Betting real money on sports is one of the world’s favorite pastimes. By some estimates people wager over $250 billion dollars a year on sports, with $100 million bet on the Super Bowl alone.
The reason sports betting is so popular is because it makes watching sports more exciting, and it can also be lucrative for those who take the time to learn about odds, picking winners, line shopping and how to use online bonuses profitably.
This guide starts with the basics of sports betting online and then dives into strategies designed to win money betting on sports.
Where to Bet – How to Gamble on Sports Online
You have 3 options for betting money on sports – take a trip to one of the Las Vegas sportsbooks, find a local bookie, or sign up at an online sportsbook. Of the three options, online betting sites are definitely the easiest and most convenient way to bet money on sports.
Below you’ll find our top recommendations for legitimate online bookmakers where you can bet real money online.
It’s important we note all the online betting sites mentioned above are highly reputable. Be careful just joining any online sports betting site you come across as there is massive number of scams on the net. Please do your homework before joining any online sportsbook other than those on the above list.
Finding the right online sportsbook can be a time consuming and confusing process. You need to be sure that you consider all the most important factors and you will need to compare the various sportsbooks against each other.
You can spend a lot of time doing this, or you can use this site in order to narrow down your search and find the best one for you quickly and with very little effort on your part. Look through the reviews and other information to become better acquainted with online sportsbooks in general and in order to match yourself with one of them that will suit you best.
Tips for Choosing an Online Sportsbook
The reviews on this site are detailed and well researched. They give you a good idea of the overall feel and benefits that the reviewed sportsbooks offer. Here are a few other online betting tips to help you get started.
Learn all You Can About the Site
Read everything you can about the company, the betting opportunities offered, the available promotions, payment options and their customer service options.
It is important to check out the terms and conditions of the site and the various bonuses to avoid surprises. Most bonuses have a wagering requirement (sometimes called a rollover requirement). It’s smart to know how much you need to wager in order to be able to cash out your bonus money.
Also, be sure to check the minimum and maximum deposit and withdrawal limits to ensure that they fit your bankroll.
Use the Betting Site’s Resource Section
If you are a complete novice and wish to learn how to place bets, plenty of betting sites will provide you a step by step guide to betting. These are generally very useful and will help you start betting quickly.
Set your priorities right. Allocate funds wisely. You are learning how to bet. Risking your whole bankroll would be the most impulsive thing to do.
Start with small stake bets and gradually increase the amount only when you are fully confident that you have understood how that particular bet works. You want to go a long way and since your interest is not momentary, it becomes extremely important to learn how to manage your bankroll wisely.
After all, it is your hard earned money that is at stake here. Keeping this in mind, you can now begin looking for online sportsbooks or other betting products that make online betting for beginners easy.
Don’t Gamble Your Rent Money
Only bet the amount you can afford to lose. This should be funds that you have left over after you have met your other regular expenses.
Don’t use money from your household budget to fund your betting account because you may not be able to make up for the difference if you lose more than you had bargained for.
Getting Started – Types of Bets You Can Make
Three of most popular forms of wagers are moneyline, point spreads and totals (over/under). The articles below explain each these bets in simple easy to understand terms.
In this type of wager the payout is the same regardless of how many runs or points the team you wagered on wins by. Now if you’re brand new to sports betting you need to understand American odds, because this is a huge part of money line betting.
American odds always use a 3 or more digit whole number expressed as either positive or negative. When dealing with a negative money line this represents how much a bettor must stake to win $100.
For example a line of -180 requires $180 to win $100, so here if your bet is successful you keep the $180.00 you staked plus get back $100 in winnings. When dealing with a positive money line this how much a $100 stake will pay.
For example if you stake $100 on a line of +160, if your bet wins you keep the $100 you staked plus receive $160 in winnings.
The reason there are positive and negative money lines is because teams are often not equally matched.
To state an example, if Tiger Woods is facing off against your local high school golf champion in a one on one match Tiger might be -100000 and your friend +50000.
Point Spread Bets
Point spread betting is said to have been invented in the 1940’s by Charles K. McNeil of Chicago. He was a math professor who used it in his own bookmaking operation.
Whether or not this true is irrelevant; today point spread betting is the most popular way to wager on America’s two most frequently wagered upon sports, football and basketball.
The basic idea behind a point spread is in order to make the game closer to a 50/50 proposition a handicap is added.
For example, the opening round of the 2011/12 NFL playoffs had Detroit Lions +10.5 / New Orleans Saints -10.5. How this works is if you wager on Lions at the end of the game you add 10.5 points to the Lions score and then compare it to Saints actual score to determine who wins.
Alternatively if you bet on New Orleans Saints then at the end of the game you would subtract 10.5 points from the Saints score and then compare it with the actual Lions score to determine which team wins.
Important to note is that all point spread wagers also have a price. With most all bookies and Las Vegas sports books if the price is not otherwise stated then -110 is assumed (Risk $110 to win $100, which simplifies as $1.10 staked for every dollar you wish to win).
This extra price you’re charged is referred to as vig or juice and is how the betting sites and bookies make their profit. When betting online you’ll find prices often are listed and they’re not the same for both sides.
For example you might find Detroit Lions -115 / New Orleans Saints -105. The reason for the difference is that bookies strive to find 50/50 propositions on betting lines, but sometimes this isn’t possible as one side is slightly more likely to cover at that point spread than the other.
There a few things about point spreads worth noting. In cases where point spreads have half points involved (example -2.5 / +2.5) there is no way for the game to tie. Point spread don’t always use half points however.
In times the point spread is a whole number if the game results in a handicap tie it is considered a push, also referred to as no action. In this case all bets are off and stakes are returned.
Additionally I should conclude by informing while point spreads are most popular in football and basketball they are available for other sports as well. For example in hockey and baseball alternatives to the money line are offered called the puck line and run line which are bets that use a point spread.
Now that we’ve covered betting on the point spread, it’s time to look at one of the easiest types of bets to understand, totals or over/under betting.
Totals – Over/Under Bets
The final wager type is the easiest to understand, this is called totals betting.
Here you’re wagering on whether the total number of points scored by both teams will be over or under the posted betting total.
For example in baseball this bet might be over/under 8.5 runs, in hockey over/under 5.5 scores, in football over/under 40.5 points, in basketball over/under 200 points.
The same as is true for point spread, unless otherwise stated these bets are assumed to be offered at -110 (risk $110 to win $100), though at online betting sites are usually stated.
It’s also quite common to see each option have a different price such as over 5.5 -130 / under 5.5 +110.
Becoming a Winning Sports Bettor
Learning profitable sports betting is not an easy task. This guide is meant to help you understand the basics. You can learn more in-depth information about sports betting by reading books such as Weighing the Odds in Sports Betting by King Yao, and Sharp Sports Betting by Stanford Wong.
Just know that neither are those books are going to make you a winning bettor. However, they will get your mind thinking like a smart sports bettor.
Betting is competitive, and people beat it exploiting leaks of recreational betting sites and local bookies. The more people who know how to win the more opportunities dry up.
Also understand, this is in an industry filled with scams such as pick sellers, stat services and all sorts of other things not too helpful to bettors. However, if you stay in the process, read the two books we suggested, and pick up small nuggets on forums, it will start to come together.
We know several punters who make an easy living betting at high limit sportsbooks and they were once as clueless as the next guy on how it all worked.
The good news is there are tons of good bonus offers and promotions with online betting sites that make things +EV while you slowly learn a bit at a time. Just be sure to stay disciplined and never risk any more than a couple percent of your bankroll on a given game.
Other Ways to Bet on Sports
If for whatever reason you’re not comfortable using the Internet to bet on sports you have a couple of other options – use a Vegas sportsbook or find a local bookie to take your action.
Las Vegas Sportsbooks
Nevada is the only state in the U.S. that has legalized sports betting. That alone drives thousands of gamblers to Vegas every year.
Many Las Vegas casinos have sportsbooks as well. If you’re planning a trip, the first step is to find a casino with a sportsbook that suits you. Here are a few things to consider when choosing a Vegas sportsbook.
- Would I rather hang out in a crowded sportsbook or one with more privacy?
- How many (and what size) TVs do they have?
- How comfortable will I be?
- How much are drinks and food?
In addition to those basic considerations, it’s also smart to check the spread and lines at a few different books, since they may vary from book to book.
If you’re looking for the most popular sportsbooks in Vegas, here’s a few to start with.
Once you’ve arrived, simply approach the desk of the sportsbook and ask one of the attendants for help placing a bet. They know that betting can be intimidating for first timers, so make sure to ask them any questions you may have.
Once you’re ready, give the attendant the amount of money you want to wager and tell what type of bet and/or on what team. They will give you a betting slip that has all the relevant information regarding your bet.
Next, just sit back and enjoy the excitement of the game.
Local bookies are a dime a dozen in the US. To find them you should hang out in lower key sports bars, make friends and see who is legit. If everyone’s using a certain guy, and this bookie is at the bar often, most likely he’s trust worthy and won’t stiff you because reputation is everything to bookies.
The benefit to using a local bookie is many offer silly things such as selling half points in NFL football on and off the 7 for 10 cents each.
What I’m referring to here is the “buy points” option offered by online sports betting sites. If a point spread in NFL football is -7.5 -110 they’ll give the option to move it to -7 -125 or -6.5 -140 which is 15 cents per half point.
For all other points they charge 10 cents (except 3 which cost 25 cents or is restricted). This is because 10 cents is a horrible deal at most point spread but is +EV for the player (–EV for them) when offered on the common margin of victory 7.
As you get more experienced with local bookies you’ll find there all sorts of quirky things they do and ways you can exploit them.
Just make absolutely sure you find a reputable bookie with a good presence and reputation at a sports bar. This is your protection because if he stiffs you this gets exposed to his client base and soon he has no customers left.
From here, just stick with it and we’re very confident you have it in you to become one of the best. With that this concludes our intro to sports betting.
Please let us know if you have any sports betting questions. And with that, we wish you the absolute best of luck.