What is an Alternate Spread? Best Strategies for Betting

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Most sportsbooks allow bettors to change the spread in exchange for worse or better odds depending on which way you move the line.

For example, if the Cleveland Browns are favored to win by 3 points, the initial spread is -3. If you believe that Cleveland will only win by a field goal, you might alter the spread to -2.5, in which case you would cover the spread if the Browns do, in fact, win by just a field goal. In exchange for moving the spread in your favor, you receive a lower payout.

Using the same example, you could also choose an alternate spread of -6.5 if you think the Browns will win by a TD or more. In this case, you would receive a higher payout than you would by betting the standard spread of -3.

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Alternate Spread Example

Let's illustrate how an alternate spread works with an example from FanDuel Sportsbook.

In Week 18 of the 2022-23 NFL season, the Dallas Cowboys matched up against the Washington Commanders. The standard spread is Cowboys -7 and Commanders +7.

Here are some of the alternate spreads available for the game:

In this example, the standard spreads on both sides have odds of -110.

The example on the top/left shows some of the extreme sides of the alternate spread you can take. For example, you could get +3000 odds ($100 to win $3,000) for the Commanders to win by 22 or more or -20000 odds ($20,000 to win $100) for the Cowboys to lose by 21 or less or win.

The screenshot on the bottom/right shows some more reasonable alternate spreads. For example, if you think the Cowboys are going to win by 10 or more, you could take them at -9.5 at +122 odds ($100 to win $122). Alternatively, if you think the Commanders will pull off the upset, you may take them at -2.5 at +300 odds ($100 to win $300).

Why Would a Sportsbook Allow Bettors to Use Alternate Spreads?

As mentioned, alternate spreads come at a cost to the bettor. If the bettor wagers using an alternate spread that is more favorable (i.e. a spread of -2.5 versus a spread of -3), they can expect to face a less lucrative payout.

If the odds at -3 is -110, the odds at -2.5 may shift to -120. Bettors have to pay more to receive the same payout that they would at -110 by shifting the line in their favor. In this example, instead of betting $110 to profit $100, the bettor would have to wager $120.

If a bettor believes that the half-point is the difference between a win and a push, they may be willing to pay the price.

Conversely, if a bettor believes that a team will easily cover the -3 spread, they might bet an alternate spread that is greater than the original. If the same bettor bet an alternate spread of Cleveland -6.5, they could reap substantially more favorable odds.

Is Betting Alternate Spreads a Good Idea?

Betting alternate spreads only makes sense in certain situations—mainly if you’re trying to move the spread past a key number such as 3, 7, or 10 in football.

For example, many bettors like to “buy the hook” by moving the line from -3 to -3.5 or from +7 to +7.5. This eliminates the possibility of a push.

A general rule of thumb for betting alternate spreads is that you should look for odds of -125 or better when buying just a half point.

Another strategy some bettors use is to buy more than just the half point if they think an underdog will win outright or if a favorite will win by much more than the spread.

For example, if the Philadelphia Eagles are +2.5 against the Dallas Cowboys, they may bet the Eagles -2.5 if they think they will win outright. Alternatively, another bettor may take the Cowboys -9.5 if they think the Cowboys will win by 10 or more.

It’s important to shop around for the best odds when betting alternate spreads. Whereas most sportsbooks offer -110 odds on standard spreads, prices on alternate spreads can vary much more from book to book.

How to Place an Alternate Spread Bet With Online Sportsbooks

Most of the best online sportsbooks offer alternate spread bets. Here’s a general overview of how to find them:

  1. Log into your sportsbook account.
  2. Navigate to the game you are interested in.
  3. In the menus within the game, look for the “Game Lines”, “Buy/Sell Points”, or “Game Props” option.
  4. Look for the “Alternate Spreads” section.
  5. Find the alternate spread you are interested in the list. Remember to shop around for the best odds from multiple sportsbooks.
  6. Enter how much you want to wager and place the bet.
Note that it's also possible to bet alternate totals, typically in the same section where alternate spreads are. In the player prop section for the NFL, you can also find alternate rushing yards, alternate passing yards, and alternate receiving yards.

Sam Mire

Sports and writing rank 1a and 1b on Sam's list of interests, with the order being more or less interchangeable. He sees the world through purple-and-gold colored lenses on Saturdays and a black-and-gold tint on Sundays. Sam has written for FanSided, been published in USA Today, and seeks projects that deliver tangible value to both the diehard and casual fan.