How To Bet On Sports – For Beginners

Betting Guides: How To Bet On Sports

How Does Money Line Betting Work?

A Money Line bet is the most straightforward bet to understand for a novice bettor, as it is simply a straight bet to select the winner of any given game, irrespective of the score or margin of victory.

Positive American Odds

Odds which start with a positive (+) sign shows how much you can win for a single $100 bet. For example, American odds of +110 would win $110 for a $100 bet. (Total of $210 returned)

Negative American Odds

However, if the odds start with a negative (-) sign then this indicates how much you need to bet in order to make $100 profit. For example a wager on a team with American odds of -150 would require a $150 bet in order to win $100. (Total of $250 returned)

Beginners who are new to betting can get confused when trying to differentiate between Money Line and Point Spread or Moneyline and Run Line (a combination of the Point Spread and Moneyline in baseball) etc, but we will look at these later in this article.


Decimal Odds

In addition to American odds there are also other odds formats that are used outside the US.

Decimal odds are widely used in Europe, Africa, South America and Australia. They are very simple to understand in that they show you exactly what you will get for a 1 unit bet.

For example decimal odds of 4.00 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win the NFC Championship means that a $1 bet, if successful, would return $4.00 in total. For a $10 stake, you would receive 10 x 4.00 = $40.00, and so on.


What does “Juice” or “Vig” Mean in sports-betting?

Juice is otherwise known as “Vigorish” or “Vig” in US sports betting and is essentially the commission or amount of money the sports book in question receives for taking your bet. The higher the “juice” in any given bet, the worse it is for the customer. The lower the juice, the better!


What is Point Spread Betting?

Point Spread betting or Puck Line (hockey) or Run Line (baseball) betting is a theoretical margin of victory for the favorite player or team in a sports event set by the sportsbook. The idea for a spread bet is that it evens up the contest from a betting perspective where one team is expected to win, so making the betting odds on either team a potentially more attractive proposition.

With a Point Spread bet, your selection has to win by more than a specified score (or lose by less than a specified score) to cover the spread for your bet to win.


Point Spread Bet Examples

For example, in an NFL Point Spread, were you to select the New England Patriots -3.5 against the Los Angeles Rams, the Patriots must win the game by 4 points or more for your bet to win.

Were you to select the Los Angeles Rams +3.5, then the Rams must win the game or, if they lose, they must lose by 3 points or less for your bet to win.

If the score of the game ends in a difference of points that is equal to the Point Spread (which can only apply if the spread is a whole number, such as +3.0, +4.0, etc), then your selection will be marked as a void/push.

In baseball betting, the Run Line is set at 1.5. With a 1.5 Run Line the bettor will be able to place a wager on the favored team to win by two runs or more, or the underdog team to lose by one run or to win the game.


Totals Betting & Examples

Totals, or Over/Under betting, is when you have to determine the total number of combined points or goals scored in a game and whether it goes Over or Under the number set by the sportsbook (set at a number they deem to be the most likely for the game in question, so as to make the betting odds for either option as equal as possible). The outcome of this bet is irrespective of who wins or who loses the game in question.

For example, in an NBA basketball game, the sportsbook may have decided that the ‘Total Points’ scored in the game will be 215.5. If the bettor thinks there will be at least 216 points scored in the game, they would bet on the Over market. If the bettor thinks there will be less than 215 points in the game they would bet on the Under market.


Parlay Betting Explained

A parlay bet features more than one selection (two selections, three selections, etc) in which the winnings on one selection are then rolled onto the next. All the selections in the parlay must win for the bet to pay out.

The big attraction for bettors with a parlay is that it’s possible to win big for relatively small stakes, although the more selections and the bigger the odds you include in your parlay, the more difficult it is to win.

Parlay bets are not allowed in related events, so where the outcome of one selection in the parlay contributes is some form to the outcome of another, this will not be permitted.

A simple example of parlay bet would be $1 on a treble at odds of -110, -110 and +110 (-110 x -110 x +110 or in decimal betting terms 1.91 x 1.91 x 2.10) . In this instance, for a $1.00 bet, your return would be $7.65.


Prop Bets (or simply “Props”)

Prop bets or proposition bets are bets made on an outcome such as what color clothing will the individual selected to sing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl be wearing or if a certain film will win an Oscar.

Super Bowl prop bets are always hugely popular, with markets such as which player will score the first or last touchdown or who will win the MVP award.

There are other events not directly linked to the game itself that can be bet on too, such as, how many songs will be sung by the headline act at half-time to what color will the liquid be that is poured on the game winning Coach at the end of the game.

There are numerous possibilities that can be covered with a prop bet when it comes to major televised events.


What are Teasers

A Teaser bet is similar to a parlay bet, in that both are made by selecting two or more events to occur in a game. Like a parlay, each selection must win for the bet to pay out.

The main difference between a teaser and a traditional parlay bet is the flexibility to change the Point Spread and Totals Over/Under by between 4 and 10 points, depending on the sport and teaser. This makes a teaser bet easier to win, but it comes at the cost of reduced odds.

As an example, the Point Spread on the Baltimore Ravens might be -4.0 in their game, while the Buffalo Bills might be +6.0 in their game. If you put the pair together in a 7-point teaser bet, the ravens are now +3.0 and the Bills +13.0, so covering you in more outcomes.


What is Round Robin Betting

A Round Robin bet is a way to wager multiple parlays in a single bet. They make it easy for bettors to place parlays that consist of 3-8 lines and 2-6 teams. Bettors can cover their bases and wager all possible combinations by using a Round Robin and bet many parlays at once.

When making a round robin bet, you can pick anywhere from 3 to 8 teams to bet on. Following that, you select parlays from 2 to 6 teams.

For example, if you placed a three-team round robin bet on the LA Rams +4.5, the Green Bay Packers -3.5 and the Chicago Bears +6.0, Round Robin 1 would be Rams +4.5 and Packers -3.5; Round Robin 2 would be Rams +4.5 and Bears +6.0 and Round Robin 3 would be Packers -3.5 and Bears +6.0.


Odds Calculator and Converter

Odds calculator – explains how to convert and interpret odds – whether they are American odds, fractional or decimal.
Our lookup chart also shows you the implied win probability implied by the odds for any bet.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • At what age can you bet online in the USA?

    This will vary from state to state, but in general you must be at least 18-21.

  • Is it now possible to bet on sports in every state in the USA?

    No - sportsbetting is still restricted to certain states, but the list is growing fairly rapidly with more states added on an almost monthly basis. Keep up to date on the current status of legal sports betting in all 50 states in our USA legal sports betting tracker. In restricted states, gamblers generally do their gambling on sports on international or "offshore" betting sites.

  • Which sports can I bet on?

    All the popular national sports and tournaments – NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB – are available and a vast range of other sports across the world too.

Thomas Nielsen
Writer

A former computer programmer and a bit of a sports-data nerd, Tom covers UFC, NFL and MLB. When he's not writing about sports, he's usually playing poker or playing video-games.