Spread Betting

Spread betting used to be most commonly associated with financial markets, as stockbrokers would speculate on the future direction of currencies and commodities. However, the same principles can be applied to sports, and there are various online bookmakers which specialise in offering customers the chance to place wagers on how far results will veer from particular outcomes, rather than fixed-odds betting.

  • Example -A rugby match is expected to be dominated by Team A, so the bookie gives them a virtual deficit of 19.5 points, displayed as -19.5. Team B has a virtual head start of 19.5 points (+19.5), and there are odds of 10/11 on both outcomes.
  • If Team A wins the match by 20 points or more, bettors who have backed them with the handicap will win, whereas punters who have backed Team B at +19.5 will lose.
  • If Team B loses by 19 points or fewer, including if they win or draw the game, bettors who have backed them with the virtual start will win, whereas punters backing Team A at -19.5 will lose.

With spread betting, margins and trends are all-important and it is an exciting point of difference for many punters. The most traditional types of sports bets are those which concern predicting the outcome of an event, and success is determined in very simple terms by whether the bet wins or loses. If you back a team to win a football match, you get the same return whether your selected wager triumphs with a last-minute goal or turns on the style in a 6-0 victory. With spread betting, just how the team wins will be crucial to receiving a payout.

Handicaps

Before understanding the ins and outs of spread betting, it is worthwhile to think about handicaps, where the term spread can also be found. Handicaps are particularly popular in events where one player or team is heavily favoured to beat the other. Rather than simply betting on a strong favourite when the odds are not very attractive, such as 1/50, or backing an underdog who is very unlikely to win, a handicap is assigned to one competitor and a head start to the other. This is the prediction from the bookmaker of the margin of victory and has been set to draw in an equal number of bets on both possible outcomes, with punters rewarded for being more accurate than the bookie.

  • Example - A rugby match is expected to be dominated by Team A, so the bookie gives them a virtual deficit of 19.5 points, displayed as -19.5. Team B has a virtual head start of 19.5 points (+19.5), and there are odds of 10/11 on both outcomes.
  • If Team A wins the match by 20 points or more, bettors who have backed them with the handicap will win, whereas punters who have backed Team B at +19.5 will lose.
  • If Team B loses by 19 points or fewer, including if they win or draw the game, bettors who have backed them with the virtual start will win, whereas punters backing Team A at -19.5 will lose.

Buying and Selling

Whereas handicaps can be found on virtually every online sportsbook, spread betting is more intricate and is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority rather than the Gambling Commission in the UK.

Instead of using fixed odds, which are typically represented as decimals or fractions, in spread betting there will be a quote from a bookmaker predicting what will happen on every market. It is up to bettors to consider whether they think the outcome will be different to the bookies’ prediction, in which case there is an option to either buy or sell.

Out of the two values offered, the sell price is always the lowest and the buy price is the highest. The difference between the two is known as the spread and it is within this range that the bookies predict the final outcome will fall. Punters who believe the prediction is too low would buy and those who think the quote is too high would sell. How much money is won and lost is then determined by the level of accuracy and how much was staked.

Here are some examples of successful and unsuccessful buy and sell bets:

  • Successful buy bet - You decide that a bookmaker’s quote of 21-25 for the total number of games in a tennis match is too low and opt to buy for £2 a point at 25. The match is long and totals 30 games. This results in a profit of £10, because the bet was £2 and there were five more games than the bookie quoted.
  • Unsuccessful buy bet - You decide that a bookmaker’s quote of 32-35 for the total number of points in a rugby match is too low and opt to buy for £2 a point at 35. However, it ends up finishing in a tight 15-7 win to the home team for a total of 22 points. This results in a loss of £26, because the bet was £2 and there were 13 fewer points scored than 35.
  • Successful sell bet - You decide that a bookmaker’s quote of 2.8-3 for the total goals scored in a football match is too high and opt to sell for £5 a point at 2.8. The game ends up with no goals being scored. This results in a gain of £14, because the bet was £5 and there were 2.8 fewer goals scored than quoted (5 x 2.8 = 14).
  • Unsuccessful sell bet - You decide that a bookmaker’s quote of 40-49 runs to be scored by a certain batsman in cricket is too high and opt to sell for £1 a point at 40. The batsman goes on to score 100, resulting in a loss of £60 (100-40 =60).

Spread betting can be very lucrative for customers when they are right but, equally, it can be quite damaging when it goes wrong. It is a good idea to think about worst-case scenarios before placing a wager and make sure you fully understand specific markets before betting. Another tip might be to bet for fun at first without putting down any money, meaning that you would just look at a market and work out how much you would win or lose if you wagered a particular way.

The attraction of spread betting is that it really rewards accurate predictions and good sporting knowledge, providing an intriguing twist on fixed-odds betting. The possibilities are endless, as you can bet on the time when the first goal might be scored in a game of football or the distance by which a horse might triumph over its nearest competitor, and it is a form of betting which is likely to become more popular in the future.


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