How to Bet on Sports — & Where To Place Sports Bets

Here’s The Game Day’s guide on How To Bet On Sports and Where To Place Sports Bets. 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.

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.

How to Bet | Bet Types | Glossary | Where To Bet

How to Bet on Sports and Where to Place Sports Bets

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.

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.


Glossary

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

  • g. 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

  • 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

Futures Bet

Betting on an event, statistic or anything similar to occur after the end of a full event or season.

  • g. Betting on next year’s Super Bowl winner in the preseason

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 a game or prop bet

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 that can ince

  • The -3.5 bet

Juice/Line

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.

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.

Over/Under

Betting on a game or prop total for more (Over) or fewer (Under) than a sportsbook-designated total.

Pick ‘Em

A game or bet when each side has equal odds listed. No favorite or underdog.

Point Spread

Margin of victory involved in betting Against The Spread (ATS).

Prop Bets

Bet on an item not directly involved with the score/result of a game.

  • A prop could be a player’s total points scored, home runs hit, touchdowns scored; and it can be team totals like passing yards, three-pointers made, etc.

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


Where to Place Sports Bets

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 Jan. 2021, sports bettors can place legal wagers in 22 states — though in differing forms:

Sports Betting Legislation

  • Sports betting is legal (18 states plus Washington, D.C.): Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Washington, D.C.
  • Bill is passed (4 states): North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington.
  • Bill is active (9 states) , Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, Vermont.
  • Proposed bill failed vote and/or legislation in 2020 (12 states): Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Wyoming
  • No vote/legal movement in 2020 (7 states): Idaho, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin

FULL MOBILE BETTING

  • COLORADO
  • ILLINOIS
  • INDIANA
  • IOWA
  • NEVADA
  • MICHIGAN
  • NEW JERSEY
  • PENNSYLVANIA
  • TENNESSEE
  • WEST VIRGINIA

PHYSICAL SPORTSBOOKS ONLY

  • ARKANSAS
  • DELAWARE
  • ILLINOIS
  • MICHIGAN
  • MONTANA 
  • NEW MEXICO
  • NEW YORK

PARTIAL MOBILE BETTING

Sometimes described as “in-person online betting.” You often can only place bets online while inside a casino.

  • NEW HAMPSHIRE (DraftKings only)
  • MISSISSIPPI (Only online bets while inside casino)
  • MONTANA
  • OREGON (Oregon state lottery only)
  • RHODE ISLAND (William Hill only)
  • WASHINGTON, D.C. (D.C.-only app GamBet)

BETTING METHODS TBD

  • NORTH CAROLINA
  • VIRGINIA (betting scheduled to begin sometime in 2021)
  • WASHINGTON 
  • WASHINGTON, D.C.

BETTING LEGISLATION/ACTIVATION IN PROGRESS

  • SOUTH DAKOTA

MOMENTUM POSSIBLY GROWING FOR LEGISLATION

  • CALIFORNIA (tribal casinos, less clear on mobile)
  • WISCONSIN (tribal casinos, less clear on mobile)

KEEP WAITING

  • ALASKA
  • ALABAMA
  • HAWAII
  • IDAHO
  • MINNESOTA
  • NEBRASKA
  • OKLAHOMA
  • SOUTH CAROLINA
  • UTAH

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 betting tips and 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.