With the eruption of DFS (Daily Fantasy Sports) behind the successes of Draftkings and Fanduel, the stigma behind sports betting has lessened considerably in the U.S. It has now been a year and a half since the Supreme Court lifted the federal ban on sports betting, allowing individual states to legalize at their own discretion. As of the time of this writing, 20 states (including Washington D.C.) have legalized sports betting through the means of brick and mortar locations, as well as online sportsbooks. And several more states are projected to follow suit throughout the course of this year and next.
As with any new, emerging business, there will inevitably come new customers who are unfamiliar with the product, and will be looking for more information. This article will attempt to address some of the basic concepts behind betting on sports, from learning betting terminology to some helpful tips on how to keep a healthy bankroll. Listed below are several tips to help any newcomers get their feet wet when it comes to gambling on some of their favorite pastimes.
Understanding Who Is The Favorite
Favorites vs. Underdogs The very first thing oddsmakers at sportsbooks will do when releasing a betting line on a specific game will be to decide which team should be the favorite and which team should be the underdog.
The team the oddsmakers believe is expected to win is the favorite. This team will get a “minus” sign next to its odds. The team they believe will lose is the underdog. They will get a “plus” sign next to their odds. If the game is expected to be a toss-up, the game will be listed as a “pick” or “pick-em” game, and the odds will be identical for both teams, or at least very close to it. Let’s look at an example.
Dallas Cowboys -120 @ New York Giants +200
In this example, the Cowboys are the favorite and the Giants are the underdog. The numbers beside each team are called the “Moneyline”. These numbers signify what you would need to bet to win $100. For backing the Cowboys, you would need to wager $120 to win $100 (total payout of $220). For backing the Giants, you would need to wager $50 to win $100 (total payout of $150). Betting on the underdog is considered to be a greater risk, which is why the payouts will be higher. If you wanted to wager $100 on the Giants, your winnings would be $200 (total payout of $300).
What is an IF Bet?
An “IF” bet is a type of sports betting wager that allows a bettor to place two or more wagers on a single betting ticket, with the second wager being contingent on the outcome of the first. In an “IF” bet, the second wager is placed only if the first wager is won.
For example, let’s say a bettor wants to place an “IF” bet on two football games:
Game 1: Bet $100 on Team A -3 (-110) Game 2: Bet $200 on Team B +6 (-110) if Game 1 wins
If Team A wins Game 1 by more than 3 points, the bettor’s $100 wager is considered won, and the $200 wager on Team B +6 for Game 2 is placed automatically. If Team A loses or wins by 3 points or less, the $200 wager on Team B +6 for Game 2 is not placed.
An “IF” bet allows bettors to hedge their bets and reduce risk, as the second wager is only placed if the first wager is successful. However, it’s important to note that the bettor must have enough funds available in their betting account to cover both wagers, as the second wager is placed automatically.
What is a Moneyline Bet?
A moneyline bet is a type of sports betting wager that is based solely on which team or player will win a game or event. In a moneyline bet, the odds are given for each team or player to win, and the bettor must pick the winner. Unlike point spreads or totals (over/under), the margin of victory or the total number of points scored is not considered in a moneyline bet.
For example, in a basketball game between Team A and Team B, the moneyline odds might look like this:
Team A -150 Team B +120
In this example, a bettor who places a moneyline bet on Team A would need to wager $150 to win $100 if Team A wins the game, while a bettor who places a moneyline bet on Team B would win $120 for every $100 wagered if Team B wins the game.
Moneyline bets can be popular in sports where the margin of victory is often narrow, such as soccer or hockey, or in sports where the point spread is not as relevant, such as baseball or tennis.
Understanding How To Read Spreads
A second way to bet on your team is by betting the point spread. This is the margin of victory line the oddsmakers will place on a game. The favorite will “give” points, while the underdog will “get” points. Let’s look at our example from above again from a point spread perspective.
Dallas Cowboys (-3) @ New York Giants (+3)
If you bet on the Cowboys, you would need them to win by 4 or more points to have your bet payout. Conversely, if you bet on the Giants, you would need them to win OR lose by 2 points or fewer. If the game were to end with the Cowboys winning by EXACTLY 3 points, then the bet is considered a “push” and your wager would be returned.
The money odds for betting point spreads are similar to what they would be for betting moneylines on “pick-em” games. The baseline odds at most sportsbooks are listed at -110. So for the example above, you would need to wager $110 to win $100 (payout of $210). That works for either side of the bet, whether it be on the Cowboys (-3) or the Giants (+3).
What Are Over/Unders? (Also known as Totals)
For most games, there will also be a point total made by the oddsmakers. This the total number of points they expect to be scored by both teams combined in the game. For example, the total in the Cowboys and Giants game might be 47. You can choose to bet UNDER 47 or OVER 47. Both would likely be listed at -110 odds again, meaning your $110 wager would win you $100 (total payout of $210).
What is a Second Half Bet?
A second-half bet is a type of sports betting wager that is placed only on the second half of a game. In this type of bet, the score at halftime is not considered, and only the results of the second half of the game are taken into account.
For example, let’s say there is a football game between Team A and Team B. The halftime score is Team A 14, Team B 7. A bettor who places a second-half bet on Team B is betting that Team B will outscore Team A in the second half of the game, regardless of the final outcome of the game.
When thinking about correlation, second half lines are intriguing because one can leverage existing knowledge about the first half and therefore infer behavior about the second half.
What are 3 Way Lines?
A 3-way line is a type of sports betting line that is commonly used in sports where ties or draws are a possibility, such as soccer or hockey. In a 3-way line, there are three possible outcomes: Team A winning, Team B winning, or the game ending in a tie.
For example, in a soccer match between Team A and Team B, a 3-way line might look like this:
Team A +160 Team B +180 Tie +220
In this example, a bettor can place a wager on either Team A or Team B to win, or they can bet on the game ending in a tie. The numbers next to each team or the tie represent the odds for that outcome. A positive number means that the bettor would win that amount for every $100 wagered, while a negative number means the bettor would need to wager that amount to win $100.
It’s important to note that 3-way lines are different from 2-way lines, which are used in sports where ties are not a possibility, such as basketball or football. In a 2-way line, there are only two possible outcomes: Team A winning or Team B winning.
What are Live Bets?
Live bets, also known as in-play bets or in-game bets, are a type of sports betting that allows bettors to place wagers on a game or event as it is happening in real-time. This means that a bettor can place a bet on the outcome of a game or event after it has already started.
Live betting is becoming increasingly popular in sports betting, as it allows bettors to adjust their wagers based on the unfolding of the game or event. For example, if a bettor initially placed a pre-game bet on Team A to win, but Team B takes an early lead in the game, the bettor may place a live bet on Team A to make a comeback and win the game.
Live bets can cover a wide range of outcomes, including the winner of the game, the point spread, the total points scored, and even individual player performances. Live betting odds can change rapidly based on the events happening in the game, so bettors need to be able to make quick decisions and have a good understanding of the game or event they are betting on.
Have Multiple Sportsbooks
Now that we know a little bit about what to do when we get to a sportsbook, one of the most important aspects of sports betting is having multiple avenues to place your wagers. It’s imperative to shop for the best line. Every sportsbook is a little different, and they each will lay out different odds and spreads. We must keep in mind that it is very difficult to “beat the books” as they say, so we should take advantage of every little edge we can. The system is designed to be in the sportsbooks’ favor. This is why we see the -110 odds on both sides of a bet. The sportsbook wins either way. If two people were to place bets on our Cowboys and Giants example game, with one of them taking the Cowboys (-3) at -110 and the other taking the Giants (+3) at -110, regardless of the outcome (except for a push), the sportsbook stands to profit.
This might be the most important tip to give. BET RESPONSIBLY. Do not wager your mortgage away or your food for a month. If you do want to get into sports betting, set aside some money that you are comfortable losing. Once you have found that right amount for you, then you can decide how to appropriate those funds into smart wagers. Our suggested sports betting method is the flat-betting approach. This means betting the same amount on every game. Take your starting amount of money at your disposal, and risk 2-5% per wager. This means if your starting bankroll is $100, you should never place a single bet greater than $5. This system prevents losing your entire bankroll during bad stretches and also sets you up for positive returns when you are on a hot streak. Patience is key. These numbers can be adjusted every day, week, or month if you like. If you had a great month and your bankroll is now $200, then you can adjust your wagers appropriately. Just stay within those 2-5% guidelines.