How To Bet On The Cover Spread: An Easy, Step-by-step Guide For 2022

We’ve got the Asian handicap explained and the four fold bet explained, so now it’s time to move onto the cover spread. the world of betting, there are many different ways to bet and many different names for the types of bets you can make. With the rise of US style betting and betting on US sports, you’ve probably seen the expressions covering the spread and spread betting a few times. But exactly what does ‘covering the spread’ mean in sports betting? If you don’t know, then you’re missing out on the great betting opportunities that cover spread betting can give you. With our simple guide, you’ll see cover spread explained and be able to join in with the world of spread betting.

  • Covering the spread is when a team wins taking into account any handicap.
  • Spread betting allows greater value to favourites.
  • In spread betting the odds are usually equal for both teams.

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Your Strategy Guide to Covering the Spread

To have cover spread explained properly, you first need to understand what we mean when we talk about the spread. How to read a point spread is simple; it is just the difference in the points scored by two opposing teams. For example, if Oakland Raiders beat Dallas Cowboys by 45-35, the points spread is 10 points. And it’s this points spread that forms the basis of covering the spread and spread betting.

In spread betting, the bookmaker predicts the points spread for any game and gives or takes points to equalise the betting. The favourite is given a minus handicap, the underdog a positive handicap. The size of the handicap varies depending on how big a spread the bookies believe there to be. Bettors place spread bets using these figures, wagering whether the actual points spread will be bigger or smaller than the bookies estimated points spread.

So, what does ‘covering the spread’ mean in sports betting? In simple terms, covering the spread happens every time a favourite wins the event with the handicap figure taken into account or the underdog either wins or loses by less than the handicap figure.


When thinking about what is covering the spread, you’ll see that, with whole point spreads, there’ll still be the potential for a draw. In this case, the whole bet is voided, and it’s called a push, with all stakes returned. This is, definitely, something that the bookmakers simply don’t want in spread betting. By removing any possibility of a draw, applying “half-point” spread betting handicaps allows them to give odds on just two results; home win or away win, meaning they can offer better, more attractive odds.

To do this, you’ll see half-point spreads throughout spread betting. The half-point means one team is guaranteed to win. For example, taking a point spread in basketball; a Lakers v Jazz game might have a points spread value of Lakers -4.5, Jazz +4.5. This means that, as favourites, the Lakers need to score 5 points more than the Jazz to win.

Some Simple Examples of Covering the Spread

The best possible way for you to see cover the spread explained is to give you some examples. It helps you to understand just what is involved when you’re making your spread bets.

For example, you might see this as a cover spread NFL betting market between the Dallas Cowboys (DAL) and the Oakland Raiders (OAK):

  • DAL -5 1.50
  • OAK +5 1.50

This means the bookmaker has looked at all the form and decided that Dallas are favourites over Oakland and has, effectively, given the Oakland Raiders a five point head start. Dallas has a spread handicap of -5 at odds of 1/1 (1.50) and Oakland a handicap of +5 at the same odds. For Dallas to cover or beat the spread, they’ll need to score 5 points more than Oakland. For Oakland to cover the spread, they need to score within 5 points of Dallas, so they could lose the game, but as long as they lose by less than 5 points, you’ll still win any bet on them. Here are some possible outcomes:

  • Match result: DAL 28: OAK 22. Spread handicap result: DAL 23: OAK 22 – DAL Win.
  • Match result: DAL 28: OAK 23. Spread handicap result: DAL 23: OAK 23 – Draw/Push.
  • Match result: DAL 28: OAK 24. Spread handicap result: DAL 23: OAK 24 – OAK Win.

However, more often, the bookies will offer their spreads at half-points, to eliminate the chance of a draw. So, here is a more likely spread figure:

  • DAL -5.5 1.50
  • OAK +5.5 1.50

Now, the outcomes change, with no draw possible, and a greater chance for Oakland:

  • Match result: DAL 28: OAK 22. Spread handicap result: DAL 22.5: OAK 22 – DAL Win.
  • Match result: DAL 28: OAK 23. Spread handicap result: DAL 22.5: OAK 23 – OAK Win.
  • Favourites cover the spread by winning by more than the spread.
  • Underdogs cover the spread by winning, or losing by less than spread.
  • In a draw, the bet is a push and the stake is returned.

Enhance Your Chances Using the Cover Spread Strategy

With cover spread explained, it’s really useful for your betting strategy to understand just how it can be a real benefit to your overall betting. So far, you might only have been betting a standard match bet on betting sites with 5 pound deposit, which is simply to predict the overall outcome of the match or game. With match betting, there’s usually a favourite and an underdog. The bookies set the odds accordingly, but, since the bookies like to make money, they make very sure that, for any given match, straight match betting isn’t going to cost them big. This is why, in match betting, the favourites usually have terrible odds and often simply aren’t worth backing.

However, with spread betting, the whole idea is for the bookie to apply a spread handicap value to each team, making it harder for the favourite to win and easier for the underdog to win. Effectively, it’s simply levelling out the playing field, meaning, theoretically, if the bookies get the spread right, that they will be able to offer equal odds on both favourite and underdog.

Traditionally, spread betting is something that started with American Football and the NFL and, to this day, NFL spread betting is still the most popular form. But, you’ll also see spread betting used in other sports, especially if they’re US sports. However, just to confuse things, they go by different names in each sport!

So, when you see the puck line in hockey, you’re looking at the spread. Likewise, in baseball, the spread is referred to as the run line, and (somewhat confusingly) in soccer/football the spread is known as the goal line.

However, because ice hockey, baseball, and soccer have scores that are much lower than American Football and Basketball, you’ll usually only see puck lines, run lines and goal lines of +1.5/-1.5, meaning the favourite needs to win by two scores and the underdog can lose by a single score. And, when you consider the stats that nearly 30% of MLB matches are decided by one run, you can see just why the run line is set at 1.5! In Ice Hockey, there are usually alternate puck lines of 2.5.

We’ve now given you the essential info to understand what is covering the spread, and you should have a greater understanding of spread betting and the cover spread meaning. However, even with cover spread explained, it’s a difficult subject to fully understand at first. Have a look at our guide and try following some spread betting at your favourite bookie, without risking any cash yet, to get a fuller understanding of what it all means. But, to help your understanding of things, we’ve also thought of some of the questions we had when first learning about spread betting.


The cover spread meaning of pick ’em is that you’re betting on a game where the teams are so closely matched as to not have a definite favourite or an underdog. Effectively, the cover spread is explained here as a zero figure, with neither team having a points advantage or disadvantage. In this case, whether it’s cover spread NBA or cover spread MLB, a team simply needs to win outright to cover the “pick’em” spread.


Just as in standard match betting, the point spread values can and do change in the run up to the game and with live in-play betting on the game. You might see the point spread change with team changes or betting could influence it.


Just as with specialist alternative markets in match betting, you’ll see more than just the game spread bet available quite often. It’s common for bookmakers to offer spread betting options for individual halves or periods during the game.

Looking for more betting strategies? Make sure to visit our corner betting and double chance betting guides!

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