Understanding the Basics of Sports Betting

Updated on July 8, 2021

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Understanding sports betting comes from an interest in sports, numbers, and statistics. Since the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 overturned a federal ban on sports betting—almost half the states have legalized it. Its popularity has soared.

The world’s top regions for sports betting include the U.S., the U.K., and Macao (an autonomous region off the southern coast of China). Valued at $59 billion as of September 2020, the worldwide online gambling market dominates.

Growth continues with projections like these:

*The online gambling market might be worth $92.9 billion by 2023

*An increase of $79.58 billion in the global gambling market between 2021-2025 could be possible

*Sports betting revenue in the U.S. may increase six times by 2023

*If all 50 states legalize sports gambling, revenues in the U.S. could reach more than $19 billion

When it comes to understanding gambling, you need to start with the simplest question. What are the basics of sports betting?

Sports Betting Essentials

Sports betting basics include how to bet on sports. First, you’ll need to be in a location where gambling is legal. Then you’ll need to find a reputable sportsbook.

Before you place any bets, though, you may need to get acquainted with some basic terminology.

Here are a few essential sports betting terms:

*favorite, the team, individual, or outcome most likely to win or occur

*handle the total amount of money placed on a game or event

*juice, a commission a sportsbook takes for each wager or bet (also known as “vig”)

*longshot, the team or individual who is least likely to win, an underdog

*odds/lines, numbers that represent the likelihood of a specific result or outcome

*wager, the amount of money you’re willing to risk on a particular result or outcome (also known as “action” or “bet”)

Additional terms cover the type of bets you can make at a sporting event.

Types of Bets

How do you win sports betting? Well, once you’ve got some basic knowledge of the terms involved, you can learn how to bet. The easiest way to wager on a sporting event typically comes from choosing the winner.

That’s known as a Moneyline bet. Favorites might receive negative odds (-110), while the underdog usually gets positive odds (+120).

*For -110 odds, you’ll need to wager $110 to win $100

*For +120 odds, a $100 bet wins $120

Here’s a look at Bovada’s Moneyline odds for Game 1 of the NBA Finals:

Milwaukee Bucks (+195)

Phoenix Suns (-235)

A $100 bet on the Milwaukee Bucks offers you $195, while the same amount on the Phoenix Suns pays $42.55. The implied probability for the Suns to win Game 1 stands at a strong 70%. (They win 70% of the time.)

The over/under for the matchup means you can wager on the total amount of points scored by both teams. For Game 1 of the NBA finals, the O/U is 217.

O 217.0 (-115)

U 217.0 (-105)

You’ll need to wager $115 to win $100 for the OVER or $105 to win $100 for the UNDER.

Oddsmakers foresee a high-scoring game. A total combined score above 217 pays for the OVER, while anything below 217 pays for the UNDER.

If the combined total score amounts to exactly 217, that will represent a push or a tie. Meaning, neither the over nor the under-hit, so your wager gets returned.

A point spread bet works in a similar fashion.

Milwaukee Bucks +5.5 (-110)

Phoenix Suns -5.5 (-110)

Here, the odds are the same for each outcome. If the Bucks lose by five, they’ll still cover the spread. The Suns need to win by six.

Most Popular Sports to Bet On

After getting used to picking winners or outcomes, you may want to think about other bets. For example, there are futures, prop specials, and live betting. Let’s take a look at those types of bets for the most popular sports to bet on.

According to the American Gaming Association (AGA), the March Madness college basketball tournament represents the “most wagered-on event in the U.S. sports betting calendar.” Revenue from that month totaled more than $350 million, likewise for January 2021 (NFL playoffs).

Around the world, soccer (football) remains the most popular sport to watch and bet on. American football, basketball, baseball, and hockey stand as major pillars of sports culture.

Baseball offers the most games throughout its regular season. With 162 games among 30 teams, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to try Moneyline, over/under, and point-spread bets.

Futures allow gamblers the chance to wager on the 2021 World Series Winner.

Los Angeles Dodgers (+350)

Houston Astros (+600)

San Diego Padres (+675)

Chicago White Sox (+700)

New York Mets (+900)

Since the World Series is months away, these lines favor early bettors.

Prop specials (or “prop bets”) for UEFA Euro 2020 cover a wide variety of areas, such as corner kicks, shots on target, cards, and goals. These props might combine to form wild, speculative wagers for more advanced gamblers.

You can even break down many bets into First Half and Second Half Lines. Your sportsbook might offer prop builders to wager on the number of goals scored by individual players.

That leads to live betting on games in real-time—this type of betting accounts for many wagers across all gambling markets.

Translate prop bets into live events, and you’ve got an almost endless string of possibilities.

Profitable Betting Strategies

Per Sports Illustrated: “If a major sporting event is being played anywhere on Earth, in-play betting options are likely available somewhere.” Pros and cons exist for these constant derivatives, as they do in the world of finance.

So, it’s essential to remember discipline when starting with sports betting. Strategies to remain profitable with your wagers include:

*Use your head

*Set realistic expectations

*Bet only what you can afford to lose

*Take breaks

*Learn from your mistakes

With these basic ground rules, you can establish how to get started with sports betting. Getting into good habits from the beginning may help put you on the path to earning secondary income.

Even professional sports gamblers expect to win little more than half their wagers. For each bet, you shouldn’t exceed 5% of your total bankroll. (The money you set aside for gambling.)

So, if you’ve got a bankroll of $1,000, then each bet should be $50 or less. Keep track of your wins and losses. If you make $200 worth of bets per week in a month, then a bankroll of $1,400 by the end of the month becomes ideal.

If you can’t afford to lose, then you can’t afford to gamble. A winning streak implies a losing streak somewhere down the road. It’s important to stay grounded, no matter what happens.

If you feel like you need to take a break, then use your instincts. But always bet with your head.

Breaking even might be a sign that you’ve got what it takes to be a professional sports bettor. Anything better than that requires a lot of effort and research on your part.

If you’re having fun, that’s a good sign. Gambling makes watching sports much more enjoyable. So long as you remain level-headed—and profitable.

Best Sportsbooks for Beginners

Now that you understand the basics of sports betting, it’s time to get started. When looking for the best sportsbook, you should consider payouts, bonuses, customer service, and accessibility.

Here are the best sportsbooks for beginners:

*BetUS – 125% sign-up bonus up to $2,500 (Promo code: “JOIN125”), 150% crypto bonus (Promo code: “SU150CRYPT”)

*BetNow – 100% sign-up bonus up to $500

*Bovada – 50% welcome bonus up to $250

*MyBookie – 50% sports welcome bonus up to $1,000

*SportsBetting – 50% sign-up bonus up to $1,000

Remember to pay attention to the terms and conditions for sign-up bonuses.

As a beginner, you’ll have plenty of sportsbook options. So, you don’t need to rush into anything. Make sure you take the time to find the best one for your gambling needs and requirements.

Do your research to find the most trusted and reliable online sportsbooks.


If you’re starting, sports betting might feel a little overwhelming. The best way to handle that is to pick a sport you know and begin experimenting with small wagers.

There’s an enormous amount of information available through sportsbooks, media companies, and professional leagues. Plus, you can consult blogs, friends, family, etc.

Sports betting becomes like any other hobby, entertainment, or profession. You get out of it whatever you put into it. It’s what you make of it that counts.

To have fun, learn, and grow your bankroll.

That’s what sports betting is all about.

Bryan Myers is a freelance writer from the U.S. In 2019, he traveled to 12 countries around the world. He also teaches English online. Currently, he’s living in Da Nang, Vietnam. He’s been writing for Safest Betting Sites since August 2019, covering the 2020 U.S. Election, entertainment, and sports betting.

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.