Sports Betting 101: Rookie’s Guide

3 min read

Betting on sports is easier now than it has ever been. You don’t even have to leave the couch to participate, and you can bet on almost any game as it happens if you want to. It can be a fun way to get invested in sports, and it can even be profitable if you’re smart about it. Perhaps you’ve thought about sports betting but don’t know enough about it to get started. Or maybe you’ve bet on sports before, but just want a refresher and some tips. Either way, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading to learn more about sports gambling and some tips to get started!

Before you do anything, you should first understand the basics of how sports betting works. You need to know the correct terminology, the different types of bets, and the math behind it.

Moneyline Bets

A moneyline bet, win bet, or straight bet is the most common type of wager. It is essentially betting directly on the outcome of the game, with a variable return. We’ll use a hypothetical football game as an example for this. Imagine the Oakland Raiders are playing the Kansas City Chiefs, and the line for the game is as follows:

Oakland Raiders (+150)

Kansas City Chiefs (-180)

Plus (+) lines and minus (–) lines work differently. Typically, a plus line is the underdog and a minus line is the favorite. In this example, the Oakland Raiders are +150, which means that if you bet $100 on the Raiders, you win $150 in profit. On the other hand, the Kansas City Chiefs are -180, which means you need to bet $180 to win $100 in profit. Plus and minus bets are opposite in this regard. If you were to bet $100 on the Raiders, you win $150. If you were to bet $100 on the Chiefs, you only win $55.55. This is done to even the playing field and balance the risk/return ratio. It takes more to win less when you bet on the favorites, and it takes less to win more when you bet on the underdogs.

To help calculate betting lines for any wager, here are some formulas using the same football game as above:

Positive lines (+): 

Line ➗ 100 ✖ Wager = Profit

150 ➗ 100 ✖ $100 = $150

This $150 is added to your original wager of $100 for a total return of $250

Negative lines (–):

100 ➗ |Line| ✖ Wager = Profit

100 ➗ 180 ✖ $100 = $55.55

This $55.55 is added to your original wager of $100 for a total return of $155.55

Over/Under Bets

An over/under, O/U, or totals bet is a wager on whether the total number of points (runs, goals, etc.) is over or under a particular number. It doesn’t matter who wins at all, it’s only about the total points. For example, if the over/under for a football game is 50 and you were to bet on the over, you win if the total amount of points scored between both teams is over 50. It works the same way for the under, winning if the total is below 50. Lines for these bets look similar to moneylines. Usually the over/under will adjust so the lines, and payouts, are relatively even on both sides.

Point Spread Bets

Point spread wagers work differently than moneyline or over/under bets. Instead of picking a team to win, you pick how much a team will win or lose by. For example, imagine the Los Angeles Lakers are playing the Milwaukee Bucks and the spread for the game is:

Los Angeles Lakers -5 (-110)

Milwaukee Bucks +5 (-110)

In this contest, the sportsbook expects the Lakers to win by 5 points. If you bet on the Lakers spread at -5, you win the bet if the Lakers win the game by more than 5 points. If you bet on the Bucks spread at +5, you win the bet as long as the Bucks don’t lose by more than 5. So if the final score of the game is Lakers 114 @ Bucks 110, the Bucks spread still wins because they didn’t lose by more than 5 points. 

Another way of looking at this is by adding the spread to the final score. For example, let’s say you bet on the Bucks spread at +5 and the final score is Lakers 114 @ Bucks 110. Simply add 5 points to the Bucks total, making it Lakers 114 @ Bucks 115. The Bucks pick wins the bet here. It also works the other way around by subtracting the Lakers spread from the total. If you bet on the Lakers spread at -5, subtract 5 from the total, making it Lakers 109 @ Bucks 110. The Lakers pick loses the bet.

Prop Bets

A prop bet, proposition bet, or special is possibly the most fun kind of wager there is. A prop bet is a wager on something in a game that is unrelated to the outcome of the entire game. This includes all wagers on player performance, timing of events, team stats, etc. Here are a few examples of what prop bets look like:

The first player to score a touchdown will be Alvin Kamara (+750)

Fight between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. will go the distance (+105)

James Harden OVER 3.5 3 pointers made (-120)

Both teams to score a goal (-182)

Parlay Bets

A parlay bet, or accumulator bet, is a wager on multiple outcomes. To win, each of the selections in the parlay must win. It yields a high profit if you win, but it’s much riskier because every pick must hit. An example of a parlay on two separate NFL games would look like this:

Green Bay Packers -8 Point Spread (-110)

Seattle Seahawks Moneyline (-275)

2 Team Parlay (+162)

In this scenario, there is a 2 team parlay with two different teams and bet types. Combined, the line is much more favorable than each of them are individually.

Futures Bets

A futures bet, or outright bet, is a wager on a future outcome of a tournament or award. You can bet on which team will win the World Series long before it happens, who will win the MVP award, division winners, etc. The odds are low for most futures bets to land, but the payout is hefty.

Where Can I Bet?

There are many different ways you can bet on sports, but the easiest by far is with a sportsbook mobile app. There are multiple trusted sportsbooks to choose from, and most of them offer some sort of sign up bonus. Mobile sportsbook apps aren’t available everywhere, but depending on the state you live in here are a few options:

DraftKings Sportsbook (Available in, NJ, IN, PA, WV, CO, IA, IL, TN, and NH)

FanDuel Sportsbook (Available in, NJ, IN, PA, WV, CO, IA, IL, and TN)

PointsBet (Available in NJ, IN, CO, IA, and IL)

FOX Bet (Available in NJ, PA, and CO)

Tips To Get Started

Only bet money you are willing to lose. Gambling can be profitable, but it can also be a very risky activity. If you aren’t careful, you could find yourself in a hole fast. The first step to avoiding this is to only put in what you are comfortable losing without putting yourself in a bad financial situation.

Make small bets. Gambling is risky, so don’t risk everything you have on a few wagers. Spread it out so your losses don’t kill you.

Do your research. This is one of the most important tips for being profitable in the long run. You might be a really big sports fan and understand the game, but you can lose a lot of bets if you don’t do your research. It’s important to know how each team and player matches up against each other. Knowing about the key positions by sport and how a team performs in each area can help you win more often. You can’t predict everything with research, but you can get a good idea of which way to go or bets to avoid.

Check different sportsbooks for better lines. Sometimes the odds are better at a different book, so if you look around you could get a more favorable line.

Keep an eye out for promotions. Sportsbooks will offer promotions all the time for various events and you can get some sweet deals and odds boosts. Sometimes a sportsbook will offer free bets, profit boosts, parlay insurance, among other offers.

Don’t get overconfident. This is one of the biggest mistakes gamblers make. You don’t want to let your confidence or short term success affect your decision making negatively.

Stay away from betting on your favorite team. You don’t want personal emotions and attachment to cloud your judgement when you make a bet, so it’s best to avoid betting on your favorite team unless you are extremely confident. Also, if you bet on your favorite team and they lose, you lose twice.

I hope this guide helped you to understand a little more about how sports betting works and how to play smart. It can be a lot of fun to bet on your favorite sports if you are safe with how you wager your money. 

Thank you for reading and let us know if you have any questions or comments below!

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