What Does ATS Mean in Sports Betting?

Tired of feeling lost when you encounter ATS on sports betting sites? Or looking for a way to take your straight bets to the next level? Understanding ATS (Against the Spread) can make the difference between turning a profit or suffering a loss at online sportsbooks.

In this article, we will explain the meaning and importance of ATS in sports betting, how it works, and the best strategies to adopt while betting against the spread.

So, let’s explore straight into the topic: What does ATS mean in sports betting?

🔑 Key Takeaways

  • Discover how to place ATS bets on the point spread of a match.
  • Read our tips and strategies to win against the spread or master when to change the point spread.
  • You’ll know how to bet against the spread in your favorite sports like the NFL, the NBA, and the MLB.

Definition of Against The Spread Bet

Against the spread is simply a type of bet placed on the point spread of a game. A point spread refers to a predetermined margin of victory bookies or oddsmakers set for a favored team over an underdog.

In simpler terms, the point spread is the number of points the favorite is expected to win, or the underdog is expected to lose. The spread serves as a handicap, leveling the playing field and giving both teams an equal chance of being wagered on by bettors.

Here is an example of the point spread using NBA teams: Golden State Warriors (-8) vs. Boston Celtics (+8)

Here, the Warriors are favored to win by 8 points, while bookies anticipate that the Celtics will lose by 8 points. Unlike straight bets, when you bet against the spread, you are not only picking a winner of the game. Instead, you are wagering on the team to cover and even surpass the expected victory margin.

  1. If you bet on the Warriors, they must win the game by more than 8 points (8.5+) for your wager to be successful.
  2. If your wager is on the Celtics, they must either win the game outright or lose by 8 points or fewer for the bet to pay out. If they lose by more than 8 points, you won’t win the bet. 

History of ATS Betting

The specific moment when ATS betting, as we know it today, began is not certain. However, it had its roots in the early days of sports betting in the United States. As far back as the 19th and early 20th centuries, bookmakers offered odds to level the playing field.

The modern point spread betting system was developed by Charles K. McNeil, a Chicago mathematics teacher turned bookmaker, in the 1940s. Thanks to the increasing popularity of college football and the NFL, it soon became a standard feature of sports betting.

Bettors soon found betting against the spread appealing since it offers a better payout. The advent of televised sports and the internet, as well as the ease of sports betting laws, brought ATS betting to a broader audience. Now, most sportsbooks offer point spreads on a wide range of sports and events.

→ My first ATS bet was in 2019 when I wagered on the NFL Green Bay Packers -5.5 to beat the Carolina Panthers -5.5. The match ended with Packers: 24, Panthers: 16, and I won the bet. 

How ATS Betting Works

ATS is one of the most straightforward bets in sports betting:

  1. When you wager against the spread, you bet on the outcome that a team (favorite) will win by a certain margin.
  2. If you are placing an ATS bet on the underdog, you want the underdog to win outright or lose by less than the point spread.

Example: Green Bay Packers: -5.5 Carolina Panthers: +5.5

An ATS bet on the Packers means they must win by 6 or more points. A wager on the Panthers will only be successful if the Panthers win the game or lose by less than 5.5 points.

Looking at the results of the game:

  • Packers: 24
  • Panthers: 16

Since the Packers won by 8 points (24–16), they covered the spread and exceeded the predicted margin of victory, making the bet successful.

Let’s look at other possible scenarios of this bet:

  1. Packers do not cover the bet: If the Packers win by 5 points or less, or lose the match outright, the bet is not successful, and you will lose your wager.
  2. Packers win by exactly 5.5 points: If the Packers win by exactly 5.5 points, the ATS bet ends in a push. Your initial wager will be refunded, and there will be no winnings or losses.

How to Calculate the Spread Payout?

You can determine the payout of your ATS bets using the odds provided by the sportsbook. The standard odds are -110, meaning you must wager $110 to win $100. However, keep in mind that the odds can differ based on various factors, including market conditions and the volume of the betting action.

To calculate your payout:

  • Divide 100 by the odds: 100/110 = 0.9090, approx. 0.91.
  • Multiply the payout factor by your bet amount: Let’s say you wager $20 on the ATS market above; your winnings would be $20 x 0.91 = $18.2.
  • Add it to your original wager; your total payout would be $38.2.

ATS in Different Sports

You can bet against the spread in several sports, including the NFL, NBA, MLB, and college sports. However, the strategies and key margins of victory for each sport may vary. Let’s look at ATS betting on these sports.

NFL Against the Spread

With ATS betting, you can predict the outcome of NFL betting matches based on the points spread offered by bookies. Sportsbooks consider many factors before deciding the point spread of an NFL game, including team performances, home advantages, player form, and other relevant data.

The point spread for NFL matches usually ranges from 3 to 7 points depending on the relative strength of the teams.

Example of NFL ATS: Dallas Cowboys -4.5 Washington Commanders +4.5.

NBA Against the Spread

You can wager on the outcome of an NBA game based on its point spread. However, keep in mind that NBA betting point spread bets are available quarter-by-quarter, but you can also wager on the half or full game. The spread can be as much as 20 points, depending on the teams’ performance.

Example of NBA ATS: Cavaliers -7 vs. Raptors +7

MLB Against the Spread

In MLB betting, bookmakers use the run line instead of a point spread. Although similar to the point spread, the standard run line is always set at 1.5, and odds are adjusted depending on the teams’ performance.

Example of MLB ATS: Yankees -1.5 (+120), Red Sox +1.5 (-140). 

  • If you place an ATS bet on the Yankees in this market, the Yankees must win the game by 2 or more runs for the bet to be successful.
  • If it’s on the Red Sox, the team must win the game totally or lose by no more than 1 run.

College Football Against the Spread

ATS betting works in college football the same way it does in professional football. The point spread serves as a handicap to level the playing field between two teams of different strengths. However, specific factors like conference or non-conference games, home-field advantage, and rivalry games often impact the outcome of college sporting events.

Example of College Football ATS: Ohio State Buckeyes (-7.5) vs. Michigan Wolverines

Why Bet Against The Spread?

There are several benefits you can get from betting against the spread. Below, I have highlighted some from my experience placing ATS bets.

  • More Opportunities: ATS betting gives you more chances to win since you can wager on favorites and underdogs. You don’t have to worry about the team you bet on losing the match; you can still get a payout if they cover the spread.
  • Better Odds: Betting against the spread offers better odds than placing straight bets. You get more favorable odds, especially if you are wagering on the underdog or a team with a higher spread. It allows you to maximize your bets and win bigger returns.
  • Increased Excitement: When you bet against the spread, the outcome of the game is no longer the only factor. Now, you are invested in the number of goals, points, or runs scored and the margin of victory, making every moment of the game more exciting and intense. Even if your team is losing by a wide margin, you still want to watch how it ends.
  • Strategic Depth: I believe when you start placing ATS bets and getting successful, you are more than a casual bettor. Since you are not just picking the winner of the game, you are also analyzing other nuances, such as team performances and coaching decisions, and making informed decisions about the spread. 

Expert Picks and ATS Strategy

Expert sports bettors use a combination of statistical analysis, team performance metrics, and situational factors to make informed ATS bets.

If you want to win consistently with your ATS picks, you have to do it the smart way.

According to reputable sports betting advisory services like ESPN’s Football Power Index and well-known sports analysts like Bill Simmons, successful ATS strategies involve:

  • Identifying critical injuries and their impact on team performance
  • Assessing coaching decisions and team motivation
  • Considering weather and field conditions
  • Checking recent form and momentum
  • Using advanced statistics like expected points and yards per play

It is also essential to shop for the best lines for your ATS picks. That’s why I recommend having an account with multiple sportsbook sites to compare odds. 

Additionally, practice proper bankroll management while placing ATS bets. Ensure that you set a budget and stick to it. Avoid chasing losses or betting more than you can afford to lose.

Common Mistakes in ATS Betting

As a bettor who has made his fair share of mistakes in ATS betting, I can attest to the importance of learning from them. I have detailed them below, so you won’t have to commit the same blunders while choosing your ATS picks.

  • Relying Heavily on Public Opinion: I learned strongly that following the crowd can sometimes lead to poor decision-making and costly mistakes in sports betting. Before deciding to bet against the spread on any game, it is better to do your own research and analysis. Don’t neglect key factors like injuries, weather, and team motivation.
  • Failing to Manage Bankroll Effectively: Another common mistake players make is not managing their bankroll properly, which often leads to increased losses. As stated earlier, ensure you set a budget before placing your first ATS bet.
  • Placing Impulsive Bets: You should only place ATS wagers when you fully understand the odds and circumstances involved. Sports betting and emotional decisions don’t mix, as they can lead to poor betting choices.

Finding the Best ATS Betting Opportunities

Since ATS betting requires real money investment, it is only appropriate to want the best returns on your wagers.

To find the best ATS betting opportunities, you need to thoroughly assess the strengths, weaknesses, and performance trends of the teams you select. Team research and analysis can not be overemphasized enough.

Using betting tools and software to access information such as historical data, trends, and real-time odds can save you time and effort.

Some online guides provide updated ATS records and standings of teams in various sports, allowing you to track their performance against the spread throughout the season. For instance, you can check the current ATS standings of NBA teams on OddsShark.

You can also stay informed with expert analysis from reputable sources like ESPN, CBS Sports, or Vegas Insider. 

So, Will You Bet Against the Spread Tonight?

Betting against the spread shares your focus between the winner of the game and the margin of victory. As such, it can add an extra layer of excitement. Moreover, ATS betting can offer you more favorable odds and higher payouts than moneyline bets.

Becoming a successful ATS bettor requires you to carefully research your team selections and use ATS sports betting advisory services and advanced betting tools.

Do you crave other daring and more rewarding wagers than ATS? Our detailed betting 101 guide is there for you.