Sports Spread Betting Guide

Published: 26th May 2018
Author: Joe Kizlauskas
Last Updated: 24th February 2021
Sports Spread Betting Guide image

A Guide to Spread Betting on Sports

When betting on sports, gamblers are typically presented with two general types of straight or single wagers, wagers made on one team or side. The first type of single bet is made with fixed odds. Fixed odds betting is usually reserved for sports with very low scoring and frequent small point differentials. European football (soccer) and America’s Major League Baseball are great examples of sports where a favourite is identified as the one with the lowest fixed odds. The objective for the gambler is to simply select the team they believe is going to win while the odds will generally reflect the difference between each team’s prowess.

The other type of single wager is made with a point spread in place. This is typically referred to as “spread betting.” In sports leagues where lots of points are being scored and the point differentials can be substantial, the bookmaker needs a more effective way of bringing the teams closer together in betting value. If a heavy favourite were expected to trounce another team, the obvious bet for a gambler would be on the favourite. If the bookmaker were to post odds on a heavy favourite, the amount the bettor would have to lay could be high enough to make the risk disproportionate to the reward. There would also be a chance all of the action would come in on the favourite, creating a substantial risk for the bookmaker.

Spread betting is different to traditional betting as you are betting on the movement of the market instead of a particular event. For example, for sports spread betting, you might bet on the total amount of goals scored by a particular team in a Premier League Season. The Spread might be set to 70 goals. You will then be set an amount per point that you think their goal tally will conclude to either above or below the spread. You might then stake £10 per goal over the spread amount. This means that for ever goal scored by that team past the 70 mark, you win £10. However, if that team scores less than 70, then you will lose £10 for every goal they miss 70 by. So, it is evident that there’s a chance for some very high wins, but also the risk of losing some cash. That is the big risk with spread betting. Within spread betting, there is a feature called stop loss. What this will do is cancel your spread bet at a particular score that you define, and you then take the loss.

When Spread Betting is used

Much like there are sports that are better suited to fixed odds betting; there are several sports where spread betting is almost necessary. In popular sports like Rugby, Aussie Rules Football, Cricket, American football (pro and college) and basketball, the favourites would have a substantial advantage in a game where they were expected to win by a substantial number of points. That’s when the bookmaker can step in and become the great equaliser by posting a point spread that makes the winner less obvious.

Example: In American college football (NCAA FB), the disparity in talent between two teams can be significant for a number of reasons, including injuries, recruiting capabilities and enrolment limitations. If 2016-17 NCAA Football Champion Clemson Tigers were to play a team like Prairie View; most experts would expect the Tigers to win by at least 45 points. The fixed odds would be a crazy number like -7000 to win 100. With that said, the certainty of the Tigers winning the game would be so high that most people, with money, would lay the bet and most assuredly win. If everyone were allowed to bet this way, the bookmaker would have very little chance of winning. Instead, they are going to post a line of Clemson -45. If Clemson backers have to lay 45 points, the game, from a betting perspective, starts to look very different.

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Explaining How Spread Betting Works

When the online betting sites posts a game using a point spread, it will usually look like this:
Clemson -45 -110
Prairie View +45 -110
The bettor has a choice to make. They can bet on Clemson and lay 45 points, or they can take Prairie View and take the 45 points. If the final score were to end with Clemson winning 56-7, the results of the wagering would be figured as follows:
Clemson scores 56 points, subtract 45 for the point spread and the result ends up being 11 for Clemson and the same 7 for Prairie View, making Clemson the winning side. Theoretically, the result could also be determined by adding the 45 to Prairie View’s score, resulting in a final score of Clemson 56 and Prairie View 52.
Now, let’s use a different scoring scenario. The final score ends up Clemson winning 49-7. Clemson scores 49 points, subtract 45 for the point spread and the result ends up being 4 for Clemson and the same 7 for Prairie View, making Prairie View the winning side.

Regardless of the sports, this is how point spread betting effectively makes teams equal in betting value. Looking again at the point spread posted by the bookmaker,
Clemson -45 -110
Prairie View +45 -110
The -110 next to the actual point spread represents the betting odds for the bet. On both sides of the game, the betting odds are –110. This number represents pretty typical betting odds on a single bet with a point spread. It means the bettor has to bet 110 to win 100 no matter which side they bet on. The difference between the bet amount and the win amount is the bookmaker’s commission for booking the bet.

Explaining Commission

Ultimately, a bookmaker’s job is to book equal bets on both sides of a game in an effort to balance the books. If they can effectively balance the books, they will have little to no vested interest in the game and end up collecting commission. A perfectly balanced game is a rare occurrence, but when it happens, the betting site or bookie will collect a commission of 4.55% on the total amount wagered regardless of which team wins.

Example: Using the line stated above, let’s say 55,000 to win 50,000 is bet on Clemson -45 and 55,000 to win 50,000 is bet on Prairie View +45. The bookmaker has collected 110,000 on both sides combined. With betting odds of -110, the results would fall as follows.

If Clemson wins by more than 45, the bookmaker would pay Clemson bettors 105,000 (55,000+50,000), leaving a 5,000 profit (110,000 – 105,000 = 5,000 profit).

If Clemson wins by less that 45, the bookmakers would pay Prairie View bettors 105,000 (55,000+50,000), leaving a 5,000 profit (110,000 – 105,000 = 5,000 profit).

In both cases, the bookmaker took bets of 110,000 and earned a commission of 5,000 or 4.55% for doing so. This was done with absolutely no risk to the bookmaker.

For the record: If Clemson wins by exactly 45, the game is a tie or push and all monies are returned. In order to avoid possible ties, bookmaker’s can include an extra .5 points on the line, making a tie result impossible.

As a gambler, it’s important that you familiarise yourself with both types of betting. This will give you great comfort no matter which sports you decide to use to help build your bankroll.

Football Spread Betting Examples:

Spread Betting may have gone straight over your head first time round reading about it. Therefore, below are listed some examples of spread betting on sports and how it works.

Chelsea Premier League Points: 73

In this example, the spread is set to 73. Therefore, you may have £5 on this spread. In the season, Chelsea get a total of 81 points! This is great news for you because it means they have got 8 more points than the spread target! You win £5 for every point over 73 so therefore you will win a total of £40.


There are different Spread Betting Markets just within the sport of football, some which apply to other sports also. Here is a list of a few of the different Spread markets:

Total Corner

This spread indicates how many corners will be awarded during the match. If the betting site predicts a lot of corners will be taken they may set the spread at around 12-13 corners. You might predict that only 12 corners will be awarded, the lower end of the spread. However, if 20 were awarded and you had a £10 stake on this spread, you’re looking at a loss of £80!

Minute of First Goal

Spreads are available to predict the minute that the first goal will be scored in. For example, the spread might say that the first goal will be scored in the 34-38 minute of the first half. You predict that the first goal will come later as it is a game between 2 very well defended sides. You are correct, and the first goal is scored in the 44th minute, right before half time. Due to your £10 stake and the goal being scored 6 minutes after the spread prediction. You win a total of £60!


Spread Betting is not only a hard concept of betting to get your head around, it is also hard to pull off and continuously make profit from. Therefore, here are a few tips to note down when using this betting strategy so you can have some form of idea as to how this can make you money:

  1. As this differs from traditional betting, there is more than just your stake on the line here, so make sure you always choose an even stake.
  2. Make sure you are aware of the consequences if the bet is to fall through. As discussed earlier, bare in mind the ‘Stop Loss’ feature.
  3. Gamble safe and responsibly, do not bet what you can’t afford to lose.
  4. As Spread Betting is hard to understand, ensure you are aware of the market and rules before betting.
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About Joe Kizlauskas

Joe is a seasoned iGaming copywriter and speaker who has been in the business since 2015. He's written more words on all elements of iGaming than he likes to remember, and he's contributed material to a number of well-known brands. Joe may be seen playing 5 a side, at the gym or playing games on his Playstation when he is not writing.