What Does Covering the Spread Mean in Sports Betting?

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Detroit Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson (97) rushes on defense against Philadelphia Eagles during an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, in Detroit.
(AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)
Chase Kiddy @chaseakiddy Dec 22, 2023, 12:35 PM

In online sports betting, the three most common markets are moneylines, totals, and point spreads. Bettors who cover the spread have won a bet in a point-spread market. 

In most two-way contests, one team is priced as a favorite and the other is priced as an underdog. In moneyline markets, bettors must correctly pick a winner. Favorites yield reduced payouts, while underdogs yield greater payouts.

In a point-spread market, both sides of the bet pay out roughly the same. Instead of adjusting the pay outcome, the sportsbook mandates a winning margin for the favorite. It’s not enough for a favorite to win – they must win and cover the spread.

Bettors who bet the spread with a favorite must see their team win by more than the predetermined margin in order to cover.

Bettors who bet the spread with an underdog must see their team either win the game outright by any margin or lose the game by a margin inside the point spread.

What’s an Example of Cover the Spread?

Imagine an NFL game where the Eagles are playing the Lions, and Philadelphia is a 4.5-point favorite. 

If the Eagles win 27-20, they will have won and covered. Their 7-point margin is more than the 4.5-point spread. 

If the Eagles win 24-20, they will have won the game but not covered the spread. Their 4-point margin is not more than the 4.5-point spread. 

If the Lions win 35-31, the Lions will have won the game and covered the spread. Because Detroit was the underdog, any outright win would be a point spread cover.

Visit the online sportsbook for updated odds, sportsbook promos — including BetMGM’s welcome offer — and more.

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About the Author

Chase Kiddy

Read More @chaseakiddy

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.