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How Does Spread Betting Work in Sports?


Sports betting like most technical fields comes with its own set of terminology. When you enter a sportsbook or take time to surf sports betting pages on the internet, there are some words and phrases you are bound to hear. One such phrase is ‘spread betting’. What exactly is spread betting? What does it mean to cover the spread in sports betting? If you want to learn all about this, then you need to just spare a few moments of your time to go through this comprehensive spread betting guide.

What is Spread Betting in Sports Betting

Spread betting is one of the most popular sports betting markets. It is used by punters who engage in different sports from cricket betting, soccer and football betting to basketball and horse racing among many others. When it comes to spread betting, punters predict the team that is going to win/lose in an upcoming event. However, this bet type goes further to specify in explicit terms the margin of the win/loss.

The Essence of Spread Betting

The essence of spread betting is to balance the odds and create a competitive fixture – betting-wise. The concept of a clear favourite and a clear underdog is what spread betting aims to eliminate. Why is this the case? Well, let’s take the example below.

spread betting work in sports

When it comes to some sporting events, there are instances in which a huge favourite goes head-to-head against an underdog. In the English football pyramid, there is the FA Cup which puts together all professional English teams competing in all the tiers of English football in the same competition. A random draw is conducted at the start of the competition and after each round.

Owing to the random draw, a top team from the English Premier League (1st tier of English football) such as Manchester City can face a League One team (3rd tier of English football). In such an encounter, there is a clear favourite (Manchester City) which is highly likely going to win. Placing a match outcome bet for Manchester City in this tie will however be a waste as the odds will be heavily stacked in favour of the favourite. As such, the potential returns for a Manchester City win will be too insignificant and immaterial when compared to the amount risked in placing the bet. It’s against this background that sportsbooks came up with the concept of spread betting. A concept that levels the playing field and helps create a competitive fixture despite two unevenly matched teams going head to head.

How Spread Betting Works

When creating a spread bet, sportsbooks assign a point/win margin to the favourite and a point/lose margin to the underdog in a handicap fashion. The margin assigned is dependent on the quality of the team. When there are two considerably uneven teams going head to head, the favourite will be assigned a -1.5 spread and the underdog a +1.5 spread. If the favourite is England and you want to bet on the favourite to win (also technically referred to as covering the spread), England has to win the match by at least 2 goals for your bet to be successful. Likewise, if you back the underdog, your bet will succeed if the underdog loses by just one goal or ‘miraculously’ gets a positive result that is a draw or a win.

A ‘Push’ in Spread Betting

In spread betting, there is what is called a push. Often, a push happens in sports such as American football and basketball which use points (point scoring) rather than goals. In such sports, the margins for winning or losing will be stated as whole numbers such as -7 and +7 instead of decimals as is the case with soccer. If the favourite is tipped to win the match with a margin of -7, a push occurs when the favourite wins by an exact 7-point margin. When a push happens, the player will not win the potential payout for a successful bet but will just get the stake back in full.

The “Pick” and “Pick ‘em” in Spread Betting

Spread Betting

At some bookmakers, it’s possible to find a spread bet for evenly matched teams.  As there isn’t a clear favourite and an underdog in such an instance, the spread will be set at zero. To ensure that punters can easily denote the presence of the spread bet for the event,  a ‘pick’ or pick ‘em inscription will be added. A pick or pick ‘em spread bet thus functions in exactly the same way as a moneyline bet as punters simply need to pick the winner without specifying the margin of the win.

Advantages of Using Spread Betting

  • Greater Potential for Profit: The biggest advantage of spread betting in sports is that you get higher value for your money in terms of the expected returns. Whether you are betting for the favourite or the underdog, the win/lose margin enhances the odds meaning if your bet is successful, you win a handsome payout
  • Can Be Applied to Different Sports: Another huge advantage of spread betting is that it can be applied to a wide range of sports. As such, if you master this betting market, you can use it to place football, tennis, basketball, or even horse racing bets
  • Hedge Your Bets: Spread betting can be used to hedge against other bet types. For instance, if you placed a moneyline bet on one team, you can place a spread bet on the opposing team such that whatever the outcome of the event, you are assured of winning in either one of your bets.

Round Up

Spread betting is one of the most popular types of betting markets. Its popularity largely stems from the fact that it allows punters to derive more value from the bets they place as the incorporated win/lose margins enhance the odds and expected winnings. However, it’s recommended to only employ this betting market once you have mastered it.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q1. When can I use the spread betting market?

Spread betting is most beneficial when players want to bet on a tie that pits two unevenly matched teams where there is a clear favourite and an underdog.

Q2. Can I place a spread bet when an event has already commenced?

Yes, punters can place a spread bet for events that are currently ongoing.

Q3. What do the ‘-‘ and ‘+’ prefixes mean when it comes to spread betting odds?

When it comes to spread betting, the ‘-‘ refers to the points margin that the favourite has to win by for a bet to be successful while the ‘+’ refers to the points margin by which the underdog shouldn’t lose by for a bet to be successful.


about the author

Prince Kupa

Prince Kupa is an online gambling enthusiast who likes to stay in touch with all the latest trends in the gambling industry. From sports betting to casino games, Prince is your number one plug for all things gambling

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