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Sports Spread Betting

Guide to Sports Spread Betting

Spread betting is one the most thrilling ways to bet on sports. It’s not for the faint hearted though, or for the risk averse. The excitement comes from its potential for big returns, but there’s the potential for big losses too. Spread betting can be EXTREMELY volatile.

Casual bettors choose to overlook spread betting because it seems too complicated. We admit, it does seem that way at first, but we promise that it’s actually very straightforward. It’s different from the traditional way to bet on sports, but it doesn’t take much to get used to it. Spread betting can be very profitable with the right approach, so please take the time to learn more about it.

Spread betting on sports has been around for many years now, but it’s never been accepted as a mainstream form of betting. It’s relatively popular in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe, but it hasn’t been embraced on a global scale. This is for a variety of reasons, one of which we’ve already mentioned. Many recreational bettors choose to avoid it due to its perceived complexities.

We also should point out that spread betting isn’t even always an available option. Only a few sports betting sites offer spread betting, and most of them are specialist sites dedicated solely to this form of gambling. This will probably change in the future, but it’s fair to say that the options are limited at this moment in time.

Nonetheless, we still recommend learning about sports spread betting. It might not be for you, but there’s no harm in finding out how it all works. It can present some excellent betting opportunities, and that’s always a good thing.

Below you’ll find a detailed explanation of how sports spread betting works and to how to calculate potential payouts and losses. Then we look at the main pros and cons of sports betting, and finish with a few helpful tips for anyone wishing to give sports spread betting a try.

Don’t confuse this form of betting with betting on the point spread. Take a look at our page on types of bets and wagers for more information on that.

How Sports Spread Betting Works

Sports spread betting is traditionally done with a bookmaker who specializes in this area, but it’s available at some mainstream online betting sites too. So now that you know where to find sports spread betting, you must be wondering what it’s all about? The basic concept is very similar to traditional sports betting, but there is one significant difference.

The amounts won and lost in spread betting are NOT based on odds. They’re based on how accurate (or inaccurate) the wagers are.

The bookmaker sets a spread according to what they believe is the most likely result. It’s up to us to decide whether we think the actual result will be higher or lower than their spread. Everything is always done on a higher or lower basis, which is why spread betting works particularly well for certain betting markets. These include markets such as the total number of goals scored in a soccer game, the total number of runs scored in a cricket match, or the total number of points scored in a basketball game.

The best way to explain sports spread betting is to use an example, which is exactly what we are going to do. We’ll use the total number of goals scored in a soccer game since it’s one of the easier markets to work with. Here’s what a bookmaker’s spread might look like for an upcoming game.

An example spread betting market for total goals

As you can see, there are two numbers displayed here. The lower number, 1.9, is the sell price. The higher number, 2.1, is the buy price. So the spread is said to be 1.9 – 2.1.

If we wanted to bet on this market, we’d simply have to decide whether we thought there would be less than 1.9 goals or more than 2.1. Obviously the actual number of goals will always be a whole number, but the decimal places are important when it comes to settling wagers. We’ll get to that a little later.

If we wanted to place a wager on more than 2.1 goals, then we’d BUY the spread. If we wanted to place a wager on less than 1.9, then we’d SELL the spread. Anytime we buy or sell a spread, it’s referred to “opening a position.” Once we get to this stage, it’s time for us to decide how much we want to stake.

Whether or not we actually win the wager would depend on the total number of goals scored in the game. The result of our wager would then depend on the total number of goals actually scored in the game. If we bought the spread, we’d need more than 2.1 goals in order to win. So realistically, this means three or more goals. If we sold the spread, we’d need less than 1.9 goals in order to win. This means either one goal or a tie would lock in the win.

We hope that you’ve found this all to be pretty simple so far, as it’s very comparable to betting on the over/under. Don’t forget that there are no odds involved here though, which means we haven’t risked a fixed stake in exchange for a fixed profit. Here’s where things get a little more complicated.

Calculating Payouts & Losses

There’s more to spread betting than simply being right or wrong. What really matters is how much we are right by, or how much we are wrong by, as this is what determines how much money we win or lose.

In order to calculate our payouts and losses, we must compare the price we bought or sold at to the actual result. Then we multiply our initial stake by the difference to find out the exact amount we’ve won or lost. This sounds more confusing than it actually is, so let’s use some examples to make this easier to understand.

In this first example, let’s assume we bought the spread at 2.1 for a stake of $10. If three goals were scored, we’d win. We’d deduct our buy price of 2.1 from the final total of 3, to give us 0.9. We multiply this by our $10 stake, and we get $9. So in this scenario we’d win $9.

  • If four goals were scored, we’d win $19. 4 minus 2.1 is 1.9, multiplied by $10 is $19.
  • If five goals were scored, we’d win $29. 5 minus 2.1 is 2.9, multiplied by $10 is $29.

The same formula is applied if six or more goals is scored. That means the more goals that are scored, the more we stand to win. It’s also applied when we lose. If less than two goals are scored we get a negative number, which will be the amount that we lose.

  • If one goal was scored, we’d lose $11. 1 minus 2.1 is -1.1, multiplied by $10 is -$11.
  • If no goals were scored, we’d lose $21. 0 minus 2.1 is -2.1, multiplied by $10 is -$21.

When selling, the calculation is reversed. Rather than deduct the buy price from the final total, we deduct the final total from the sell price (1.9 in this case). This works out as follows.

  • If no goals were scored, we’d win $19. 1.9 minus 0 is 1.9. Multiplied by $10 is $19.
  • If one goal was scored, we’d win $9. 1.9 minus 1 is 0.9. Multiplied by $10 is $9.
  • If two goals were scored, we’d lose $1. 1.9 minus 2 is -0.1. Multiplied by $10 is -$1.
  • If three goals were scored, we’d lose $11. 1.9 minus 3 is -1.1. Multiplied by $10 is -$11.

So although calculating our payouts and losses may seem complicated initially, it really just involves applying the following two formulas.

When Buying the Spread (Result – Buy Price) x Stake = Win/Loss When Selling the Spread (Sell Price – Result) x Stake = Win/Loss

Now that we’ve walked you through the step-by-step process it takes to calculate payouts and losses, we hope that you realize that it’s not quite as complicated as you first assumed that it was. It does take some getting used to, but overall it is relatively simple.

Still, we will be the first ones to admit that spread betting is not for everyone. There are definitely some benefits to wagering in this way, but there are some risks too. Let’s now take a look at the main pros and cons of spread betting.

Pros and Cons of Sports Spread Betting

The biggest advantage of sports spread betting is the fact that we can win large sums of money relative to our stake. In some markets, it’s possible to win our stake many times over if we make the right prediction. We just demonstrated this in the example we used of betting on total goals. If we had bought the spread, and it was a very high scoring game, then we would have made a nice return.

However, the biggest disadvantage of spread betting is that you can potentially LOSE many times your stake in one wager. If we had sold the spread and the game was high scoring, then we would have lost a significant amount of money. That’s why it’s necessary to have a substantial bankroll when your goal is to make serious profits from spread betting. To go for the big wins, we have to risk big losses. And we’re bound to incur those big losses at some point, when things don’t go as we expect.

There are other pros and cons worth considering too. These are as follows.

  • Number of betting opportunities
  • Option to trade out/close positions
  • Unlikely to be limited for winning
  • Fewer places to bet
  • Less bonuses and rewards

The number of betting opportunities is a very significant advantage. Spread betting is available on most of the major sports, and there are many markets that simply don’t exist in traditional sports betting. More betting opportunities equal more chances of finding valuable wagers to place, so that’s a huge positive.

Trading out, or closing a position, means settling a wager prior to the relevant event finishing. This is possible because spreads are constantly adjusted during an event, and we usually have the option to settle our wagers at any time based on the latest spread. So if things are going well for us, we may be able to take some guaranteed profit. If things are going badly, we can cut our losses before they get too high. This is an excellent tool we can use to help us manage risk.

The fact that we’re unlikely to be limited for winning is a VERY good thing. Most bookmakers and betting sites are quick to limit winners, and reduce the amount they can stake. In some cases, they may even close accounts completely. This can obviously make it very challenging for successful bettors to continue winning. Luckily, spread betting firms rarely take such steps. They make their profits based on the differences between the buy and sell prices, and are less affected by consistent winners than traditional bookmakers are.

The last two items found on the list above are the two main disadvantages of spread betting, but they’re not too concerning in our opinion. When choosing spread betting, it is important to be aware that there are fewer places to bet. That doesn’t mean we won’t be able to find some GOOD options though, but it does probably mean that we’ll probably only need one spread betting account.

It’s ultimately a matter of personal opinion whether the pros of spread betting outweigh the cons or not. A lot of people steer clear of spread betting because of the risks involved, and that’s fully understandable. There are many people who really enjoy it though, and some who consistently make money from it. We recommend at least trying it out, as it’s the only way to know whether or not it’s right for you.

Tips & Advice for Sports Spread Betting

If after everything you’ve read here, you still want to give spread betting a try, then please read through our tips and advice section. They aren’t designed to drastically change your chances of making money, but they should help you have a positive experience and prevent you from blowing a fortune.

  • Bet with small stakes as a beginner
  • Always practice good bankroll management
  • Stick to sports you’re familiar with
  • Check the rules for different wagers

Our first tip is simply common sense. Spread betting does take some getting used to, and you’re likely to make a few mistakes while you’re still learning. If you’re risking too much money, then those mistakes could end up costing you A LOT of money. That’s why it’s so important to keep the stakes small as a beginner. It’s always possible to increase the stakes once you’ve gained some experience and actually know what you’re doing.

Our first and second tip go hand in hand; please make sure that you ALWAYS practice good bankroll management. While this advice applies to all aspect of gambling, it’s particularly important to follow when it comes to spread betting. This is due to the potential for big losses. Set a budget and stick to it. Seriously consider how much you want to stake for each wager, keeping in mind that there’s the possibility of losing that stake several times over.

Our third tip also comes down to common sense. It’s definitely possible to make money through spread betting but, unless you want to leave things entirely to chance, being knowledgeable about the sport you’re betting on is crucial. Wagering on sports that you don’t really follow is likely to be a recipe for disaster.

Checking the rules for different wagers is VERY important. The wager we used in our earlier example, of betting on total goals, is a very simple one, but some are a little more complicated. A “win index” wager, for example, is based on awarding teams points based on whether they win, lose or draw. It’s vital that you fully understand the rules for such wagers before risking any money on them, or you might end up making some very expensive mistakes.

Our final piece of advice is simply to have some fun! Spread betting is one of the most exciting forms of gambling and there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy yourself. Just remember that it can be easy to lose control, particularly if you hit a bad streak. There’s nothing wrong with losing money in exchange for some fun, but things can get to a stage where it’s not fun anymore. So don’t be afraid to take a break if things aren’t working out as planned.

If you find that you really like spread betting, and want to put in the necessary effort it takes to make some consistent profits, then spend some time learning about the various strategies that you can use. Start by checking out the article we have listed below.