How Does Sports Betting Work

How Does Sports Betting Work

If you are a sports fan and want to learn more about betting, you should learn a bit of sports betting terminology and about types of wagers available at sportsbooks. How are the odds determined? How to read the odds? Who sets the line? In this article we’ll explain the important elements of betting and odds making.

Getting into sports betting can seem very tough at first, but as soon as you start understanding how different types of sports betting odds work, the easier it gets. Once you have gathered enough experience, you can then get to work developing your own sports betting strategy. Of course, you must be able to make accurate predictions and know when a bet offers good value in order to be a successful bettor.

What is Sports Betting?

Sports betting is simply defined as betting on the occurrence of an event; if the given event occurs the bettor wins, if not he loses the wager. Winnings are determined by the odds, a numeric value representing the likelihood of an outcome.

What are the odds?

Odds are basically the chances that something will happen displayed in a numerical format. In short, odds are the inverse value of the probability of certain occurrence – the more unlikely the occurrence, the higher the odds for it. The bookmakers publish odds for sporting events depending upon their understanding of the probability of that event occurring. The odds are dynamic and can change with the betting trend. If bookmakers notice more people betting on the underdogs, they will reduce the returns on them by shortening the odds. Naturally, bettors always have to look for the best odds for the wager they want to place. Comparing the odds between bookmakers is always a good idea and there are plenty of online tools for that.

How to read the odds?

Many people don’t know how to read or calculate sports betting odds. The Online bookmakers in North America generally list their odds in what is called “American Odds”. European bookmakers use the “Decimal” format while British sportsbooks usually list their odds with the “Fractional” format. Most online betting sites will allow you to chose the style of betting odds you want displayed, with American odds set as the default.

We now focus on the “American Odds” (also called US Odds or Moneylines). These types of odds can be presented in both negative and positive formats.

Negative numbers are used for favourite outcomes while positive numbers are used for underdogs. The sign in front of the number indicates whether placing a wager on that outcome will pay out more money then you have wagered (+) or less money then you have wagered (-).

  • A -200 odds for a favourite team means that you should bet $200 to win $100. Hence, if you bet $100 you would have a $50 net profit.
  • A +160 odds on the underdogs means that you could win $160 by placing a $100 bet. Hence, if you bet $50 you will make a $80 net profit.

What is a Betting Line?

Also known as a point spread, a betting line is the number oddsmakers use to predict the margin of victory.

For example, let’s say the Golden State Warriors are playing the New York Knicks, and the Warriors are a 10.5-point favorite. That means that Golden State has to win by ten and half or more points. If they only win by 10, all the bettors who placed their money on the Warriors would lose their wager while someone betting on the Knicks would win their bet since New York “covered” the spread.

What is a Money Line?

The money line is just who is going to win the game outright. There’s no handicap or point spread to taking into account. While these bets may be easier, they also may not pay out as much as other bets. Of course, odds for favourites will be much lower and odds on underdogs will be much higher compared to odds offered for betting lines bets.

What are Under/Over bets?

Known also as “Totals“, this bet is simply picking whether a certain score go over or under the designated number. It could be a combined score of two team playing a basketball match, the total number of touchdowns in a NFL game, the number of goals scored in a soccer match, etc..

Eg. if the Over/Under for the Cavaliers vs Warriros game was 195, then the two teams would have to combine to score 196 points or more to cover the Over bet. If the combined score is below 195, the Under punters collect their winnings. If both teams combined for 195, then that is considered a push and all bettors receive their original wager back.

What is a Parlay bet?

A parlay is a group of multiple individual bets (two or more) that are connected together and treated as one big wager. This kind of bet is also known as accumulator, expecially in Britain.

In order to win the entire bet, you have to win each of the individual bets on your parlay. If you lose one individual bet, then you lose the entire parlay bet.

In football, you might take the Ravens +3 and the Patriots -8. To win your parlay, they would both have to cover those spreads.

Parlay are more difficult to win but, of course, you get a bigger payout.

There are several other exotics bets, such as teasers, proposition bets, spread betting and much more. This article is just the tip of the iceberg on sports gambling but you can find advanced guides and tutorials here at!