Online Sports Betting for Beginners

A little bit of bookie history

I believe betting on sports has existed since the beginning of organized sports.

Jokes aside, the bookies have always existed to be that convenient middleman that’s often been frowned upon by society at large.


Usually they were run by “undesirables” which had great business practices such as breaking people’s legs when they didn’t pay up their bets.

In the U.S.A, this in-person transaction ended up taking place over the phone, where bookies would rent empty spaces and fill them with plastic chairs and phones and pound away on Saturday and Sunday, the busiest days for American Sports when in-season, where some weekends have NBA, NCAA, and NFL games scattered throughout 48 hours.

Like everything, technology eventually caught up with the bookies and they proceeded to enter the internet.

What a time it was!

The decade of the 90’s was a sweet spot for the illegitimate sports betting industry.

Dozens of companies opened offshore offices filled with english speaking staff serving the US market and did not have to worry about a thing, just as long as they didn’t go back to the US or traveled through there. (See David Carruthers)

Their costs were pretty low now thanks to the internet and cheapening long-distance rates.

A lot of this came to a grinding halt in 2006 when the US struck down several poker, casino and sports betting sites, while making some big-name arrests (I think Calvin Ayre was around this time?)

After that, the front quieted and it was mostly business as usual in the American front.

In Europe on the other hand, the UK was on board basically since the 1960’s, and when the internet came along, they just created the remote gaming branch and made operators get a license and pay their taxes.

The USA is a curious place sometimes, lovely as it and it’s people are.

How do the bookies make their money?

Even though you may think the bookies have it figured out, they really don’t.

I’ll elaborate a bit so please be patient.

In a perfect scenario, the individual or team with the most “skill” will always win against an inferior opponent.

If this were the case, there would never be any underdog upsets (which I really love) and everyone would be rich, since you could just bet on the favorite team and always win. Patriots anyone?

To overcome this, I want to emphasize that to the bookies, the ideal stake distribution by bettors  in a game is 50/50 on both sides.


Because of something called the vigorish, referred to as juice as well.

Easy example:

Say you and a friend want to place a bet on a coin flip.

You both stake €10 on a coin flip.

If you win, you receive €20, your original €10 plus €10 profit.

When you bet with an online bookie, online sportsbook, or really any type of organization or individual that will take a sports bet, you’ll be paying something extra for the “service” of you being able to place the bet.

You’ll usually bet €11 to win €10, or something equivalent, even when using different types of odds like the fractional, decimal, asian, etc.


Here’s another example:

You and your friend decide to bet on Chelsea and Man U for £110 each.

You take Man U. and your friend bets on Chelsea.

In this example, both are priced at -110.

Man United won, so you win a total of £210, which was your original £110 and the winning £100

Your friend on the other hand, lost his bet and consequently the £110.

So basically, you and your friend bet a total of £220 for your wagers, you won £210, your friend nothing, and the bookies keep the leftover £10.

This is an ideal scenario, remember  there are potentially thousands of wagers on every match at any given time, and it will never be easy for the traders  to balance the money to have a 50/50 split, but this is the basic theory behind the profits of “booking” wagers.

The previous info only applies to traditional sportsbooks and bookies.

There are betting exchanges that work differently, and we look at those in detail here. (Insert link to exchange betting here)

But anyway, you’re here to read about online sports betting, so let’s to it.

If you haven’t registered at a sports betting site, you can read how to register here.

After registering and depositing funds into your online sports betting account, check out any bonus offers you may have missed, and make sure to read the terms and conditions on every single one as well to save yourself a nasty surprise later.

Once that’s done, you’re ready to go.

No matter what your choice of sport is, you’ll most likely be wagering or betting your money on the outcome or performance of a player, team, or event to happen during a predetermined amount of time.

This can be the end of the match, half-time, end of a period, even the next 5 minutes as offered sometimes during in-play or live wagering. (In-play means you are betting while the match is being played)

The range of options for sports bets can range in the hundreds for big events these days.

From a simple straight wager on Barcelona to win vs. Real Madrid, to picking a total to go over 3.5 goals in a Chelsea vs. Man U clash, or laying $100 on the Dallas Cowboys to beat San Francisco by a -3 spread, or betting that the next goalscorer in the match will be Cristiano Ronaldo.

I understand you may not be familiar with these terms.

Please read on:

  • Bankroll: Your total amount of money that is destined to be gambled. Don’t spend more than you can!
  • Odds: The mathematical chances of an event occurring. So basically when you place a bet on a team at certain odds, you’re betting on the chances of that outcome happening, technically speaking.
  • Stake / Wager: The amount of money you’ll place on your bet.
  • Even Money: When a bet pays out 1:1. If you lay 10, you win 10.
  • Spread / Handicap: An amount of points set by the bookies to “even out” betting on both sides. I´ll talk more about this below
  • Underdog: A term used to refer to the individual or team with the lower skill level/higher chance of losing.

Different Types of Betting Odds:

Decimal odds:

(insert pic here)

Decimal odds are the most widely used odds in sports betting, especially in Europe.

It’s a very quick way of seeing what the value is for the particular stake.

Quite easy to figure out, you simply multiply your bet by the decimal odds.

With decimal odds, you’re simply picking who will win. It doesn’t matter by how many points/goals, (as it does when you’re using the spread, see below) as you’re simply betting that the team or person will win the match “straight up”

So let’s say we have a typical football match expressed in Decimal Odd Fashion:

Notice that in football most odds are 3 ways, usually arranged like so:

  1. Home team        odds
  2. Draw (tie)           odds
  3. Away team         odds

In football and most European sports, the home team will always be displayed at the top, with the away team at the bottom.

Using real life teams in an example wager, it would look like this:

Arsenal                     1.45

Draw                         2.71

Crystal Palace          3.87

If you were wagering $100 on Arsenal, you’d figure it this way:

                       Bet x Odds = Total Return  (including original bet amount)                 

          100 (bet) x 1.45 (arsenal odds)  = 145 (Minus your $100 stake, you made a $45 profit)

If you were betting on Crystal Palace:

     100 (bet) x 3.87 (Crystal Palace odds)  = 387 (Minus your $100 stake, you made a $287 profit)

Since it is a 3 way line, the fact that draws can come into play makes things a bit more complex, since instead of just having a win/lose proposition, you must account for another possibility altogether.

If you place a bet on the draw and either team wins, you lose your bet.

The Almighty Spread

(insert pic here)

The spread, or handicap as it is also known is a way for the bookies to “even out” both participants or teams in a match.

If there was no handicap or spread, most people would only bet on the favourite, since there would be almost no incentive to bet on the weaker individual/team.

Let’s say you place a bet on international football (soccer) with the following spread:

Argentina      -1.5

Bolivia          +1.5

If you were to bet on Argentina, and the final score was 1 – 0 in favor of Argentina, you would still lose the bet even if your team “won” the match.


Because you took them at -1.5, so the  “betting” score in this case is Argentina -0.5

Official match final score:

Argentina   1                        Your pick:  Arg -1.5                   Final “betting” score:  Argentina: -0.5

Bolivia        0                                                                                                               Bolivia: +1.5

On the other hand, if you would have bet on Bolivia at a +1.5 spread and the score would have been the same, you would have won the bet, since the final “betting” score would be:

Argentina     -0.5

Bolivia         +1.5

If you are wondering how you can score 0.5 goals, don’t worry.

The bookies set the system this way so there are no “pushes” or ties, where all players get their money back.

The pricing on spread betting is usually 11/10 or bet 11 to win 10. This is because the spread exists to even out betting on both sides.

Fractional Odds

(inset pic of odds here)

These types of odds are very prevalent among horse races.

You may have seen horses displayed at different types of odds, such as 10/1 and 7/2.

They are a bit harder to read than your traditional decimal odds or “american odds”, but simple enough to learn quickly.

Traditionally they are read as:  

10/1 = ten to one =  For every one I bet, I’ll receive ten back.

Or as an example:

I bet $20 on a horse at 7/2 (seven to two odds), that means for every 2 I bet, I’ll get 7, or every 4 I bet, I’ll get 14, etc.

Remember to subtract your stake, since it will be counted as part of your winnings as well.

Money Line, US, or American Odds

(picture of odds)

These odds are pretty simple to understand, and a breeze if you bet in multiples of 10.

You will see them expressed as:

Lakers          -110

Celtics          +120

The minus (-) sign represents the amount you have to lay or bet in order to win 100.

If you were betting on the Lakers in the previous example, you would need to bet 110 to win 100.

The plus (+) sign represents the amount you’ll receive for each 100 you bet.

If you were betting 100 on the Celtics, you would receive 120 if they won.

You can bet any amount, just remember that if its a negative (-) number it will represent the amount you’ll have to wager to win 100.   

If you want to get fancy:

        (100 / negative money line odds) * stake

If it’s a positive (+) number, it will be what you win for each 100 you lay.

                       Positive money line odds  * (Stake / 100)

The preceding examples are the most commonly seen types of odds in sports betting.

If you don’t see or understand an odds type, please let me know in the comments.

Types of Wagers

Now that you know a bit more about reading odds, let’s move on to the different types of bets

Straight Wagers:

These are the most common types of bets.

You simply choose one selection, either a team or an individual.

You can basically bet on anything that’s offered in a match.

The only rule is a straight wager is just one selection, no more.

The odds, value, sport, doesn’t really matter, we’re just referring to the fact that its one single bet.

Totals, Over / Unders

A bet on the total points of the game.

It’s quite fun since you don’t even have to root for any of the teams, you simply hope they score (or don’t)

You’re essentially wagering on the following question:

“Will the total points scored in the game by both teams be Over or Under the given number?”

An example of this could look like:

Real Madrid               o3

Barcelona                   u3

o = Over

u = Under

Let’s say you bet on the Under 3 in this match, and the final score is:

Real Madrid      2

Barcelona         0

In this case you would win the bet.  

However, if the score was:

Real Madrid          3

Barcelona             2

The total number of goals would be 5, making you lose this bet.

Most team sports offer the chance to bet on the totals, as it’s  usually the second most popular type of bet.

Remember, who wins and who loses doesn’t matter in these types of bets.

Parlays, Combo Bets, Accumulators

A parlay, accumulator, or combo bet as it is also known, is one bet that holds two or more straight wagers, and will only win if all selections in the bet are won.

Think of it as simply two or more straight wagers tied together in one bet.

They are very popular among recreational bettors, since the payout rises exponentially upon each wagering addition if you are wagering on spreads and we assume a standard moneyline (-110)

Below you’ll find a table of usual parlay payouts based on wagering $100 amounts

If a parlay ties or pushes, the parlay reverts down to the next number of available matches, while the odds reduce accordingly as well.

If you’re wagering on parlays with different moneyline combinations, your payout will depend on the number of selections and at what price they were each taken.

While they may seem like a very attractive type of bet, parlays are a lot harder to win than you would think.

I do see the fun in making 5 – 10 team $1 parlays, which is just fun because you never know when all your teams will hit, and can provide great entertainment for a day of sports watching and wagering, since you’ll have a stake in several matches.

These previous types of bets are the most common ones, although there are others as well.

Propositions, or Exotic Wagers

As I said earlier, you can basically bet on anything these days.

From the result of the initial coin toss, how many yellow cards will there be in a match, the number of interceptions, who will score the first run in baseball, etc.

The offering of these (also called “markets”) is staggering, and in big events such as the Super Bowl or Champions League matches gets even bigger.

Prop bets are fun to play since it gives the game another aspect to be vigilant about, just remember some things cannot be predicted with certainty, such as the aforementioned coin toss.

Do you have any questions or comments about these and other types of odds or markets being offered in sports betting?

Let me know in the comments below!

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