In sports spread betting, players bet on whether an outcome will end up being above or below a range called the ‘spread’. The profit or loss is determined by the extent of which a player was ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.
In this article I explain how spread betting differs from traditional fixed odds betting, and how the payouts are calculated.
Sports Spread Betting vs. Fixed Odds
With fixed odds betting you know before placing a bet what you stand to win or lose.
It’s simple — you place a fixed-risk stake at specified odds and you either (a) make a profit based on those odds, or (b) lose your entire stake. There are no other outcomes, unless you bets are voided or refunded.
Sports spread betting offers an alternative to traditional fixed odds. With sports spread betting you don’t use odds, but instead bet on whether a specified outcome in a sports event will end up being above or below a ‘spread’ provided by a sports spread betting firm. The spread is basically the betting firm’s prediction of a range where the outcome will lie by the end of the event. The punter is therefore looking to bet if they disagree with the range.
Some examples of sports spread betting markets are: total goals in football, number of runs in cricket and number of lengths between the winner and 2nd placed horse in a race.
There are two ways to bet on the spread. You can either:
- ‘Buy‘ to bet that the outcome will be higher than the top value of the spread, or
- ‘Sell‘ to bet that the outcome will be lower than the bottom value of the spread.
You are rewarded for how many ‘unit points’ correct you are, and punished for how many ‘unit points’ wrong you are.
Thus, unlike fixed odds, sports spread bets don’t have a preconceived win and loss value known at the time the bet is placed.
The Appeal of Spread Betting
There are a few reasons that bettors opt for spread betting over fixed odds:
It’s the same format as financial spread betting.
Bettors prefer to stick with the format that they’re used to. If this so happens to be financial betting, then that experience is easily transferable to sports spread betting.
Accuracy is rewarded.
If a bettor believes that the spread will be beaten by a significant number of points, then they stand to reap more rewards. This is, however, a double edged sword as those same bettors also stand to lose multiples of their stake.
It keeps sports events interesting.
Most fixed odds betting markets are practically decided before the end of the sporting event. For example, if a football match is 4-0 at half time, then it’s highly unlikely to end as an away win. With sports spread betting markets there’s still an opportunity for units to move up/down, thereby alterting the profit, right up until the event is decided.
Calculating Spread Bet Profit & Loss
By now you’re probably wondering: precisely how do you calculate the payout of a spread bet?
I’ll use an example of a football spread betting market for total corners. The spread is 3 – 5.
This means you can either Buy @ 5.0 to bet that there’ll be over 5 corners, or Sell @ 3.0 to bet there’ll be less than 3 corners. You cannot bet inside the spread. Here’s some examples with a £10 stake:
8 corners by the end of the match
- If I bought @ 5.0, then I’d have won (8 – 5 = 3) unit points on the bet (+3 x £100 = £300 profit)
- If I sold @ 3.0, then I’d have lost (3 – 8 = -5) unit points on the bet (-5 x £100 = -£500 profit)
2 corners by the end of the match
- If I bought @ 5.0, then I’d have lost (2 – 5 = -3) unit points on the bet (-3 x £100 = -£300 profit)
- If I sold @ 3.0, then I’d have won (3 – 2 = 1) unit point on the bet (+1 x £100 = £100 profit)
3 corners by the end of the match
- If I bought @ 5.0, then I’d have lost (3 – 5 = -2) unit points on the bet (-2 x £100 = -£200 profit)
- If I sold @ 3.0, then I’d have won (3 – 3 = 0) unit points on the bet (+1 x £0 = £0 profit)
The below diagram shows all potential profit/loss outcomes on a £100 stake (up to 15 corners)
Spread betting companies earn from both sellers and buyers when the outcome finishes between the spread. In the example above, if the total corners ended at 4, then buyers would lose (4 – 5 = -1) unit, while sellers would lose (3 – 4 = -1) unit.
What you’ll notice is that the line of symmetry between the profit/loss for the buy and sell is not through the X axis of the graph. The difference between the spread (5 and 3) causes the graph to shift down, giving the spread betting company more chance of earning than the bettor. No surprises there.
As a punter, you want the sports spread betting company to offer very tight spreads. This gives more chance of correctly guessing outside of the specified range. A large range makes it harder to profit.
Does Spread Betting Offer Better Value?
No, not particularly. The markets are usually correlated to fixed odds. Fundamentally you still need to find value to earn consistent profits. The principle is the same as always.
Perhaps though, there is the argument that sports spread betting lends itself to precise bettors. For instance, if you’ve calculated that a horse is likely to win — and also wipe the floor with its competitors — then your selection method might be better suited to spread betting than fixed odds. For example, you might decide to bet on the ‘number of lengths between the 1st and 2nd place horse’ market.
But on the other hand spread betting is very risky. I can’t emphasise this enough. You usually bet with credit, and then win or lose money from that. Losing means that you’re in debt to the spread betting company, and winning means they’re in debt to you. It’s easy for things to spiral out of control if you don’t bet responsibly.
Generally speaking, there’s more markets, liquidity and opportunities with fixed odds. I’d personally avoid spread betting until you feel thoroughly comfortable with what you’re doing, and know of specific markets you can use to your benefit.
Spread Betting For Horse Racing
There’s a wide range of horse racing markets offered by the top spread betting companies. You’ll need to check how winnings are applied to each market before you bet, as it isn’t always intuitive.
There’s a helpful video put together by Spreadex, providing an overview of what types of spread bets you can place on horse racing.
The Best Sports Spread Betting Site
There’s a couple of major sports spread betting companies in the UK: Spreadex and Sporting Index are the leaders. Here’s the latest offer from Spreadex:
I strongly advise that you do not bet with ‘SportSpread’.
SportSpread is unlicensed and illegal in the UK. There’s countless records of players that have not been paid out large sums, have had their emails and phone calls ignored, and their accounts closed (with money inside) without notice. There’s no smoke without fire.
It fascinates me that every year SportSpread still exists, still promotes itself in the UK, and still offers bonuses to unlucky new customers. It’s a complete scam.
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