Different Types of Bets Explained
Beginner sports bettors are often surprised by the number of different bets that can be placed with bookmakers. You can wager on far more than simply which team will win a match, and if you want the best chance of success, then you really need to be familiar with all the different ways to bet.
When first starting out you should stick to the simpler wagers, but it's still worth learning about the others too. Even the more complicated ones aren't particularly difficult to understand, and you will soon want to start using them.
It's worth noting that there are different terms for the same bets in different parts of the world. There are also some types of bets that are very similar to each other, with just slight differences. This is where things become a little more complex, but we have explained everything you need to know below.
Win Bets & Moneyline Bets
These two terms basically mean the same thing. The term moneyline bet is used largely in America (where the moneyline odds format is used), while the term win bet is used in most other regions.
This is the most straightforward of all wagers, and it's used in almost every single sport you can gamble on. It's simply a wager on who you think is going to win a match, game, or event. So if, for example, you believed a football team was going to win an upcoming match, then you would place a win bet with that team as your selection.
We've explained more about this type of wager, and provided some examples, on our page for moneyline bets and win bets.
Totals Bets & Over/Under Bets
These are another two terms which mean the same thing. The term totals is typically used in the US and a few other countries, while over/under is more common in regions such as the United Kingdom and Europe.
This is a straightforward type of wager which is very popular. The idea is to predict whether a specified total (such as the total number of points scored by both teams in a match) will be higher or lower than the number set by a bookmaker. For example, if a bookmaker sets the total points to be scored at 43 in a football match, then you could wager on whether you believe the total will be greater than 43, or less than 43.
For more information on wagers of this type, please see the following page on understanding totals bets.
Point Spread & Handicap Betting
Point spread betting is very popular in the United States, particularly for football. It's used for several other sports too. Handicap betting is essentially the same, with just a couple of minor differences, and it's commonly used in the United Kingdom, Europe, and some other regions.
The basic principle for both these forms of betting is that bookmakers make theoretical adjustments in the number of points or goals scored, purely for the purposes of a wager. For example, in a football match between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos, the Broncos may be given three points with the Seahawks deducted three points.
In this scenario, a wager on Seahawks would only be successful if they won by more than three points. A wager on the Broncos would be successful if they either won the game, or lost by less than three points.
For a more detailed explanation, including some additional examples, please see our point spread & handicap bets article.
Futures & Outright Bets
Once again these are two terms for what is the same type of wager. A future, or outright, bet is typically placed on the winner of a tournament, league, or other competition. A simple example would be betting on the winner of the Super Bowl at the start of the NFL season. You can see more examples, and some additional information, on the following page: Futures and Outright Bets.
Proposition Bets & Specials
Proposition bets, often referred to as props or specials, are bets on a wide range of outcomes related to sports events. Typically, these are bets that don't have a direct outcome on the final results. In other words, you can win these bets without picking a winner of a game.
There are hundreds of different wagers of this type. Common examples include which team or player will score first during the match, the time of the first goal scored, the number of strikes thrown by a baseball pitcher, or the number of three pointers scored in basketball.
For a closer look at this type of betting, please view our article on prop bets and specials.
Parlays & Accumulators
Parlays and accumulators are more advanced wagers, but they are still relatively straightforward. They involve making multiple selections as part of a single bet, such as picking the winners of six different football matches for example. Wagers of this type are difficult to get right with any kind of consistency, and as such the potential payouts can be very high.
On the following pages we have explained about parlays and accumulators in more detail, and provided some examples.
Teasers & Pleasers
These are essentially parlays with a twist. They are most commonly offered by US facing bookmakers for football and basketball, and they are the kind of wagers that beginners should avoid until they have a bit of experience under their belt.
Teasers involve making multiple selections with a significant advantage; you can move the point spreads for the games you are betting on in your favor. Pleasers are basically the opposite. These also involve multiple selections, but you move the spreads out of your favor. They are therefore harder to win, and offer higher payouts.
We've provided more details on these two types of wager on the following pages.
If Bets & Reverse Bets
An if bet is two or more wagers joined together based on a qualifying clause. It could be considered as a safer alternative to the parlay, because it reduces the risk involved in making multiple selections. With wagers of this type you basically make subsequent wagers only if your initial wagers are successful. In an if bet with two selections, for example, the wager on your second selection would only be active if your first selection won.
A reverse bet effectively doubles up an if bet. The first part of the wager is an if bet on your first selection and then your second selection. The second part of the wager is an if bet on your second selection and then your first selection.
These are two of the more confusing wagers you can place, and the best way to explain them properly is using examples. We have done this on the following page: Explaining If Bets & Reverse Bets.
Permutation betting involves making multiple selections and placing multiple wagers on different combinations of those selections. A simple example is if you made three selections (we'll call them A, B, and C). A permutation bet here would contain three singles (one on each of A, B, and C), three doubles (one on each of A and B, B and C, and A and C), and one treble (on A, B, and C).
This is another complicated form of betting which is best explained using examples. Please see the following page for more information.
Author: Brad Johnson
Updated: March 2015
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