Spread betting in sports: what is spread betting?

A term commonly found in the world of finance, spread betting can also be used to profit in sports betting. It involves predicting the performance of a team or players rather than simply guessing the outcome of a game. This mix of analysis and anticipation means that spread betting has attracted a growing audience in recent years. In this article, we’ll look at how spread betting works and how to maximise your potential returns. We’ll also highlight the most popular sports to bet on, discuss possible challenges, and look at some examples of spread betting.

What Is Spread Betting?

Spread betting is an advanced betting technique which involves betting on the movement of a market rather than an actual event. It takes the same principles as financial trading and applies them to the sports markets. In financial spread betting markets you can bet on whether a currency is going to move up or down compared to another currency. Let’s take a quick look at how spread betting works in sports betting…

The “spread” refers to a prediction; or the distance between two potential outcomes. It is often termed as the ‘Sell-Buy’ range because you can either sell or buy in the spread. If you think the outcome will be lower than the range, you would ‘sell’. However, if you think it will end up higher than the range, you would ‘buy’.  It is important to note for matched betting users that the terms ‘buy’ and ‘sell’ here differ slightly from the terms used on Smarkets. On Smarkets to ‘sell’ means to lay and thus bet against specifically whereas on spread markets to sell is to bet on a certain event – but the lower end of the spread (under the spread point).

One of the most common markets in sports spread betting is ‘the number of goals that will be scored in a game’. If you ‘sell’ on this market, you’re betting that you want the number of goals to be below the spread. If this happened, you would win money. However, if you ‘buy’, you are predicting (or hoping) that there are lots of goals in the game and you will win money for the goals over the spread.

How Does Spread Betting Work?

Unlike traditional sports betting, you can’t do spread betting via an online bookmaker. Instead, you have to use a sports spread betting firm, like SpreadEx. Here’s a simple overview of how spread betting works:

There’s a football match between Tottenham and Liverpool. We’ll stick with the ‘number of goals scored’ market for this example. SpreadEx has set the spread between 2.75 and 2.95. Obviously, the number of goals can’t be 2.75 or 2.95 but they have used historical data and opinions to work out an average of the number of goals they believe will be scored. In simple terms, SpreadEx thinks 3 goals will be scored. If you think there will be fewer goals scored (2 goals or less), you ‘sell’; predict more (3 goals or more) and you ’buy’.


You choose to ‘sell’ because you believe that there will be fewer than 2.75 scored. You stake £10 on this prediction. The best case scenario is that no goals are scored. If this is the case you would calculate your winnings using the following formula:

(Sell spread – goals scored) x stake

(2.75 – 0) x 10 = £27.50 profit

You can work out your profit/loss for any number of goals scored using the above formula, eg:

0 Goals = (2.75 – 0) x 10 = £27.50 profit

1 Goals = (2.75 – 1) x 10 = £17.50 profit

2 Goals = (2.75 – 2) x 10 = £7.50 profit

3 Goals = (2.75 – 3) x 10 = -£2.50 loss

4 Goals = (2.75 – 4) x 10 = -£12.50 loss

5 Goals = (2.75 – 5) x 10 = -£22.50 loss


Now, let’s take a look at the other side of the equation. You decide to ‘buy’ because you believe there will be more than 2.95 goals. Again, the stake is £10. Here, the best case scenario is that loads of goals are scored. If this happens, you can calculate your winnings using this formula:

(Goals – Buy Spread) x Stake

The following table shows the different scenarios:

0 Goals = (0 – 2.95) x 10 = -£29.50 loss

1 Goals = (1 – 2.95) x 10 =  -£19.50 loss

2 Goals = (2 – 2.95) x 10 = -£9.50 loss

3 Goals = (3 – 2.95) x 10 =  0.50 profit

4 Goals = (4 – 2.95) x 10 = 10.50 profit

5 Goals = (5 – 2.95) x 10 = £20.50 profit

Again, the formula would continue for the number of goals scored. 

An important thing to remember when sports spread betting, is that the more right you are, the more multiples of your stake you can potentially win. However, this means that the opposite is also possible and if you predict incorrectly, the more multiples of your stake you could potentially lose. As you can see, the potential is there for some higher returns when compared to more conventional forms of betting. However, it also means that your potential for loss can be quite high too. Always keep this in mind.

2 More Examples

Example 1:

‘Points betting over a season’ is another popular market for spread betting. The prediction from the spread betting company is:

Manchester United points: 76 – 77.5

This means they are predicting Manchester United may finish on either 76 or 77 points. The lower one is the selling price. The higher one is the price you buy at.

If you buy the spread at £10 per point, and Manchester United finish on 84 points, you will win £65. That is £10 per point and £5 for the half point.

However if Manchester United finished on 75 points, then you would have lost a total of £25.

Should you sell Manchester United points, you’re betting that they will finish with lower than 76.

If you bet at £10 per point, and they finish on 70, then you will win £60. However, should they finish on 80 points then you lose £40.

But perhaps the long-term markets take a little bit too long for you, and you’d prefer to bet per match. You can do that with spread betting too.

Example 2:

One of the most popular match markets to bet on is ‘player goal minutes’. The spread for a star striker will be set at something like 37 – 40.

At the end of the match, the times they scored the goals are added up. If you buy the spread, it means you’re hoping the total points are more than 40. For example, in the following situation:

Harry Kane Player Goal Minutes: Sell 37 – Buy 40

Kane scores a goal in the 15th minute and the 45th minute. These obviously add up to 60 minutes. If you bought for £10 per point at 40, then you would win £200. However, if he only scored in the 5th minute then unfortunately, your luck is out. You would lose £350. This shows perfectly the amount of risk involved with spread betting. For more info and terminology that revolves around this sport, you could potentially take a look at our football betting guide.

How To Minimise Losses In Spread Betting

There is a mechanism you can use to manage risk and minimise losses. Spread betting platforms often allow you to set “stop loss” and “take profit” levels. A ‘stop loss’ order automatically closes your position if the price moves against you beyond a certain point, thereby limiting your potential losses. A ‘take profit’ order closes your position when the price reaches a specific level, allowing you to secure your profits.

Different Types Of Spread Betting Football Markets

To give you an idea of what types of markets you can bet on when you’re spread betting, here’s a list of the most common football markets, along with a brief explanation of how they work.

Supremacy Markets

A supremacy bet is where the spread betting firm predicts how dominant one team will be over another. The spread is based on how many goals a team will beat another by.

Imagine you believe that Tottenham will win. You can buy them at 0.4 goals for a stake of £10.

When Tottenham win with a 5-1 scoreline, their supremacy is 4 goals. This means the actual result was +3.6 and you won £36.

Time Of First Goal

This is where the spread predicts the time of the first goal in the match. They may set a spread of 19-22, and favour the first goal being scored in the first half.

However, expecting a quiet first half, you buy this for £10 per point. Eventually, during the match, the first goal is scored in the 32nd minute.

Given the 10 minute discrepancy, you win 10x your £10 stake giving you a profit of £100.

Total Corners

Total corners is an interesting spread betting market and gives you another angle to consider. The spread states how many corners they think will be taken by both teams during the match.

If a lot of corners are expected, the line might be set at 14.5 – 15 corners. You may feel that this is too high so decide to sell at 14.5 for a stake of £10.

But bad news: during the game, records were broken and there were 35 corners during the match. This would leave you with a whopping loss of £205. Ouch! However, of course this is completely theoretical.

Goalscorer Shirt Numbers

This is one of the more fun spread betting markets. It takes a lot of research and a big sprinkling of luck to have success with this market.

At the end of the game, the shirt numbers of all the goalscorers in the market are added together.

For argument’s sake, the spread betting firm may set the spread at 52-56.

Noticing the star striker likes to stand out and has the number 88 on his shirt, you buy at £10 per point.

However, disaster strikes, and after many missed chances, the game finishes 0-0. You run up a loss of £560.

Tips For Spread Betting

Spread betting can be exciting because the potential for profit is quite high. However, this is why some people can also get carried away. Please remember that the potential losses can also be quite high if not using a strategy. So during your spread betting journey, make sure you follow these rules to keep your losses to a minimum.

  1. Always choose an even stake. Make sure that it’s one that you’re comfortable with. Remember: spread betting isn’t like traditional betting where your stake is all you can lose. You could lose much more.
  2. Always assess the worst-case scenario and make sure that you’re comfortable with it happening. Spread betting can produce some nasty surprises for people that don’t think things through…
  3. Play it safe. If you’re in two minds about what to do, it’s always best to close your position out at a profit and play it safe. It’s better to win a small profit than to lose.
  4. Never bet with money you cannot afford to lose. It should go without saying, but with spread betting, you can easily run up losses you weren’t expecting. 
  5. Do not bet just to get out of a hole and chase another bet that is going badly. The hardest thing to do after losing a bet is to walk away. That is also the behaviour that gets people into trouble when betting. GambleAware
  6. Make sure that you completely understand the market and the rules before betting. Especially if you’re new to spread betting. Double check you’re aware of the potential losses before you place a bet.
  7. Don’t bet unless you’re feeling completely focused. This means never betting when you are experiencing extreme emotions like anger or sadness. Also, it’s perhaps another obvious point, but never bet when you’re drunk.

An Alternative To Spread Betting

While spread betting can be fun, unfortunately, it can also be quite costly. It’s hard to follow any real strategy, unless you’re well into the financial markets and really know your stuff. And that can take A LOT of time and effort…

You may be wondering how to make money online in another fashion, and something which doesn’t require as much time and effort is matched betting. Now, it’s nowhere near as on-the-edge-of-your-seat as spread betting, but it’s a much more stable way to potentially lock in margins of profit. 

So How Does Matched Betting Work?

Matched betting is a way to make money from home using free bets and promotional offers given out by online bookmakers. Rather than relying on luck, with matched betting you cover all potential outcomes of a sporting event by placing more than one bet. All you need is a bookmaker account, some odds…and an OddsMonkey membership. Start your free trial today or choose one of our paid subscriptions to access essential betting calculators, training, and tips.


Start making profits now for free!

About the author:

James OddsMonkey

James OddsMonkey

James' background in IT support and matched betting knowledge is how he's ended up at OddsMonkey updating offer, answering tickets and generally being super helpful.

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