ATS Betting – Understanding How to Bet Against the Spread

ATS betting is a popular sports betting method where you bet on whether a team will cover the points spread, not just win or lose. It’s about predicting if a team will do better or worse than the points set by the sportsbook.

On this page, we’ll explain what ATS sports betting is, how to bet against the spread, as well as offer a few ATS betting tips that will help you get the hang of it quickly.

What Does ATS Mean?

Let’s start with the basics – what is ATS in sports betting and how can you make it work for you? ATS, short for ‘against the spread’, is a method used by online sportsbooks in the US to make things between teams of different strengths fair. The sportsbooks set a number called the ‘spread’, which predicts how much the favorite (the ‘stronger’ team) should win by or the underdog (the ‘weaker’ team) should lose by.

This means that if you want to bet on the top pick, they have to win the game by a margin greater than the spread for you to win. Conversely, if you’re rooting for the weaker team, they either need to win outright or lose by fewer points than the spread. This betting method gives you more options to play with. Once you’ve gotten the hang of the ATS gambling strategy, you can dive into team stats and historical performance to make better betting decisions.

How Does Betting Against the Spreads Work?

Are you curious how ATS betting can give you an edge? Instead of simply picking a winner, ATS involves wagering on whether a team will cover the point spread. The examples below offer a clear view of ATS betting in practice.

The first example is the Super Bowl XLIX, where the New England Patriots clashed with the Seattle Seahawks. The point spread set by the sportsbooks was:

  • Patriots -2.5
  • Seahawks +2.5

The final score of the game was 28-24 for the Patriots. In this scenario, players who bet against the spread on the Patriots won, since the team covered the spread by winning by more than 2.5 points.

To break this down even further, let’s imagine there’s an NBA game between the LA Lakers and the Boston Celtics. The bookmakers offer the spread as follows:

  • LA Lakers -5.5
  • Boston Celtics +5.5

This means that if you bet against the spread on the Lakers, they must win by more than 5.5 points, and if you back the Celtics ATS, they can either win outright or lose by 5 points or fewer. Let’s say you want to place a $200 bet on the Lakers ATS at odds of -120. The -120 odds mean you’re risking $120 to potentially win $100. If the Lakers cover the spread by winning by 6 or more points, your $200 bet yields a payout of $360 – $160 in winnings and your initial stake of $200.

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How to Place a Bet Against the Spread

  1. Step1: Choose a sportsbook & log in

    Start by picking a licensed online sportsbook that offers ATS betting. Many new sportsbooks like BetOnline are available to US players and offer a safe and secure betting experience. Once you open the website, create an account or log in. The process is simple and necessary to make an ATS bet.
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  3. Step 2: Find the event to bet on & select ATS betting

    The next step is simple – find your favorite game. Most sportsbooks organize games by sport and date, making them easy to find. Look for ATS betting within the game options. This is often labeled as ‘point spread, ’spread,’ or ‘ATS.’
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  5. Step 3: Review the spread & choose your pick

    Take a moment to look at the point spread. This will show you the number of points for both the favorite and the underdog. Decide whether you want to bet on the top pick or the underdog. Click on the corresponding option to proceed.
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  7. Step 4: Enter your bet & confirm your choice

    Decide how much you want to wager. The sportsbook calculates your payout automatically based on your odds and stakes. Double-check all the details of your bet, including the team, stake, and potential payout. Once you’re satisfied, click the ‘place bet’ or ‘confirm’ button to finalize your wager.
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  9. Step 5: Keep track of your bet

    You can usually find your bets in your betting slip or account history. This handy option makes it possible for you to keep track of the game and your bet at the same time.

Negative Spread Meaning

In ATS betting, the term ‘negative spread’ refers to the point spread set by the sportsbooks where the favorite team is expected to win by a certain number of points. A negative spread is represented by a minus (-) sign before the number.

The number itself indicates that the favorite team must win the game by more than that number for a bet to succeed.

For example, if a team has a spread of -5.5, they need to win by at least 6 points for bets on them to win. A negative spread is a way to balance the odds between two teams of different strengths, making bets on either of the teams equally attractive.

Against the Spread Betting vs. Negative Spread Betting

Both ATS (against the spread) and negative spread betting are common terms in sports betting. However, they stand for different aspects of the betting process. Let’s take a look at some of the major differences:

  • Focus: While ATS betting covers both the favorite and the underdog teams with equal spreads, negative spread betting focuses only on the top-choice team. Let’s explore the example from above, where the spread is LA Lakers (-5.5) and Boston Celtics (+5.5). In ATS, betting on the Lakers means they have to win by at least 6 points. Similarly, betting on the Celtics would mean they can either win the game or lose by no more than 5 points. Now, in negative spread betting, the Lakers should win by 6 points or more for the bet to win.
  • Betting strategy: ATS betting is more flexible in terms of betting on the underdog team to perform within a given margin, while a negative spread requires the favorite to beat the spread.
  • Risk involved: In ATS, less risk is involved when betting on underdogs, while in negative spread betting, the favorite not only has to win, but they have to win by a certain number of points. Negative spread betting is thus way riskier, but potentially more lucrative.

Against the Spread Betting in Popular Sports

Betting against the spread is a popular way to make sports betting exciting and fair. The basic idea is the same across different sports, yet each of them has its own quirks and terminology. Getting familiar with these can help you play smarter and win more.

Let’s explore how ATS betting works in different sports:

Against the Spread Betting in Football

What does ATS mean in football? Well, to start off, NFL betting is extremely popular due to the sport’s fame and scoring structure. The spread in football represents the expected difference in points between two teams.

For example, if the New England Patriots are favored by -7.5 points against the Miami Dolphins, a bet on them would win if the Patriots win by at least 8 points. Betting on the Miami Dolphins would mean that they either have to win or lose by 7 points or fewer.

Against the Spread Betting in Baseball

In baseball, ATS is commonly referred to as ‘run line’ betting. The standard run line is set at 1.5, meaning the favorite must win by 2 or more runs, while the underdog must either win or lose by just 1 run. For instance, if the spread for the New York Yankees is -1.5 against the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees must win by 2 or more runs for a bet to succeed.

Against the Spread Betting in Hockey

ATS betting in hockey is known as ‘puck line’ betting. Similar to baseball, the puck line is set at 1.5. In a real-life example, if a game is played between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings, and the spread on the Blackhawks is -1.5, they have to win by 2 or more goals for a bet to be successful.

Against the Spread Betting in Basketball

ATS betting in basketball is similar to ATS in football because spreads change a lot since the game includes a high number of points. If the spread is set at -5.5 for the Los Angeles Lakers against the Boston Celtics, the Lakers must win by 6 points or more for the bet to pay off. On the other hand, the Celtics can either win outright or lose by 5 or fewer points.

Against the Spread Betting in Soccer

Soccer’s ATS betting, commonly known as ‘goal line’ betting is not as common as the other types, but it follows a similar way. The spread might be 0.5, 1.5, or even 2.5 goals, depending on the teams involved.

Let’s take an example from the Premiere League – Manchester United plays against Nottingham Forest, and the spread is set at -2.5. A bet would succeed if Manchester United would win by 3 or more goals, while a bet on Nottingham Forest would pay off if they won or lost by 2 or fewer goals.

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ATS Betting Tips

Before placing a bet, it’s important to understand how ATS betting works. Below you’ll find a few tips that can help you become successful at betting against the spread.

  • Understand the spread: Before diving into ATS betting, learn what the spread means for each team. To win at ATS, you’ll have to understand the team’s strengths, look at their recent performance, injuries, and all the other things that affect their play.
  • Manage your money: Good betting bankroll management is crucial. It’s a method that determines the size of your bets based on the probability of winning and the odds set by bookmakers. Decide how much you want to spend and stick to it. One of the popular strategies for this is the Kelly Criterion, which calculates the best bet size to maximize your winnings over time while considering risks.
  • Look for good odds: Don’t settle for the first sportsbook you find. Look around and try to find the best odds. Even if you find odds that seem big, those small differences can lead to bigger payouts over time.
  • Keep your head in the game: Betting on sports means keeping a cool head even when you’re losing. Don’t chase your losses and don’t make quick bets because your gut told you to do so. Stick to the plan and only bet when you have good reasons backed by reliable info.

Responsible Betting

ATS betting can be risky, so make sure you always bet responsibly. Only bet what you can afford to lose, and if you’re unsure how much to put down, check out tips or various betting systems that can help you stay on track.

If you ever feel overwhelmed or think that betting is affecting your life, seek help or reach out to groups such as:

You can get immediate help by calling 1-800-GAMBLER.

ATS Betting FAQs

What does ATS mean in betting?

How does ATS Betting work?

Are ATS Bets a good bet?

How do you win an ATS bet?

How often do ATS bets hit?


About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Lewis Humphries
Sports Betting Expert

Lewis is a seasoned sports writer and betting expert at ReadWrite. He has been written about sports, remote betting and sportsbooks for more than 10 years, with his work featuring in publications such as The Boot Room, Yahoo Sports and 90min. He writes most extensively about soccer, basketball, American football and boxing, but retains an interest in a huge range of sports.

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