers use half points (0.5) to prevent ties. For example, if the spread was -5 in a football game, a tie could happen if the team won by 5 points. However, if the spread is -5.5, it’s not possible to score half points. Therefore, the team can’t match the spread.

Do other sports have spread betting options?

NFL bets against the spread are most common, but you can make this type of wager on other sports. In fact, it’s possible to make ATS bets on all the major US sports, including basketball, baseball, and hockey.

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