People watching a sport game

How Sports Betting Works

Since it started to become legal in states across America after the Supreme Court overturned the federal law that banned it, sports betting has taken the nation by storm. It’s already raked in billions of dollars over the past five years – and significantly less years than that in many states – providing not just oodles of cash for the companies that run it or big winnings for those who know how to do it (and have luck on their side), but major tax revenue for the states that have legalized it.  

And yet, unlike even a highly skilled game like poker, sports betting is actually one of the trickier “gambling” games out there. So much so, that “gambling” really does have to be in quotes because of how much it’s not just a game of chance. 

Obviously luck will always play a part because it’s impossible to predict with 100% certainty what the outcome will be of any game or match, but the secret to sports betting is knowledge. And to understand that, we first need to understand what sports betting is. 

people watching baseball

What Is Sports Betting?

This might seem obvious, but before understanding how sports betting works, we need to know what it is. The simple definition of the term is that it is placing a wager on the outcome of a particular sporting match/ game and if that outcome occurs, you win a multiple of your wager. So far so straightforward. And, in many respects, it is that simple, but there are also a number of different types of sports bets and though you can play any of these just as a sports fan, betting on your favorite team to win the big game, if you want to make some serious money off sports betting, there is quite a bit you need to do before you place a single bet.


Finding the Right Bookie 

Before you place any bet on any game, make sure that you find a sports book – a sports betting site, for most people, unless you feel like playing in-person – that is reliable and secure. There are tons upon tons of sportsbooks, or bookies, out there, with more popping up all the time so this might seem overwhelming at first, but the internet has made it so much simpler. First, decide if you’re looking for a dedicated sports betting site or if you wish to make use of the sports betting section in an online casino. Whichever you choose, look up reviews online of that site and do your own homework to make sure that they offer secure payment options, 24/7 support, some sort of certification and perhaps even a physical address. 

Close up of a basketball

Gambling Responsibly

As we’re about to see, sports betting is one of the least purely luck-driven gambling activities there are, but it’s still gambling and gambling irresponsibly can entirely ruin a person financially, which can have knock on effects through the rest of their lives, leading to depression, sometimes even death. The most important thing you can do, therefore, is to make sure you have enough disposable income that you can afford to lose some of it. If you do, make a budget and stick to it and never, ever, ever gamble on credit, no matter how much of a “sure thing” the latest game is. When it comes to sports betting, though, playing responsibly also requires a good knowledge of how the various forms of sports betting works and as expert a knowledge on the actual sports and the players as possible. Not so much if you’re just putting a few bucks on your favorite team coming out tops, but definitely if you’re betting serious money to win serious money.


Know the Sport, Know the Players

The key to winning at sports betting is having as much knowledge on your fingertips about the game you’re betting on as humanly possible. It’s obviously impossible to predict with perfect accuracy the results of any game as great players can have off days and teams that had only just scraped by until that point may suddenly experience a reversal of fortunes. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make an educated prediction, and for this you need to know both the ins and the outs of the sport being played and the history of the teams and/ or players playing in that game. This includes both the current season, as well as the team and the individual players’ performance over the years.

Fortunately, the internet is once again a godsend as it has never been easier to fill in any gaps you may have of your knowledge in these arenas. You can find info on many sportsbook sites, but it’s just as possible to find what you need on the numerous fan sites devoted to the team/ player, as well as from the official team site and major sports resources like ESPN.  

2 people watching their sports team live

Know the Different Kinds of Sports Bets

There isn’t actually a single kind of bet you can make on any given match, but a fairly large variety of them. The most common include (with brief descriptions):


  • Moneyline Bets. The second most common sports bet is simply betting that one team will win over the other.
  • Spread Bets. These are the most common forms of sports bets by far when it comes to team sports, especially, and though like moneyline bets, they’re simply betting on one team winning over the other. The big difference, though, is that in these bets, bookies adjust the bets so they’re even odds on both teams. In other words, say Liverpool is playing Manchester United and the former is the odds-on favorite to win, say, by at least 2 goals. A spread bet would then make it that if you bet on Man United, they only have to tie or even lose by 1 goal for you to win your bet. On the other hand, if you bet on Liverpool, they will need to win by 2 goals or more for you to win the bet.
  • Over/ Under Bets. This one’s a bit odd, but it’s actually the most common sort of sports bet after the two above. In these bets you are betting on the overall score of a game between the two teams. To illustrate, let’s say the Giants are playing the Eagles in a football match, and the bookie sets out the most likely score as being 40 overall. You can either place a bet that the total will be more than that (over) or that it will be less (under). If the final results for the match are, say, 17 to the Eagles and 25 to the Giants, the “over” bet would win, because the total is 42. If, on the other hand, the Eagles still scored 17, but the Giants only 12, then the “under” bet would obviously win as the total is 29.
  • Player Prop Bets. Rather than betting on the performance of the team or the two teams’ combined score, in this kind of bet, you wager instead on the performance of individual players. These are some of the most fun and varied bets, as you can bet, say, on how many slam dunks a basketball player makes or how many passes a quarterback will make.
  • Game Prop Bets. The same as player prop bets, these instead bet on particular events happening in the game, such as which team will be first to score 5 points or which team will be the first to have a player hit a home run or make a 3-point throw. Prop bets are less common so you might have to seek them out, but this where knowledge of individual players really pays off. And again, these really are some of the most fun bets available, especially in a less professional atmosphere when betting against friends.
  • Live Bets. As the name suggests, these bets (usually spread bets) aren’t placed before the game starts, but as it’s progressing. This is a fast and immediate sort of bet, but both more and less challenging than other bets, as so much can happen in the middle of a game and you really need to be on your feet. On the other hand, since the game is in play, you can probably better predict how it will go than if you bet beforehand. 


There are numerous other forms of bets you can make, but these are the most common and certainly the least complicated for newer, less experienced bettors. The nature of each individual sport also dictates what kind of bets can be wagered. You may choose to place different kinds of bets on different games or entirely different sports, but it’s highly recommended that you research the kind of bet you’re making as in-depthly as possible. Odds are also expressed differently among the different forms of betting, so that’s another thing that you really need to understand before betting.


Place Your Bets, Check the Results, Collect Your Winnings 

People watching their favorite sports

With all of the above in place, it’s time to place your bet. Doing this in-person frequently requires cash, but doing it online is the easiest by far. You need to register on the sports betting site or online casino of your choice by entering basic details like your name, age (via your ID usually), contact details and a password, after which you will be able to make deposits into and out of your account through your credit card, checking card or numerous e-wallet and virtual payment options. 

With the money in your account, all that’s left is to use all or part of the amount to bet on a game, according to the kind of bet you want to make. After that, it’s just a matter of waiting for the results. If you lose, you obviously simply lose the money you bet. If you win, the winnings are worked out by the bookmaker and are deposited directly into your account on the site. From there, you can either use that money to place more bets or play more gambling games or can withdraw it to your bank account, credit card or PayPal account, which is normally done over a couple of days, if not instantaneously.

By this you can see why it’s so important to make sure you’re only using the best and most reputable online casinos or bookmakers possible, but it’s really all as simple as that. With these basic facts on hand, you should be well on your way to being able to bet on your favorite (or not-so-favorite) sporting event. More in-depth research into working out odds, the kind of bet you’re making, and as much of the particular sport and team/ player as you possibly can. 

Just remember, this site (and the internet, in general) is your friend, so learning these things and more is easier than ever, and to be honest, if you don’t make use of these deep resources, you’re only undermining any sports bet you ever make. With them, though, and as long as you play responsibly, as well as strategically and smartly, you may well be on your way to making some decent cash off a single sports game.

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