How does Sports Betting Work?

by Big Al Staff

Thursday, Oct 15, 2020

How does sports betting work?

People have been gambling in one way or another since societies have formed.  You could say being a bettor is one of the oldest professions of humankind.  In this day and age, the sports betting business has turned into a multi-billion industry which blankets virtually every single country on the planet.  Millions of people across the globe visit their bookies, whether it's online or offline, to place their bets.  And the industry is set to grow even bigger with the legalization of gambling in the United States.

When you work with the right strategy, sports bettors can earn lots of cash.  But how does it work?  You came to the right place.  We'll teach you everything about sports betting there is to know.  From horse racing to vigorish -- all the terms and all the rules -- you need to be aware of to succeed as a sports bettor.

What is a sportsbook?

The hub of sports betting is the sportsbook.  You might have seen the word bookie, bet shop, betting site, or bookmaker pass by; it's all the same.  They indicate the business at which you can place bets on your favorite matchups.  Now, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of different sportsbooks.  Prior to the internet, you would have to visit one of the counters at grand casinos, bet shops, horse tracks or arenas to place a bet.  These days, you have hundreds of online sportsbooks that you can access without ever having to leave your home.

How to find the right sportsbook
As mentioned before, there is a huge variety when it comes to sportsbooks, both online and brick-and-mortar.  It might be hard to find your way in picking the right place for your bets.  The thing is, you should ask yourself what kind of bettor you want to become.  Do you want to bet every now and then for fun, or are you chasing a professional career as a sports bettor?  That might vary for some, but here are some general rules to determine whether a sportsbook is the right fit:

  • Does the bookmaker offer a nice sign-up or re-load bonus?
  • What are the wagering limits?
  • Does the bookmaker have easy methods to deposit and withdraw money?
  • Does the bookmaker offer competitive odds on parlays, teasers, and straight bets?
  • Is the bookmaker’s website satisfactory -- is it modern, and easy-to-use?

You should know that there is not a single bookie that has everything you are looking for.  BetAnySports is known for offering the best odds, as it has reduced juice (-105 odds rather than -110 odds).  But if you want the most modern website interface, then Bovada could be your choice.  One thing we can recommend is to keep an eye open for all the juicy bonuses and promotions.  Whenever an online sportsbook offers a lucrative promotion, don't hesitate to move your betting there to benefit straightaway!  And if that’s your #1 criterion, then consider joining BetNow or BetUS.

How to place bets

Now that you’ve found your sportsbook, made your first deposit, and are itching to place your first bet, you should be aware of a couple of things:

  1. Research:  You need to do a lot of research.  Before you place a bet, you should really feel confident that your bet will be successful.  The more you know, the better.
  2. Bankroll management:  When you are ready to place your bet, and you feel confident It will be a success, you should always be aware of the possibility of losing.  No matter how bad or good a team is, they can always have a day where things do not go as planned.  When you place a bet, never bet your entire bankroll but decide beforehand how much you will risk per individual bet.  This way, your losses will always stay in control.
  3. Betting lines:  Make sure you find the right betting odds.  There are thousands of places to bet, so make sure you find the place that offers the most competitive betting lines.  It might be hard to find at first, but once you find some trusted bookies, it'll start to feel like common sense.

These three factors will guide you in the right direction as a bettor.  The more you know, the better.  Never stop learning as a bettor.  And even when you think you have an edge against the house, there's always more to learn.

What are the most common bets?

Whether you're betting on college football or the NFL, there are a dozen different bets that you can make.  For every sport, there are slight differences, but for most sports, there are two teams that play against each other with the outcome based on the amount that each of the two teams score. This gives you the ability to make three bet types:

  1. Moneyline bet -- Pick the winning team
  2. Point spread bet -- Pick the winner with the point spread factored in
  3. Over/under bet -- Pick whether the final score will be over/under the set number of points

There are hundreds of other bets you could make.  These vary from betting on multiple matchups in the form of parlay bets to picking the winner of the entire NFL season, without any football games played yet in the form of a futures bet.  The more time you spend as a sports bettor, the more experienced you get, and the more you will start to experiment with these more advanced bets.

How do betting odds work?

Before we dive further into the way to place bets, you should be aware of the betting odds.  These are the numbers that relate to an outcome of a sporting event.  All over the world, there are different kinds of ways to display betting odds:

  • In England, the fractional odds are the most used.  These odds show with the use of a hyphen or a slash, that could look like this:  7/1 or 7-1.  This dates back to the early horse racing days as one of the most traditional ways to display odds.  So, if you bet on a horse which is 7-1, and it wins, then your profit would be 700 dollars on a 100 dollar wager.
  • In Europe, Canada, and New Zealand, the most common way to display odds is decimal odds.  The odds work in a formula which simply involves the multiplication of your stake.  So, if your odds are 5.44, then to arrive at your potential winnings, first multiply 5.44 times your stake, then subtract your stake, and that would equal your profit.
Now, since we are in the United States, we'll use the moneyline odds, also known as the American odds from now on.  

What are American odds?
You might have seen those giant tote boards at the casinos in Las Vegas where the odds continually change.  Among the odds listed on the tote boards are moneyline odds.  The American odds work using the plus (+) sign and the minus (-) sign.  The oddsmaker decides which team is the favorite and which team is the underdog for every single matchup.  The favorite holds the negative number, the minus sign, and the underdog holds the positive number, the plus sign.  To illustrate this, we can take the moneyline odds in an NFL match between Arizona Cardinals and the Los Angeles Rams:

  • Arizona Cardinals +245
  • Los Angeles Rams -333

In this matchup, the Cardinals are the underdog as they hold a positive number.  The Rams are the favorite as you can notice the negative number on their side.  With moneyline odds, you can see which team is favored to win, and you can also understand the probability of that event happening.  Always keep that in mind before making a bet.

How to place a moneyline bet
The moneyline bet is one of the easiest and most comforting bets you can make.  You simply pick which team ends up with the highest score at the end of the game -- thus which side wins.  It does not matter by how much your team wins -- so long as they win, you win.  Outside of horse racing, for example, there are generally two teams:  the favorite and the underdog.  This is best explained with an example.  Let's take an NBA match between the New York Knicks against the Detroit Pistons.  The odds could look like this:

  • New York Knicks -250
  • Detroit Pistons +200

In this example, the minus sign shows that the Knicks are the favorite while the Pistons (at +200) are the underdog.  To calculate your payout you can use these rules:

  • To win $100 on the New York Knicks, you need to stake $250.  If the Knicks end up winning, you profit $100 above your initial stake of $250.  Your total payout would be $350.
  • When you bet $100 on the Detroit Pistons, you profit $200 above your initial stake of $100.  Your total payout would be $300.

How to place an over/under bet
The next step in your sports betting adventure is the over/under bet.  In this bet, you predict the total points scored throughout the match.  The oddsmaker will set an aggregate number of points, and you have to predict whether both teams will collectively score over or under that amount.  To give you an example, we’ll take Super Bowl 54. The over/under at BookMaker sportsbook was set at 53 total points, and the odds looked like this:

  • Over: +104
  • Under: -126

In this example, the more probable (to win) bet is the under bet, which indicates that the oddsmaker expects the final score to be less than 53 points. The over bet is slightly less probable to win, and thus carries the plus sign. To calculate your payout, you can use these rules:

  • When you bet $100 on the over bet, and win, you profit $104 above your initial stake of $100. Your total payout would be $204.
  • To win $100 on the under bet you need to stake $126. If the final score is more than 53 points, you profit $100 above your initial stake of $126. Your total payout would be $226.

How to place a point spread bet
The point spread bet is a little more advanced.  Also known as spread betting, you bet on the difference of points between the two teams at the end of the match.  You place your money on which team will cover the spread -- thus which team will have the highest score after the set number of points (of the point spread) are added (or subtracted) to its actual score in the match.  Now, this might sound a little vague at first, but an example will paint a clear picture.  Let's take an NBA match between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets:

  • Los Angeles Lakers -13.5 +110
  • Brooklyn Nets +13.5 -137

In the matchup above, the Lakers are the favorite, and they would have to win by more than 13.5 points for your point spread bet to cash.  The Nets are the underdog, and all they need to do is make sure they either win the game outright or lose by 13 points or less to cash your point spread bet.  To see how big your payout can get, you can use the following rules:

  • When you bet $100 on the Lakers point spread bet, you profit $110 above your initial stake of $100 if they cover the spread.  Your total payout would be $210.
  • To win $100 on the Nets point spread bet, you need to stake $137.  If the Nets manage to cover the point spread, you profit $100 above your initial stake of $137.  Your total payout would be $237.

How to be successful at sports betting

With this guide, you have all the steps to take you from a novice bettor to a person who's ready to lay his hands on the betting stencils.  But, there's one question that might remain unanswered -- how to become a professional?  All we can say is that experience is essential here.  Through experience, you will learn what the best sports are, which sportsbook you should choose, and what types of bets work best for you.  You will fall, and it might seem hard at first, but with a proper strategy and the right mindset, you can achieve everything you could dream of.  Before you know it, you could just be living off your sports betting habits!

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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