What is a Straight Bet?

by Big Al Staff

What is a straight bet?

Ever since people have been playing sports, people have been wagering. The first bets were all innocent, gentlemen’s agreements, with nothing extreme on the line -- nothing more than pride.  Slowly but steadily, though, the entire sports betting industry started to shape itself.  Now, with sporting events prominent across the world, the betting industry has greatly expanded.  These days, we're looking at a multi-billion dollar global industry.

There are thousands of professional sports bettors who make their living from wagering on sports.  As a novice bettor, that might sound like a dream and hard to imagine, but it's possible.  With the right technique and strategy, any person can develop a sustainable sports betting career.

In this article, we'll tackle the very basics of sports betting:  straight bets.  These are the types of bets in which you bet on an event in a single game, nothing more, nothing less.  Now, these might seem like simple bets, but a thorough understanding of the concept is required to get you started the right way in your sports betting career.

What kind of straight bets are there?

In any matchup where straight wagers are available, disregarding the specific sport, there are two teams or players facing each other. The goal of the opposing sides is to win the game outscoring the opponent.  This can be done in various ways as every sport is different, but the basics come down to the same.  Thus, there are three kinds of straight bets that are popular across sports, like football and basketball.  The type of straight bets are:

  • Moneyline
  • Point spread
  • Over/under

These bets are usually available for any game in the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, or any other major sports league you might want to wager on.  The sport has to have incremental scoring though, not like horse racing where there's only winners or losers.  It's essential to understand the basics of each bet properly before you begin wagering.

What is moneyline betting?
The moneyline bet is the easiest, and probably the oldest bet, that's around.  With this bet, you simply pick which team you think will win the game.  If you choose the right winner, the sportsbook will pay you, that's how simple it is.  Now, the payout for moneyline bets is a bit different and harder to grasp than the concept of the bet.  Each bookmaker picks a favorite and an underdog.  The favored team takes a minus sign (-), while the underdog takes the plus sign (+).  To properly understand, let's have a look at a possible matchup in the NBA:

  • ​Toronto Raptors vs. Golden State Warriors

The bookmaker might install the Raptors as the underdog and the Warriors as the favorite.  This is shown in the odds that might look something like this:

  • Toronto Raptors +210
  • Golden State Warriors -250

Just by looking at the odds, you can tell which team has a greater probability to win the game and which team will likely lose.  Most sportsbooks use American odds.  To calculate your payout, you have to consider an initial stake of 100 dollars.  To put that into practice, you could have two different outcomes:

  • You wager on the Raptors on the moneyline, and they win.  You win $210 if you wager $100.  Together, with your initial stake of $100, your total payout would be $310.
  • You wager on the Warriors on the moneyline, and they win. You win $40 if you wager $100.  Together, with your initial stake of $100, your total payout would be $140.  (If you wanted to profit $100, you would have to initially wager $250.)

What is point spread betting?
The point spread bet takes your handicapping up a notch.  You have to go a little further than merely predicting which team wins the game.  With a point spread bet, you are wagering on the scoring differential at the end of the game.  You pick which team is most likely to cover the spread.  This is best explained by illustrating it with an example.  To do so, let's imagine an NFL matchup between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams.  The bookmaker does its analysis and comes up with the following betting lines:

  • New England Patriots +13.5
  • Los Angeles Rams -13.5

Similar to the moneyline bet, the bookmaker decides which team is the favorite and which team is the underdog.  You can tell by the plus sign and minus sign alongside the team's name.  The numbers next to the plus and minus signs show how many points a team will have added or subtracted to its final score.  That means if the Patriots want to cover the spread, they need to make sure not to lose the game by more than 13.5 points.  The Rams, on the other hand, would cover the spread if they won by more than 13.5 points.  The exact margin of victory doesn't matter, so long as the spread of 13.5 is covered.

The payout on a point spread bet is usually not that hard to calculate.  Typically, the odds for both sides are -110, which gives you a simple rule to live by:

  • With an initial stake of $110, you win $100. Your total payout would be $210.

Now, some sportsbooks -- like BetAnySports -- offer reduced juice.  For example, if you bet at BetAnySports, then your odds would be -105, rather than -110.  Sharp bettors understand just how valuable reduced juice is, as you save money on every losing wager.  If you’re looking to bet at another sportsbook, then your best move would be to join BetAnySports.

Finally, there's only one outcome in a game which creates a situation where the sportsbook has to pay back the bettors.  And that’s when neither team covers the spread.  It results in a push, and all bettors get their stake returned by the sportsbook.  Of course, the easiest way for a sportsbook to avoid a push is to publish a point spread that’s not a whole number (e.g., +/- 6.5).

What is over/under betting?
The last straight wager is the over/under bet, also referred to as a totals bet.  The oddsmakers will post a total, which represents a projection of the combined score of both teams.  Bettors then base their predictions on that aggregate number.  You predict that it will be over or under the set number of points given by the bookmaker.  The betting lines could look something like this for a typical NBA match between the Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Lakers.

  • Over/under:  210 points

The betting line is 210 points, regardless of which team is installed as the favorite or underdog.  The bettor picks whether the final combined score will be over or under 210 points at the end of the game.  Similar to the point spread bet, a push would be possible unless the over/under line was not a whole number.

The standard betting odds for an over/under bet are also -110, similar to a point spread bet. That gives us the same rules where you profit $100 when wagering $110.

What other types of bets are there?

The moneyline bet, point spread bet, and over/under bet are the very basics of sports betting.  But if you're experienced in sports betting, you are probably aware of the dozens of other opportunities in terms of wagering.  The moment you're familiar with these bets, you can start looking into more complex bets.  To give you a little grasp of possible wagers you could make, we want to share a few terms with a really short description:

  • Parlay:  betting on the outcome of events for multiple games
  • Teaser bets:  an adjusted form of point spread betting
  • Proposition bets (“Prop” bets):  betting on the outcome of events within a game -- i.e., the team to score the first touchdown
  • Futures bets:  betting on the outcome of an event in the future -- i.e., the winner of the Super Bowl

Note that there are countless other betting possibilities that can be considered as side bets from the main bets.  The main bets remain the straight wagers that are still the most popular among sports bettors.  On our site, you can find details about every single betting possibility there is.  Simply dive into our articles section or use the search function to get familiar with everything sports betting has to offer.

How to use straight bets in your sports betting strategy

When you start betting on sports, you have to form a strategy.  Without a proper plan, you'll be at risk for losing your bankroll.  We want to give you everything you need to extend your sports betting career as far as possible, and eventually give you the possibility to make a living off of wagering.  The following tips will steer you in the right direction and give you the material to form a proper betting strategy.

Manage your bankroll
When you start betting, the first decision you must make is how much money overall you want to put at risk.  That is referred to as your sports betting bankroll.  The golden rule here is don't put at risk more than you're comfortable losing.  But, besides having the ability to lose money, you have to decide how much to wager on each bet, which is generally a smaller percentage of your overall bankroll.  When you start with a bankroll of $1000, for example, you could go with small wagers of $55 or $110.  That way, when you lose a bet here and there, it does not hurt that much, and you have enough runway to keep betting for a long time.

Consider the sportsbooks' edge
The ones who usually make the most money from sports betting are the sportsbooks, themselves.  And that’s because of the fee you pay a sportsbook on each wager.  It's often called the vigorish (or vig) or juice.  The vigorish is determined by the odds you see when placing your bet.  Now, always make sure the bet is worth the risk you're taking, and you're not just paying unnecessary fees.

Besides that, you also have to make sure you're working with the right sportsbook.  Whether you like visiting an actual brick-and-mortar sportsbook or prefer the online sportsbook route, there are always alternatives.  Don't settle for the first one you find, but do some proper research to see which bookmaker offers the best odds and most lucrative betting possibilities.  Our current #1-rated sportsbook is BetAnySports, primarily because it offers reduced juice.  Instead of laying -110, you can lay -105 on football and basketball games.  If you are a $500 bettor, for example, you’ll save thousands of dollars in juice every football season by laying -105 rather than -110, so it’s well worth joining BetAnySports.  

Dive into the statistics
The most important advice we can give anyone who is into sports betting is this:  do your research.  As with any industry where money is involved, there are experts who know all it takes to be profitable.  You can follow other people's research or base your decisions on your own analysis.  Dive into the numbers:  see what the teams did in the past and how they are currently performing.  It's not the most fun part as there's no action involved, but it does bring you the knowledge to make thoughtful decisions.  Are you ready to place your first wager?  If you’ve done your research, you’ll be in great shape!

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

© 2022 Al McMordie's BigAl.com. All Rights Reserved.