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Spread betting differs from both fixed odds and matched betting in that the amount you can win or lose is dependent on the margin of victory/defeat. For each market, there are two options, either to “Buy” (aka “Go High”) or “Sell” (“Go Low”). In virtually all golf spread markets (the exception being the Finishing Positions market), when you fancy a golfer to do well, you buy at the higher price of the spread quote and when you think a player will perform poorly, you sell at the lower price of the quote.

For instance, Cory Pavin is lying 4th (two shots off the lead) at the halfway stage of the Buick Championship. You fancy him to go on to win so decide to back him (“Buy”) in the Tournament Index market where his quote with Sporting Index is 9 – 12. The Index awards point to the top 8 players on a 60 40 30 25 20 15 10 5 basis so a Pavin victory would pay out 48 (60 – 12) times your stake. Were Pavin to finish out the first 8 places you’d lose 12 (the “Buy” price) times your stake.

Just as with exchange betting, you can close your position early before the tournament finishes. Say, half way through the final round, Pavin is now 6 shots behind but has slipped to 8th position and his quote is 4 – 7. You fear Pavin falling further down the leaderboard and off the index altogether so decide to cut your losses by selling in-running at 4 for a loss of 8 (12 – 4) points.

So that’s spread betting in a nutshell. As you can see the more right you are, the more you win. Conversely, the more wrong you are, the greater your losses. Bear in mind though that you can close out your position early to limit your losses if you see the result going against you.

Unlike fixed odds or exchange betting, your potential losses are not limited to your initial stake so you must be aware before you bet of your potential maximum loss. You will also need to deposit your maximum potential loss with the spread firm. Spread betting is highly volatile and not for everyone but offers excellent profit opportunities if you get it right.

So who can you bet with? The major players in spread betting are Sporting index, BetHiLo, SportSpread, Spreadex and Spread Fair. Unlike the betting exchanges, the spread firms don’t charge commission as they make their money via the spread itself, the difference between the price you can buy and sell at. The only exception to this is the recently launched Spreadfair (a division of Cantor Sports) – the first-ever spread betting exchange and thus a commission is charged on all winning bets, just like other exchanges.

I would highly recommend you open accounts with all of them because you can then take advantage of different spread quotes amongst the various firms to maximize your profits. If you limit yourself to just one account then you’re restricted to taking their spread quote when you want to bet or close out a position. For example, say Sporting Index offers a spread of 12 – 15 on a player and IG Sport offer the same player at 13 – 16, then your effective spread is 13 – 15, saving you a point.

On rare occasions, there may also be opportunities to arb where for example one firm offers a spread quote of 42 – 44 and another 45 – 47. This would allow you to buy at 44 and sell immediately at 45 for an instant profit, though you’d need to be very quick because these differences in quotes don’t last long!

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