Over the past few years, sports betting has emerged from the shadows to the mainstream. The stigma against gambling that has existed for decades is fading in American popular culture, opening the door for a massive multibillion-dollar legal sports betting industry to emerge. With sports gambling now legal in many states, millions of sports fans will be looking to enter the gaming market for the first time. But where do you start if you are not familiar with the terminology?
Here is an introduction to how to bet on sport. We will be adding to this series in the coming weeks.
When oddsmakers release a betting line on a game, the first thing they do is to decide which team should be the favorite and which should be the underdog.
The favorite is the team that is expected to win the match and gets a minus sign next to its odds, while the underdog is expected to lose and get a plus sign. If the game is a toss-up, books will open it as “pick” or “pick’em”.
There are two main ways to bet on a favorite or an underdog. The first is point spread, which is betting on the margins of victory. It “picks” the preferred points, while the default “receives” them.
For example, say that the Patriots are 7-point favorites against the Jets.
And if the Patriots win 7 points or fewer (or lose the match straight-up), you lose your bet.
On the other hand, if you bet on Jets “plus points” (+7), you need the Jets to either win the match by six points or fewer in order to win (or cover) your bet.
Spreads are available for all sports, but are mostly used when playing on higher-ranked sports such as football and basketball.
The second way to bet on a favorite or an underdog is on the money line. It just depends on which team will win the match.
Favorites are given a “minus” designation, such as -150, -200 or -500. If a favorite is -200, that means you have to risk $200 to win $100. If the favorite wins, you get $1, but if the favorite loses, you get $200.
Because the favorites are expected to win, you assume more risk when betting on them.
Underdogs are called a “plus”, like +150, +200 or +500. If an underdog is +200, that means if you bet +100 on them and they win the match, you get $200. If they lose the game, you only lose the $100 that you risked. Because underdogs are expected to lose, there is more than a reward when betting on them.
Money lines are available for all sports, but they are mostly used when you play on low-grade sports such as baseball, hockey, and football.
In addition to setting a line for the favorites and the underdogs, the oddsmakers will also set the total number of points scored by both teams combined in the game. This is called the Total or Over/Under.
Bettors can then wager on whether or not the game will go Over or Under.
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The oddsmakers put a “tax” on each bet, which is usually called “juice” or “vig” (short for ” vigorish “). The juice is the commission you have to pay to the sportsbook to accept your wager.
Let’s say Duke Blue Devils are -5 (-110)… This means that if you want to bet on Duke as a 5-point favorite, you need to risk $110 to win $100.
The juice may also be a positive number, such as Penn State -7 (+110). This means that if you bet $100 on Penn State as a 7-point favorite and it covers, you will win $110. If it loses, you only lose the $100 that you risked.
You always have to risk more on the favorites than on the underdogs or else the sportsbooks would be out of business.
With the spread of legal sports betting across America, sports bettors have never had more options to take advantage of. To find out if sports betting is legal where you live, check the state-by-state trackers.
Among the largest states that legalized mobile gambling, we could list Colorado, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana and West Virginia. The sportsbooks highlighted below are all the trustworthy legal shops that take bets online.
In the end, you have the final say on how much to risk on a game, but a good rule is to risk only what you can afford to lose. Sports betting is a marathon, not a sprint. There will be good days and bad days. As a result, we recommend a flat-betting approach.
This means betting the same amount in each game and only risking 1% to 5% of your bankroll per play (the bankroll is the amount you can bet). For example, if you are starting with a $100 bankroll, you should risk no more than $5 per game.
By using a flat-betting approach, bettors guard themselves against losing their money during a bad stretch, but also position themselves for a positive return on investment) when they’re doing well.
The rotation numbers are what’s listed to the left of the team on the board. They are also referred to as the “NSS” number or a “Vegas” identifier number. They are unique to the team, sports, league and are universal across most sportsbooks.
For example, you might see the number “312” listed next to the Bruins -120. If you’re at a casino and want to bet $100 on Bruins, walk up to the window with your money and say: “$100 on 312, Bruins – 120.”
Like stocks on Wall Street, the sports betting market is fluid. Throughout the day, bookmakers will adjust the odds depending on the actions they’re taking and other news, such as injuries and the weather. For example, if the Vikings are open as a 7-point favorite and the vast majority of bets are on the Vikings, you might see the Vikings’ line move from -7 to -7.5. The line can move further to -8, or it can be “brought back” to -7.
You can monitor betting data for each game in real-time on our live odds page or in our mobile app (download here).
Lines can vary based on the sportsbook because different books have different customers. As a result, one book may post the Cavs -8 while another has -7.5. Having access to more than one sportsbook allows you to shop for the best line. Getting an extra half-point may not seem like a huge deal, but it adds up over the long run and increases your chances of winning.
Our live odds pages will automatically show the best line for each game.
This isn’t Monopoly money, so you want to make sure you’re tracking your progress. The easiest way to do that is with our award-winning (and free!) app, which has awesome features like live bet cover probability and odds shopping, but also allows you to track all your bets across almost every sport.
This is valuable because it enables you to identify where your strengths and weaknesses are as you start betting. Are you more successful at playing in the NFL or NBA? Do you thrive when you take player props or over/under? These are all good things to know and can allow you to maximize your winnings.
Check it out for free here.
How to use the winnings calculator?1. fill your bet amount
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