A Beginners Guide to Sports Betting

min read
Online sports betting has exploded in popularity since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the PASPA in 2018.
(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Chase Kiddy @chaseakiddy Oct 14, 2022, 3:09 PM
  • Online sports betting is an exciting pastime for generations of sports fans.
  • Common bet types include moneylines, point spreads and totals.
  • More advanced bet types include futures, props and parlays.
  • BetMGM is available in 17 U.S. states, plus Washington, D.C. and Ontario.

Online sports betting is an exciting pastime for many sports fans, but it can take a bit of practice to learn how to correctly place a bet. 

Fortunately, there are several experienced voices here at The Roar that want to help you become a better gambler.

In this post, I’ll highlight a few basic types of bets. That way, you’ll have a firmer understanding of the most common betting markets and the vocabulary that swirls around them.  

Sports Betting Guide for Beginners

If you’re already an avid sports fan, you might already be researching your favorite teams and keeping track of their performance. 

You might have peeked at some sports betting odds out of simple curiosity. Perhaps you’ve even been right more than a few times.

If you’re new to sports betting, it can be difficult to know where to start. The sheer volume of numbers and bet types may seem complicated at first, but once you get your bearings, a typical online sportsbook is less complex than you might think.

Here, we’ve put together a brief introduction to online sports betting and a list of some of the most common betting types you’ll find at online sportsbooks. 

Once you’re familiar with these basics, you’ll know more about what kinds of wagers you might like to start placing.

How Does Sports Betting Work?

Before you start placing your bets, it’s helpful to understand the betting process. 

To start betting, all you need to do is register an account at an online sportsbook and make your first deposit. After that, you can start to place bets on certain games. 

Some sportsbooks may present slightly different odds for a particular game or match, and how those odds are displayed can differ from site to site. 

Because of these differences, it’s important to understand how the odds work across different types of sports before you place a bet.

Different Types of Bets

Sports betting sites offer different kinds of wagers, depending on which sports are available and the series or tournaments currently being played. The nature of a given sport will determine what kinds of bets will be placed. 

To give you some more detailed information, we’ve outlined some of the most common types of bets below.

Moneyline

Let’s start with the most basic type of bet: the moneyline. Regardless of sport or style, betting a moneyline simply means you’re betting on a team to win its contest.

Here’s the catch: In sports, most teams are not created equally. That means that betting on a team just to win can bring all sorts of multipliers or penalties, depending on how big of a favorite (or underdog) they were before the game started.

In American-style odds, a team that’s a -200 favorite is a moderately significant favorite. The -200 means bettors must place a $200 wager to earn $100 worth of winnings. (Bettors always receive their principal back in the event of a win, but it’s not considered part of their winnings.)

Wagers don’t have to be that big – winning bets happen at scale. So a successful $10 bet on a -200 favorite would yield $5 worth of winnings.

Thus, favorites pay at less than a 1-to-1 ratio.

Conversely, moneyline underdogs pay at a much greater rate. 

For instance, a $100 bet on a +425 underdog would pay out $425, plus the original $100 principal. 

Alternatively, a $60 bet on a +200 underdog would pay out $120, plus the original $60.

Moneyline bets are all about winners and losers, so there are no extra variables in the bet. An uneven playing field between teams correlates to uneven payouts on bets. 

If you use that to your advantage by successfully betting on underdogs, it can be very lucrative.

Moneylines are most popular in soccer, hockey and baseball, but they are generally available in every sport.

Spread

Spreads, or point spreads, are the natural alternative to betting moneylines.

As I covered in the previous section, moneylines offer various payout ratios for unequal teams.

Point spreads introduce a new variable into the equation. A spread is a simple numerical way to find balance between two unequal sides. In practice, this often means that one of the teams involved will need to win by a certain number of points for you to claim your wager. 

Each game will typically still feature a favorite and an underdog, and the favorite must win by a certain number of points. In gambling parlance, winning by this predetermined margin is called “covering the spread.”

On the other side, an underdog that receives points from the spread market may lose the game but still cover the spread. 

If you’re struggling, it helps to think of a point spread as a final score modifier. Imagine that the Cowboys are playing the Giants, and the Giants are +7 underdogs. The Cowboys could win 24-20, but the Giants would cover the spread, 27-24.

In point spread markets, winnings are roughly equal for both sides because a numerical variable was introduced to flatten the odds for both teams. Instead of winning a reduced payout with a favorite, you’ll win roughly 1-to-1 with your principal if your favorite covers the spread.

Total

A total – sometimes referred to as over/under bets – is not a bet on a game’s winner or loser.

Instead, it’s a bet on how many total points will be scored by both teams in various types of contests. Depending on the odds, you can bet over or under the number of the predicted total. 

This type of bet is popular with games like football and basketball and can be placed before the game or during the first half. 

For example, in a modern NBA game between the Suns and Kings, you might wager $20 on whether two teams will combine to score over or under 238 points.

Betting on this kind of outcome might seem like guesswork, but once you’ve got some experience betting on a number of games, you will begin to understand how these point totals are calculated. 

It can also help to practice making these kinds of bets before you put down any money to gauge your track record. 

Other Types of Bets

The three types listed above are the most common wagers from beginners, but there are many other types of bets. Some of them are more difficult to win than others.

Parlay Betting

One of the most difficult (but rewarding!) bet types is a parlay, where you place a bet on the outcome of multiple games at once and need to win every leg for the whole ticket to win. 

This is risky, but parlay odds increase exponentially with each new leg. That means you can win big money if you predict the outcome of all of the matches correctly. 

Experienced bettors often like to experiment and tweak their best parlay strategy. That often includes some variation of a moneyline parlay.

Futures Betting

A futures bet is when you bet on a team’s future success.

For example, many bettors like to make early wagers on whether or not a specific team can win a future championship, like the Super Bowl or the Stanley Cup. 

Proposition bets can also be placed on smaller outcomes during a game, such as the winner of a coin toss. 

Once you start to become a more experienced bettor, you’ll find that there are all sorts of options available, depending on the sportsbook you choose and the sports or games you want to follow.

States With Legal Sports Betting

It’s important to know if online sports betting apps are legal in your state before you get ready to wager.

BetMGM offers legal sports betting in 17 U.S. states, plus Washington, D.C. and Ontario, Canada. 

The states that BetMGM is available in include: Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Betting Online at the Sportsbook

If you’re looking for more excitement while watching sports, betting online is your ticket.

With odds for thousands of events each year and live betting odds, there’s never a break in the action at BetMGM. Visit the online sportsbook today to place a bet online!

Actor Jamie Foxx on the Welcome Offer BetMGM's banner.
About the Author

Chase Kiddy

Read More @chaseakiddy

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.