What Is Betting Against The Spread (ATS)

Betting against the spread (ATS) is a common approach in sports gambling, particularly popular in the world of American football and basketball betting. This betting strategy aims to level the playing field between the favored team and the underdog, offering bettors a chance to wager on either side of the game.

By incorporating a point spread, the odds become more appealing, and this type of betting has become a favorite among sports enthusiasts.

The point spread is established by oddsmakers and represents the favored team’s expected margin of victory. In a typical ATS wager, the favored team must not only win the game but also surpass the point spread in order for the bet to be considered successful. Conversely, the underdog team can either win outright or lose by less than the point spread for their bettors to claim a win. This approach creates a more balanced and competitive betting environment, allowing experienced bettors to maximize their potential profits by analyzing matchups and performance carefully.

Understanding the mechanics of betting against the spread is crucial for those looking to make informed bets on sports events. By taking the time to learn how point spreads work and researching past performances of both favored and underdog teams, bettors can refine their strategies and increase their chances of success in the world of sports betting.

Understanding Betting Against The Spread (ATS)

Point Spread

Betting against the spread (ATS) is a popular method in sports betting, primarily used in NFL and NBA games. It involves evening the playing field by introducing a point spread – a numerical figure that sportsbooks set to neutralize the perceived skill differences between two teams, making the betting more competitive.

In a typical ATS bet, the favorite in a game must win by more points than the established point spread for the bet to be successful. Conversely, the underdog can either win outright or lose by fewer points than the point spread for the bet to pay off. The point spread, in essence, aims to balance betting action on both teams and make the game more exciting for bettors.


When betting against the spread, odds are commonly used to express the potential payouts, or implied probabilities, for each team. Usually, these odds are expressed in formats like the American odds (-110) or the decimal odds (1.91).

For example, if the Chicago Bears are the underdog and have a point spread of +4.5 (-110) against the Dallas Cowboys, it means that the Bears must either win the game or lose by less than 4.5 points for a successful bet. The -110 next to the point spread signifies that a bettor must risk $110 to potentially win $100.

Similarly, if the Dallas Cowboys are the favorite with a point spread of -4.5 (-110), they must win by more than 4.5 points for the bet to pay off. In this case, the odds also reflect the same potential payouts, requiring a bet of $110 to win $100.

Using point spreads and odds, the ATS betting market adds a layer of excitement and complexity to sports betting, challenging bettors to research and analyze trends, statistics, and other factors to gain an edge over the sportsbooks.

ATS in Popular Sports


In the National Football League (NFL), ATS betting is extremely popular among bettors. Due to the nature of the game, the point spread is often used to even the playing field between uneven teams. ATS bets in NFL games focus on the number of points a team is expected to win or lose by, so bettors must consider each team’s offensive and defensive capabilities, as well as other factors such as the weather conditions and injury reports. Typically, underdogs are given a positive point spread, while favorites receive a negative number.


Similar to the NFL, the National Basketball Association (NBA) also experiences a high level of ATS betting activity. Point spread betting in basketball matches considers a team’s offensive strengths, defensive weaknesses, and other contributing factors like recent performances and individual matchups. The spread in NBA games can be influenced by factors such as player injuries, fatigue from playing multiple games in a short timeframe, and even coaching strategies.

College Football

College football is another major sport where ATS betting plays a significant role. Due to the vast differences in team strengths and conferences, point spreads in college football can often be larger compared to professional leagues like the NFL. When betting against the spread in college football, factors such as home-field advantage, team motivation, and coaching styles must be considered.


Major League Baseball (MLB) also involves ATS betting, though it is somewhat different from other sports. Instead of using point spreads, baseball bets typically utilize run lines, with the most common spread being +/- 1.5 runs. As such, bettors must weigh team and pitcher performances, offensive production, and bullpen strength when wagering on MLB games.


In the National Hockey League (NHL), ATS betting primarily focuses on the puck line. This is a fixed spread of +/- 1.5 goals applied to the final score of the game. To make successful bets against the spread in hockey, bettors should consider factors such as team form, goaltending performance, and special teams play, such as power plays and penalty kills. The puck line helps provide a more evenly balanced betting opportunity by giving underdogs a better chance of covering the spread.

Key Factors to Consider ATS Betting

When betting against the spread (ATS), there are several key factors you should consider. Paying attention to these factors can help you make informed decisions and increase your chances of success.


Injuries can significantly impact a team’s performance and the outcome of a game. Be sure to keep up to date with the injury report for the teams you are betting on. If key players are injured or unavailable, it could affect the team’s ability to cover the spread.

Team Performance

Evaluate the overall performance of both teams, including their offense and defense strengths. Look at their recent form and how they have performed in previous matchups. Analyze their performance against the spread to see if they consistently cover or fall short. This information can help you discern whether a team is undervalued or overvalued by the oddsmakers.


Be aware of both short-term and long-term trends in sports betting. These can include factors like home-field advantage, a team’s performance on specific surfaces, weather conditions, and other external factors that might influence the game. Remember not to rely solely on trends, as they can change and past performance is not always an indicator of future success.

Wagering Tips

  • Shop Around for the Best Lines: Different sportsbooks may offer varying point spreads for the same game. Make sure to compare the spread from multiple sources to maximize your chances of finding an advantageous line.
  • Avoid Betting on Your Favorite Team: Emotional attachment to a team may cloud your judgement when it comes to ATS betting. Make sure to bet based on objective analysis and not personal biases.
  • Stay Informed: Keep yourself updated with the latest sports news, team performance, and other relevant information. This will help you make well-informed decisions when placing your bets.
  • Bankroll Management: To be successful in any form of sports betting, managing your bankroll is crucial. Set a budget, stick to it, and avoid chasing losses.

By considering factors like injuries, team performance, trends, and employing helpful wagering tips, you can enhance your ATS betting strategy and potentially increase your winnings.

Types of ATS Betting

In this section, we will discuss the different types of Against the Spread (ATS) betting. The primary types of ATS bets include Straight Wagers, Teasers, and Parlays. Each variation provides bettors with unique opportunities and strategies to consider when placing their bets.

Straight Wager

A Straight Wager is the most common type of ATS bet. In this type of bet, the bettor decides whether the favored team or the underdog will cover the point spread. For example, if the point spread is set at 4.5 points and the favored team is expected to win by 4 points or less, a bet on the underdog would be successful. Conversely, if the favored team wins by 5 points or more, a bet on the favorite would be successful. The odds for a straight wager are usually represented as -110, meaning the bettor needs to risk $110 to win $100.


Teasers are a form of ATS betting that allows bettors to adjust the point spread to their advantage. In a teaser bet, the bettor can either add points to the underdog’s spread or subtract points from the favorite’s spread. This increases the chances of a successful bet but typically requires betting on multiple games, known as a teaser parlay. The payout for teaser bets is lower than other ATS bets due to the increased chances of winning.

For example, a 6-point teaser might allow a bettor to wager on an underdog with a +4.5 point spread and move the spread to +10.5 points. Similarly, a bettor could take a favorite with a -4.5 point spread and move it to -1.5 points. Keep in mind that all individual bets within the teaser must be successful for the teaser bet to be successful.


Parlays are a type of ATS betting where the bettor wagers on multiple games and must have all bets within the parlay be successful in order to win the bet. Parlay bets offer higher potential payouts than straight wagers or teasers due to the increased difficulty of correctly predicting the outcomes of multiple games. However, the risk is also higher as a single incorrect bet within the parlay will result in a loss.

In summary, the three main types of Against the Spread (ATS) bets are Straight Wagers, Teasers, and Parlays. Each type offers unique opportunities and strategies for bettors to consider when engaging in sports betting. It is essential to understand the nuances of each type of bet to maximize the chances of success and minimize potential losses.

Betting Strategies and Considerations

When engaging in betting against the spread (ATS), it’s crucial to have a reliable strategy in place to optimize outcomes. In this section, we’ll discuss three essential considerations: handicapping, managing your bankroll, and shopping for the best odds.


Handicapping is a method used by bettors to evaluate matches and predict their outcomes. A successful handicapper thoroughly analyzes statistical data, team performances, and other factors to determine which side has an edge in a game 1. By accurately determining the strengths and weaknesses of each team, handicappers can make informed decisions about how to place their bets and which side of the spread has more value. It’s essential to develop a consistent and repeatable process when handicapping, as this will help you make better decisions over the long term.

Managing Your Bankroll

An essential aspect of a successful betting strategy is effectively managing your bankroll 2. Establishing a budget—also known as a bankroll—and adhering to it is essential to avoid the pitfalls of overspending and chasing losses. A common approach is to utilize the “unit” system, whereby bettors allocate a predetermined percentage (e.g., 1-5%) of their bankroll to each bet. This method allows for more significant risk management and ensures that even if one bet fails, your entire bankroll isn’t depleted.

Shopping for the Best Odds

Finally, to maximize potential profits and ensure you’re getting the best value for your bets, it’s crucial to shop around for the best odds. Not all sportsbooks offer the same odds or betting lines. By comparing multiple sportsbooks and odds aggregators, you can identify the most favorable odds for your chosen spread 3. Taking the time to search for the best odds can make a significant difference in your overall betting performance and long-term profitability.

In conclusion, when betting against the spread, it’s essential to have a well-rounded strategy that encompasses handicapping, effective bankroll management, and shopping for the best odds. By mastering these aspects of ATS betting, you’ll increase your chances of consistent success.


  1. https://ats.io/sports-betting/what-is-against-the-spread/

  2. https://oddspedia.com/us/betting/strategies-systems/against-the-spread-betting

  3. https://www.sportsbettingdime.com/guides/betting-101/spread-betting-explained/

Common ATS Betting Terms


The favorite is the team or individual expected to win a specific game or event. In sports betting, especially against the spread (ATS) betting, the favorite is given a points handicap, meaning they must win by a certain number of points to cover the spread. For example, if the New York Yankees are -3.5 favorites against the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees must win by 4 or more points for a bet on them to be successful.


Conversely, the underdog is the team or individual not expected to win a specific game or event. In ATS betting, the underdog is given a points advantage to level the playing field. Using the previous example, if the Red Sox are +3.5 underdogs against the Yankees, the Red Sox can lose by up to 3 points and still cover the spread for those betting on them.


A push occurs when the final result of a game or event lands exactly on the point spread, with neither the favorite nor the underdog covering the spread. In this scenario, bets are refunded, as there is no clear winner. For example, if the spread is set at 3 points and the favorite wins by exactly 3 points, the result is a push.


The moneyline is a type of bet separate from ATS, where bettors wager on the outright winner of a game or event without taking the point spread into account. Moneyline odds are expressed as positive or negative numbers that indicate the potential profit for a successful bet. For example, a -150 moneyline on the favorite means you would need to bet $150 to win $100, while a +130 moneyline on the underdog means that a $100 bet would yield a $130 profit.


To cover the spread in ATS betting means that the team you bet on met or exceeded the expectations set by the point spread. For favorites to cover, they must win by more points than the spread indicates, while underdogs cover by either winning outright or losing by fewer points than the spread. Successful ATS bets rely on accurately predicting which team will cover the spread.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does betting against the spread work?

Betting against the spread (ATS) is a popular strategy in sports betting, which involves evening the playing field between the favorite and the underdog. Rather than simply betting on which team will win or lose, the bettor must take into account the point spread set by sportsbooks. The favorite must win by more than the spread, while the underdog must either win outright or lose by less than the spread to “cover” source.

What are the advantages of betting ATS?

One advantage of betting ATS is that it provides more balanced odds and opportunities for bettors to find value in events with large skill disparities. Additionally, ATS betting encourages bettors to analyze teams’ strengths, weaknesses, and historical trends, promoting a deeper understanding of the sport and potentially improving their betting success.

What is the difference between ATS and cover the spread?

Both terms, “ATS” and “cover the spread,” essentially refer to the same concept in sports betting. When a team covers the spread, it means they have met or exceeded the requirements established by the point spread set by sportsbooks for a specific event. In other words, when a team is said to have “covered the spread,” they have successfully performed against the spread (ATS) source.

How to interpret ATS records?

An ATS record is an indicator of how well a team has performed against the point spread set by sportsbooks. It shows the number of times a team has covered the spread relative to the total number of games they have played. A positive ATS record suggests that a team frequently exceeds expectations set by the sportsbooks, while a negative ATS record implies that a team often falls short of these expectations. Bettors can use ATS records to aid in their decision-making process when placing bets source.

What do negative and positive spreads indicate?

Negative spreads are assigned to the favorite team in an event, while positive spreads are given to the underdog. If a team has a negative spread of -4.5, it must win by more than 4.5 points to cover the spread and satisfy ATS bets on that team. Conversely, a team with a positive spread of +4.5 must either win outright or lose by less than 4.5 points to cover the spread source.

How is ATS used in NFL betting?

ATS is widely used in NFL betting as a way to level the playing field between unevenly matched teams. Bettors consider the point spread when placing wagers on NFL games, taking into account various factors such as team performance, injuries, and historical trends. Successful ATS bets in the NFL require a thorough understanding of the league, its teams, and an ability to analyze relevant data source.

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