Sports Betting Guide

In 2018, the United States Supreme Court’s decision in the Murphy v. NCAA case opened the door for legalized sports gambling. Immediately after that decision, the state legislatures went to work and many passed laws making wagering legal.

Though now legal in many states, sports betting enthusiasts found ways to gamble for years. Now, with legal casino and online operations growing in rapid numbers, it’s never been easier for a player to find action.

Are you a sports fan? Do you have the itch for some action but are not familiar with sports betting rules? Don’t be a square and bet before you know what you’re doing. That’s an easy way to lose money.

Check out our comprehensive guide on sports betting to educate yourself.

It Seems So Simple

For as long as there have been contests, someone bet on the outcome. From ancient Greece to present-day Las Vegas, sports and sports betting fit like a hand in a glove.

Many sports fans long consider it their favorite pastime. And to the inexperienced, sports wagering seems so simple. You pick who wins the game.

If you win, you make money. Yes, if it were only that easy.

The truth is, it’s not. You only have to look at how much revenue sportsbooks pull in every year to know how hard it is to make money.

Do you think bookmakers would bother operating on the wrong side of the law for so many years if sports gambling wasn’t profitable for them?

No, they wouldn’t. You need to know how complicated betting is before you can dip your toe into the gambling market. You don’t need to learn complicated strategy overnight, but you need foundational knowledge of the basics before you begin.

Important Terms

Sports betting has its terminology you need to know. Though the list of sports betting jargon is long, to understand the rest, you need to learn these terms.


When bookmakers set their numbers, they decide who they think will win the game and by how much.

A favorite is who the bookmaker thinks will win the game, and receives a (-) on the board. A better receives less return for a winning bet on a favorite because they are more likely to win.


An underdog is a team or competitor a sportsbook determines is less likely to win. You’ll see a (+) sign next to an underdog.

Players receive a greater return on winning underdog bets because these “dogs” are less likely to win.


Every bet has at least two sides (there are some with three, but we’ll talk about those later).

Each side is given a corresponding number decided by a bookmaker. These sides exist in all three basic bet types.


A line is all the numbers that correspond with a bet. This includes the full game or any specific time interval.

Types of Bets

Three basic bets serve as the foundation for all sports betting. When you walk into a casino sportsbook or pull up the app for the first time, you will see a series of numbers that are confusing if you don’t know what they mean.

Here we will explain the three types of bets and what the corresponding numbers mean.


A moneyline bet is a bet for a team or individual to win a contest. It’s the most simple bet to make.

This is easy to explain with a real-life example. Say you’re a college football fan and you want to make the championship game more interesting with a wager. You have a good feeling that Ohio State will beat Alabama, so you want to bet them to win.

You walk into the casino or pull up an online betting app and see Ohio State +225 and Alabama -286. These are the moneyline numbers. You know this means Alabama is the favorite while Ohio State is the underdog.

What do those numbers mean for you? If you bet $100 on underdog Ohio State, you win $225. However, to win $100 on Alabama, you must wager $286.

As you can see, you can win more money betting on dogs. That doesn’t mean you should always play them.


Sports bettors and bookmakers wouldn’t make much money if they only offered win/lose moneyline bets. If you’re a long-time sports fan you know that sometimes the talent discrepancy between two teams is immense.

Spread bets, also known as puck-line bets in hockey and run-line bets in baseball, are how you bet on these games. Every single contest has a corresponding spread.

With a spread bet, you bet on a team to win over a certain amount of points or lose by less than a certain amount of points. The bookmaker determines these numbers (in hockey and baseball these numbers are a standard 1.5, though they will move).

You have that feeling about Ohio State, but you’re not positive they’ll win. You do think it will be a close game.

You see Ohio State +225/+9 -110. You know that +225 is the moneyline number. That +9 is the spread number and the -110 is the odds associated with that spread number.

What does this mean? If you think Ohio State will lose by less than 9 points or win the game, you’ll win your bet at -110. That means to win $100 on that bet you’ll bet $110.

If you bet Alabama at -9 -110, that means Alabama must win the game by more than 9 points for you to win.


A total or over/under number completes the line. You see Ohio State +225/+9 -110/75.5. That 75.5 is the number set by bookmakers on the combined point total of both teams.

To win an over bet, Ohio State and Alabama must combine to score more than 75.5 points. To win an under bet, these two teams must score less than 75.5.

The standard odds on these bets are -110, but they are subject to change.

Exotic Bets

Now that you know what the three basic bets are, you can start building exotic bets that are based on them.


A parlay is two or more bets combined to increase your winnings. Sportsbooks and casinos have different rules on parlays and how you can play them.

If you’re looking to win a lot of money, parlays are a good way to do it. Say you like that Ohio State +9, but you also like Pittsburgh to win their pro football game that night at -15.5.

You can combine those bets. Two bets combined at -110 yield odds of +265. That means instead of winning $182 if you bet $100 on both, you win $265 by combining them!

The only catch? You must win all your bets in a parlay to win. If you go 8 for 9 on a parlay, you lose.


Sportsbooks allow you to adjust the spreads or point totals on parlay bets through teasers. For football, they offer 6, 6.5, and 7 point teasers. This means your Ohio State and Pittsburgh parlay will have more favorable numbers.

In this scenario, let’s say you choose to tease by 7. For your teaser, Ohio State would now be +16, while Pittsburgh would be -8.5.

Because you’re given more favorable numbers, the book reduces your payout.


A 3-way bet is a moneyline bet with three sides. You can bet on Ohio State to win, Alabama to win, or a tie.

These bets are offered for the full regulation not counting any overtime, or for set intervals of the game like quarters or halves.

You’ll find that the moneyline numbers on a 3-way yield higher payouts. They’re harder to win. If you bet Ohio State on a 3-way line to win the first half and the teams tie, you lose.


A round-robin bet is a series of combined two-team parlays. Let’s say you bet Ohio State +9, Pittsburgh -15.5, and you like San Francisco at -3.5. All these bets have the standard juice of -110.

If you do this, you have three separate two-team parlay combinations you wager on. You have Ohio State and Pittsburgh, Ohio State and San Francisco, and Pittsburgh and San Francisco.

When you bet $100 on this round-robin, the casino assumes $300 in risk by extending that $100 to all three two-team parlays. Given that each parlay pays at +265, the maximum you will win if all three parlays hit is $795. 

If only one parlay hits, you lost $200 but won $265. That means the book pays out $65.

The Logic Behind the Lines

To understand sports gambling, you have to understand how bookies and sportsbooks make money.

The primary way sportsbooks make money is through the “juice” or the “vig.” The juice is a commission the book keeps on each bet. When you place a $100 bet on the Ohio State spread, you get your $100 back plus $91 in winnings.

On the other side, people who bet $100 on Alabama lose their $100. This $9 difference, or vig, is kept by the book.

Because the book profits primarily on the juice, they set their lines to encourage even play on both sides.

That Ohio State vs. Alabama spread of 9 points doesn’t mean that a bookie believes Alabama will win by that much or more. They come to that number by determining what margin will entice an equal number of players to make bets on either side.

Understanding Line Movement

One of the most important aspects of sports betting to understand is line movement. You want to bet Ohio State at +9. By the time you get to the casino or get around to your sportsbook platform, you notice Ohio State now sits at +8.

What happened?

Betting lines are not static. When bookmakers release their initial lines, they begin to take bets. They set the original number to encourage play on both sides.

Experienced gamblers do not live in a vacuum. They have their ideas about what will happen in any given game. These preferences show with how much money comes in on either side.

If a majority of money comes in on Ohio State +9, bookmakers adjust the number to entice play on Alabama and even their ledger.

If money comes in heavy on the Alabama side at -9, the bookmaker will move that number up to get play on Ohio State. These movements can come from consistent public play or a large single wager.

When you bet on sports, you have to change how you think about picking games. Winning sports betting is not as simple as beating the sportsbook number. You play the sportsbook and fellow gamblers. 

How to Win

Winning at sports gambling takes a lot of work and a lot of skill. The best sports bettors often top out at 55%. Given that even the best still lose 45% of the time, you have to expect you’ll lose a lot more when you start.

Sports gambling is about so much more than picking who wins. You have to keep your eyes on the numbers and you have to do a ton of research. Stat books and statistical probability are your best friends.

Once you learn how to interpret the numbers and statistics, you may see some success. Don’t bet on it.

Sports betting is, at best, a nice hobby and a great way to generate interest in a game. It’s best to start slow and have fun.

Sports Betting Will Be Here Forever

If there is a game or a contest anywhere in the world, be sure someone bets on it. From professional football to Ukrainian table tennis, gamblers will find a way to lay action.

Become familiar with the terms and the rules of sports betting. The best way to lose money is to give it to a bookmaker or casino with uninformed wagers.

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