What is a Spread Bet? How to Bet the Spread

March Madness Viewing Party At The Westgate Las Vegas
March Madness Viewing Party At The Westgate Las Vegas / Ethan Miller/GettyImages

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Sports betting is becoming more and more mainstream in the U.S. as more and more states legalize it. That makes it even more important to know what you're talking about (or wagering on) when it comes to sports betting. 

Some of the most common of these betting terms include moneyline, spread, total, over/under and prop bets, and the Duel Sports wants to help you understand them all by explaining them one a time in a tutorial series. We've already done  moneyline. Now it's time to talk about the spread. 

What is a Spread Bet?

Spread bets are designed to balance the scales between perceived favorites and underdogs, revolving around a margin of victory. A spread bet is a bet placed on one team to win or lose by a given number of points. 

A spread itself refers to the number of points a favorite must win by or a loser must lose by to determine a cover. The absolute value of this spread number is the same for both teams, but this number is added to an underdog's score and subtracted from a favorite's final score to determine a spread bet result. Not all teams, nor their likelihood of winning any given game are created equal, and spreads reflect this. That means you can win a spread bet wagering on an underdog team that doesn't win a game straight up overall. 

Example Game: Philadelphia Eagles vs. New Orleans Saints (2019 NFC Divisional Round)

Spread: 7.5 Points

Favorite: New Orleans Saints (-7.5 Points)

Underdog: Philadelphia Eagles (+7.5 Points)

Final Score: Saints 20 | Eagles 14

Explained Spread Result: Betting on the (underdog) Philadelphia Eagles to cover +7.5 points against the (favorite) New Orleans Saints was a winning spread bet on the final score. The Eagls lost by only 6 points, thus covering the 7.5-point spread. 

What is a Cover?

A cover is a term used to denote when a favorite wins by more than the spread value of points, or when a loser loses by fewer than the number of spread value of points (or wins outright).

Explained Cover Result: Since the Philadelphia Eagles (+7.5 points) lost by only six points (20-14), the Eagles "covered" the spread against the Saints. 

What is ATS?

ATS stands for "against the spread," which represents a player or team's record of covering spreads – regardless of underdog or favorite status. 

Example: Since the Philadelphia Eagles (+7.5 points) lost by only six points (20-14), the Eagles covered the spread against the Saints and improved their ATS record by one win. 

How Much Does a Spread Bet Payout? 

The vast majority of spreads open with -110 odds (slightly less than 2/1 value) on either side of the spread bet value. Depending on how much money is wagered on the underdog or the favorite leading up to a game, odds tied to a spread bet can also fluctuate between a usual range of -130 to +130. 

Example Spread Bet Payout: A $10 bet on the (underdog) Philadelphia Eagles to cover +7.5 points (-110) against the (favorite) New Orleans Saints would have paid out $19.09 ($9.09 in profit). 

Are Spread Bets Exclusive to One Sport or Full Games? 

No, and no. FanDuel Sportsbook frequently offers spread bets on various amounts of time within full games as well. These include spread bets on one team to cover any given quarter (football, NBA basketball, etc.), half (football, basketball, soccer, etc.) or period (hockey, etc.). This means that you can place a spread bet on a team to cover a spread against an opponent in a quarter or half, even if that same team doesn't defeat their opponent or cover in the full game. 

Example 1st Quarter: Philadelphia Eagles vs. New Orleans Saints (2019 NFC Divisional Round)

1st Quarter Spread: 0.5 Points

1st Quarter Favorite: New Orleans Saints (-0.5 Points)

Underdog: Philadelphia Eagles (+0.5 Points)

First Quarter Score: Eagles 14 | Saints 0

Explained Spread Result: Betting on the (favorite) New Orleans Saints to cover -0.5 points against the (underdog) Philadelphia Eagles was a losing spread bet on the first-quarter score. 

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David Hayes is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, David Hayes also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username DavidWHayes. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.

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