Complete Guide to Sports Betting

Sports BettingWelcome to our complete guide to sports betting. The purpose of this page is to archive and organize all sports-related content published here at This is where we talk strategy, choosing a site and navigating the world of online sports betting.

Other than the fact that it's just plain fun, sports betting is an attractive form of gambling because there's nothing that says you have to lose over the long term. Other gambling games are designed to ensure the house always beats every player. Blackjack, roulette and craps are plenty of fun, but they always eventually take your money.

Sports betting is a whole different beast. In sports betting, the odds aren't always stacked against you. Most players never make much money with sports betting, but that's not because the game is rigged. It's because they don't have a full understanding of how it all works. Our goal here is to give you the foundation you need to be a more well-rounded bettor.

Sports Betting 101

Our beginner's guide to sports betting covers all the basics you need to get started with the most basic types of bets. There's a whole world of advanced betting strategy, but our beginner's guide will give you the absolute bare minimum you need to get started. It explains the most common types of bets, how to place those wagers and how to interpret the odds you see posted all over the place.

Also if you're looking for a better understanding of all the different phrases and terms that are used then you would do well to check out our sports betting glossary. You will find a comprehensive list of the most popular terms that you will most likely come across.

If you're good with the basics, you can check out some of our other pages to read about more advanced plays and the strategy for those. Here are several pages that address intermediate-to-advanced topics:

Football Betting 101

As most bettors probably already realize, there is no other sport that is bet on as much as football is. For this reason we have dedicated an entire section of our site as a guide to football betting. At one point or another, we figure that most every sports bettor will eventually place a bet on some sort of football game, whether it be the NFL, NCAA or another league.

In our football betting section we have several articles explaining in detail specific types of bets, strategy and systems that pertain strictly to betting on football. Below you will find just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the information contained in our guide so if any of the following articles aren't exactly what you're looking for then be sure to visit our complete guide. Here are just a few of the topics we cover:

Picking a Site

The long road to success all begins with picking the right site. This is the first of many steps that you need to take to have a long, successful run as a sports bettor. Choosing the right site isn't important just because of the obvious safety reasons. It's also important to get the best possible odds, the right types of wagers and the most valuable bonuses and promotions.

Safety and reputation are always the most important things to look at when choosing a book. Beyond that, much of it comes down to personal preferences. The following pages make recommendations based on some of the most common things people look for in a betting site.

We also have recommendations for betting sites based on your sport of choice. If you bet primarily on one sport, you might want to check out our sport-specific links on this page.

The betting industry is big into bonuses and promotions as a form of marketing. With hundreds of books competing for business, individual sites go to great lengths to get your business. Big bonuses and value-added promotions are widely used attract new signups. There's a lot of extra cash to be had if you know how to work the system.

How Sports Betting Works

Sports betting isn't nearly as complicated as it looks at first glance. We can still remember the first time we visited a sportsbook and how confusing it all looked. There were numbers and symbols listed all over the place and it made no sense at the time.

Once someone explained it, everything just fell into place. It's really not that bad once you understand the absolute basics. Our sports betting guide (above) explains everything in further detail, but here's a quick introduction.

Let's start with a look at a normal baseball bet. This is a pretty typical example of what you'll see at any sports betting site:

Baseball Betting Lines

What you're seeing here is actually a picture of three different bets. First, we have the point spread (also called the "runline" in baseball). Let's start with that bet.

  • Padres +1.5 (-190)
  • Diamondbacks -1.5 (+160)

The +1.5 next to the Padres means that if you bet on them, your bet is considered a winner if the Padres either win outright or if they only lose by 1 point. The sportsbook is giving them 1.5 extra points.

Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks are listed at -1.5. What that means is the Diamondbacks must win by at least 2 runs for any bets on the Diamondbacks to be considered winners.

The numbers in parenthesis show you how much you must risk compared to how much you stand to win for betting on each team. Any time you see a negative number, it means you're going to have to risk more money than what you stand to win. This is usually seen with teams that are viewed as favorites (more likely to win).

Any time you see a positive number, it means you stand to win more than your original wager. This gives you a reason to bet on the underdog.

Going back to our example, the -190 behind the Padres means that you are being asked to risk $190 for every $100 in potential winnings. You don't have to bet exactly that much money, but it shows the ratio of risk to reward. For example, you could just as easily bet $19 for a potential $10 payout.

The +160 next to the Diamondbacks shows that you'll get $160 for every $100 that you risk. Again, you could just as easily bet $10 and get a $16 payout.

Let's put it all together now. If you were to bet $190 on the Padres, you would win $100 in profits if the Padres either win outright or if they lose by only 1 run. If you were to bet $100 on the Diamondbacks, you would win $160 in profits if the Diamondbacks win by at least 2 runs.

That is as complicated as it gets in sports betting. Everything from here on out is much simpler. The next bet in our example is just a straight up moneyline:

  • Padres +118
  • Diamondbacks -128

No points are being given or taken from anyone in this bet. What you see here is a straight up bet on either team to win. The payout odds are different because neither team is being given extra points nor being asked to win by at least X number of points.

If you choose this bet, the Padres will pay $118 in profits for every $100 you risk. If you bet on the Diamondbacks, you'll need to risk $128 for every $100 in profits.

The third and last bet shown in the example is a basic over/under bet, also known as a "total" bet. The total in this example is 9 runs. In this bet, you are going to bet whether or not the total number of runs scored in this game will be greater than or less than 9.

So, let's say for example that you think this will be a high-scoring game. You think that the combined score of both teams will be 10 runs or greater. You would want to take "the over."

If you think it will be a low-scoring game, you would want to take "the under."

The numbers in the parenthesis show once again how much risk and reward there is for each side of the total. If you bet on the over, you'll be asked to put up $105 for every $100 in potential winnings. If you bet on the under, you'll be asked to put up $115 for every $100 in potential winnings.

Whew, this sure does look like a lot of text just to explain one stupid little bet, doesn't it? Worry not, our friends. We tend to get long-winded. If you review everything so far, you'll see that these three bets only incorporate two basic concepts: point spreads and moneyline odds.

Remember: the point spread either gives points or takes points from each team's final score. The moneyline shows how much you must risk and how much you stand to win. An understanding of those two concepts will give you everything you need to place just about any sports bet you'll ever find.

What to Expect When You Bet Online

The mechanics of sports betting are the same whether you bet online or with the local bookie. If you have any experience with betting on sports in Vegas or anywhere else, you won't have any problems taking your action to the internet.

Really, the biggest thing to prepare yourself for is the process of choosing an online sportsbook. Finding a book in a place like Vegas is easy. You know all gambling operations there are heavily regulated by the Nevada Gaming Control Board and are most likely legit. The internet is largely unregulated and that means you must exercise caution when considering a new book.

There are plenty of great online sportsbooks, but there's no overarching governing commission to regulate them all. So for that reason, greater caution is warranted. Stick to our recommended books to keep your bankroll safe and your experience positive.

On the flip side, the advantage to having so many places to choose from is there is an incredible amount of competition for your business. Betting sites are bending over backwards to get your business. There are bonuses, reduced juice lines and promotions galore on the internet. It's so much easier to get that VIP treatment even if you're not a high roller.

You'll also notice that there are so many more betting options on the internet. When you have a dozen quality books at your disposal and each one has a few hundred events to bet on, it's almost overwhelming. It's all too easy to get carried away and throw bankroll management out the window. One thing we always tell people making the transition to the internet is to start slow. There will always be another line.