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A fixed odds bet with 2 outcomes, expressed as a spread bet.

Binary betting is a modern method of speculation that arose as an offshoot of spread betting and soon became popular with traders. It is an unusual and interesting hybrid between fixed odds and spread betting.


Why is a binary bet?

A binary bet is a bet that a specified event will occur. If the event happens the bet is settled at the quoted odds. If the event does not occur you loose your stake. With a binary bet there are only two possible outcomes and the maximum gain if you win and the potential loss if you loose is known at the time you place the bet. A binary bet is a "fixed odds" bet just like a bet on a horse race because the odds you get if the event happens are known at the time you place the bet.

However unlike classic "fixed odds" sporting bets, binary bets are tradable until expiry (like a spread bets) which gives you the option of taking profits early.

Binary bet prices are not based upon the underlying price of the instrument, but upon the odds of an event occurring.

In investment banking nomenclature binary bets are known as "digital" or "binary options".

How are the odds quoted?

Most binary betting providers quoted a continuous, fluctuating two-way price (bid and offer) quoted as numbers between 0 and 100, others provide individual quotes for bet placement and quotes for position sale. The trader can buy or sell at any point. This includes open positions which can be closed before expiry at their current value, allowing a trader to lock in profit or cut a loss. The greater the chance of the event occurring then the higher the quote will be and vice versa. A time element will obviously be included in the quote, so that if the event becomes so likely as to be almost certain (e.g. if the FTSE is 50 points up at 16:28 then the quote for it to close up might be 96-99 or 97-100 as the outcome is so likely as to be almost a certainty). This is similar to the time value of options.

In order to place a bet a trader simply buys or sells at the current quoted offer or bid price respectively. If the event does occur the bet is settled at 100.

Example 1: a single-strike binary bet

A single-strike binary bet allows you to bet that a market will close higher or lower than it's current price (or a strike price you specify).

Imagine a bid/offer price is quoted on the "S&P 500 Index to finish higher on the day" at say 81-85 (i.e. the bookmaker thinks the odds of this happening are quite high).

A trader who agrees with this view (perhaps it is late in the day and the S&P is up by a healthy percentage, so the chance of it ending down is small) could buy a certain number of pounds per point at 85. Let's say he buys £100 per point.

Bet: Index will close up. 85 x £100 per point.

Index closes up. Bet expires at 100. Profit is 15 x 100 = £1500
Index closes down. Bet expires at 0. Loss is 85 x 100 = £8500

The leading providers of single-strike binary betting are IG Index, Tradefair


Example 2: a double-strike binary bet

A double-strike binary bet allows you to bet that a market will close within a range of strike prices you specify allowing the trader greater control over the odds offered.

Imagine the the decimal odds quoted on the "S&P 500 Index to finish between 1003 and 1005" are 12 (i.e. the bookmaker thinks the odds of this happening are quite low).

A trader who agrees with this view could place a bet a these odds. Let's say he places a bet for £100.

Index closes between 1003 and 1005. Bet wins. Trader's profit is (12 - 1) x 100 = £1100
Index doesn't close between 1003 and 1005. Bet looses. Trader's loss is £100.

The leading provider of single-strike binary betting is CityOdds.

Key features

  • Binary bets are provided on a number of major indices, shares and currency crosses.
  • Stop losses and limit orders are also NOT generally available.
  • Binary betting markets are extremely fast moving. Prices are constantly changing and time is an extremely important factor. Some unique opportunities present themselves, particularly for the short-term trader. Prices are quoted right up to the expiry point of the position and it is therefore possible to make extremely large profits in a matter of minutes.
  • A wide variety of time frames provided, including hourly, daily, weekly and even yearly bets on some indices.
  • Binary betting is not regulated by the Financial Services Authority and this means that an account can be set-up, and funded, on-line in a matter of minutes without the need to sign the usual disclosures.
  • All binary bet events have the opposite position quoted. What this means is, as in our example above, if the S&P 500 was quoted at 81-85 to finish up then it would also be quoted as at 15-19 to finish down.
  • Quotes are generally provided directly by the bookmakers themselves.
  • There is also a binary betting interface available for decimal-odds betting exchanges such as Betfair - BinarySoft BDI

Example trading strategies

Fade sudden moves

The trading strategy is simple in its application. It looks for sudden sharp moves (high/lower) on the back of news (in almost any market) and then bets that the move will reverse.

For example, some fantastic economic news is announced which bids the FTSE 100 sharply higher. The quote that it will close higher bounds up to, say, 90-94, at which point we would bet that the move will not last and the market will head back down. The risk to reward ratio is good since we would risk 10 to potentially make 90 (multiplied by our stake).

Stock indices fit the bill perfectly because they have a habit of over-reacting, getting a lot of punters say buying only for this buying to dry up. Then selling pressure creates more pressure (after all if everyone has bought who is left to buy) and before long it’s a rout to get out. This is what the betting strategy tries to take advantage off, and the bonus is that the risk is often small with the payout large.

Related T2W Resources

Binaries Forum