Sports betting is a very common form of gambling, both for serious gamblers and between friends who want to wager small amounts of the outcome of a game between their favorite teams. While professional gamblers or other big spenders might bet thousands of dollars on the outcome of a single game, many people simply enjoy putting a couple of dollars down to make themselves feel more invested in the outcome of the game.
These days, online betting sites will let you wager on just about anything. Whether it’s a popular sport like NFL Football, Soccer or basketball, or an obscure contest in a far away league, chances are that any major bookmaker will be able to give you wagering odds. And it’s not just individual games that bookmakers will allow you to wager on either; the outcomes of entire seasons or tournaments, the results of individual players, and even political and celebrity news is fair game!
Types of Sports Bets
There are several different kinds of bets that can be made at bookmakers, though not all kinds of bets are available in all sports. The most obvious bet is simply picking the winner of a match, but there is much more that can be bet on. Here’s a quick look at the most common types of wagers:
Money Line Bet
In a money line bet, you are simply predicting who will win a sporting event, with the odds being set by the bookmaker. Depending on the competitiveness of the contest, both sides might pay near even money on a win, or one team/player may offer much longer odds than the other.
Point Spread Bet
In order to offer close to even money bets on both sides of a contest even when one side is clearly superior to the other, a point spread bet might be used. In these bets, the favorite must win by more than a specified amount of points (or goals, runs, etc.) in order to win the bet, while the underdog can either win or lose by less than the specified amount.
More commonly known as prop bets, these are bets made on specific parts of an event, or on which of two totals might be greater. For instance, a bet on whether a specific player will score a goal would be considered a prop bet.
A parlay is a type of wager in which several different events are wagered on in a single bet. The gambler may win a large sum, but only if every bet in the parlay wins. For instance, a six-team parlay would need all six teams wagered on to win their bets in order for the bettor to win.
Teasers are equivalent to small parlays that utilize point spread bets. In a teaser, the bettor may bet on a handful of games, but receives a “teaser” spread – getting more points (or giving fewer) on each game to increase his odds of winning each bet. However, these bets also offer much lower odds than straight parlays.
Pleaser Teaser Bets and Sweetheart Teasers Bets
Futures bets are long term wagers that will not be settled based on a single event that is occurring in the near future. For instance, at the beginning of a season, bettors may make futures bets on the overall winner of a league. Bets will not be paid until the season ends, though – especially in the case of a team that is not favored to win the league – the payouts may be quite large.
Reading Sports Betting Odds
Before getting into betting a specific sport, though, you’ll need to understand the basics of sports betting odds. Depending on where you live and the preferences of your sportsbook, there are several different systems that might be used to express the odds in the game or event you want to bet on. The three most common are Decimal, Fractional, and American odds.
Please visit our sports betting odds conversion tool for more infortmation and help to figure this out, if you need it.
Decimal Sports Odds
Decimal odds express the total amount of money you’ll end up with should you win the bet. For instance, in a bet where you have wagered $1 for the chance to win $3 of the sportsbook’s money (meaning you would have a total of $4 if you won), decimal odds would express the odds of the bet as 4.00.
Decimal odds are most commonly used in continental Europe, Australia, and Canada.
Fractional Sports Odds
Fractional odds are probably the simplest to understand for novice gamblers. They simply express the ratio of money the sportsbook will be wagering compared to the money the gambler is wagering. For instance, for that same bet in which you would wager $1 to win $3, fractional odds would express the odds as 3/1.
Fractional odds are most commonly used in the United Kingdom.
American Sports Odds
American odds are a little tricky to use at first, but once you understand what you’re looking at, they’re as simple to use at the other methods. American odds tell the bettor how much they will win on a $100 bet, or how much they must bet to win $100. For a bet like the one we’ve talked about so far (betting $1 to win $3), the odds would be expressed as +300. If the bet instead required the gambler to wager $3 to win $1, the odds would be -300, since the gambler must now put up $300 to win $100.
Betting on Football (Soccer)
Football is the world’s most popular sports, so it’s no surprise to find that it’s also one of the most bet on sports in the world. Betting on a football match is quite simple, although there are several different ways to do so.
The most common wager in football is the money line wager. However, in football, you won’t just be allowed to bet on whether one team will win or lose; you can also predict a draw. That means that in a standard football bet, you will not push (get your money back) if you bet on a team and the game is a draw. Instead, you’ll have to get the result exactly right in order to avoid a loss.
Increasingly, a form of spread betting known as the Asian Handicap has become increasingly popular. The Asian Handicap removes draws from the equation, allowing players only to take one side or the other. This is done by putting the equivalent of a point spread on the match. When this point spread is expressed as a whole number, this leaves the possibility of a push. However, half-goal spreads are common, as are “quarter-goal” spreads, where 50% of your bet is settled on the whole number nearest to the quarter goal, and 50% is settled on the half-goal spread.
As an example, consider a game where your team is favored by 1.75 goals. If your team instead wins by 2 goals, you will win half of your bet (the half that is settled as a 1.5 goal spread), while pushing on the other half (the half that is settled as a 2.0 goal spread).
Over/under bets on the total number of goals in a soccer match are also common, as are prop bets on what individual players will do during a game.
Betting on American Football
In the United States, betting on American football dwarfs the wagering made on all other sports. This is especially true for the NFL; the Super Bowl may be the single game in world sports that receives the most betting action, with the possible exception of the World Cup final.
There are dozens of ways to bet on American football. However, the most common method is using point spreads. Money line bets are also common, as are parlays and over/under bets. Almost all bets in American football are very straightforward; if you understand how to read odds and the various kinds of bets we listed above, you’ll have no problem following along with American football wagering.
Betting on Basketball
Online Basketball betting has steadily gained in popularity around the world, which in turn has made it a common sport to bet on in many countries. Like American football, basketball bets are really all standard, with point spread betting being the most common. Over/under bets (also known as totals bets) are very common in basketball as well; this may owe to the fact that bettors feel they have a good chance to predict the approximate total of points scored based on the style of play used by both teams in a given game.
Again, there’s nothing particularly unique about basketball betting; for the most part, only the standard bet types we’ve listed above are utilized, and there is no special terminology you’ll need to learn in order to understand how to bet basketball. This makes basketball a particularly good choice for those new to sports betting.
Betting on Baseball
Baseball may dominate the American sports landscape during the summer months, but it gets relatively little action compared to football or basketball there. This is likely because the method for betting on baseball is slightly more complex than in those sports, which just use standard lines. It’s also true that even the best teams typically win less than 70% of their games during a baseball season, which may turn off casual gamblers who like to bet on “sure things.”
In baseball, you can simply bet on winners using the money line, similar to how you would do so in any other sport. However, you’ll also have the option to bet on the “run line.” This wager combines aspects of the money line and point spread bets in a way unique to baseball.
When betting the run line, one team will always be listed as the favorite, and will always be giving exactly 1.5 runs to the underdog team. Obviously, this line is not fair for every game, which means the odds on both sides will not necessarily be equal even after the run line is added. For instance, you may see a line that looks like this:
- New York Mets: +1.5 -120
- Philadelphia Phillies: -1.5 +110
In this game, a bet on the Mets would win if they lose by 1 run or win the game, and you would need to bet $120 in order to win $100 from the sportsbook. Conversely, a $100 bet on the Phillies would win if the Phillies win by at least 2 runs, and would pay $110.
Totals bets are also offered on baseball games, though they tend to be somewhat less popular than in the other sports we’ve talked about so far.
Betting on Cricket
In cricket, the bat and ball sport favored in most Commonwealth nations, most wagers are made on a money line basis in which the bettor must simply pick the winning side. However, it’s important to realize that Twenty20 and One Day International matches allow you to only bet on one side or the other to win (with a draw resulting in a push), while Test Matches include draws as a possible result, much like three-way betting in football. This means that if you pick a team to win a Test Match and the match ends in a draw, you will lose your bet.
Prop bets are common in cricket as well, usually focusing on the number of wickets a bowler will take, or how many runs they will allow.
Betting on Ice Hockey
Ice Hockey is one of the few sports popular both in North America and Europe, and you can easily bet on the NHL or any of the major European leagues. There are two common ways to bet on ice Hockey games: the money line and the puck line.
The money line works the same way as in other sports; the bookmaker will list odds for both sides on a game, and the bettor must choose the correct winner of a game in order to win. However, it’s important to remember that in European hockey, a draw will also be an option available for betting; this means that if you bet on a team to win and the game ends in a draw, you will lose a bet in Europe, while in North America, it will likely be a push.
The puck line works identically to the run line in baseball. The spread is always set to 1.5 goals, though the odds will sometimes favor one team over the other, since the 1.5 goal line will not be appropriate for every game.
Futures, totals and prop bets are also offered in hockey, though they don’t tend to receive much action. One exception is the “Grand Salami” bet, which sets and over/under total on the combined goals scored in all NHL games on a given day.
Betting on Tennis
The simplest way to bet on tennis is simply to wager on the outcome of a given match. This is done on a money line basis; you’ll only need to pick the winner of the match in order to win your bet at the odds offered by the bookmaker.
However, tennis does have a few unique bets as well. You can bet on individual sets, or on how many sets it will take for a player to win a match. There are also “games bets,” in which a point spread of sorts is offered on a match. In a games bet, you may see a line similar to the following:
- Roger Federer: -3.5 -150
- Andy Roddick: +3.5 +130
This would mean that for a bet on Federer to win, he would have to win at least 4 more games than Roddick throughout the match. If he won, a $150 bet would win $100. A bet on Roddick would win if Roddick won more games than Federer, or if Federer won three or fewer games more than Roddick; the Roddick bet pays $130 in winnings on a $100 bet. Keep in mind that these games bets do not take into account the overall outcome of a match; it is possible for Federer to win enough games to cover the games spread while losing the match overall, but this does not matter for games betting.
Betting on Golf
Considering how much gambling is done on golf courses between friends, it’s no surprise that golf also gets a lot of action at sportsbooks. Several different options are available for betting on golf.
The simplest way to bet is to simply pick the winner of an upcoming golf tournament. This is done in a money line fashion, typically with several of the best golfers in the field listed as betting options. In addition, there is usually a “field” bet that covers all golfers not listed on the board; betting the field results in a winning bet if any other golfer wins the event. Similarly, odds are sometimes given to bet on whether or not a golfer will finish in the top three positions in a tournament, or another similar high finish.
You can also make “head-to-head” bets in golf. In these bets, two golfers will be listed with a money line on each. The goal is simply to pick which golfer will finish higher in the tournament (or in some cases, which golfer will shoot a better score in the day’s round).
Betting on MMA and UFC Fights
Betting on mma fights is a fairly simple proposition; in most cases, you’ll simply be betting on which fighter will win the bout. Draws are also offered as an outcome to be bet on, which means that if you bet on a fighter and the fight ends in a draw, your bet will be lost.
More complex prop bets are also often available. These bets will typically require you to predict exactly how a fight will end (for instance, you may be able to predict that a specific fighter will win by knockout), or how many rounds a fight will list. As with betting on the winner, these bets are normally offered in money line fashion.