A Beginners Guide to Sports Betting

min read
The Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars looked like two of the most hapless teams preseason, but as they meet Thursday night, both teams have reasons to be hopeful. Let’s look at what each team will need to do to win in NFL Week 3.
BetMGM @BETMGM Aug 09, 2020, 5:00 AM
Man celebrating victory while using gambling mobile application on his phone with sports on laptop screen in the background

Sports betting is an exciting pastime for many sports fans, but it can take a bit of practice to learn how to place bets. In this post, we’ll break down the various bet types so you can understand them better, and know which ones to choose when you’re placing your bets online. 

A brief sports betting guide for beginners

Online sports betting can be a fun and exciting way to engage with sports. If you’re an avid sports fan, you might already be researching your favorite teams and keeping track of their performance. If you’ve been watching sports for many years, you might have started looking at some sports betting odds. 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. It might all seem a bit complicated at first, but once you start to get into it, you’ll realize it’s less intimidating than you might think.

We’ve put together a brief introduction to sports betting and a list of some of the most common betting types you’ll find at online sportsbooks. Once you get to grips with these, 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 a sportsbook and make your first deposit. After that, you can start to place bets on certain games. 

Also note that some sportsbooks might present different odds for a given match, and the way those odds are displayed can differ from one site to another. This means that it’s important to understand these odds and how they work across different types of sports before you place a bet.

When you’re learning how to bet on sports, you also need to take into account the fact that the sportsbook will take a commission on your bet, so you need to wager a certain amount to make sure you cover yourself. If there is a tie in the outcome of a game, this is known as a push, and you will be refunded the money that you bet, but you won’t win anything. 

Different types of bets

Man placing a sports bet on a mobile phone

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 game 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:

1. Spread

Spreads are the calculated odds of each team winning the game according to set points. This might also mean that the teams will need to win by a certain number of points for you to claim your wager. 

Typically, each game will have a favorite and an underdog. The favorite will have a higher chance of winning, so you will need to bet a certain amount to make sure that you cover your bet, depending on the odds and the amount of “juice” that the sportsbook will take on the bet. The “juice” is also known as the “vig” or vigorish, which is the commission a sportsbook takes on a bet. 

The same goes for betting on the underdog. If you bet on the underdog, your odds of winning are lower, but you might get paid out a lot more if they do win. This all part of the calculations that go into determining the point spread of a game in the first place. 

2. Total

If you’re making a total bet, you’re placing a wager on the combined points of both teams at the end of the game. Depending on the odds, you can bet either over the number of the predicted total, or under, which is why these bets are also sometimes called over/under bets, or O/U. This type of bet is popular with games like football and basketball and can be placed before the game or during the first half. 

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 get a better understanding of 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. 


As the name suggests, this bet is all about who is bringing in the money. A Moneyline bet is one of the most popular forms of sports betting, and is placed on who you think is going to be the winner of the game. You can see this across sports, but it is very common in baseball and hockey. 

When you place a Moneyline bet at a sportsbook casino, you will also need to look at the odds, and see who the favorite and underdog team is before placing your bet. This kind of bet is pretty straightforward, which makes it a popular choice for many people. 

Other types of bets

The three types listed above are the most common, but there are many other types of bets, some of which are more difficult to win than others.

Parlay betting

One of the trickiest bets is a parlay, where you place wagers on the outcome of multiple games and need to win all of them to get paid out. This is risky, but you can win a lot of money if you predict the outcome of all of the matches correctly and win all your bets. 

Futures betting

A futures bet is when you bet on a team’s future success — for example, when you place a bet on a team winning a series title like the Super Bowl. Proposition bets can also be placed on physical outcomes during a game, such as the winner of a coin toss. 

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

States with legal sports betting

Man betting on sports with credit card, over shoulder view on hand with smartphone

It’s important to know before you place your bets whether online sports betting is legal in your state. BetMGM offers legal sports betting in Colorado, Indiana, New Jersey, Nevada, Tennessee and West Virginia. Visit our sports betting page to see what’s on! 

Place your bets at BetMGM

If you’re looking to learn more about online wagering, try BetMGM. We offer a variety of sports betting options, including all major US sporting leagues.

If you’re interested in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), golf, soccer, or tennis betting, we offer options for those too! All you need to do is register to get started placing point spread, total or Moneyline bets today.

Jamie Foxx holding a mobile phone next to the BetMGM's risk-free bet offer.
About the Author


Read More @BETMGM

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.