The use of a "point spread" evens out the market towards an equal number of participants on each side of the wager. This allows a bookmaker to make a market by accepting wagers on both sides of the spread. The bookmaker charges a commission and acts as the counterparty for each participant. As long as the number of participants on each side is roughly equal, the bookmaker is unconcerned with the actual outcome; profits instead come from the commissions.
Spreads are frequently, though not always, specified in half-point fractions to eliminate the possibility of a tie, known as a push. In the event of a push, the game is considered no action, and no money is won or lost. However, this is not a desirable outcome for the sports book, as they are forced to refund every bet, and although both the book and its bettors will be even, if the cost of overhead is taken into account, the book has actually lost money by taking bets on the event. Sports books are generally permitted to state "ties win" or "ties lose" to avoid the necessity of refunding every bet.
A teaser is a bet that alters the spread in the gambler's favor by a predetermined margin, often six points— for example, if the line is 3.5 points and the bettor wants to place a teaser bet on the underdog, he takes 9.5 points instead; a teaser bet on the favorite would mean that the gambler takes 2.5 points instead of having to give the 3.5. In return for the additional points, the payout if the gambler wins is less than even money. At some establishments, the "reverse teaser" also exists, which alters the spread against the gambler, who gets paid at more than evens if the bet wins.
In the UK, these bets are sometimes called spread bets, but rather than a simple win/loss, the bet pays more or less depending on how far from the spread the final result is.
In North American sports betting many of these wagers would be classified as over-under (or, more commonly today, total) bets rather than spread bets. However, these are for one side or another of a total only, and do not increase the amount won or lost as the actual moves away from the bookmaker's prediction. Instead, over-under or total bets are handled much like point-spread bets on a team, with the usual 10/11 (4.55%) commission applied. Many Nevada sports books will allow these bets to be used in parlays, just like team point-spread bets, making it possible to bet, for instance, "the Packers and the over," and be paid if both the Packers "cover" the point spread and the total score is higher than the book's prediction. (Such parlays usually pay off at odds of 13:5 with no "vig," just as a standard two-team parlay would.)
In 2004 Cantor Fitzgerald launched the spread betting exchange Cantor Spreadfair, which matches up spread bettors opposing views and allows them to bet with each other. This removal of the faceless bookmaker allows clients to bet at the spread size and monetary level that they request, and in turn this creates a tighter spread margin, which in turn allows users to lose less and win more than with the non-exchange spread-betting firms.
The mathematical analysis of spreads and spread betting is a large and growing subject. For example, sports that have simple 1-point scoring systems (e.g., baseball, hockey, and soccer) may be analysed using Poisson and Skellam statistics.
Unlike fixed-odds betting, the amount won or lost can be unlimited as there is no single stake to limit any loss. However, it is usually possible to negotiate limits with the bookmaker:
In a falling stockmarket, financial spread betting can also be used by investors as a means of hedging against predicted losses in a portfolio of shares.
The leading spread-betting companies are IG Index, MF Global Spreads and CMC Markets.
For example, if I think the share price is going to go up, I might bet £10 a point (i.e., £10 per penny the shares moves) at 411p. We use the offer price since I am "buying" the share (betting on its increase). Note that my total loss (if LloydsTSB went to 0p) could be up to £4110, so this is as risky as buying 1000 of the shares normally.
Thus, in the example, if Lloyds TSB are trading at 411p, then for every day I keep the bet open I am charged [taking finance cost to be 7%] ((411p x 10) * 7% / 365 ) = £0.78821 (or 78.8p)
On top of this, the bettor needs an amount (AKA margin) in the spread-betting account to cover the bet. Usually this is either 5 or 10% of the total exposure you are taking on but can go up to 100% on illiquid stocks. In this case £4110 * 0.1 or 0.05 = £411.00 or £ 205.50
If at the end of the bet Lloyds TSB traded at 400-401p, I need to cover that £4110 - £400*10 (£4000) = £110 difference by putting extra deposit (or margin) into the account.
The bettor will usually receive all dividends and other corporate adjustments in the financing charge each night. For example, suppose Lloyds TSB goes ex-dividend with dividend of 23.5p. The bettor will receive that amount.
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