What is Betting Against the Spread?

What is Sports Betting against the Spread (ATS)? Definition, Pros & Cons, FAQs

Betting against the spread is, in simplistic terms, evening the playing field to put both sides on equal footing. This is the number that people into sports betting focus on as they work with statistics, trends, and systems to figure out how to beat the sportsbooks. 

But as individual bettors, it is crucial to understand what is implied and all of the implied nature of betting the NFL spreads.

Why Bet Against the Spread Instead of For One Team?

Betting against the spread is typically one of the more lucrative bets that a handicapper or a bettor can make as typically the odds are -110 or even as they are evening the playing fields for both sides. 

If you were to bet on the Moneyline, or just who will win the game, the odds are a lot one-sided, and it is more difficult to profit than betting against the spread. 

Professionals who spend their life betting against the spread only tend to hit around 52 percent of their tickets, so it is a more challenging wager, but the rewards are more significant. Some people tend to go with their gut feeling in betting against the spread, while others use trends and historical analysis to predict future outcomes. 

What Are Trends and How Do They Affect Against the Spread Betting?

Trends are simply just that, using previous results that happened for one or multiple teams and figuring out a pattern to make a more well-informed wager than just throwing it up to the wind and hoping. 

With the age of computers and having a world of information at the tip of your fingers, there is no reason why each bet should not have sound reasoning behind it, whether it cashes or fails to net you any money. 

Plenty of outlets help dissect trends and make bettors have better reasoning for making their bets. It is not 100 percent foolproof as trends are just looking in the past. 

The game is played with different rosters, opponents, coaching staffs, and sometimes even ownership, so be cautious of those factors when deciding where to go with a wager. 

When Should I Be Placing My Wagers Against the Spread?

This really depends on how you want to wager your money, as typically, the lines come out early in the week and constantly are changing based on where the money is going. The sportsbooks are trying to ensure there is equal money on both sides, so either way, they turn a bit of a profit via the vig. 

Typically, experienced bettors tend to bet on the spread earlier in the week to influence and manipulate the line and make it closer to where they want it to be.

However, due to the ensuing COVID-19 pandemic that is currently happening throughout the world and having health and safety protocols that can force players to miss games, bettors are waiting until later in the week to ensure players are going to be active for the game. 

Some people even wait until the game is kicking off to see how both teams lool during the actual game and when they’re playing before deciding on a very fluid against the spread line to bet on.

It is more of a personal preference, but you should always search for the best number. Do research to understand where the score should expect to finish and go with a number that can potentially give you a bit of cushion, whether you get the number itself or need to buy points for a bit of a little cushion there.   

How Do You Beat the Spread?

If you want to bet on the favorite to win and the spread is 6.5 points, the team needs to win by seven more points. If the team you wager on is favored by 6.5 points and ends up winning by three points, you lose the wager due to the team not covering. 

Say the roles are reversed, and you wanted to bet the underdog that is +6.5 on the point spread. 

If they win or lose by less than 6.5 points, that is a winning ticket, but if they end up losing by seven or more points, they failed to cover the spread. An underdog can still lose the game and cover the spread as long as they do not lose by more points than the spread indicates.

Who Created the Spread?

Spread betting was created by a mathematics teacher from Connecticut, who became a bookmaker in 1940s Chicago named Charles K. McNeil. Spreads typically erase the chance of a push (the exact outcome happening) by using half-point fractions to avoid so. 

For example, if the spread is 2.5 points and a team wins by a field goal, there is no way to have the exact outcome of 2.5 points be the difference in the bet. 

How Is the Spread Created Each Week?

The point spread will typically be set early each week after the team’s previous game. With it, the bookmakers are trying to understand how the public will perceive each side of the bet. People tend to typically bet on teams based on their rosters or being fans of them their entire life. 

The bookmakers will settle on a number and see how the public is attacking the game. If the public is betting heavily on the favorite, they will jump the number up a little to get some action on the other side and vice versa. 

The goal of the sportsbooks is to make it as even as possible on both sides of the wager so they can pay out the winnings on the opposite side’s bets, and the sportsbooks walk away with the vig. 

The bookmakers like to keep the spread around key numbers and instill a bit of a hook with them to ensure they don’t have to return all the money bet and essentially pretend the game never happened. 

What Are Key Numbers and the “Hook”?

Key numbers are essential numbers. With the way scoring in the National Football League works, certain margins of victory appear more frequently than others. 

The typical three key numbers with spreads tend to be three, seven, and ten because of a field goal being three points, a touchdown and the point after is seven, and the combination of those is 10 points. 

Most games tend to fall under these three points as between 2003-2020, almost 30 percent of NFL games ended with the difference in the score being one of those three numbers. 

The hook is what sports betters refer to with the spread having a .5 point associated with it. So if the spread is 3.5 and the team wins by three, you lose by the hook. 

It’s not too complicated, so there is no need to dive further than just understanding it is a term for understanding it is a fractional spread associated with the number. 

Can A Tie Happen With Point Spread Betting?

Yes, ties have the potential of happening when betting with the point spread. 

For example, say you bet the Dallas Cowboys are going to win by three points or more (Dallas Cowboys -3), and they end up winning by exactly three points, that means you did not win or lose the bet, so that is ruled a push.

If there is a push, the sportsbook will refund you your bet and move on as if the game was never played since there was no winner and no loser in that case.

However, that is why the creation of the hook was critical as, that way, the chance for a push to happen is eliminated from the equation. Not all spreads are going to consist of a hook as well as some spreads will be just whole numbers, but typically is the reason why the hook is instilled in a bet in the first place. 

What Are Some Key Factors that Can Affect the Spread?

Many statistics alter the spread, as it is an algorithm that helps make the game more on an equal playing field. 

One is home team advantage, which has been estimated to affect the line by about two points throughout the 2021 NFL season. The reason behind the home team getting a little boost is that they did not need to travel or get used to the weather. 

Another factor is the past record against a specific team. Divisional opponents face off twice a year during the regular season, and that means the coaches and players tend to figure out how things happen throughout the games. 

Bettors can usually find a trend of one team doing particularly better than the other running the ball or just looking at the statistics. This usually only helps if the main cogs of the roster and/or coaching staff remain in place for an extended period of time.

A factor that you may have guessed would be injuries. If a critical player to the offense, say the starting quarterback, had an injury that forced him to miss the entire game, it will definitely affect the outcome and change the spread a little bit. With COVID-19 still among us, there are more injuries and players missing games than typical so pay attention to the status of players. 

The final key factor we will touch on is looking at the recent results that happen. The NFL has a 17-game regular season, so it is typical to divide it into sections of four (with one section being five games) and evaluate from there. 

Has there been a winning streak for a team recently? How has the level of competition been throughout the previous few weeks? Is the team healthy? Understanding how the schedule works and what the previous few games have looked like can really help make us better bettors in the long run. 

Is It Legal to Bet on the Spread?

Depending on where you live in the United States, it can be legal to bet on the spread. It is the same as sports wagering as since the Supreme Court removed the federal ban it had on sports betting, states are beginning to legalize betting. 

Make sure to check if sports betting is legal in your state or area of residence, and if it is, it is completely legal to bet against the spread for football games. 

Is It Legal to Bet Online Against the Spread?

This is a little more tricky because as the United States is beginning to relinquish its ban on sports wagering, some states are quicker to adapt to legalizing betting while others are still fighting that battle to this day. 

Ensuring it is legal in your area is critical because some sportsbooks will not allow you to create an account or deposit money to begin your betting career if you are located in an area where it is not yet legalized. 

Different sportsbooks allow you to create an offshore account. That is technically illegal if you are not in an area where sports betting has been legalized, so making sure you are in an officially-legal area is the first step. 

What is the Best Sportsbook to Bet Against the Spread?

All sportsbooks will have similar numbers as the spreads usually do not change much unless one side continues to be bet on, so the number will typically move half of a point in either direction. 

However, there really is no “best sportsbook” for NFL against the spread bets as different sportsbooks will offer completely different odds, spread numbers, and payouts depending on a variety of factors. Want to learn more about Moneyline odds? Follow us on Twitter.

Sports Betting against the Spread FAQs

Betting against the spread is typically one of the more lucrative bets that a handicapper or a bettor can make as typically the odds are -110 or even as they are evening the playing fields for both sides.