What Does It Mean to “Cover the Spread” in Betting?

Many sportsbooks offer ‘Betting’ options, where you can bet on the outcome of a sports game. Generally speaking, there are two types of bets you will find offered, ‘Match’ and ‘Over/Under’. Match bets are fairly self-explanatory – they are based on the scoring difference between two teams. Over/Under bets are based on whether the combined total of both teams scores more or less than the set point. For example, if the total is 45-44, the Underdog will win the bet. But, if the score is 45-43, the Overdog will win the bet. To make things more interesting, many sportsbooks offer ‘Bleisure’ bets, which are combinations of both Under and Over/Under bets.]

To give you an idea of how these bets work, we will use the example of a college football game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the LSU Tigers. Below, we will go over each type of bet and how to approach them.

Over/Under Bets

For an Over/Under bet, you are essentially placing a wager on which side will score more. In the example above, it is presumed that you are a fan of either the Crimson Tide or the Tigers (you do not have to be a fan of either to wager). If the spread is 3.5 points (3 points in the Atlantic Coast and 4.5 points in the Western Division), you would bet on the outcome of the game: will it be a shootout where both teams score a lot, or will one team pull away and dominate? If you think the Tigers will cover the spread, you would bet on them – if you think the Tide will cover the spread, you would bet on them too.

Match Bets

For a Match bet, you are placing a wager on the outcome of the game. If the spread is 3.5 points in the example above, you would bet on the Tigers to win the game 45-44. In this case, the over/under bet would win since the overdog would cover the spread. However, if the spread is 44-43, your wager would be on the Crimson Tide since they are the underdog in the matchup (and they would win the bet since they are technically underdogs).

So, which type of bet should you place? That depends on you and what you are trying to accomplish. If you want to make money off the game, go with Over/Under bets. But, if you are looking for a fun way to bet and enjoy the thrill of victory or defeat, go with Match bets.

Now, let’s look at some of the key terms that you need to familiarize yourself with before placing your bet:

Moneyline

This is the standard way most sportsbooks handle betting. To put it simply, the ‘Moneyline’ is the total amount you are wagering on the bet. For example, if the moneyline for the Tide-Tigers game is -140, that means you are wagering \$140 on the outcome of the game. While many bookies will let you create customized wagers through their website – where you can set the moneyline and the spread – going to a sportsbook and placing your wager through them is the simplest way to go about it.

Payouts

This refers to how much you are going to get back on your wager, if the bet is successful. The payout for a winning wager on an Underdog will be the same as the moneyline – they will give you \$140 on a bet of \$140.

However, if you are an Overdog, the payout is a bit more complex. In this case, the Overdog will usually refund you (minus a small commission) only if the point spread is in their favor. So, on an Overdog winning bet of \$100, you will only get \$99 since you will have to pay \$1 to the sportsbook. But, if the score is 45-44, and you are an Overdog believing that the underdogs are going to cover the spread, you will get \$140 – the moneyline plus your \$100 wager will be refunded to you. In some cases, you will also have to pay a small commission to the sportsbook.

Accumulator

An Accumulator is a type of bet that many people refer to as ‘trying to cover the spread’, due to its nature of trying to match or beat the spread. Simply put, the Accumulator is a combination of the two bets ‘Match’ and ‘Over/Under’. To make an Accumulator bet, you are going to have to choose which side you think is going to win – if you think both sides have a chance at winning, you can place a MATCH bet (based on the outcome of the game) plus an UNDER bet (based on the over/under outcome).

In the example above, you would have to choose one of the teams to win – either the Tide or the Tigers – which one will be determined by the point spread. If you believe the Tide are going to cover the spread at +3.5 points, you would place an UNDER bet at +3 points and an ACCUMULATOR bet at +4.5 points – in this case, the ACCUMULATOR wins since it was the superior of the two wagers. But if you believe the Tigers are going to cover the spread at +4 points, you would place an UNDER bet at +3 points and an ACCUMULATOR bet at +4 points – in this case, the ACCUMULATOR loses since the UNDER bet won.

Many people enjoy Accumulator bets since it is a fun way to wager. But keep in mind that they are more complex than they appear – be sure you understand what you are getting into before making an Accumulator bet.