Attitude to risk

In almost every financial investment, trade or spread bet, you’ll need to be prepared to accept a certain degree of risk. 

In some cases, the possibility of a substantial loss may be high, although on the other hand there may be the potential for large gains. So before you open any position, it’s important to assess the level of risk involved and decide whether you feel comfortable.

A opportunity that excites one spread bettor might be considered too dangerous by another

Your perception of risk

We all have our own views and feelings about risk. For example, a spread bet on a new and undiscovered company’s stock might feel like an exciting opportunity to one person, while another would regard it as too dangerous and stressful. 

On the other hand, buying shares in a stable blue-chip company might seem like a secure choice to some people, while others could be put off by the long-term nature of the investment and the relatively low potential returns.

So an opportunity that appeals to somebody else may not necessarily be right for you, and vice versa.

How much should you risk?

Choosing how much to risk is very dependent on your personal circumstances. Some guidance will advise you not to risk more than 1% of your dealing capital (the total amount of money you can dedicate to spread betting) per bet, while other sources recommend up to 10%. 

If you choose to risk 10% or more per bet, bear in mind that any losses could have a huge effect on your overall capital and your ability to claw back the money lost. 


Say you have £10,000 of dealing capital and you’re unlucky enough to make a loss on 15 bets in a row. Below you can see the difference between risking 2%, 5% or 10% per bet:

With 2% risk per bet, even after 15 losses you’ve lost less than 25% of your capital. It’s conceivable that you can win this money back.

Line chart of a losing bet | Risk attitude |

However, with 5% risk, you lose over half your initial capital. You’d have to more than double this amount to get to your original level.

Line chart of a bet losing 5% of the starting capital | Risk attitude |

At 10% risk, things are even worse. You’re down over 75%, making it extremely difficult to recoup the money you’ve lost.

Line chart of a bet losing 10% of the starting capital | Risk attitude |

The reduction of capital after a series of losing bets is called a drawdown. It’s important to work out what percentage of drawdown would make it difficult to reach your spread betting goals, and then ensure your risk per bet is in line with this.

All spread bettors will be affected by a losing streak at some stage, but those who acknowledge this and plan their dealing accordingly are usually more successful in the long run.

Calculating risk vs reward

Risk vs reward is the ratio between the amount you risk on a bet and the potential gain

A certain level of potential reward may make you feel that a degree of risk is worth taking. And if you achieve the right ratio between risk and reward, it’s possible to be consistently profitable even when you’re losing more bets than you win.

To find the ratio on a particular bet, simply compare the amount of money you’re risking to the potential gain. You can work out these figures from the positions of your stops or limits and your expectations of the likely market movement. So if your maximum potential loss on the position is £200 and the maximum potential gain is £600, then the risk vs reward ratio is 1:3.


Let’s say you place ten bets with the risk vs reward ratio 1:3 and are successful on just three of those bets. Your profit and loss figures might look like this:

Profit/loss bar chart on several bets | Risk attitude |

Over ten bets you could have made £400, despite only being right 30% of the time.

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