Online Betting Guide | How to Bet on Sports 101

Your Sports Betting Guide

Table of Contents

By Adam Kramer

Jan 27, 2022

Betting on sports doesn’t have to be difficult, but winning consistently is the part that will require experience, planning, and expertise. Becoming familiar with how to bet, where to bet, and the various types of betting at your fingerprints shouldn’t be strenuous, however.

The key to sports betting is comfort and finding a style that suits your habits. With so many places to wager, so many sports to wager on, and an evolving catalog of ways to profit, you have control to bet however and wherever you want. Here’s how to maximize it.

How to Pick an Online Sportsbook

To know what you like, you need to shop around. More specifically, you must see what works for you and what doesn’t. Every person has their own priorities when it comes to betting, and one must explore the various options and nuances to see what’s most appealing.

Bonuses & Promotions

For the new and casual bettor, promotions are crucial. When you open an account, online sportsbooks typically provide quality promotions to first-time users. There are also often promotions around meaningful sporting events such as championships, majors, etc.

The offers will be plentiful no matter what sportsbook you use, but they will range in what they provide. Some will double your first deposit, while others might offer up a series of free bets.

Finding out the ideal promotion that suits your style—especially when you sign up for a site—is key. It’s a great way to pad your early bankroll and take advantage of these valuable welcome offers.

App Performance

Some sports betting apps simply feel better than others. Whether it’s a sportsbook or not, having comfort in moving through an app, placing bets, and being able to find what you need when you need it is crucial to the experience.

Does it lag when you try to make a bet? Does the app crash more than others? Is it easy to navigate? User-friendliness and reliability is key. If you’re going to be using an app alot—and you likely will be—it has to feel right.

Betting Options

The overlap in betting options across sportsbooks is largely similar, but the differences can be in the details. From limits to a buffet of original betting possibilities—options that will be discussed shortly—finding a place that is conducive to your specific needs is vital.

Choose a Sportsbook

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How to Sign Up to a Sports Betting Site

While the process across sportsbooks is largely similar, some states have different requirements when it comes to starting a sports betting account.

In Illinois, for example, users are required to fill out a form and sign up for a sportsbook in person at a casino. That is not the case in other states, although it’s important to be aware that requirements vary.

The signup process on mobile devices is relatively straightforward. The goal for online sportsbooks is to get users into the apps quickly, although security is still important. Users will be asked to create a username and password to start. They will also be required to verify information such as their email address, DOB, and full name. To withdraw funds, which we will discuss, more information will likely be necessary.

Depositing Money Into Your Account

To take advantage of promotions specifically for signing up, users will be asked to deposit money into their new accounts for these to trigger.

The options will vary depending on what sportsbook is used, although credit card is the most common method to deposit. Players may also have the option to complete the transaction using wire transfers, PayPal, e-checks, or other online portals.

Be sure to lock in the proper signup promotion before depositing. Whether it’s matching a certain range of a deposit or providing free bets tied to a certain event, many of these are tied to this initial action, so you don’t want to miss out.

Many sportsbooks have a minimal deposit, typically in the range of $10 to $25.

Withdrawing Money From Your Account

Withdrawing money from your account is also relatively simple.

Once you request a withdrawal in the app, you will be asked to declare what amount you wish to withdraw. You may also be able to request how you would like the money, similar to the deposit process (PayPal, credit card, check, etc.).

From there, depending on what information is provided during setup, a user will be asked to provide more information such as social security number, birthday, a valid mailing address, and perhaps more. This information is used to validate the user’s identity and helps with taxation as well.

Once complete, a withdrawal will then be processed. While this time can vary depending on the sportsbook as well as payment method requested, each sportsbook will provide a likely window of when those funds will be received.

How to Read Betting Odds & Lines

When a deposit clears, you have an entire catalog of sports and betting options at your disposal. Here’s a breakdown of how to decipher the different betting odds and various ways they are displayed around the world.

Favorites vs. Underdogs

Let’s start with the basics. In a specific match between two teams or individuals, one will be considered the favorite. The favorite is the team “expected” to win, and it will be identified with a minus (-) symbol. The underdog, the team “expected” to lose, will be labeled with a plus (+) symbol. It’s important to note that these expectations are the product of previous bets made on or against a given team or individual.

American Odds

These are odds in their simplest form. Specifically, the presentation of these odds square solely around wagering $100 on a given outcome. For example, let’s say a team is a -130 favorite. You would have to wager $130 to win $100. If that team wins, you would receive $100 plus your original investment back ($230 total).

If you bet on an underdog with +150 odds, a $100 wager would net $150 if that team is victorious. In this instance, you would receive a $150 payout plus your original investment back ($250 total). It’s worth noting that you absolutely do not have to bet $100. It’s the baseline way to present these odds, although the same math applies to a bet of any size.

Decimal Odds

Similar to American odds, decimal odds provide users with a template of the amount a winning wager can net. The only difference is that the amount used in these instances is $1 rather than $100. These odds are extremely common outside the United States, and they’re essentially a different way to label underdogs and favorites.

If a team has 1.65 decimal odds, you’re essentially given an opportunity to profit $0.65 for every $1 bet. In this instance, a $10 wager would net $6.50 in profit and a total payout of $16.50. A team with decimal odds of 3.15 would earn a profit of $2.15 for every $1 wagered if that bet wins, so a $10 wager in this instance would net a profit of $21.50 and a total payout of $31.50.

Fractional Odds

As the name implies, fractional odds are displayed as fractions, which is often the format for horse racing. These odds are also popular in the UK, and they can be used on different types of bets placed at a sportsbook.

While different from American odds, determining payouts is still straightforward. If you bet $100 on a team with 5/1 odds and that team wins, you net $500. Essentially, you are getting $5 in return for every $1 bet. More specifically, the math is (100 x 5) / 1. If a team has 2/5 odds and you bet $100, the math would be (100 x 2) / 5. For every $5 wagered, you get $2 back, which would net $40 in profit here.

What Does ‘Juice’ Mean?

Of course, there is a reason sportsbooks are more than happy to offer promotions to new and returning users. This is still a profit center, and that profit comes courtesy of the “juice.” Also referred to as the “vig,” the juice represents the cut sportsbooks take with every bet.

The juice is naturally inserted into point spreads posted at the sportsbook. In most football games, for example, each team is given an American odds value of (-110). This means you must bet $110 to win $100 on either team you pick. In this instance, assuming equal betting occurs on both sides, the sportsbook profits 10% regardless of outcome.

Juice can vary from one sportsbook to another and also from one game to the next, but the practice is largely the same. This is the advantage the sportsbook has. It also makes being profitable over a long period of time that much more challenging.

Types of Bets You Can Make Online

What sport you wager on and how much you wager is only the beginning. With so many different types of bets to make, you have options.


A moneyline bet is the most common kind of bet to make and the easiest to understand, as you are simply betting on a team to win. No point spread or other qualifiers are needed. The team (or individual) just needs to be victorious, and you will be paid based on the American odds.

Point Spread

A points spread bet is slight step up in terms of complexity from moneyline wagering, although not by much. In this instance, bettors are betting on margin of victory. For example, a team might be labeled as a 5-point favorite or (-5), which means that this team must beat its opponent by at least five points for the bet to cash.

The underdog in this scenario would be (+5), and that team would cash if it loses the game by less than five points (or wins). Unlike moneyline bets, the winning or losing team doesn’t matter in this instance.

Over/Under (Totals)

You don’t just have to bet on a side; you can also wager on how a game will be played. When betting a total, you are betting on the total combined points (or goals, runs, etc.) that will be scored in a single match.

Let’s say the over/under in a baseball game is 8.5 runs and you bet the over. If Team A beats Team B by a score of 7-5, you win, as the 12 total runs are greater than 8.5. If you bet the under—that there would be less than 8.5 runs scored—the wager would have lost.


A parlay bet allows a user to tie multiple wagering opportunities into one single bet. The positive? A parlay will offer significantly better odds (and payouts) depending on the number of wagers as well as their corresponding odds. The negative? In a parlay, a user must win all of these bets in order to cash. So if you wager on a five-team parlay and only one team loses, the bet still counts as a loss.

With the increase of online sports betting, parlays have become increasingly more popular and publicized. While they provide tremendous value if they hit, it is difficult to sustain long-term success with parlays given how difficult they are to correctly predict.


A teaser is an opportunity where a user can manipulate a point spread to their liking. The catch is that a teaser involves multiple teams, which means you must win on at least two outcomes for the bet to cash.

In the NFL, two-team, six-point teasers are quite popular. This means you can swing a spread six points in either direction. If Team A is a seven-point favorite over Team B, a bettor can use a teaser to turn Team A into a one-point favorite or turn Team B into a 13-point underdog. This same logic and methodology would then be applied to another game to complete a two-team teaser. Unlike a parlay, however, the payout will be similar to a single-game wager.

Prop Bet

Not only can you wager on a game, but you can also wager on the games inside the games. Prop bets allow users to bet on various individual and team achievements, and the list of possibilities is seemingly endless, from player totals to team totals in specific quarters, halves, innings, etc. Prop bets are an entertaining, easy way to expand your betting options and allow you to bet on certain players rather than just teams.

Middle Bet

Middle bets are a way for a user to maximize odds shifts and potentially win multiple bets in a single games. As an example, Team A opens as a 6.5-point favorite over Team B. You place a wager on Team A, but during the middle of the week Team B’s star player is injured and the point spread jumps to 9.5 points. In this scenario, you then also bet Team B (+9.5).

In this outcome, you can only lose juice on the game, as one of these bets will win. And if Team A wins by seven, eight or nine points, you win both bets. Middle bets can also be valuable during live betting—more on that shortly.

Futures Bet

As the name implies here, you’re betting on a future outcome of a sport. Betting a player to win an award before a season begins and picking a Super Bowl winner are examples of some popular futures bets. The odds, depending on the selection, will vary wildly and change throughout the season depending on the team/player’s performance.

Live Betting

A live bet is one that is made during the contest after the game has started. While each game will have a betting line before it begins, the live betting line will adjust based on score, time remaining, and the flow of the contest.

If the total for a football game closes at 49 points and the teams combine to score three touchdowns in the first quarter, the live betting over/under will jump drastically. This form of wagering offers endless possibilities to bet on a side or total, and also allows bettors ways to wager on unique outcomes throughout.

Points Betting

This is perhaps the most interesting and volatile way to make a wager. While most outcomes have a predefined amount that can be won or lost, that is not the case with points betting. Instead, you will win or lose a certain amount depending on how much your team wins or loses against the spread.

For example, if you bet $20 on the over in a basketball game where the total is 200 points and the teams combine to score 210 points, you would net $200 ($20 for every point scored over the total). On the flip side, if these two teams combined to score just 185 points, you would owe $300.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help

Sports betting can be a lot to digest, and the sportsbooks understand that. From betting questions to account concerns to withdrawal status, they often post FAQs that can be helpful. If more information is needed, you can typically contact customer service via live chat or email, although responsiveness may vary depending on the sportsbook and question asked.

Self-Exclusion & Player Safety

Different sportsbooks offer different options regarding self-exclusions and player safety. These are essentially guardrails to limit and protect players from going overboard.

Wager Limits: These are limits on the amount of money a player can bet daily, weekly, or monthly.

Self-Exclusion: In certain states, a player can be asked to be removed from using gambling services by a gaming board for a period of time. Other options in certain jurisdictions are also available.

Place Bets You Like

Everyone has a different betting style and different limits. People like betting on different sports. Whatever your style, average bet size, or sports of choice are, enjoy yourself and stay within your limits.

Try different types of wagers and see what type works best for you. Betting, most of all, should be entertaining. Most people aren’t trying to turn wagering into their full time job; it’s a way to amplify the stakes of a given game.

Find your rhythm and enjoy. And as always, gamble responsibly.


  • Action: Bet or Wager
  • Against The Spread: Betting on how much a team will either win or lose. The “spread” is the margin of victory.
  • 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.
  • Bad Beat: A bet that looks like it’s going in your favor but ultimately – and often violently – swings in the other direction, resulting in a loss of your bet.
  • Chalk: The clear, overwhelming favorite in a game or prop bet.
    • Example: The Lakers are chalk against the Knicks.
  • Consensus: Percentage that’s covering each side/outcome of a bet provided from public betting data.
  • Cover: When your bet against the spread succeeds, either on the side of the winning or losing team. The margin of victory (or defeat) must exceed (or fall beneath) the spread.
    • Example: Betting the Knicks +6.5 vs. the Bucks would cash for you if the Bucks win 100-94. That’s a cover even while betting on the spread in favor of the losing team.
  • Edge: An informational, strategic, or timing advantage a bettor may find over the sportsbooks’ lines and odds.
  • Even (Money): When the payout of one side of a bet would double the buy-in. ($100 bet wins $100, pays $200).
  • Fade: Bet against or ignore. Typically directed at a heavily favored team, player or other outcome. “Fade The Public” means go against the grain on an outcome widely considered obvious.
  • Favorite: The team favored to win the game.
  • Give The Points: Wager on the favorite when betting Against The Spread.
  • Handicap: Research sports statistics, trends, analytics, and other data to make an informed bet.
  • Handle: Total money wagered on an event.
  • Hedge: Place a wager the other side of a bet you’ve previously placed, so you can at least win some money back. Often done when late-breaking news worsens the chances of your original bet hitting, but can also be planned.
  • Hook: Half-point attached to spread bets.
    • Example: -3.5 bet
  • Vig: The cut taken by the sportsbook for a bet. The farther the juice is below zero, the heavier the favorite, and the larger the commitment if you want to win a profitable return.
    • 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.
  • No Action: When the sportsbook removes the bettor’s ability to wager on a game or prop, ending the “action” on that event. Refunds are given if the game does not return.
  • Off The Board: A similar term related to “No Action” when sportsbooks remove a game or prop from the betting board due to news or other developments that might leave the house open to a disadvantage.
    • Games often return to the board after the sportsbook adjusts its line, odds, or any other portion of the listing.
    • Common causes for a bet being pulled from the board include player injuries, weather conditions, scheduling changes.
  • Pick ‘Em: A game or bet when each side has equal odds listed. No favorite or underdog.
  • Push: 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.
  • Take The Points: Wager on the underdog when betting Against The Spread


By Adam Kramer

Adam Kramer is an NFL, college football, and gambling analyst for The Game Day. While college football has long been his calling, he’s also covered sports such as boxing, horse racing, and baseball at The Game Day and in other places. He’s also written for Bleacher Report, VSiN, and various other outlets over the past decade-plus.

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