How to Bet


To get started, use this quick guide, which includes a basic glossary on betting terms and how to read a betting line, plus betting tips and strategies. After you have gone through our page, you should have the information you need to unquestionably explore among the several choices for online betting sites.

How to Bet on Sports

With sports betting becoming more popular and more widely legal in the United States, now’s the perfect time to learn how to bet on sports. To get started, use this quick guide, which includes a basic glossary on betting terms and how to read a betting line, plus betting tips and strategies.

Betting 101

Knowing how to bet on sports means knowing the basic steps to reading lines and odds.

Understanding Betting Odds

The betting odds and lines of any games are based on how far away the expected outcome is from a 50/50 proposition.

Favorite & Underdog

The favorite is the team that’s expected to win or, in cases of Over/Under and prop bets (more on those later), the outcome that’s expected to happen. The underdog is the expected losing team or result.

Betting Odds & Lines

The line is the handicap (adjustment) the sportsbook makes for the favorite and underdog to produce a 50/50 contest.

The odds, meanwhile, represent the probability that an event will happen.

The favorite is listed with negative odds (-101 and lower). The negative odds tell you how much you would have to bet to win $100 on top of your original wager.

The underdog is listed with positive odds (+100 and higher). That tells you how much money you would win on a $100 bet.

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The farther the favorite and the underdog are separated from the middle at even odds (seen as 100, +100, or even ‘Pick ‘Em’), the more lopsided the expected outcome is.

Depending on the sports betting method, you can amplify how strongly you feel about the favorite or the underdog.

Positive odds mean a bettor can make double his original bet or higher if it comes back as a winner.

Bet Types

Against-The-Spread Betting

The most popular method of sports betting is to bet against the spread: predict the margin of victory or loss. You can bet the spread (also called the Run Line in baseball) from the perspective of either the favorite or the underdog.

Example: If the Cowboys-Giants game has a spread of Cowboys -7.5 (-130)/Giants +7.5 (+200), you can:

  • “Take” the points by betting the Cowboys will win by 8 or more points, OR
  • “Give” the points by betting the Giants will only lose by 7 or fewer points (or even win, which also would be a successful bet).

Moneyline Betting

The moneyline is the most basic form of sports betting. It’s simply the bettor picking which team will win, balanced by the sportsbook’s odds that it will happen.

The favorite will have a negative moneyline.

The underdog will have a positive moneyline.

Over/Under (Total) Betting

A wager on the Total — or the Over/Under — requires the bettor to predict whether the combined final score will finish as more or less than the sportsbook-assigned total.

Example: The Cowboys-Giants predicted total is 47.5.

If you bet the Over and the final score winds up as 28-20 (combined 48+ points), that’s a Win.

Careful with whole-number total betting, which gives you less leeway to win on an Over/Under.


Backdoor Cover

When a team winds up covering the spread late in a game, even if the scoring event doesn’t determine the winner.

Example: On a 45.5 Over/Under … The Giants are down 27-13, then score a touchdown to bring the total to 46. The Giants got the backdoor cover despite still losing the game.


The favorite


Betting both sides of a wager to cover potential losses


Also known as “vigorish” or “vig,” the juice is the cut taken by the sportsbook for a bet.

Example: (-110) is the most common vig. Say you’re betting Over 55.5 on the Cowboys-Cardinals game. If you want to win $100, you must bet $110.

The farther the juice is below zero, the heavier the favorite, and the larger the commitment if you want to win a profitable return.


A tie/draw on your bet. For example, if you bet a sportsbook’s Over/Under of 47, and the final score winds up as 27-20, you get your money back but don’t win a profit.

Where to Legally Bet

Legal sports betting in the United States has enjoyed a rise in availability since Congress lifted the national ban on sports betting May 14, 2018, and the landscape of opportunities for sports fans to wager continues to increase.

As of Sept. 1, 2020, sports bettors can place legal wagers in 22 states — though in differing forms:

  • 7 states: Physical Sportsbooks
  • 6 states: Full Mobile Betting Allowed
  • 5 states: Partial Mobile Betting
  • 5 states: Betting Method TBD
8 states


8 states


5 states


6 states



Note: These five states have only recently installed sports betting and are developing the specifics of how they will allow wagers to be placed.

Ready to Start?

Read the latest tips and analysis.

Ready to place your bets? We are always on top of the best picks to bet on. Check out our picks.

Decide what bet you want to make.

Whether it’s against the spread; Over/Under; moneyline; or a player prop bet, you should focus on the wagers with which you’re most comfortable and knowledgeable.

Choose a legal sportsbook.

Finally, we’ll help you find which sportsbook matches your desired bet. Our tools and experts will help you decide where to place your wager by combing through the most favorable odds and lines possible.

The Game Day is not a host site for sports betting in the United States. Please check the sportsbook of your choice for specific terms and conditions surrounding legal U.S. sports betting in your state.