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What is sports spread betting?

Spread betting is a form of betting whereby the amount you win or lose varies according to the winning or losing margin of your bet.

Unlike fixed odds betting, the final payout or loss, is not known until the end of the event. Spread betting requires accuracy, you don’t simply bet on a win or lose outcome. Instead, you are betting on a variety of potential outcomes, such as:

  • The final margin or total goals scored in a football, rugby or soccer game
  • The lengths the winning horse will win by in a horse race
  • The time of the first try or goal in a rugby or AFL match
  • The number of runs in cricket (or number of runs per batter)
  • The total time of a tennis match

How sports spread betting works

The spread betting bookmaker doesn’t offer odds, instead they provide a margin range of the likely outcome of the event, this range is referred to as the spread. To bet, you must place a wager on either side of the spread. If you think the outcome will be higher than the spread, you ‘buy’ that bet. Or if you think the outcome will be lower, you ‘sell’ the bet. For every unit above the spread, you win one times your bet amount. For every unit you are ‘wrong or below the spread, you lose one times your bet amount.

Spread betting has similarities to line betting, as the bookmaker effectively handicaps a team when applying the spread, though the risk and outcomes are significantly different. When used successfully, spread betting can be very lucrative and it’s worth considering as part of your betting strategy.

Pro Tip

Always use stop losses when placing spread bets, if they are available. This will limit your losses and reduce the risk of the bet.

AFL spread betting example

Let’s say you’re spread betting on the West Coast Eagles versus Fremantle Dockers match. The offer from the bookmaker is:

Eagles -28
Dockers +24

This means that the bookmaker predicts an Eagles win, and the most likely outcome is somewhere between 24 – 28 points. This range represents the spread, in this case four points. You can select your preferred option, either ‘buy’ the Dockers or ‘sell’ the Eagles and nominate your stake.

If the Eagles win by 33 points. Eagles backers win their bet by five points (+33 point margin – 28 point line) and win five times their nominated stake. Dockers backers lose by nine points (-33 point margin, +24 profit line), and lose nine times their nominated stake.

Companies that offer spread betting

The only spread betting bookmaker licensed and regulated in Australia is PointsBet.

Soccer spread betting example

Due to the low scoring margins of soccer, bookies make some adjustments to the spread, using decimals to adjust their offers. (Even though a team can’t score 2.2 goals in a match) Let’s say Perth Glory is playing Adelaide United and the bookie is offering a spread on the total goals market:

Sell: 2.30
Buy: 2.5

These numbers look like decimal odds but they are not. If you think there will be less than 2.3 goals scored for the game you ‘sell.’ And you ‘buy’ if you think there will be more than 2.5 goals. The difference is the spread, in this case 0.2.

Let’s say the total goals for the game is three.

If you bought at 2.50 for a $10.00 stake you win your stake multiplied by the difference between total number of goals scored. This means a win of $10.00 x 0.5 – a $5.00 win.

If you sold $10.00 at 2.3 goals and there were three goals, you lose your stake ($10.00) multiplied by the difference (0.7). This means a loss of $7.00.

Sports spread betting versus fixed odds betting

Spread betting does not offer a win/lose option like fixed price betting . You don’t win or lose. Instead, your bet is successful because you accurately predicted an outcome. (Say the runs scored by a batter in cricket or total tries scored in a NRL game.)

The more right you are, the more you win. The more wrong you are, the more you lose.

Pros and cons of spread betting:

Pros Cons
a top team playing a lower team could be a one-sided affair, but predicting the total points scored keeps you interested until the final siren, regardless of winner’s margin can be difficult to master for beginners
you have the potential win big amounts, if there’s a big deviation in the bookies’ odds and the final score you have potentially unlimited exposure, depending on the type of bet placed (this may be mitigated if bookmakers offer caps or the chance to close out a bet)
endless variables to bet on, making spread betting interesting for the punter losing bets can lose more than winning bets win