Beginner's Guide to Sports Spread Betting

Sports betting has been a popular form of gambling for many years, but there's a specific type of wager known as "spread betting" that adds an exciting twist to the traditional betting experience.

If you're new to the world of sports spread betting, this beginner's guide will help you understand the basics, variations, strategies, and risks associated with this unique betting method.

The Basics of Sports Spread Betting

Spread betting is a form of wagering that allows you to bet on whether you think a specific outcome will be higher or lower than the bookmaker's predicted range.

There are simple spread bets that work like many other wagers, but unlike traditional fixed-odds betting - where you win a set amount if your prediction is correct - some spread betting options can offer potential wins or losses based on the accuracy of your prediction and the actual outcome.

This technique is regularly used by trading platforms for the stock markets, where they offer a sell price and a buy price for stocks and shares which creates a 'financial spread'. The same structure is also used in sports spread betting.

Understanding the Spread

Understanding how spread bets work is key to finding success with your wagers.

To put it simply: the spread represents the bookmaker's prediction of the likely outcome for a given situation.

It's the bettors job to predict whether the result will be Over or Under the spread that the bookmakers provide, this can be for goals scored, corners taken, season performance and a whole host of other options.

What is a push?

Of course, if you predict the correct outcome you will win your bet, but there is also the possibility of something called a 'push'.

A "push" occurs when the final outcome of a game or event lands exactly on the point spread or total set by the bookmaker. When a push happens, neither the bettors nor the bookmaker win or lose the bet, and all the wagers are returned.

The point spread and total are typically set with half-point increments to avoid the possibility of a push. For example, if the point spread is set at -3.5 in favour of Team A, there cannot be a push since a game cannot end with a half-point difference. However, if the spread was set at -3, and Team A wins by exactly three points, it would result in a push.

Types of Spreads

Now we've got the basics down, there are many different types of bets that can come in the form of a spread, from winning margins to long term options, such as the win index.

Total Points (Over/Under)

Total points spread betting is one of the most straightforward and popular types of spread bets.

Bookmakers set a predicted total number of points, goals, or runs that they expect to be scored in a game. Bettors then have the option to wager on whether the actual total will be higher (Over) or lower (Under) than the bookmaker's prediction.

For example, in a basketball game, the bookmaker may set the total points spread at 210.5. If you believe the teams will score a combined total of 211 points or more, you would bet on the Over. Conversely, if you think the final score will be 210 points or less, you would bet on the Under.

The appeal of total points spread betting lies in its simplicity and flexibility, allowing bettors to engage with a game beyond just picking a winner or loser. Whether it's basketball, soccer, American football, or any other sport with points-scoring, total points spread betting offers an exciting way to participate in the action.

Handicap (Points Spreads)

A slightly more complex spread is Handicap Betting (otherwise known as the point spread), which predicts the margin of victory or loss between each team at the end of a game, and there is always an underdog and a favourite.

The favourite is listed with a 'negative spread', just like in American Odds.

For example, if the bookmakers expect the Boston Celtics to win quite easily, they could be listed with a larger point spread like -13.5 (the minus symbol signals that they are the favourites). This means that if you bet on the Celtics, they must win by 14 points or more for you to win your bet, but if they win by less than 14 points, or don't win at all, you lose the bet.

On the other hand, the underdog is listed with a positive point spread.

For example, if the bookmakers expect a close game but still predict the Miami Heat to lose, they'll list a small point spread margin at something like +4.5 (with the plus symbol signalling that the Heat are the underdogs). If you bet on Miami here, they must lose by no more than 4 points or win the game outright for you to win your bet. If they lose by 5 or more points, they

To break down an example very simply:

  • The spread is set at 7.5 points.

  • If you bet on the favourite and they win by 8 points or more, you win the bet.

  • If you bet on the underdog, if they lose by 7 points or less, or simply win the game, you win the bet.

An important term to understand is 'cover the spread' as it is regularly used in the sports betting world.

To "cover the spread" means that a team has beaten the point spread listed by a sportsbook. Each line has a favourite and an underdog, and if a bettor wagers that the favourite will win by more than the point spread, and they do (thereby covering the spread), then they'll win their bet.

Long Term Spread Betting: Win Index

A win index is a form of spread betting where the bookmaker assigns a point value to different outcomes of a season or series. It's more complex than just the win/lose aspect of totals or handicap betting.

This type of spread is much more similar to financial spreads as the points system allows bettors to buy or sell (bet over or under) based on their predictions. It's a way to measure a team's overall success over a certain time period, and the market will continually move throughout the season . This is because as they win or lose games, the sportsbooks prediction for their total points by the end of the season will change.

Stake Per Point:

Unlike most other sports bets, you don't wager a single amount, instead you wager a stake per point of price movement in the betting market.

The potential profits or losses you make will vary depending on what your stake per point is. The higher your stake per point, the higher your potential profits but your risk of losing money also increases.

For example:

If you buy Chelsea at 310 for £1 per point, and their win index moves up to 370, you will be £60 in profit. Whereas, if the market drops down to 250, you will be at a £60 loss.

If you sell Chelsea at 290 for £1 per point and their win index drops to 250, you will be £40 in profit. Whereas, if the market increases to 370 you will be at an £80 loss.

Most win index sportsbooks, like SpreadEx and Sporting Index, require you to hold the maximum potential loss amount in your account, in case the market drops to 0.

For the example above, you will therefore need to hold £300 in your account.

You can cash out in a loss or profit at any time, or you can let your bet ride until the end of the season.

Buy and Sell Price:

The win index will have a separate price for buying and selling the spread.

  • If you are predicting a final price over the sportsbooks expectations, you will buy the upper line.

  • If you are predicting a final price under the sportsbooks expectations, you will sell the lower line.

In essence, the buy and sell prices in sports spread betting are designed to provide a balanced market for the bookmaker and ensure they can manage their risk effectively. Index spread bettors pay no commission to the sportsbooks on their winnings, so the difference in the buy and sell prices ensure the bookmakers make a profit.

In an even market - one where the spread is calculated correctly - the bookmakers will always make a profit regardless of the result, because the losers will always lose slightly more than the winners win.

Also, if the result finishes in the middle of the spread - between the buy and sell price - the buyers end up with a buy line below the price they bought and the sellers end up with a sell line above the price they sold. Therefore, all the bettors lose and the bookmakers win.

An example:

In a soccer league, a bookmaker might assign 25 points for a win, 10 points for a draw, and 0 points for a loss.

Let's say the sportsbook predicts Chelsea to finish the season with 300 points, the 'Buy' line could be 310, while the 'Sell' line could be 290.

If you believe they will have a more successful season than the sportsbook is predicting, you would buy the spread at 310. If the team wins most of its early matches, the win index will move above 310 as their predicted success increases, and you can therefore sell it at a higher value for a profit. You can either cash in on your profits early as the market moves above your buy price, or you can wait if you think they will continue to succeed.

On the other hand, if you believe they will have a poor season, you can 'sell' their win index. This means that if they start losing games, causing their predicted points to drop, you will earn profit as the market falls.

Strategies for Success

As spread betting can be more complex than the standard moneyline wagers, it's crucial to

  • Research and Analysis: As with any form of betting, doing your research is essential. Study the teams or players involved, analyse their recent form, consider injuries or other relevant factors that could influence the outcome.

  • Start Small: If you're new to spread betting, it's wise to start with smaller stakes until you become more familiar with the process and gain confidence in your predictions.

  • Stay Informed: Keep up to date with the latest news and developments in the sports you're betting on, because a well-timed piece of information can make all the difference in your spread betting decisions.

Advantages and Disadvantages


  • Excitement: Sports spread betting adds an extra layer of excitement to watching games, as every point or goal can impact your bet.

  • Flexibility: Spread betting allows you to bet on a wide range of markets and outcomes beyond just the winner or loser of a game.

  • Potential for Big Wins: Correct predictions can lead to substantial profits, as your winnings are based on the accuracy of your bet.


  • High Risk: The potential for significant losses is inherent in spread betting, so it's not suitable for everyone, especially those with a low appetite for risk.

  • Complexity: Spread betting can be more complex than traditional betting, and it may take time to fully understand the process.

That concludes our beginner's guide to sports spread betting and as you can see, some markets are simple, while others can be quite confusing, so if you're still struggling to understand, here's a short video to help break things down a little more.