Sports Spread Betting Odds Explained (How It Works)

Sports Spread Betting Explained (Fixed Odds Comparison)

In sports spread betting, punters bet on whether a specified outcome in an event (e.g. total corners) will end up being above or below a range called the ‘spread’. The profit or loss is determined by how ‘right’ or how ‘wrong’ you were.


Sports Spread Betting Odds Explained

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 the 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 for some reason your bets are voided.

Sports spread betting offers an alternative to traditional fixed odds. With sports spread betting you don’t have odds, but instead bet on whether a specified outcome in a sports event will end up being above or below a ‘spread’ offered by a sports spread betting firm. The spread is basically the betting firm’s prediction of where the outcome will be 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
  • Number of lengths between the winner and 2nd placed horse in a race

There are 2 ways to bet on the spread. You 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.

Calculating The Profit or Loss of a Sports Spread Bet

By now you’re wondering: precisely how do you calculate the payout of a spread bet?

Let’s take 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:

8 corners by the end of the match with £100 bet:
  • If i bought @ 5, then I’d have won (8 – 5 = 3) unit points on the bet (+3 x £100 = £300 profit)
  • If I sold @ 3, 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 with £100 bet:
  • If i bought @ 5, then I’d have lost (2 – 5 = -3) unit points on the bet (-3 x £100 = -£300 profit)
  • If I sold @ 3, 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 with £100 bet:
  • If i bought @ 5, then I’d have lost (3 – 5 = -2) unit points on the bet (-2 x £100 = -£200 profit)
  • If I sold @ 3, 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)

UK spread betting firms earn from both sellers and buyers when the outcome finishes in between the spread. In the example above, if the total corners ended at 4, then buyers would lose (4 – 5 = -1) unit, whilst 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 range. A large range makes it harder to profit.

Mapping fixed odds onto the above graph is only possible to an extent. You’d need to find a comparable market, such as the Over/Under 5.5 corners market to make a comparison. For example, the odds might be 1.5 for Under and 3.0 for Over. So backing Over @ 3.0 means 6+ corners would pay (£100 x 3.0) – £100 = £200 profit, and any less corners would lose £100. There’s no change in payout no matter how many or few corners there are.

The Appeal of Sports Spread Betting

There are a few reasons that punters may opt to spread bet:

  • Same format as financial spread betting. Some people may 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 you believe that the spread can be beaten by a significant number of points then you will reap more profits. This is of course a double edged sword, as you also stand to lose more, too.
  • Maintain an interest in events. Most fixed odds betting markets are decided before the end of the sporting event. For example, you lose or win your fixed odds bet long before the end of a football match. With sports spread betting markets there’s usually still an opportunity for units to move up until the event is decided.

Does Sports Spread Betting Offer Better Value to Punters?

No, not particularly. The markets are usually correlated to fixed odds (whenever there are overlaps). Fundamentally you still need to find value to earn consistent profits. The principle is the same as with fixed odds.

Perhaps though, there is an argument that sports spread betting lends itself to precise bettors. If you’ve calculated that a horse is both likely to win, and to wipe the floor with its competitors, then your selection method might be better suited to spread betting than fixed odds. For example, betting 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.

Can You Place Spread Bets On Horse Racing?

There’s a wide range of horse racing markets offered by the top spread betting companies. You’ll need to read up on 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.


What’s the Best Site for Sports Spread Betting?

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.


Further Reading:

Easily Convert Your Betting Odds To Different Formats

What is Value Betting? What Is A Value Bet?

Toby @ Punter2Pro
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