What is Against The Spread Betting? Against The Spread (ATS) Explained

Justin Mihalcin


August 15, 2023




Against the spread, or ATS, is a popular form of sports wagering. The point spread of a game is intended to even the playing field for unevenly matched teams. By betting against the spread, bettors can either support the favorite by covering the spread or the underdog by beating the spread.

What is a Point Spread?

In sports betting, a point spread is a way to even out the playing field between two teams that might have different levels of skill or competitiveness. When you're betting on a game with a point spread, you're not just picking which team will win, but you're also considering how much a team will win by or lose by. 

The team expected to do better is the favorite, and the point spread will be negative with a minus sign (-). The team expected to lose is the underdog, and teh point spread will be positive with a plus sign (+). 

Your job as a bettor is to decide if the favored team will win by more points than the spread (cover the spread) or if the underdog will lose by fewer points than the spread (beat the spread). Point spreads are designed to make the betting experience more balanced and exciting, allowing you to wager on the game's outcome with some added strategy and thought.

In more simple terms you can imagine two teams will be playing against each other. One team is very good, while the opposing team is not very good at all. To make the match more fun, betting on a point spread is used. This is like a head start given to the team that is not as good. 

Cover The Spread vs. Beat The Spread

Cover the Spread: When you hear the term "cover the spread," it means that the favored team has won by a margin greater than the point spread assigned to them. In this scenario, if you had bet on the favorite, you would have won your bet! 


The New York Jets are favored by 6.5 points (-6.5) over their opponent, the Denver Broncos. After the game is over the final score of the game is 28-17, with the Jets winning. Since they won by a margin of 11 points, the Jets covered the spread. Therefore if you would have picked the Jets to cover the spread of 6.5, you would have won!

Beat the Spread: On the other hand, "beat the spread" refers to the underdog team performing better than what was predicted by the point spread. If you bet on the underdog and they either win the game outright or lose by fewer points than the point spread, you win your bet!


Now lets say the Detroit Lions are playing the Kansas City Chiefs. The spread for the underdog, Detroit Lions, is +7.5 points. After the game is over the final score is 28-24, with the Chiefs coming out on top. Even though the Chiefs may have won the game outright a wager on the Lions at +7.5 points would prevail as Lions only lost by 4 points.

Pros and Cons of ATS Betting

Like any form of sports betting, ATS betting has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Some of the pros include increased betting options, potentially better odds, and the ability to bet on the underdog without necessarily predicting an outright win. On the other hand, ATS betting requires analyzing point spreads. It is crucial to weigh these pros and cons before engaging in ATS betting.

The Strategies Behind ATS Betting

Successful ATS betting relies on a combination of careful analysis and effective strategy. Some popular strategies include:

  • Researching teams' performance and statistics
  • Considering home-field or home-court advantage
  • Following expert opinions and analysis
  • Monitoring line movements and public betting trends

Each strategy has its strengths and weaknesses, and it is up to the bettor to decide which approaches work best for them. Experimenting with different strategies can help improve betting outcomes over time.

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