Understanding Sports Spread Betting

Spread betting is a popular form of betting across many sports. When you first encounter spread betting it can sound very complex and confusing. We’re here to show you that it can be relatively simple to understand and help you on your way to placing your first spread bet.


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In this guide, we will take you through everything you need to know about betting on tennis, from the different markets available to strategies to use to improve your chances.

What Is Spread Betting?

As with all types of bets, spread betting is a prediction of the outcome of a particular market within a sporting game, match or event. However, with spread betting, there are a few more details involved. With spread betting, you have the option to either ‘Buy’ or ‘Sell’. This terminology can make things sound a little confusing at first. Let’s make it a bit simpler by comparing it to the well-known Over/Under market.

In an Over/Under market, the bookmaker or betting site will set a line as their predicted outcome to a market. You then have to bet whether you think the actual outcome will be over or under this prediction. Spread betting uses a similar idea. The betting site will state their predicted outcome as a range, known as the spread. This could look something like a spread of 3.8-4.0 for the total goals in a football match. If you think the final total goals will be higher than, or over, this range, you would Buy. If you think the outcome will be lower than, or under, this range, you would Sell.

The difference between the two betting types comes in the odds and the calculation of your potential winnings or losses. Rather than having fixed odds, spread betting multiplies your stake by the difference in the outcome to determine the amount you win or lose, giving the potential for a large win, but also coming with the risk of a much higher loss than just the amount you wagered.

How To Calculate Your Potential Winnings And Losses

Now that you know what is meant by a ‘Buy’ and ‘Sell’ bet, the next part to understand is how the winnings and losses are calculated with a spread bet.

Let’s continue the above example of total goals in a football match priced at 3.8-4.0 and assume you placed a Buy bet, meaning that you believe the outcome will be higher than a total of 4 goals in the match, with a wager of €5.

The worst-case scenario in any football match is a draw of 0-0 at the end of the game. If this happens with this bet, here is how your loss would be calculated:

(Settled Price (e.g. total goals) – Buy Price (e.g. the top end of the spread) x Your Stake

(0 – 4) x €5

-4 x €5 = €20 loss

So in this instance, rather than just losing your initial €5 wager as you would with a fixed odds bet, you actually lose €20.

On the flip side, if the game came out with a high goal score such as 3-4, then your winnings would be calculated in the same way:

(7 – 4) x €5

3 x €5 = €15 gain

As you can see from this calculation, the further away from the spread the final outcome is, the more it will impact your potential profit or loss. The total goals market will always be dealing with relatively small numbers, however, when you start getting into markets that deal with larger numbers, such as total goal minutes, you can see much higher winnings, and equally big losses.

The Benefits Of Spread Betting

Spread betting might sound more complicated than a standard fixed odds bet and come with extra risk, but when done right, spread betting has plenty of benefits.

  • The more right you are, the more you win

As seen in how winnings are calculated, with spread betting, the more accurate your bet, the more money you will win. This rewards your knowledge and judgment used when placing your bet. For example, if you Buy on the spread, the more the outcome exceeds the predicted outcome, the higher your profit.

  • 1000s of markets

Spread betting is available on 1000s of markets across a wide selection of sports. Generally, if you can think of something to bet on in a game, there will be a betting site out there offering it within their spread betting selection. This can cover both singular games and full tournaments.

  • In-play opportunities

In-play spread betting provides a much more fluid way of betting on a live sporting event. It gives you the option to settle your bet early to manage a loss or completely change your mind and bet in the other direction.

How To Place A Spread Bet On Betting Sites

When placing a spread bet, shop around various betting sites looking at their market offerings and prices. It’s a good idea to use more than one betting site if you are placing more than one spread bet to make sure you have the best price for each market.

Placing your bet is simple and can be done in these five easy steps:

  1. Log in to or register with your chosen betting site
  2. Navigate to the sport you would like to bet on
  3. Select the game or event and then the market you would like
  4. Choose whether you would like to Sell or Buy
  5. Enter your wager and submit your bet

Given the high risk that comes with spread betting, there are a few things to consider when placing your bet to help you manage the risk:

  • Keep stakes small

Consider the worst-case scenario of your bet to work out how much you should wager. By keeping the stake small, you can reduce the amount of this potential loss. It will also mean a lower profit, but if you aren’t certain on your bet or you can’t afford to lose a large amount, then keeping your stake small gives you a bit of a safety net.

  • Choose the market wisely

With spread betting, markets can be very volatile, with each market having its own degree of volatility. A market that deals with smaller numbers, like the total goal example above, is unlikely to have an outcome that is very far from the spread. A market like this will reduce your potential loss amount.

  • Know when to cut your losses

If your bet is clearly not going in your favour with little chance of your luck turning around, it can be a good idea to cash out early. This way, you can accept a much smaller loss than had you stuck it out until the end.

Spread Betting Vs Fixed Odds

At this point, you might find yourself wondering, should I place a spread bet or bet on a fixed odds market? Well, both options have their pros and cons. It all comes down to personal preferences when it comes to risk and forecasted potential win/loss amounts. It’s also worth considering the sport and the market when making your decision. Spread betting lends itself better to high-scoring sports with risk levels varying between markets.

Spread bettingFixed odds
Higher market volatilityMuch less volatility in markets where you get the odds quoted at the time of betting  
Higher potential payout in certain markets – your wager is multiplied by the difference between the spread and the outcome  Potential lower profit – your payout depends on the odds quoted at the time of placing your bet
Unable to project potential winningsAble to calculate the exact amount you could win at the time of betting  
Makes better use of your sport knowledge and research, allowing you to use this to increase your profit  Research and knowledge is important but only influences your chance of a win, rather than the amount
Potential for higher losses – the more a result goes against you, the greater the amount you lose  If you have a losing bet, you only lose your wager amount