Sports Betting Basics – All You Need to Know to Bet like a Pro

Even if you have never placed a sports wager in your life, by the end of this article, you will be able to understand and place the most common bets which make up the vast majority of sportsbook wagering.

There is no difference between sports betting in a brick-and-mortar sportsbook versus the virtual version, and that means that the main bets are going to be the same online and off. The types of bets and wagering structures are also typically universal among USA online sportsbooks and UK sports betting sites.

The most popular bets are on the outcome of a sports contest, and are called point spread bets and moneyline bets. The next most popular would be placing a total bet on the combined score of two teams playing against each other, and you will also find parlays, teasers, futures and proposition bets. These seven types of bets are all you will generally ever make, and let's look at a typical betting line before we get started.

Typical Betting Line
373 Texans +160 +7.5 Over 46
374 Broncos -180 -7.5 Under 46

Though there doesn't look like there is a lot to work with, there is a lot of information available here. If you wanted to make a Point Spread bet, the Denver Broncos are favored by 7.5 points over the Houston Texans. You could place a spread bet by making a wager on Houston to win, and you would get 7.5 points added to that team's score at the end of the game. If you bet on Denver, you will have 7.5 points removed from that team's score at the end of the game. After this point spread adjustment, you either win or lose according to the adjusted point total. That is point spread betting.

Moneyline Bets

The Moneyline bet referenced above concerns the first set of numbers. If you placed a $100 wager on Houston to win and that team beat Denver outright, with no point spread adjustment, since they are far away the inferior team in this matchup you would receive $260. This is your $100 wager in addition to the +160 shown above. You could also make a money line bet on Denver to win outright, again with no point spread adjustment, but you would have to wager $180 to win $100, laying nearly 2 to 1 odds because the Broncos are the better team and you have chosen them without any point spread adjustment. (Tip: A minus sign (-) indicates the moneyline favorite, with a plus sign (+) applying to the underdog.)

Straight Over/Under Total Points Bets

If you are unsure about the point spread and Moneyline options, you can also place a straight Over/Under Total points bet. If you look above you see "over 46" and "under 46", and this refers to the number of total points that you think both teams will score added together. If you believe that Denver and Houston will combine for fewer than 46 points, you bet the under. If you are certain that a lot more than 46 points will be scored during the course of the game, you bet the over. You do not have to indicate who you think will win the contest, and are simply betting on total points scored between the two teams.

Parlay Bets

Parlay bets allow you to pick several games which appeal to you, and bet them all in a group for a much larger payout. For instance, you could place three spread bets on different contests as a single parlay bet, and if you hit all of those three bets correctly, you get a substantially larger payout than simply placing a spread bet on one team or contest. However, in a three team parlay like we just discussed, if even one of those games loses, you lose your entire bet. A Teaser bet is a particular type of parlay bet in which you can move the point spread on each of your contests in one direction or another, laying or receiving points depending on how many team's point totals you would like to "tease". However, since this makes matchups more favorable, you receive lower odds.

Futures Bets

Futures bets are self-explanatory, allowing you to place a wager on some sporting event, game or contest at a distant date off in the future. Particular favorites here are betting on World Series and March Madness NCAA basketball winners for the upcoming year. And Proposition bets are simply that. You are proposing that a certain outcome will happen inside a particular game. These are frequently offered during the Super Bowl, where you can place a wager on who you think will score first, if a particular player's tackle total will be over or under another player's reception total, and so on and so on.

Betting Fees Explained

Before you place your first wager, you should understand that most sportsbooks both online and off charge a 10% vig or juice betting fee. You are always betting $11 to win $10, $110 to win $100 and so forth. This is why sportsbooks would prefer to get equal action on both sides of a bet. If $110 (a $100 bet +10% vigorish) is bet on one team, and $110 on its opponent, the winning bettors would win their original $110 wagered plus $100 from the losing side, to show a profit of $100. The losing bettor loses his $110, with the house or sportsbook claiming the $10 vig. If a sportsbook continually gets even money on both sides of the bet, they have no risk of losing, and end up with the loser's 10% vig profit every time.

Check out our article on sportsbooks offering reduced juice betting lines.