When betting on sports with traditional bookmakers, we bet on whether or not something will happen. If a team will win a match, if there will be more or less than X number of runs scored, or if a player will take the most wickets for their side, for example. In each of these cases, we can only be right or wrong, and the returns on winning bets reflect this. We either win or lose a fixed amount of money depending on the yes/no outcome.

As an example, if we back a player to cover their run line in a cricket match, it does not matter whether they cover their line by one run or by one hundred, our returns will be the same. So if we think a batsman will score runs, and we bet £10 that they will cover the 23.5 line offered on them at odds on 1.90 we stand to make £9 profit if they score 24 or more, or lose £10 if they make 23 runs or fewer.

The returns and profit/loss for the two scenarios when backing an over 23.5 run line are clear to us when we place this bet.We will either make or lose a pre-determined amount of money from our bet.

But what if we wanted to make a better return on being right? This is where spread betting comes in.

What is Spread Betting?

Spread betting differs from the fixed odds betting model in that we buy or sell prices in a market where we think that the firm offering the price has got it wrong. To use the above example, a spread betting firm would have a sell price of 23 and a buy price of 24 for an equivalent run line of 23.5 and we would buy 24 runs, if we felt the batsman would score more than this, at a stake we determine. It is through the stake that we determine our risk, as the bet will be settled on the final score that the batsman makes. As an example, let's say we brought 24 runs at a £10, our maximum risk is -£240 (24 - 0 * £10) for every run the batsman scores we make £10 on top of our maximum risk, so if they got 10 we would lose £140, if they got 20 we would lose £40, etc. Where spread betting gets very profitable is when bets are settled a long way from the initial price. Say the batsman whose runs we brought at 24 scored a century and got out on exactly 100, in this case we would make £760, more than three times our maximum risk.

Why Spread Bet on Cricket?

Cricket is an excellent sport to bet on in general, but offers amazing opportunities when it comes to spread betting, particularly in-play. Where betting on goals in a football match, the market is likely to be settled within 3-4 goals of the price, with cricket, and run lines especially, there is scope for markets to settle a long way away from the initial price. Buying a batsman's runs, as in the above example, offers the opportunity to make huge profit from relatively little risk. If we brought a batsman's runs in a Test match at 24 for £10, and they go on to make 200, we land £1760 profit. It also offers the opportunity to profit if a batsman looks set, or looks like they are living on borrowed time, as we can get involved during their innings. The graph below shows the returns on buying 24 runs at a £10 stake, up to the batsman scoring 150, and these returns will continue in a straight line until the batsman gets out, as shown in the graph below.

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Spread betting firms offer a huge range of markets on all sorts of aspects of cricket matches, and it's well worth taking advantage of the demo accounts that most firms offer to get a feel for which markets suit you. Everyone will have slightly different reading of games, and consequently will fair better in different markets. As you develop your knowledge of cricket, your awareness of where your edge is will also develop. Spread betting enables us to take maximum advantage of these edges.

How Risky is Spread Betting?

As with all betting, spread betting carries risks. Unlike fixed odds betting, with spread betting the risk we take on can be undefined. For example, if we were to sell the same batsman's runs as discussed above we would know our maximum profit, since they can't score less than 0, but we don't know our maximum loss, as they could score any number of runs. This is where spread betting can lead to large losses, especially when we don't have a plan for closing bets, as shown by the red line in the chart below. Planning when to close out trades by buying at a larger price, means we can limit our losses to a maximum amount. For example, we have sold a batsman's runs at 23 for £10, expecting them to score very few. Without a plan, our potential returns look like the red line below, and can get very large very quickly. Let's say however, that we have planned to close the bet once the batsman has scored 23. Assuming that the buy price is 26 runs away from the current score, we will lose a maximum of £260 here, as shown by the blue line on the graph below.

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If we were to back under 23.5 runs for the same stake £260 with a fixed odds firm at 1.83, which is typically the where these markets are priced up, our potential return would be £215.80 if the batsman scored 23 or less, and -£260 if they scored 24 or more. With spread betting, if the batsman whose runs we sold at 23 scores 25, we would only lose £20, and so the more right we were about the batsman not scoring many runs, the smaller the loss we take.