What is Spread Betting? – Spread Betting Guide (2023)

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Last Updated on: 27.03.2023

Spread betting on sports provides a whole different approach to wagering on the outcome of a sporting event. Here, instead of betting with the bookies fixed odds, you are betting against the spread instead. The spread represents a moving market and how much you win – or lose – depends on how right or wrong you were about your forecast.

With wildly fluctuating spreads, the potential for greater financial windfalls is increased. Sadly though, so too is the potential for heavier defeats. Because of this is a good idea to understand this form of betting before dipping your toes into the markets.

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Understanding Spread Betting And How It Works

Sports spread betting is different from fixed odds betting because you bet against the spread by buying high and selling low at the optimum time. With spread betting, you can shut down the bet which is a bit like cashing out. Again, picking the right time is key here but the idea is that you can close out the bet early either for a profit or to reduce losses. Unlike a money line, the more you beat the spread by, the more you win.

Bettors are even able to spread bet in play, which works pretty much the same way albeit with faster changing markets. In this sense, it can be a little like exchange trading where you can react to events in real time to help generate a profit or prevent a loss. Some punters choose to spread bet over longer term events such as tournaments instead meaning they can buy and sell positions as the tournament unfolds.

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Which Sports Are Good For Spread Betting

If you can bet on it, you can spread bet on it so you won’t be short of options when it comes picking a sport that suits betting on or against the spread. That said, there are some sports that people tend to favour for this relatively modern day take on sports betting.

Football Spread Betting

As in real life and with fixed odds betting, football is by far the most expansive and popular market, and sport, in the world. You will find a huge range of markets from matches to tournaments which makes perfect sense when you consider that spread betting on football accounts for over half of all spread bets placed. There is an abundance of options to bet against the spread in a football match. One of the most popular football bets is the supremacy bet. This market is basically asking you to predict one team’s dominance over another by predicting the winning goal margin. However, you can also bet on things like Time of first goal, total corners, bookings, squad shirt numbers and their goals scored and team performance.

Winning Margin Betting at Betway Sports Betting

American Football (NFL) Spread Betting

The National Football League (NFL) is not a big league for providing shock results, with the best team winning the majority of the games most of the time. The Americans, who are spread betting fanatics, use spreads as a way of handicapping the favourite team to improve their betting ranges and value. Betting this way on the NFL, allows any bets on the favourites, that cover the spread, to payout much more than with fixed odds betting, known in the US as money lines. It also allows bets on an underdog to have the same opportunity to win that would otherwise be unafforded to them. When spread betting on the NFL, a set a number of points is assigned to the favourites for an upcoming match by the bookmaker, pretty much the same as a handicap. And, again in the same way as a handicap, for a wager to payout, the favourite team must win the game by more points than the spread because that is how the spread gets covered. Whereas, an underdog wager will only payout in the unlikely event that the underdog either wins the match outright or, as is more likely, lose by fewer points than the spread, thus beating it.

Golf Spread Betting

Golf Spread Betting works on most golf markets but is particularly popular with European and PGA tour events. As with all spread betting, your bookie will make multiple predictions on a tournament and you decide for money whether that prediction is too high or too low. It can be used to bet on markets such as Finishing Position, leaderboard finishing places, hotshots (aggregate scores from set groups of players), winning score, winning margin and supremacy match bets.

Tennis Spread Betting

Spread betting on tennis has two particularly popular options, the first of which is betting on the individual games of a tennis match. Again, you are required to predict a player that will perform at least as well as the bookmaker thinks. If your pick does even better than the bookmaker predicted, then great, you will collect even more. Remember, the favourite must win by the number of games laid by the spread or the underdog must win less games by the required amount in order for your bet to win. Bettors can also bet by match, aces or by set. With set spread betting, you are looking at how many sets a player will win, whereas ace betting on the spread requires your player to hit a pre-designated amount of aces in the match.

Basketball Spread Betting

Basketball spread betting is the most popular way to bet on the NBA and is a great way to levelling up a match that can be tricky to bet for value on using just fixed odds, due to some teams being very unevenly matched. Point spreads are the most common type of spread bet in basketball and again require you to decide how you feel about the bookie’s published points prediction. As with all spreads, you will need the team to match, or better still beat, what the bookie has predicted in order to pick up a return on your investment.

Horse Racing Spread Betting

With horse racing spread betting you can bet on such variables as winning distance, jockey index or on the distance of places between individual horses. Distances are offered on both individual races or across entire cards of seven or maybe even eight races at a meeting. These markets have a limit cap of 15 lengths in national hunt races and 12 lengths in flat racing. Another option is to bet on the match bets where your horses doesn’t need to win the race but must do better than the horse it has been matched with. You can also bet on the favourite's index where each favourite gets a certain amount of points.

Winning Spread Betting Tips & Strategies

While the rewards of successfully beating the spread can be very high, so too can the losses so it’s best to dip a toe in the market rather than jump right in with both feet first. As strong believers in safe and responsible gambling, we advise some strategies below to help you win with spread betting. It might seem tricky at first, but remember the essentials are that the more the result (or market) moves in your favour, the more you make and your payout is based on the accuracy of the wager rather than just the result.

Choosing Your Stake Wisely

Firstly, start small. Remember, you can always raise your stakes later when you are an accomplished spread bettor. Until then, practise with small and manageable amounts and never, ever bet with more than you can afford to lose. That said, the only way to pick up the skills for these wagers is through practical application. This way you can truly get the hang of things and master the art of spread betting.

Study The Options

With spread betting you can find a huge and often overwhelming choice of markets on a particular match or tournament. To maximise your chances of success, study the wide range of options to ensure that you are only putting the money into something you truly understand. If you do not follow American sports for example, then you are relying on the knowledge of others, whereas if you are a huge football fan, then you will surely understand the likelihood of Liverpool beating Norwich and so will understand how realistic the points on offer with your bookmaker are and how to appropriately respond to that. Also, when it comes to bookmakers, again, you have options so shop around for the best value. This is true of spread betting as well as fixed odds betting.

Cashing Out

It is important to remember that you can often cash out early on spread bets. As with regular betting, cashing out allows you to secure your profit or reduce, or even eliminate, potential losses. It is an important factor in modern day betting and one that many punters rightfully take advantage of. It is a little bit of insurance and peace of mind and works like a get out of jail card for bets in danger of going down so use it wisely.

Tread Cautiously

As we listed above, only bet on the games you know and only wager low, at least hen starting out. Also, make sure that you truly understand what spread betting is and how it works before you put money down on it. In short, be cautious and tread carefully when getting involved in this alternative betting option.

Financial Spread Betting

Spread betting or trading with the markets is a very similar principle to sports spread betting. It is a cost-effective alternative to buying actual shares, which is sometimes known as commodity trading, and is appropriate for speculating on short to medium term price movements. Basically, it lets you generate a profit from the movements in the values of a financial asset by reading the markets in order to correctly predict when the stock’s value will rise or decline, thus maximising profits and eliminating losses or, at the very least, reducing risks.

With these kinds of bets, traders are required to trade on margins which means your risk isn’t assumed to the asset itself. Margin rates vary depending on the type of asset you place your bet on and are calculated by multiplying the value of the position against the margin rate for that particular asset. The tighter the spread, the cheaper it is for you to trade and in traders’ terms to buy is go long and to sell is to go short. Both moves are responses by yourself to your hopefully successful prediction that the price will either rise or fall.

Even though you do not own the asset outright, if its share price doesn’t react as expected you are still liable for the full amount of any loss occurred as if you actually did own the asset. Because of this, the potential losses can be greater than your initial outlay. Also, remember that with this type of trading there are two prices for an asset, the offer and the bid. The offer is the price you buy at and the bid is the price you sell at. As ever, this is a timing game and buying and selling at the optimum moment is the key to success.

Key Stats

  • In 2015, a group of investors in Britain’s biggest spread betting firm took just a few minutes to wipe £18 million off their books after failing to close their assets down in time when they were betting on movements in the Swiss franc
  • The author of the book 60 Minute Trader, Chris Kobewka, started out with a $360 stake and took less than a month to turn it into $19,800 and once made over $2,000 in under an hour with just 3 simple trades of around $20
  • in 2017, Teacher Chris Stringman from the UK lost £130,000 spread betting on how the Dow Jones would react to an impending announcement on the US economy
  • Scotsman Barnett Alexander made £1 million in 18 months using his self designed betting model called System X, which he operated from his home in Bearsden, East Dunbartonshire
  • Prior to the launch of the €uro Currency in 1999, one unnamed French broker capitalised on the fluctuating interest rates of the doomed Franc before liquidating his positions for the best part of £5 million
  • One savvy trader capitalised on Facebook’s slow start all those years ago by betting against the firm’s New York stock for more than $8000 a point before closing for almost $3 million
  • One absent minded spread better bought in to Google after they floated in 2004 for $99 at £1 a point before completely forgetting about the wager only to remember one whole year later when her account was showing a profit of £20,000

Spread Betting FAQs

It’s quite simple once you know. With sports spread betting, bettors are betting on the result of a sports event being above or below the spread as offered by your bookmaker.
Football definitely dominates the sports spread betting markets, but golf, tennis and the American games are all also very popular.
Yes, of course spread betting on horse racing is available and increasing in popularity all the time.
Yes, you can. At the right bookmaker, you will see in-play betting on a wide range of sports every day. This way, you can see how a game is developing and which way things are heading before placing a bet one way or the other.
Yes, cashing out is not only available but in many cases advised too.

ThePuntersPage Final Say

The righter you are, the more you win. This true for spread betting. Unfortunately, so too can be the phrase, the more wrong you are, the more you can lose. That is the first thing to remember when spread betting. However, as a form of wagering, spread betting does provide bettors with better returns, rewarding or punishing your judgement based on the accuracy of your prediction which is why it is so popular. You can find spread betting markets on most sports although, as we have discussed, some are better suited than others to this alternative method of gambling. Hopefully, by reading this page, you should now be equipped with an understanding of this type of bet, plus the sports it works best with as well as tips and strategies to ensure your time trading is as successful and as enjoyable as possible. You can also check out our detailed article on Betting Terms & Definitions.