Sports Betting 101: Guide to spread betting

Sports Betting 101: Guide to spread betting

Win or lose, that’s how we play the game! Um… that is how we play, right?

The term ‘sports betting’ seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? You want to place a bet on sports and hope you win. But the word ‘sports’ itself covers an entire world of activity, from one-person luge to virtual football, games, matches, races and competitions that take place on land, in the air, in, on or under the water and even in a completely virtual world. Just like there’s no one way to describe sports, there is no single way to place bets on those games. It’s hardly ever as simple as who wins and who loses, and spread betting is one way to account for all this variability, particularly in team sports.

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Well, no. No story goes, “Once upon a time, everything was simple, everything was the same, and everyone was happy. The end.”

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Team sports rarely operate in a vacuum. There’s always a tournament, series, or cup of some kind, and even before sports betting gets involved, calculating winners isn’t always just about who wins or loses. Tie-breakers, tournament points and other factors can influence the outcome of games and contests, so naturally this influences sports betting as well.

Spread betting is a method that seeks to level the playing field, in a way. It not only takes into account the probability of win or loss but also looks at how well each team is expected to perform in each match, against other competitors. So, for example, Team A might be expected to win, but spread betting would want to know by how much. If the spread expects them to win by five points and they only win by two, the person betting is going to lose.

In each game or match, you will have a favourite and an underdog. The favourite is expected to win; the underdog is expected to lose. Next, the bookmakers will calculate what the likely points spread is – in other words, by how much the favourite is expected to win and by how much the underdog is expected to lose.

For example, if Team A is the favourite, and the spread is expected to be 5 points, the spread odds will be indicated like this:

Team A -5 (+115)

Team B +5 (-115)

Note that the favourite is indicated by the negative number and the underdog by the positive number. In this match, betting against the spread on Team A to win will mean that, if Team A wins by fewer than 5 points, or if Team B wins, you lose your wager.

The numbers in brackets next to the spread indicate how much you need to bet to win R100 in the case of Team A, or how much you will win by betting R100 in the case of Team B.


Spread betting is used across a wide range of sports and is most often referred to as such, but you might see it referred to by a different name, usually line or goal line, or points spread.

Spread betting can get pretty complex, especially when you get into sports like horse racing, or big tournaments with multiple teams and match-ups. It can get especially complicated when betting on a mixed-sports or athletic tournament, because each sport will have its own formulas and calculations going into its odds. Your strategies are going to vary depending on the type of sport you’re betting on.

 Your best bet is to familiarise yourself with the specifics of the sport you’re interested in and get to know how it works. That doesn’t mean you have to only ever bet on one type of sport, but, particularly for newcomers to sports betting, we recommend taking a one-at-a-time approach. You don’t need to launch straight into horse racing, fantasy football and e-sports spread betting all at once.

The world of sports betting is huge and complex – and potentially rewarding for betters! To learn more about the basics, check out the other articles in our Sports Betting 101 series.