Spread Betting: What is it and How Does it Work?

spread betting how does it work

What is Spread Betting and How Does it Work?

One of the most exciting methods of betting on sports is to look at gambling on the spread. This is an attractive method for punters because of the potential for huge returns – but this also means there are potential significant losses to receive. This is a trendy gambling method in the United States and has become increasingly popular among Aussies. So, what is spread betting, and how does it work? 

What’s Spread Betting in Sports

Spread betting is the opposite of traditional fixed odds outcome betting. Instead of betting on a game’s outcome, you are betting on a particular event or a specific outcome happening in the game.

These bets are either ‘above’ or ‘below’ the ‘spread’ that the bookie has set. Typically the types of spreads that you will see in sports like football/soccer, NFL, basketball, rugby, and Aussie rules include:

  • Total number of goals scored in football/soccer
  • Number of touchdowns scored in a game of NFL
  • Total number of free kicks or marks taken in an AFL rules match

There is a seemingly endless amount of possibilities but based on previous stats you can make a better prediction as to the outcome of the game. Websites such as the AFL.au are full of helpful stats you can use to your advantage.

How Does it Work?

So, spread betting doesn’t work like the traditional odds of say, bet $10 on team A to win at five to one. Instead, the spread (which is set by the bookie) is either bought or sold by the punter, depending on what they think will happen with the spread.

For example, if a game of soccer has the spread for goals at 1.8 – 2.2, this means the spread is either less than 1.8 goals being scored or more than 2.2 goals being scored. If you buy this spread, you bet on the higher happening (greater than 2.2 goals being scored). If you sell this bet, you bet on the lower amount of goals being scored (less than 1.8 goals).

This is very similar to the over/under, another form of sports betting where punters place straight odd bets on whether a team will score a particular amount of points. These are popular bets as even if your team loses, your bet can still hit if they lose a close game or reach the spread, etc. 

Often punters use these as supporting or hedging for their bets.

How Does Spread Betting Payouts Work?

Now, for spread betting, your payouts work based on units, rather than the straight-up odds. This is where those decimal point numbers come into play, like in our earlier example.

Depending on whether you buy or sell the bet, the payout will work on the following calculations:

When buying the spread

(result – buy price) times stake = win/loss

When selling the spread

(sell price – result) times stake = win/loss

So, how does it look in a real-life context? Using the earlier example, consider a situation where four goals were scored, another where three goals were scored, and finally, a case where only one goal is scored – all with a stake of $20.

  • If four goals were scored, the punter would win $36. 
    • This is 4 minus 2.2 = 1.8
    • 1.8 multiplied by $20 = $36
  • If three goals were scored, the punter would win $16.
    • This is 3 minus 2.2 = 0.8
    • 0.8 multiplied by $20 = $16
  • If one goal is scored, the punter will lose $24.
    • This is 1 minus 2.2 = -1.2
    • -1.2 multiplied by $20 = -$24

If you found this complicated initially, that is understandable. Once you’ve wrapped your head around a few scenarios, it is pretty familiar – get into the habit of thinking of the goals or whichever component as units.

Pros and Cons 

There are a few advantages to having a crack at this type of sports betting, especially if you can get the hang of it and understand a bit about the games, teams, and athletes you might be betting on.


  • Heaps of betting options
  • Ability to trade out or close on your positions (just like cashing out early)
  • Your wins have great potential to win big
  • An enjoyable way to add a technical aspect to sports gambling


  • Not all sportsbooks will offer spread betting, so you may experience fewer places available – online sportsbooks are your best bet (no pun intended)
  • Fewer opportunities for bonuses and rewards being offered by the sportsbook

If you found this useful let us know! you might like to find out about some of the most prolific sports betting people throughout. As always we wish you the best of luck with all these tips and don’t forget to check out our reviews for the most comprehensive and in-depth looks at all the best sportsbooks online.

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