Chapter 9. Sports Spread Betting

Sports spread betting is the other half of the spread betting markets that is offered along with financial spread betting.

Examples of available sports spread bets include:

  • The time the first goal will be scored in a football match.
  • How many lengths separate the winning and second place horse in a race.
  • The total number of runs scored in a cricket match.
  • The number of aces served in a tennis match.
  • How many field goal tries there will be in an American football game.

The difference between sports spread betting and traditional sports betting

In traditional sports betting – also known as fixed-odds betting – you place a bet, with stated odds – such as 3:1 – on the outcome of a sporting event, such as a tennis or boxing match.

The bet is then an all-or-nothing bet: you either win a specific amount, based on the odds at which you placed your bet, or you lose whatever the amount of your bet was.

… sports spread betting offers a wide variety of bets
In contrast, sports spread betting offers a wide variety of bets on whether a specific variable in a sporting event will end up being above or below the spread stated by your sports betting firm. The outcome is not win-lose, it is variable. 

Looking at the examples of sports spread bets given above, a traditional, fixed odds horse racing bet is a bet on which horse will win the race, while a spread bet can be on something like the number of lengths the winning horse beats the second-placed horse by.

The spread on such a bet might be quoted 3 to 6. If you think the winning horse will win by more than six lengths, then you would “buy” the spread. Conversely, if you think the winner will only win by less than three lengths, then you would “sell” the spread.

Profit and loss in sports spread betting

Your profit or loss on a sports spread bet is not a fixed amount as in traditional sports betting.

Instead, it varies based on:

  • How much you bet – your stake for the bet, and
  • By how much you beat or lost to the spread.

Still using the example of a spread bet placed on how many lengths the winning horse will win by, here are some possible outcomes with a spread bet of £50:

  • If you bought the three to six spread, and the winning horse won by 10 lengths. You would win £200 – your £50 bet stake times the four “units” over the spread the horse won by
  • If the horse won by eight lengths. Your win would be £100 – your £50 bet times two units the spread was beaten by
  • If you bought the spread and the winning horse only won by four lengths. You would lose £100 – your £50 betting stake times two units less than the six units that you bought the spread at
  • If the winner only won by a length. Your loss would be £250 – your £50 bet times five units below the buy spread number of six lengths
  • If you sold the three to six spread. You would be selling the spread at three, betting that the winner wins only by less than three lengths – If the winner won by two lengths, your win would be £50 – your bet times one unit below the spread
  • If the winner only won by a single length. You’d have a two-unit win of £100
  • If you sold the three to six spread and, God forbid, the winner won by 10 lengths. Your loss would be a whopping £350 – your £50 betting stake times seven units
  • If you bought the spread and the winner bested the second-place horse by exactly six lengths. Your bet would be a scratch – £50 times zero. Likewise, if you sold the spread and the winner won by three lengths, that bet would also be a scratch.

What makes the difference in winning or losing sports spread betting

What’s all-important in sports spread betting is…the spread!

Obviously, the tighter the spread is, the better your odds of correctly betting on whether the outcome of a bet will be above or below the spread. A spread bet of three to five is obviously easier to bet against than a spread bet of three to seven.

Like in financial spread betting, sports spread bettors benefit from tighter spreads
Like in financial spread betting, sports spread bettors benefit from tighter spreads. The sports spread betting companies benefit from wider spreads. Therefore, it’s worth your while to look for a sports spread betting firm that usually offers tighter spreads.

You may want to set up accounts with more than one sports spread betting company because one betting firm may, for example, usually offer tighter spreads on football match related bets, while another typically offers tighter spreads on tennis match related bets.

Should you sports spread bet – how good a spread bettor

Whether or not sports spread betting is right for you basically depends on how good a bettor you are. This is because of the basic difference in bet structure between traditional sports betting and spread betting. 

With traditional fixed odds betting, you’re simply rewarded (or penalised) a flat amount, based on whether your bet is right or wrong. But with sports betting, your profit or loss goes beyond just being right or wrong – it also depends, quite significantly, on by how much you are right or wrong. 

Keep in mind that your win or loss with a sports spread bet is calculated by multiplying the amount of your bet – your stake – by the number of units, or “points”, that the outcome of an event is above or below the spread.

In sports spread betting, not just the overall outcome, but every point, counts. This fact means that sports spread betting increases both your opportunity to rack up profits, but also the level of risk with losing bets. Unlike the case with traditional sports bets, you can lose more than your original bet stake.

The advantage of sports spread betting

One advantage that sports spread betting offers over traditional sports betting is that many sports spread betting firms are willing to offer their clients credit for betting. The amount of credit offered, if any, is, of course, based on the creditworthiness of the individual spread bettor.

… many sports spread bettors specialise, focusing their bets in one arena
If you’ve had good success with financial spread betting, then you may also do well with sports spread betting, since the betting format is the same.

The difference is simply that of what you’re betting on – sports related outcomes vs. financial instrument related outcomes. Then again, it’s possible that one could be very good at predicting movements in the financial markets, but much less talented at predicting the happenings in sports events.

As with financial spread betting, many sports spread bettors specialise, focusing their bets in one arena. A financial spread bettor might only place bets on gold, or precious metals markets, while a sports spread betting punter might only place bets on football matches.

How is sports spread betting regulated

Sports spread betting in the UK is regulated by the same authority that governs financial spread betting – the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). This is because of the similarities between financial spread betting and sports spread betting.

There are similar levels of risk, and some sports spread betting firms offer credit just as financial spread betting companies do.

Just as with financial spread betting, you should do your due diligence when choosing a sports spread betting firm. Make sure that that the sports spread betting company you choose to go with is a regulated one.

Your choice of a sports spread betting firm may depend on the range of betting markets the firm offers. The range of betting markets varies greatly.

  • Some sports spread bet companies only offer sports spread betting.
  • Some offer both sports spread betting and traditional fixed odds sports betting.
  • Some offer traditional and sports spread betting, and also offer financial spread betting.
  • And some offer all of the above, plus casino gambling, all through one betting company.

How to improve your sports spread betting game

Approach sports spread betting with the same attitude as you would financial spread betting – as a business. Because of the level of risk (you can lose more than you bet) involved in sports spread betting, it’s important to practice good money management and limit your risk.

Just like with financial spread betting, you can limit your risk by using tools such as stop loss orders that will automatically close out your spread bet if your loss reaches a certain number of points in the bet.

Aim to learn and utilise sports betting strategies.

Most spread betting firms offer plenty of free education on sports spread betting, so take advantage of it and learn all that you can prior to risking money. 


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