What is Sports Spread Betting?

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What is Sports Spread Betting?
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Spread betting online carries the potential for more risk and reward when compared to normal fixed-odds betting.

With spread betting,  you ‘buy’ on a market if you think the outcome will be above the spread or ‘sell’ if you want to go the other way - It’s the equivalent of buying or selling shares of a company, except the model is instead applied to sports betting.

Examples of Sports Spread Bets

In order to understand how spread betting works, let’s look at a couple of examples.

Unlike fixed-odds betting, where you get an exact payout if your selection wins, your spread betting return will vary depending on how ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ you were with your selection.

Example of a Buy Bet

Let’s first look at a ‘buy’ bet using football as an example.

If Liverpool are playing Everton and the spread for the Reds is 1.45–1.65 goals, the bookmaker is basically saying they expect the Reds to be 1.5 goals better than the Toffees. 

If you reckon Liverpool will win this game by two or more goals, you'll go for the ‘buy’ option. You would be buying at 1.65 (the bigger number).

Let’s say you decided to buy Liverpool for $20 per goal. You would have the following potential winning outcomes:

  • Liverpool win by two goals = $20 x 0.35 = $7
  • Liverpool win by three goals = $20 x 1.35 = $27
  • Liverpool win by four goals = $20 x 2.35 = $47
  • Liverpool win by five goals = $20 x 3.35 = $67

The calculations are made by multiplying your unit stake ($20) by the difference between the number of goals scored and the buy price (1.65). As you can see, the potential winnings increase depending on the level of supremacy Liverpool have.

The flip side is that Liverpool might only win by one goal or actually fail to win the match. The more off the mark you are with your prediction, the more money you'll lose. The bookmaker also has a small margin built in between 1.45 and 1.65.

Example of a Sell Bet

Let’s look at a more volatile market to explain how a ‘sell’ bet might work.

In the Liverpool v Everton match, the time of the first goal has a spread of 29-32 minutes. Punters who anticipate an early goal in the game at Anfield might decide to ‘sell’ at 29 on the basis that a goal scored in the 28th minute or earlier will yield a profit. The earlier the goal, the bigger the overall payout. 

Let’s imagine that you sold for $5 per minute on this spread betting market. You might see some of the following outcomes:

  • 1st Goal in the 7th minute = 22 x $5 = $110
  • 1st Goal in the 15th minute = 14 x $5 = $70
  • 1st Goal in the 25th minute = 4 x $5 = $20
  • 1st Match Goal in the 40th minute = -11 x $5 = -$55 (you lose $55)
  • 1st Match Goal in the 67th minute = -38 x $5 = -$190 (you lose $190)

The calculations here are made by subtracting (or adding) the minute of the first goal from the ‘sell’ price of 29. As you can see, a nice early goal would result in a handsome profit.

But beware, you'll ship a loss if the scoreline is still 0-0 after the 29th minute. And because this is a spread bet, the losing amount will rise by $5 every minute until the deadlock is broken.

Benefits & Risks of Spread Betting

Sports spread betting can be highly volatile, depending on how much you stake and the market you're betting on.

There’s plenty of risk attached to this form of betting, although betting apps sometimes allow you to set something called a stop-loss, which limits how much can be lost (or won) on a particular trade. Below we've summarised some of the main pros and cons involved in spread betting on sport.

✅ Benefits❌ Drawbacks
You can trade your positions in-playBookies are accurate with spreads
The more 'right' you are, the more you winLosses rise if you're way off the mark
Different markets to fixed-odds availableStop-loss can also limit winnings
Bookmaker's margin is transparent 

Spread Betting v Fixed-Odds Betting

The key difference between sports spread betting and traditional betting is the absence of the fixed-odds element.

Going back to the previous example, but in a fixed-odds scenario, a $5 bet on Liverpool at 2.0 involves staking $5 and getting a return of $10 if they win, or a return of $0 if they fail to win.

With spread betting, you would instead potentially buy Liverpool’s advantage at 1.65 goals for a unit stake. There's more risk involved but also potentially more reward - so it’s only worth placing a spread bet if you have a strong view on a particular market.

It's also worth noting when spread betting that you need to have enough funds in your account to cover any potential losses.


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Popular Football Spread Betting Markets

These are some of the markets you can expect to find when placing spread bets on football.

  • Supremacy: This market requires you to predict the goal difference between two teams. You bet higher or lower than the spread set by your football bookmaker. Your profit is the unit difference between the bookie's spread and the final result, multiplied by your stake.
  • Total Goals: This is a bet on the cumulative number of goals scored in a match. You decide whether the total goals will be higher or lower than the bookmaker's prediction.
  • Shirt Numbers: Unique to spread betting, this market involves adding together the sum of shirt numbers of all of the goal-scorers in a game. You bet on whether the final total will be over or under the bookie's spread.
  • Bookings Points: Bets are placed on the total points allocated for yellow and red cards in a game (e.g. 10 points for a yellow, 25 for a red) and you decide whether the points total will be above or below the spread.
  • Corners: Bet over/under the spread for the total number of corners awarded during a match. This market can also be split into bets on the number of corners in each half.

Spread Betting Strategy Tips

As we've established, spread betting is a high-risk, high-reward style of wagering. But you can improve your chances by following a few tried-and-tested spread betting strategies. 

Start With Low-Volatility Markets

It’s better to begin spread betting on markets where you’re not risking big losses. 

For example, a total goals spread bet is similar to its fixed-odds equivalent and you’re unlikely to lose several times your unit stake.

Understand Your Worst-Case Scenario

It’s easy to feel confident about a bet and focus only on how much profit can be generated. 

However, the flip side is that a spread bet can go very wrong, so it’s important to know how much you might end up losing if your prediction is wide of the mark.

Don’t Chase Losses

This logic applies to all forms of betting, but with spread bets carrying more risk, it’s imperative that you take a step back if things aren’t going your way. 

Use the stop-loss facility to your advantage to limit how much you can lose.

Consider Selling More Than Buying

The majority of spread bettors will buy more than they sell. This artificially moves the line upwards, so it can sometimes pay to go against the grain and sell on certain markets. 

Keep an open mind to the sell market when placing your sports spread bets.

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