So What Is Spread Betting?

Spread betting comes in the form of two distinct flavours – sports and financial. However, the principal of spread betting is the same regardless of the type of market or bet involved. Spread betting is both innovative and yet traditional also. It has taken the age-old philosophy of market trading and combined it with modern thinking towards sports betting and financial indices. Though the bets are very simple to understand the implications of the bets are often more complex. Some of the terminology also puts off the average punter. Here we will try and explain the main terms and phrases. Spread betting broke the mould of fixed-odds betting when it emerged on the betting scene in the early 90s. Prior to that it had been confined to a limited number of people involved in the financial markets. Spread betting took-off quickly as it provided the punter with the opportunity to bet both for or against a particular outcome in a sporting event. Like the betting exchanges, this created the possibility of betting on horses without having to find the winner.

How Does it Work?

The spread betting firm quotes a range on the future prospects of a share or index, or the predicted outcome of a sporting event (which is the area we will look at more closely). The investor or gambler can then decide as to whether they believe the spread price will be higher or lower than the range quoted. If this is making little sense please do not worry, spread betting is most easily explained through an example. For this example we will use football to avoid any complication. We can then proceed on to horse racing. The spread firm will make a prediction on a specific aspect of a sporting event such as how many goals will be scored in a football match or how many corners will be taken.

If we take how many corners in a football match as our example: the spread firm decide that there will be 10 to 11 corners in the game. If the punter believes there will be less he would ‘sell’ at 10. If the punter believes there will be more he would ‘buy’ at 11. In our example the punter believes there will be more than 11 corners so he ‘buys’ at 11, placing £5 per point. Being a member of Surewin he is a highly informed punter and is accurate in his assessment – there was a total of 16 corners in the game.

His returns are calculated by multiplying the stake by the difference between the spread and the punters prediction. So how much did he make? As he placed £5 per point and the difference between the spread firm’s quote (11) and the final total (16) was 5 the well informed punter has earned £5 x 5 = £25.

So from this example a few important points are made clear. With traditional betting you stake your money on the outcome of an event at fixed odds (eg 4/1). If your prediction is correct your stake is multiplied by the odds (eg £2 stake at 4/1 = (2 x 4) £8). If your prediction is incorrect you lose your stake. The odds are fixed in advance and you are either completely right or completely wrong.

Spread betting is different as you don’t have to predict the exact result and the odds are not fixed. You still have to make a sound prediction, but the key is to get your prediction on the right side of the ‘spread’ offered by the spread betting company.

Horse Race Spread Betting

Horse racing is easily the biggest sector in fixed odds bookmaking. While there is also a thriving spread world, horse racing is not quite as well suited to the spread format as football or golf. Compared with other sports, spread betting on horse racing is also slightly more complex. Although spread betting has brought about a revolution in the world of sports betting, for horse racing the impact has been less dramatic. The ascent of spread betting has resulted in an increase in choice for the horse race bettor but will not replace fixed odds betting.

Fixed odds betting and horse racing go together well and there will always be times when a straight win bet is the wise option. However, a sound understanding of spread betting is a valuable weapon in a punter’s armoury. Whether you bet for fun or for profit spread betting offers many opportunities. Perhaps the most important innovation spread betting has brought to the racing world is the fact that you can oppose a horse. Fixed odds betting offers no direct way to do this. Due to this development spread betting has brought about a dramatic shift in the way punters need to view horse race betting. This is also one reason why the approach of the Trainers4Courses publication works so well with this type of betting.

Fixed odds betting is also inferior in the sense that it operates on an all or nothing basis. Spread betting operates on a sliding scale of returns. The more right you are the more you win and visa versa. As a result smart punters win a lot of money whereas the ‘mug’ punter will lose heavily. Understanding spread betting also enables punters to isolate betting opportunities that are potentially more profitable.

A full series of markets on the two top race meetings are available from all spread companies on a daily basis. You will also find a couple of markets on the minor meetings. Summer evening cards are covered more thoroughly. Below we describe the more common horse racing spread betting markets. You will find that each spread betting firm will introduce additional markets, sometimes unique to them, especially for special sporting events. Rules for each market may vary between spread betting firms, especially for markets where points are allocated for specific events, so always ensure you fully understand the rules of a market before placing a bet.

Favourites Index

The spread gives an indication of how the favourites will perform in each race at a particular meeting. The points allocated may vary from one spread bet firm to another. For example:

Winning favourite = 25 points

Second place favourite = 10 points

Third place = 5 points

In the event of a race starting with joint favourites, we take the favourite as being the horse with the lower racecard number. In a six racing meeting the market may work something like this: The spread firm’s quote is 58-62. A spread firm may base this quote on the fact that in their estimate from a 6 race meeting two favourites will win and another will finish as a runner up. The other three will not be placed. Since 25 points are awarded for each of the two favourites, and 10 points are awarder for the runner up the total is 60 points. Consequently a spread of 58- 62 is appropriate for the spread firm’s estimated outcome.

Considering that this is a 6 race meeting your maximum liability is 150 points. How do we arrive at this figure? It is possible that the favourite wins all six races of the six race meeting. Because favourites are awarded 25 points the maximum make up can be 25 x 6 = 150 points. The minimum make up could also be zero if no favourites finish in the first three. One of the benefits of this market is that it is easy for a gambler to calculate his maximum liability and potential profit. Furthermore he does not have to consider every horse in a race like with double racecard numbers and instead concentrates on only a dozen or so horses. However this also has a disadvantage. As there is less to consider one has to be more accurate to gain an edge. Unfortunately it can often prove difficult to price up the market before the meeting because it may not be possible to know which horse will start as a favourite in all of the races. This causes considerable problems for the horse race bettor. Even the finest of all handicappers will not know when the favourites market is worth buying if they cannot predict which horse will start as favourite.

When dead heats occur points are halved, therefore in a situation whereby the favourite is in a tie for first and second place 17.5 points are awarded - 25pts (1st) + 10pts (2nd) = 35pts divided by 2 = 17.5pts.

In a situation were a favourite fails to come under starters orders the spread firms will award a set number of points depending upon the fixed odds price of the horse at the time of withdrawal. At evens or less 15 points are added, at 5/1 or greater five points are added and anywhere in between 10 points are awarded.

Now lets have a look at an example of a six race meeting. The Spread is 58- 62. These are the results….

• Race one 1st

• Race two 10th

• Race three 5th

• Race four 3rd

• Race five 2nd

• Race six 7th

As we can see from the six races we have a 1st, 2nd and a 3rd and the rest are unplaced. Therefore the favourites market for this meeting settles at 25 (1st) + 10 (2nd) + 5 (3rd) = 40 total make-up.

Remember the spread was 58-62 so if you had sold at 58 for £5 per point you would have won 18 x £5 = £90. Since the total make-up is 40 and you sold at 58 there is a difference of 18. You multiply this figure by your unit stake (£5), which gives a return of £90.

If you had bought at 62 for £5 per point you would have lost £110. From were do we obtain this figure. You bought at 62 and the total make up was 40, the difference being 22. You then multiply this figure by your unit stake of £5. You are left with a loss of £110.

Racing Post Favourites Index

This is based on the same principle as the Favourites Index but the favourites are those printed first in the betting section below each race card in the Racing Post.

Again, these horses are awarded points as in a similar manner to above.

Race Card Double Numbers

The make up is double the total race card number of the winners of each race in a meeting. So, for example, if horse number 6 wins the first race then 12 points are allocated.

Starting Prices (SPs) of Winning Horses

The aggregate sum of the starting prices of the winners at a race meeting. A maximum starting price is normally set, such as 50/1, even if a horse wins at a greater price.

Stop at a Winner

How many races on a card will elapse before a favourite wins? The make-up will usually be a multiple of the number of that race.

Winning Distances

The spread represents what the total winning margins will be at a meeting. A maximum winning distance will normally be set, for example, 15 lengths for a Flat Race and 30 lengths for a National Hunt Race. This also applies should only one horse complete the race. Distances under a length will be given fractions of a length:

e.g.

Short Head = 0.1 of a length

Head = 0.2 of a length

Neck = 0.3 of a length

Half a length = 0.5 of a length

3/4 of a length = 0.75 of a length

Jockey Index

The spread represents a "Jockey Performance", where selected jockeys are awarded points based upon their performance. The points allocated may vary from one spread bet firm to another.

1st = 25 points

2nd = 10 points

3rd = 5 points

Individual Race Index

A bet may be offered about the performance of horses in individual races, awarding points according to official finishing positions. The points allocated may vary from one spread bet firm to another. This market gives one an opportunity to back or oppose a horse, something which traditional fixed odds betting does not offer. The points structure will vary according to how many runners there are in a race.

For example:

For races with up to 12 runners:

1st = 50 points

2nd = 25 points

3rd = 10 points

Races with over 12 runners:

1st = 50 points

2nd = 30 points

3rd = 20 points

4th = 10 points

Match Bets

The distance between two nominated horses in a race at the finish. A maximum distance will normally be applied, for example, 12 lengths in a Flat race and 15 lengths in a National Hunt race.

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