What Is Covering The Spread? A Guide to Point Spread Bets

04 / 20 / 2021 By Mark Saldana

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Maybe you’re new to betting on sports — Or, you might have dabbled in a March Madness pool at work or bet on the Super Bowl a time or two.

Either way, you’re interested in getting into online sports betting.

You feel like you need a primer on some of the terminology before making any wagers.

When watching football with your friends, you keep hearing phrases like, “The Cowboys won, but they didn’t cover the spread!”

Point spread bets are a popular form of sports betting. 

This guide will teach you everything you need to know about “covering the spread” and the best place to make point spread bets online.

What Does “Cover the Spread” Mean?

When it comes to sports betting, “cover the spread” is a term you’ll hear over and over again.

A point spread is the number of points (typically set by a sportsbook) a team must win by, or stay within, for the bet on that particular team to payout. 

So, if the team you bet on has won by or stayed within that set number of points, you have “covered the spread.”

How Does “Covering the Spread” Work?

Point spread betting is a way to “even the playing field” when betting on two teams. 

Think about it this way: 

If the New England Patriots are 7-1 and they’re playing the Cleveland Browns, who have a record of 2-6, the average person would bet on the Patriots. 

But if the spread is Patriots -17, New England has to score at least a couple of extra touchdowns and a field goal for bettors to come away with cash. 

This encourages betting action on both sides of the matchup.

ZenSports is the easiest way to place point spread bets online. And it’s available wherever you are –– on Android, iOS, and mobile web. 

ZenSports is an online betting market where you’re in control of your bets. You can wager how you want to, and there’s no middleman, meaning you don’t have to deal with bookmakers.

With ZenSports, you can create and accept bets on any game or match, whether those bets are point spread bets, money line bets, or over/under bets.

FAQs on How to “Cover the Spread”

Still have questions about covering the spread? No problem. We’ll break it down even further.

Let’s take a look at a few FAQs when it comes to spread betting.

What Does “The Spread” Mean?

When it comes to sports betting, “the spread” is a common abbreviation for the point spread, which is the betting line (or odds) for wagering on either the favorite or underdog in a game.

You may hear “the spread” and “the line” used interchangeably. 

What Does a +7 Spread Mean?

A spread of +7 means the underdog must either win the game or lose by fewer than 7 points to win the bet. 

Let’s say an NFL game is listed like this:

Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers

Team Line

Seattle Seahawks -7

San Francisco 49ers +7

The team favored to win the game (in this case, the Seahawks) always has a “-” in front of the point spread while the underdogs (the 49ers) have a “+” in front of the points spread. 

Let’s say you take the 49ers +7. This means in order for you to win the bet, the 49ers need to either win the game or lose by 7 points or less. If the Seahawks beat the 49ers 24-21, you still win the bet because the Seahawks didn’t “cover the spread.”

A +7 spread is commonly seen in football betting as 7 points is the total of a touchdown (6 points) and a point-after-touchdown or extra-point (1 point). 

This is a common way to score in football. 

What Does 7.5 Spread Mean?

If you’re following how a 7 point spread works, you might find a 7.5 spread a bit confusing. A 7.5 spread means the favorite needs to win by at least 8 points.

That’s because you can’t score half points, half goals, or half runs in sports. 

So what’s with the .5?

The half-point ensures there is a clear winner in a bet. If the final score lands exactly on the spread, it is a tie (or a push)

In the case of a push, bettors typically receive their money back. So, by adding a .5 to the spread, sportsbooks ensure there is no chance for a push.

Back to that 7.5 spread — Let’s say you bet on the favorite in a football game. Since there are no half points in football, you need them to win by 8 points or more to win the bet.

If your team wins by 7, you’re out of luck. You lose the bet.

What Does a 3 Point Spread Mean?

A 3 point spread means the favorite must win by at least 4 points (winning by exactly 3 would result in a push) in order for a bettor picking the favorite to win the wager.

On the other side of the bet, if a bettor chooses the underdog (+3), that team must either upset the favorite and win the game or lose the game, but by fewer than 3 points for the bettor to be successful.

What Is 2.5 Point Spread?

A 2.5 spread means the favorite needs to win by at least 3 points in order to cover the spread. 

Again, the .5 added to the spread means there won’t be a push.

What Does a 1.5 Point Spread Mean?

If the point spread is 1.5, it means the favorite needs to win by 2 or more. That could mean 2 points, goals, runs, etc.

A 1.5 point spread is common in sports where scoring is more difficult, and final scores are often significantly lower than you might see in a basketball or football game. 

These could include: 

  • Baseball 
  • Hockey; or
  • Soccer. 

What Does a 0 Point Spread Mean?

A 0 point spread means there is no favorite or underdog in the game, match, etc. 

This is often called a “pick ‘em” bet or a “moneyline” bet.  

This means whoever you bet on to win the game, must simply win for you to cash in. They don’t need to win by a certain number of points, runs, or goals.

For example: The Texas Rangers are taking on the Houston Astros in a Lone Star Series matchup. There’s a 0 point spread in this rivalry game, meaning the money line is even. 

You bet on the Rangers. The Rangers lose by a run, meaning you’ve lost the bet.

“Cover the Spread” By Sport

Spread betting is most common in football (NFL or college), but you can also make spread bets in other sports, including:

  • Basketball
  • Hockey
  • Baseball
  • Soccer

You might notice sportsbooks using different terms for spread bets in other sports, but the concept is the same.

In hockey, the spread is called the puck line. While in baseball, the spread is referred to as the run line; and in soccer, the goal line.

Covering a Spread: Football

Spread betting is hugely popular in football. Because of how football is scored, 3 and 7 are the most common margins of victory. 

Because of that, you’ll often see point spreads at or around these numbers.

Let’s take a look at an example. Let’s say the Minnesota Vikings are playing the Chicago Bears in an NFC Central contest. The Vikings are favored by 7.5.

  Team                       Line

Chicago Bears  

Minnesota Vikings  -7.5

When reading this bet, it’s important to note that the home team is almost always listed at the bottom. This is good information to have because home-field advantage can sometimes have an impact on a game’s outcome.

Covering a Spread: Basketball

Is basketball more your speed? You can make point spread bets on the NBA and college hoops too.

Because teams can be so unevenly matched, point spread betting is a good option for basketball. 

It works the same way as football, though you’ll likely see higher point totals in basketball. The average number of points scored by a team in an NFL game is just under 25. 

In comparison, the average number of points scored by a team in an NBA game is more than four times that, at almost 112.

Keep in mind that in basketball (as well as other sports), point spreads can constantly change, right up until tip-off (in the case of basketball). 

Some reasons for point spreads changing include:

  • Distribution of the betting action
  • Injuries to key players
  • Changes to a starting lineup;
  • And more.

It’s important to note that your results depend on the spread at the time you placed your bet, assuming it is different from the spread at the start of the game.

Covering a Spread: Baseball

While spreads vary wildly in football and basketball games, the same is not the case in baseball. 

In MLB (Major League Baseball), the run line is almost always set at (+/-)1.5. 

This means if you put your money on the favorite, they must win by at least two runs for you to cover the spread/cover the run line and win the bet. 

If you decide to go with the underdog for you to win the bet, they must either win the game or only lose by a single run. 

Place Your Point Spread Bets With ZenSports 

Now that you know the ins and outs of “covering the spread,” are you ready to try your hand a point spread betting?

You’ll want to place your bets on ZenSports. 


ZenSports is the future of online sports betting. It’s an online betting marketplace that allows its users to place bets without a centralized bookmaker.

Unlike other online betting platforms, ZenSports facilitates peer-to-peer sports betting. 

What does that mean? 

Peer-to-peer betting allows users to create and accept sports bets with anyone else in the world, whether they’re friends, family, or someone you’ve never met.

So, why bet on ZenSports?

Simple —There are so many benefits.

Here are just a few of the perks of placing your online point spread bets with ZenSports:

  • Better odds
  • No centralized bookmaker as the middleman
  • You can decide to be a “bet-taker,” “bet-maker,” or both
  • Take bets anonymously or invite your friends to join in and bet against them
  • The ability to manage your funds, transactions, and bets in one convenient place
  • Peer-to-peer is the future of online sports betting, and ZenSports is leading the way

Clearly, when it comes to making wagers on sports, whether you’re betting the spread or sticking to pick ‘em bets, ZenSports is your best bet.

Download the ZenSports apps