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How Sports Betting Works: A Beginner’s Guide (June 2024)

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Sports betting is extremely popular around the world these days. It can be a good way to add some extra excitement to your favorite team’s upcoming match or even to any random match that you feel like watching. Not to mention the possibility of winning some cash if you happen to make the right prediction, and your bet pays off big time.

Unfortunately, sports betting is not really a topic that you can learn about at school, so everyone who wishes to engage in it must either learn it from someone who already knows how it all works or seek the answers online. If you have chosen the latter, then you have come to the right place, and today, we will cover a number of things that you need to know about sports betting in order to understand how it all works. Specifically, we will talk about what sports betting is, how it works, and even how you can place bets.

Where can you bet on sports?

When it comes to sports betting, there are two options that you can turn to these days. One is to go to a land-based sportsbook, while the other is to use an online betting site. Depending on your country or state, land-based sportsbooks might not be available, so online sportsbooks might be your only option in that situation. Apart from these two basic options, you can also place a bet with a bookie or even with friends, although these options are riskier and should probably be avoided.

While you are free to bet with your friends as you see fit, bookies are the riskiest option, as they take sports bets in most areas, but they do not have a license for it, and they operate outside of the law. In most areas, the authorities ignore them, but if you choose to engage with them, you could leave yourself exposed to a number of problems. As for how they work, the method is pretty much the same as traditional sportsbooks. They charge vig on their bets, and they get their lines from real sportsbooks.

Some of them might offer betting cards/parlay cards, where you can select a number of games and win a bigger payout than you would if you made a bet on a single match, However, these cards usually serve the bookies, as all featured games need to have the exact outcome that is predicted on the card in order for you to win. One difference and you will lose your wager, so once again, it is best to avoid them, as well as bookies, entirely.

Betting with friends will, of course, mean that you won’t have to pay the vig. However, it might not be that easy to find people willing to bet on the opposite outcome from the one that you wish to bet on, so you are unlikely to make many bets this way. In the end, the easiest, safest, and most reliable way to bet — assuming that land-based sportsbooks are not available — is online. In fact, even if they are available, betting online is still more convenient, provided that you can find a reliable sportsbook.

So, the first thing to do is to check whether sports betting has been legalized in your country or state. If it is still illegal, then land-based sportsbooks are out of the question. However, even in places where it is illegal to bet on sports, people can usually access offshore sportsbooks that are offering their services, so placing bets with them remains an option.

How does betting work?

In its essence, sports betting is really rather simple. It includes two or more parties that agree on the bet on whether a specific outcome will or won’t happen. Some money (or other assets of value) is wagered, and the “deal” usually involves odds. The party or parties that end up being correct after the event (typically a sports match) takes place wins the bet. As a result, the losing party is required to provide a payout.

With that being the base of it all, let’s now go into the specific, starting with:

What is sports betting?

Sports betting is exactly as it sounds like — engaging in betting on the outcome of a sporting event. If your prediction of the outcome is correct, you win a set amount of money. That usually means betting on the right team or on a specific number of points being scored, and alike. There are different types of bets that revolve around different aspects of the match, but in the end, the accuracy of your prediction is what matters. If the team or the player you bet on loses, then you lose the money that you wagered.

A lot of people engage in sports betting, but they don’t necessarily do it for the same reason. Some people seek to make money from it, while others simply wish to add a bit more excitement to the match by having a personal stake in it. In the end, millions engage in it, but for the most part, there is only a handful of professionals that regularly make money from it, while for the majority, it is nothing more than a coin toss, and their chance of winning or losing is equal. It should go without saying that this is NOT a reliable way to make money and that you should not view it as a way of maintaining regular profits.

The global sports betting market is massive, and some estimates say that it can be as high as three trillion per year. The same sources claim that the majority of the money that passes through the sports betting industry globally is made in illegal ways. But that does not mean that you should engage in illegal sports betting since there is a high probability of ending up in trouble.

What are the Plus and Minus in betting?

The next thing that we wanted to talk about are the plus and minus in betting and what they mean. The first thing to note is that these are used in American-style odds, and they represent two different things. The plus sign (+) shows how much you will get if you wager $100 and you win. The minus sign (-) shows how much you need to stake in order to win $100.

Apart from that, both can also be used in point spreads. These are some of the most common wagers in sports betting, at least when it comes to the US.

When it comes to the majority of matches, they have a team that is the favorite and a team that is the underdog. The team that is the favorite gives points (or runs) while the underdog receives them. So, for example, if you have Team A and Team B, with Team A being the underdog and Team B being the favorite, the point spread would show:

Team A (+3) -100; Team B (-3) -100

Usually, the home team would be listed second, so in this example, Team B is the home team. If you bet on Team B, you would give 3 points. What this means is that in order for you to win, Team B needs to score 4 points or more. If, however, you bet on Team A, it means that you get 3 points, and that, in turn, means that you will win if Team A manages to win the game or if they lose by only 1 or 2 points. On the plus side, you would also win if the game ended in a tie.

However, if Team B happens to win by exactly 3 points, you won’t win or lose. As for the “-100” featured in the example, that simply represents the odds. It means that you need to wager $110 in order to win $100.

In some cases, lines will not be whole numbers. This is done when the sportsbooks wish to avoid having the number of points made identical to the prediction that they made, as that can lead to difficulties when deciding which bettors won and which lost. So, to avoid this, they would use half points. For example:

Team A (+4.5) -100; Team B (-4.5) -100

In this case, betting that Team A would win means that you would win the bet if the team wins the game or loses by 4 or fewer points. If you bet on the victory of Team B, they need to win by 5 points or more in order for you to win the bet.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the most popular types of bets, such as:


This is a very simple and straightforward type of bet where you would simply bet on who is going to win the match. You don’t need to worry about how many points the teams will make or any specific aspect other than who would win, Team A or Team B.

Despite this, the moneyline bet still has a plus/minus number, although they signify how much you need to bet or how much you will win for your bet. In this scenario, the team that is the favorite is listed with a minus number, while the underdog is listed with a plus number. This might be a bit confusing at first, but you will get the hang of it fairly quickly.

If the number is negative, that means that this is the amount you have to bet in order to win $100. If the number is positive, that is the amount you will win if you bet $100. This is done in order to encourage betting on the underdog, which will bring a greater payout, even though the likelihood of the underdog winning is lower. So, the riskier the bet, the greater the payout, and the safer the bet, the more you have to pay.

Over/Under betting

Another popular type of bet is the Over/Under bet, also known as the Totals bet. With this bet, all that you care about is how many points were scored during the game. It doesn’t matter who scored them, or which team has scored more, or even which team has won the game — all that you care about here is the total number of scores.

So, the way this works is that the sportsbook will do its research on the teams, the players, the historical matches of both teams, even the weather, and countless other aspects. It will then use all of that data to come up with a prediction of how many total scores are likely to happen during the match. Then, it will decide on what number it will feature for the total number of points, and bettors will then bet on whether the real total number of scores will be Over or Under the number that the sportsbook has predicted.

So, if there is a soccer game and the sportsbook predicts the total number of goals will be 3 (it might post a number such as 3.5 to avoid a situation where the game ended with exactly 3 goals), but you believe that there will be more, you would make an Over bet. If you believe that there will be fewer, you can make an Under bet. With an Over bet, you would bet that there will be 4 or more goals. For an Under bet, you can bet that there will be 3 goals in total or less.

You do not have to specify how many, other than more or less than the number predicted by the sportsbook.

Generally, this is a very easy way to get into sports betting, but keep in mind — sportsbooks know what they are doing, and picking the winner is harder than it might seem.

How do sportsbooks make money from sports betting?

You might be wondering how do sportsbooks make money from sports betting. Which part of the wagers is their cut?

Simply put, there is something called a vig, which is a fee that you have to pay when placing a bet. This fee is built into moneyline bets, and you can see it in the difference between the lines. For example, if the team that is the favorite is listed at -200, while the underdog is +180m the difference between what you have to pay to place a bet and what you can win by making a correct prediction is what the sportsbook earns.

The most common form of vig comes from bets on point spreads, and here, you usually have to risk more money than what you can win in return. Usual vig numbers include betting $110 to win $100 or betting $105 to win $100. Of course, the sportsbook needs to pay the winners, and that money comes from those who placed the losing bets, which is why it is very important for them to have a balance between the winning and losing bets.

If one side is more favored than the other, then they will often adjust the line to change the bettors’ behavior.

How to place a bet?

Finally, let’s talk about how you can actually place a bet. The first thing to do is to check out the posted lines and make a decision about which team you wish to bet on. Also, you need to decide whether you wish to bet on the moneyline, the plus/minus line, or the over/under line.

Now, if you have access to land-based sportsbooks, you can simply go to a betting window and tell the person at the window what you want to bet on and how much money you wish to wager. In some places, you might get a betting paper where you can check out the available selections and mark the desired bet. However, most will simply get your bet verbally and do the rest themselves.

After placing a bet and paying the money, you will get a betting slip that lists the bet that you made and the amount you wagered. The slip is important, and you need to keep it and bring it back in case you win in order to get the payout.

Things are fairly similar on online sportsbooks. You simply go to its betting page, find the game that you want to bet on, select the bet or the team, or you can check boxes next to them, and then enter the amount that you wish to wager. Of course, you will have to make sure that the platform supports the payment method that you intend to use, or switch to one of the methods that are supported. After placing the bet, you will be taken to a confirmation screen, where you need to verify the bet, and the money will be withdrawn from your account.

From a beginner to a professional

This guide contains all the information that you need to know in order to get started with sports betting. However, note that there are countless nuances with the process that you will slowly learn over time as you delve deeper into it. You cannot become a professional overnight — it is a process that requires experience and finding yourself in different situations, but this is enough to get you started, and you will have a good idea of what you need to do in order to start betting.

There is also a lot of research that you need to do on your own, especially when it comes to predicting which team has the best chance of winning. You need to take a lot of things into consideration, and that also requires time and effort. But, if you wish to become a professional, you will start getting the hang of it if you keep learning. In the end, remember that betting is about having fun while enjoying your favorite games, and that, in the end, it is still a form of gambling, so there are no guarantees, and anything can happen. That’s where both the risk and the excitement come from, and you should always only risk the money that you can afford to lose.

Where to Bet

1. Everygame

Established in 1996, and formerly known as Intertops, Everygame is one of the premier sportsbooks in the industry.

Despite having casino and poker sections, Everygame is primarily a sportsbook, and it offers a lot in this part of its platform. Once you enter the sportsbook, you will see a number of sports categories on the left side of the screen, featuring football, soccer, basketball, ice hockey, golf, football, Aussie rules, baseball, boxing, UFC, cricket, darts, eSports, handball, motorsports, politics, rugby, snooker, table tennis, volleyball, and more.

Everygame lives up to the name, and it offers pretty much every game anyone could ever think of betting on, with competitive odds and the ability to bet on games even as they are taking place, which is great if you want to feel the vibe of the game first and place your bet second.

They accept USA residents excluding the states of: New York, New Jersey, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, and Washington.

To learn more read our Everygame Review or visit Everygame.

2. Bovada

Next on our list is the Bovada sportsbook and casino, which emerged in 2011. For the first five years of operation, the platform held the Kahnawake Gambling Commission’s license, but in 2016, it decided to give up on it after the Commission went through a policy change that Bovada did not approve of. For the last six years, it has operated without a license, but that still did not affect its quality or performance.

Its sportsbook offers a variety of popular payment methods, and the ability to bet on all kinds of big sports franchises, such as the NBA, NFL, MLB, NCAA football, NCAA basketball, and NHL, among others. Apart from traditional currencies, it also accepts Bitcoin, and it features mobile availability. And, if bettors ever experience an issue or need any sort of help, they can contact customer support at any time via email, phone call, or live chat.

To learn more read our Bovada Review or visit Bovada.

3. BetUS

The third on the list is BetUS — a well-known and highly-reputable online sports betting platform for the North American market, although the platform’s reputation has been flawless ever since its foundation in 1994. The platform, which is a casino in addition to being a sportsbook, is the holder of a Curacao Gaming Commission’s license, it is privately held, and it is highly secure and reliable.

BetUS features multiple payment levels, including Visa, Mastercard, and multiple cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, and alike. In terms of sports betting, the platform offers numerous options, including football, soccer, baseball, basketball, hockey, cycling, golf, boxing, tennis, and more. Plus, players can also make in-play bets, meaning that they can bet on the games while they are happening. It is also rich with welcome bonuses, promotions, and other benefits that make it highly desirable among bettors.

To learn more read our BetUS Review or visit BetUS.

Lloyd is passionate about online gambling, he lives and breathes blackjack and other table games, and he enjoys sports betting.