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Peter Addison

In sports betting, a spread bet is one where you bet on the range of options offered by a spread betting bookmaker. You can bet on whether the outcome will be lower than the range, or higher. The more accurate your prediction, the greater you will be rewarded in terms of returns. However, if your prediction turns out to be inaccurate, your liability (the amount you have to pay because of your bet) may be much higher than your original stake.

Sports spread betting can seem complicated at first, but once you become familiar with the concept, it is not. It is a form of trading – buy something at a low price and then sell it at a higher price to make a profit. Once you understand that, then you are well on your way to understanding spread betting. This guide will take you through a full explanation of the spread bet, and how you can use it as an alternative to fixed odds betting or exchange betting.

The Sports Spread Bet Defined

The sports spread bet is often confused with ‘betting on the spread’ or the points spread. Betting on the spread is a form of betting in the US that is extremely popular. The ‘spread’ refers to the points handicap applied to both sides in a sporting contest. For example, for an NFL game, you may see the following:

betting on the spread

The spread here is 3.5. If you bet on the Chiefs, 3.5 points will be added to their final score. If you bet on the Ravens, 3.5 points will be subtracted from their final score. Therefore, if you bet on the Ravens and they win 22-20, then your bet would lose as the score for your bet is 18.5-20.

Now let’s look at the same game, but with details of a sports spread bet.

spread betting

As you can see, things look very different. The main winner/loser market is the first on the list. You can sell at 2.5, or you can buy at 4.5. If you are brand new to spread betting, then this information will be meaningless but don’t worry, we will go through precisely what this means in the next section.

By buying and selling you are trading. The final trading price is the outcome of your bet. For example, in football, you could ‘buy’ Liverpool scoring one goal in a game at £2 per goal. If they end up scoring three goals, then the final price is three goals which you then sell at. You spent £2 (one goal) but the final price was £6 (three goals), making you a £4 profit. If Liverpool didn’t score, then the final price would have been £0 (no goals). You would have bought at £2 but then sold at £0, meaning you made a £2 loss.

This is different to fixed odds betting as you only make a profit if your bet is correct, and you can only ever lose your stake. If you bet £2 on Liverpool to win at 2/1, then your returns are £6 if they win, and £0 if they don’t. With a spread bet you could lose more than your stake, but there are ways you can stop substantial losses, which we will investigate further on.

How Does Spread Betting Work?

Let’s now go back to our American football example, and explore the options that are available via a spread bet. Here are the details again:

spread betting

We will take a look at the total points spread. Here, the selling price is 43.5, and the buying price is 46.5. Your choice is down to how many points you think will be in the game. If you think there will be less than 43.5, you sell. If you think there will be more than 46.5, then you buy. You buy on a point basis, so each unit or point is worth one unit of your stake, therefore if your stake is £1, you are wagering £1 per point.

To answer the question what is the spread in betting, in terms of non-US betting on the spread, it is the difference between the offered sell price and buy price.


If you think there will be fewer points or units than the sell price, then you sell. This is like futures trading – you are selling something that you don’t own with the idea that you will buy it later, hopefully at a much lower price than what you ‘sold’ it for.

Let’s say you sell at the price of 43.5, for £1 per point. Let’s see what happens with a winning bet, and a losing one.

    • WIN: As you predicted, it’s a low-scoring game, with the Ravens winning 10-7. The final price is 17, as there were 17 points in the game. As you sold at 43.5, and the buy price is 17, you’ve made a profit of (43.5 – 17) = 26.5. As you bought at £1 per point, your profit is £26.50.
    • LOSE: Unfortunately, the game ended up a point-fest with the Chiefs winning 34-30, a total of 64 points. You sold at 43.5, but the final price is 64. You have therefore made a loss of (64 – 43.5) = 20.5, with your monetary loss being £20.50.


If you think there will be more points or units than the buy price, then you buy. This is simply trading – you are buying something that you hope will rise in price when the time comes to sell, hence making a profit.

For our example, let’s say you buy at 46.5, at £1 per point. Let’s go through the same two scorelines as above and calculate what happens.

    • WIN: The game ends 34-30, making the final sell price 64. As you bought at 46.5 and the final price was 64, you made a profit of (64 – 46.5) = 17.5, or £17.50.
    • LOSE: The game ends 10-7, making the final sell price 17. As you bought at 46.5 and the final price was 17, you made a loss of (46.5 – 17) = 29.5, or £29.50.

As you can see, the wins and losses are considerably greater than your original stake. This is because there are plenty of points in an American football game. If you are placing a spread bet on a football score, then there will be less variance meaning lower profits but also lower risks.

Spread Betting Football Example

As football is one of the best sports to bet on in the UK, we are now going to take you through a football spread betting example.

football spread betting

Here we see some of the markets from a match between Manchester City and Tottenham. Let’s investigate the total goals market, with a sell price of 3.2, and a buy price of 3.4. If you feel there will be fewer than 3.2 goals in the game, then you sell at 3.2. If you think there will be more than 3.4 goals in the game, then you buy at 3.4.

Another market here is the total goal minutes, which is the sum of all the goal times in the match (both teams – so if Man City score in the 9th and 81st minute, and Tottenham in the 54th minute, then the total goal time is 9 + 81 + 54 = 144). If you think that the total will be less than 158, then you sell. However, if you think it will be more than 173, then you buy. If you think it will be between 158 and 173, then you don’t bet.

Pros and Cons of Sports Spread Betting

Is sports spread betting better than fixed odds betting? Is it better than exchange betting? That depends on you, really, and the way that you want to bet. Let’s take a look at the advantages of a spread bet, and a few disadvantages too.


  • Greater Rewards for Accuracy – if your bet is correct, then you are likely to be paid out much more than you would at fixed odds. For example, if you bet on under three goals in a football match and it’s a goalless draw, your returns for the same stake will be much more with a spread bet than a fixed odds over/under bet.
  • An Incredible Array of Markets – if you find your normal betting has fallen into a rut, then you can seek out new strategies via the incredible array of betting options for any event where spread betting is available. Markets such as the total sum of the shirt numbers for a football match are not available for fixed odds betting.
  • Your Bet Does Not Immediately Lose – Say you bet on Liverpool to beat Arsenal and Arsenal go two goals up within twenty minutes and Liverpool have Andrew Robertson sent off. You bet is as good as dead, barring a miracle. With spread betting, your bet can remain a winning one even if unwanted events happen as they might just reduce your profits.


  • Spread Bets are Not for Newbies – if you are brand new to sports betting, then spread bets are perhaps not the way to get started. The concept of backing winners with fixed odds or exchange bets is easy to understand, but the concept of buying and selling is not. It can be hard to understand at first, but will swiftly become second nature.
  • Losses Can Be Substantial – a spread bet will reward you for accuracy, but can also punish you for being wrong. Say you think a game will finish goalless and you sell at 2.4 goals for £5, but it ends up 5-5. Suddenly, instead of winning £12 as you’d hoped, you’re liable for £38. You need to take care with your spread bets and keep your risks low.
  • Sports Spread Betting is Not Governed by the UKGC – because this form of betting is defined as trading and not gambling, it is not governed by the UKGC. Instead, it is governed by the Financial Services Authority. This means that some aspects of spread betting are gambling, as opposed to betting. An example of this would be betting on the total of shirt numbers for a football match, which requires very little skill or knowledge. It’s perhaps best to stay away from spread bets that are much more gambling than betting.

Common Spread Bet Markets

You will find in some way that most fixed odds bets have a spread betting equivalent. Here we look at some popular spread bet options with an explanation of each. If a fixed odds equivalent is appropriate, it will be mentioned.

Game Supremacy

If you want to bet on the winner of any match, you should look for the game supremacy market. This is usually the home team’s supremacy over the visitors in terms of goals or points. If the home team wins 3-1, the supremacy is +2, but if they lose 1-2, it’s -1. You can sell or buy depending on your prediction of the final score.

Total Goals or Points

One of the most popular spread bet options is betting on the number of goals or points scored during a match, as most sports are settled by some kind of scoreline. You will be given a sell price and a buy price. If you think there’ll be fewer goals or points than the sell price then you sell, and vice versa for buying.

Race Markets

Those of you who like to bet on horse racing, greyhound racing, cycling, Formula One or other events that are won by the first past the post might be wondering how you can spread bet on them. You will find that each competitor has a sell price and a buy price, as normal. This will be based on a fictitious points award, with the winner of the race scoring 50 points, the second 25 and the third 10 (or 50-30-20-10 if the race has 12 competitors or more). Your decision whether to buy or sell depends on where you think your chosen competitor will finish.

100 Win Index

This is an alternative way of betting on horse racing via a spread bet as opposed to the 50-25-10 or 50-30-20-10 approach above. With the 100 Win Index, 100 points are awarded for first, 80 for second, 60 for third and then 40, 30, 25, 30, 15, 10 and finally 5 for tenth. Your ‘sell or buy’ approach depends upon where you think your backed competitor will finish.

For other, non ‘first past the post’ sports, the 100 index is a simple yes/no scenario for any specific event, with 100 points awarded if it happens, and zero points if it doesn’t. For example in football betting, the home side winning 2-1, or simply for the match to be drawn.

Anything Measurable!

Such is the flexibility of spread betting that you can spread bet on anything measurable in any sporting contest. If you are interested in any event, head to that event’s page and you will be flabbergasted by the array of options available. For football, how about home team goals multiplied by home team corners? In cricket betting, the runs scored by any individual batsman. For darts, the highest player checkout multiplied by their 180s. The rule with a spread bet is simple: if you can measure it, then you can probably bet on it.

Live Sports Spread Betting

Spread bets in play are immensely popular at spread betting sites. This is where you place a spread bet on any event that has already started. If you head to a spread betting site, then you’ll see that it has a separate in-play section.

All the available live betting markets will usually be indicated, along with the current state of play. The sell and buy prices are updated in real-time, allowing you to react quickly if you can see a spread bet that’s worth trading on. Simply click on the sell/buy price and add your stake per unit, then make the trade. As always, take care though as you can lose much more than your perceived outlay if your trade goes sour.

Which Sports Spread Betting Suits Best

When it comes to a spread bet and sports, you’re looking for measurables, or at least sports with lots of numbers. Football is an excellent choice, as it has goals, free kicks, offsides, bookings, dismissals, corners, goal times, substitution times, number of times VAR gets it wrong … plenty to trade! Cricket has plenty of numbers too, as does darts, snooker, tennis, golf, eSports … it’s a long list. Let’s take a look at some example markets for the most popular spread bet sports.

Football Spread Betting (300 – 400+ markets)

Match supremacy, total goals, shirt numbers, bookings, corners, first goal time (overall and per team), total goal minutes, home/away/draw, over/under 2.5 goals, individual player goal minutes, team performance, individual player markets and combos, multis (i.e. home goals x corners x bookings), 100 indices, HT/FT markets, handicaps, specials.

Cricket Spread Betting (0 – 100+ markets)

Match supremacy, runs (overall/per team/per innings), individual player scores/100+ (yes/no), 50+ (yes/no), score at next wicket fall, number of runs next over, run bands (150/175/200/225/250/275 etc), wickets taken, runs conceded per bowler, 100 indices, handicaps, specials.

Tennis Spread Betting (25 – 100+ markets)

Match supremacy, match winner, games won differential, total games per player, total games won per player, x-court (Player A games won multiplied by Player B games won), points won overall and by player, 100 indices (player to win, player to win specific set, current set final score, next set final score, overall score).

Golf Spread Betting (5 – 50+ markets)

Tournament winner (80-40-30-25-20-15-10-5 basis, 100 index), leader per round, make the cut (yes/no), individual competitor score (per round, overall, birdies, pars, bogeys, hole in one yes/no), finishing position, double trouble (fictitious match-ups), wire-to-wire leaders (yes/no), group markets, hotshots (definition of player to win: favourites, UK, US, Asia, etc).

Darts Spread Betting (25 – 70+ markets)

Overall tournament winner, match supremacy, player win yes/no, total 180s per match and per player, multis (Player A 180s x Player B 180s etc), highest match checkout, checkout ton ups, checkout ton ups or bust, total missed doubles, total legs overall/per player, most 180s, highest match checkout, total bull finishes.

Snooker Spread Betting (20 – 100+ markets)

Overall tournament winner, match supremacy, match winner, match handicaps, total points (overall/per player), total frames (overall/per player), multis (Player A total frames x Player B total frames, etc), number of 50+ breaks (overall/per player), number of centuries (overall/per player), 147 (yes/no), individual frame winner and stats (50+ break, century, zero points scored, multis, etc).

American Football Spread Betting (50 – 150+ markets)

Game supremacy, total points (overall/per team), touchdown shirt numbers (total + supremacy), handicaps, touchdown yardage, field goal yardage, penalties yardage, match performance, total TDs, total FGs, time of first TD/FG/point scored, total sacks, 100 indices (match result, handicaps), points/yardage etc per quarter, first quarter.

Basketball Spread Betting (10 – 100+ markets)

Game supremacy, total points (overall/per team), points per quarter/first quarter (overall and per team), 100 indices (handicap, total points), 100-50-0 indices (handicap, total points).

Horse Racing Spread Betting (10 – 100+ markets)

Racecard markets (winning favourites, starting prices, distances (winner to 2nd, winner to 3rd, 2nd to third), SP lengths, multi distances (winner to 2nd x winner to 3rd), winning distances (dead heat, nose, short head, head, neck). Jockey markets (racecard performance, winner (yes/no), cumulative). Race markets (50-25-10 index, 100 win index), performance markets, SP of winner, stall number x 2).

Greyhound Racing Spread Betting (10 – 50+ markets)

Racecard markets (multi-traps (sum of winner trap x runner-up trap for entire card)), favourites performance, bananas (1st trap x 2nd trap x 3rd trap and summed), starting prices, overall trap performance, trap challenges. Race markets (50-25-10 index).

Other sports usually available for spread bets: Aussie rules, boxing, cycling, eSports, handball, ice hockey, motor racing, specials/politics, table tennis, MMA/UFC and virtuals.

Where to Find Spread Betting Markets

This is an easy question to answer, as currently there are only two online betting sites in the UK that provide spread betting markets: SpreadEx and Sporting Index. Spreadex and Sporting Index are practically the same company just trading under two names, and both use the same software.

How to Spread Bet Successfully

This form of betting is a very complicated beast, and you need to know your stuff to spread bet successfully. Here though are five quick tips to get you started. It’s not a deep dive though, and sports spread betting successfully really is a self-learning experience.

  1. Bet for Pennies at First

    People moving from fixed odds betting can come unstuck when they are learning how does spread betting work as they don’t realise losses can be much higher than stakes. If you are new to sports spread betting keep your stakes tiny at first.
  2. Stick to What You Know

    There’s no point spread betting on American football if you don’t know the difference between a snap and a tight end. If you are an expert on football betting, then it might be worth your while to attempt football spread betting, but only if you know your football inside and out.
  3. Avoid Gambling Markets

    Some spread bet markets are little more than gambles, such as the sum of the shirt numbers of touchdown scorers in American football, or trap winners multiplied in greyhounds. Stick to bets that require a little bit of sporting nuance, such as game supremacy, or total goals/runs/frames/180s.
  4. Don’t Be Afraid to Quit

    If you learn how to spread bet but don’t find much success in it, or if the prospect of losing much more than your stake is too nerve wracking, then head back to fixed odds betting. Remember, any form of betting must remain enjoyable for it to be worth your while.
  5. Learn How to Stop Loss

    A stop loss, where available, can help you with your trading-style betting. It allows you to trade before a situation gets any worse. For example, say you’ve sold at 2.4 goals and the score after 60 minutes is three all. You’ve already made a loss so if you set a stop loss price (say 6) you can trade before your liability worsens.

Concise Glossary of Spread Bet Jargon

As sports spread betting in the UK is more akin to financial trading as opposed to fixed odds betting, it comes with a lexicon of terms you may not be familiar with. In our effort to get spread betting explained, here is a quick table of terms you will need to get familiar with.

Spread Betting Term Sports Spread Betting Meaning
Bet The amount per unit being risked
Buy Betting that the market will rise in price
Closing The price at the end of the event. If you bought you must sell, and if you sold you must buy, at the closing price.
Deposit The money required to cover a spread bet, usually higher than the bet or stake
In-Play Betting on a current event that has already started
Make-up Your liability if the sell price is lower than the buy price, or returns if the buy price is lower than the sell price
Margin The difference between the sell price and the buy price
Match bet A ‘fantasy’ bet between two competitors in the same event
Sell Betting that the market will fall in price
Settlement The final price once an event has concluded
Spread The difference between the offered sell price and the buy price
Stake The amount per unit being risked
Stop Loss A pre-arranged sell or buy price to prevent heavy losses
Supremacy The difference between the winning team and the losing team in terms of goals or points


We have to be honest and say that spread betting is not for everyone, and it’s not for the casual bettor. However, if you know your stuff, then sport spread betting can see you return substantially better profits than fixed odds betting.

Now you know what does spread betting mean in betting, why not give it a try? Just remember to keep your stakes low at first, stick to sports you are familiar with and avoid spread betting gambling markets that are down to pure luck, with no judgment involved.


What is Sports Spread Betting?

How Does a Spread Bet Work?

Where Can I Learn How to Spread Bet Successfully?

What is a spread bet calculator?

Why do I need to deposit more than my stake when spread betting?

Peter Addison
Peter Addison

Peter is one of the most well-known and well-respected names working in the field of online sports betting today. Having a Bachelor of Arts degree, Peter has worked for many high-profile publications in the industry, both online and in the real world. He joined the SafestBettingSites team in 2021 and has provided millions of words ever since. When not writing, Peter enjoys performing and writing music, gaming, reading and he is a massive movie buff, with a particular love of Japanese cinema and anime.