What Is Spread Betting? A Complete Guide

Modern betting sites offer all kinds of sports bets, not just the classic 1X2 deal. As sports evolved, so did sports wagers, and nowadays, you can bet in many different ways – some of them more popular than others. The point spread is becoming one of the most popular wagers among punters, despite being more complex than, for example, a win bet.

But, what is spread betting, and how do you place such a bet? Can you even bet like this on every sport and at any sportsbook? What are the odds and payouts? These are the questions we’ll be answering today, so keep reading to learn all about this exciting type of wagering.

Spread Betting Explained

A spread bet is, simply put, a range offered by a sportsbook for a particular sporting event. It usually looks like this: 2.9 – 3.2. While it may look like a simple point difference, what the numbers represent differs depending on the markets you’re betting on. It can represent the total score, the number of league wins, or, obviously, the point difference in the final score. Spread betting, by definition, implies that you believe the result will fall outside of the range the bookmaker has set. If you bet above that range, it’s called a “buy,” while betting lower is called a “sell.”

It also impacts your chances. Most wagering types have a binary outcome – you either win or lose. With spread bets, there’s a much bigger range of potential outcomes, which keeps the match exciting until the very end. These bets also differ in the way the payouts are calculated. Instead of having an exact multiplier for your bet, the payout is calculated based on the point difference.

Placing a Spread Bet

Placing a spread bet doesn’t differ from placing any other kind of wager, at least not initially. You pick an event and then a market you’ll be betting on, say, a final score difference. The sportsbook will offer a range outside of which you’ll be betting along with the choice to buy or sell. We recommend testing the waters with smaller stakes (more about this later in the post).

We’ll use an example of a football match, with the previously used 2.9 – 3.2 range annotated for total goals. What is spread betting in this case? If you sell, you’re betting that teams won’t score more than two goals total in the whole match and, thus, the combined number of goals will end up being below the lower value (2.9 in this example). For a “buy,” you’re expecting that there will be four or more goals in this match. It gets more complicated with other markets, as you’re trying to guess a point difference or other value that can be highly volatile.

The essential thing to understand about spread betting is that you won’t know exactly how much you stand to win or lose when placing your bet. It’s not a value set in stone as with other bets. Your winnings, as well as losses, are multiplied by the amount the final result differs from the bet.

To continue with our example, let’s say you staked £5 as a buy. You’re expecting to see more than three goals in that match. The match concludes with five goals total, and it’s time for the payout. Here’s how to calculate your winnings:

(Final score – Buy price) x Stake

In our example, betting on a spread would net you (5 – 3.2) x £5 = 1.8 x £5 = £9. If the teams managed to score even more goals, your winnings multiplier would’ve been even higher.

But, what would’ve happened if the final score or the final price, as it’s often called, was below the sell price? With no goals scored in that match, your “payout” would’ve been (0 – 2.9) x £5 = -2.9 x £5 = – £14.5. As in, you’d lose 2.9 times your stake.

Calculations are the same for selling. In rare cases when the final price falls within the bookmaker’s range, you’d just get your stake back.

Markets for Spread Betting in the UK

Spread betting is possible with any kind of sporting event. These bets aren’t limited to just points scored throughout the match. Bookmakers often offer all kinds of spreads you can bet on, including booking points or fouls in a match. Basically, any outcome that can be quantified is eligible for this kind of bet, allowing for some rather complicated and unusual bets.

Here are the most popular markets and a short explanation of how spread betting works for each:

  • Supremacy – goal/point difference
  • Total score
  • Bookings/cards – red cards are worth 25, yellow – 10 points; the points are added together
  • Corners – the total number in a match
  • Shirt numbers – the total of shirt numbers of all point scorers
  • First match goal/point – the time of the first point or goal
  • Total goal minutes – times of each goal added together
  • Goal rush – the total number of points based on the number of goals, the more goals a team scores, the more each subsequent goal is worth.

Understanding Sport Spread Betting Risks

Spread betting, just like any other kind of wagering, involves some risk. You’re putting your money on the line, after all, so a certain level of risk management is required.

Playing at small stakes is strongly recommended when you’re just starting with these wagers. Since your stake is multiplied by the point difference, the winnings can be sky-high – but so can your losses. Staking amounts as low as 1p might not sound like the thrill of a lifetime, but it also won’t leave you broke after a lost point spread bet. This way you’ll get to learn how it all works without risking too much money.

Speaking of risks, picking the right market is also essential. We don’t mean just the sport you’ll be betting on, but also the specific event. Something like the total number of goals in a football match has lower volatility than the point difference in an NBA match. Football spreads, in general, are a safer bet than NBA spreads since there usually aren’t many goals in a football match. That being said, we don’t recommend betting on total goal minutes as the results can vary wildly.

Using the formula we’ve provided earlier in this post can help you calculate how much money you’d lose in the worst-case scenario. Picking the matches with the lowest possible losses is a good idea since this way, even if you lose the bet, you won’t lose a lot of money. You should also know when to bow out and not continue betting if you’re on a bad streak.


What does +3 spread mean in betting?

Spreads like this are used by US bookies and refer to a point difference. In our article about spread betting, we’ve explained that the point difference would need to be higher than the bet price to score you a win. In this case, a team must win by more than three points.

How do you read a betting spread?

A spread is an average value for the market the bookmaker has calculated. It’s the most likely result of a match represented by a range – the lower value is called the sell price, while the higher value is the buy price.

What happens if you hit the spread?

The bookie will return your stake in full if you hit the spread. It’ll be as if you had never placed that bet.

What is a spread betting example?

A spread bet for a UK market looks like a range, for example, 2.1 – 3. Punters bet on the outcome to be outside of this range. You stake a certain amount on it being higher or lower, and after the match is over, the difference between the final score and the closer spread value is multiplied by your stake. That’s your profit/loss depending on which option you’ve bet on.

Table of Contents
Spread Betting Explained Placing a Spread Bet Markets for Spread Betting in the UK Understanding Sport Spread Betting Risks FAQ
Table of Contents