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How to Bet on Sports: Key Tips to Know

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If you're only beginning to learn how to bet on sports, the sheer numbers, terminology and multitude of options are enough to overwhelm anyone. Online sports betting is becoming more convenient by the day as additional U.S. states pass legislation to legalize sportsbook operations.

How best to go about sports betting? Well, like with any sport really there are some key fundamentals bettors must learn before entering the arena. Whether it's how to navigate a sportsbook, understanding the basic odds or having a sharp strategy, you'll need the essential tools before you get to throwing down some coin.

Let's take a look at some key tips that should help you learn how to bet on sports, and ultimately get you off to a strong start that stretches beyond the "beginner's luck" honeymoon phase.

1. Point Spread

Sports bettors most commonly throw money down on the point spread when they aren't eager to pick an outright winner. If you feel really good about a favorite, but don't think choosing them to win nets you enough money, you can take the point spread, which means they'll win by the listed amount. If you think an underdog won't win but can cover, the spread offers a nice cushion.

For example, the Kansas City Chiefs were favored to win by 7.5 points over the Houston Texans and won 34-20 in Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season. If you bet $55 on KC -7.5 at -110, you'd win $50. The Chiefs' moneyline was around -250, but because you gambled on them covering the spread, you reaped the higher rewards.

To address the other side, let's stick with NFL Week 1. The Jacksonville Jaguars were 8.5-point underdogs to the Indianapolis Colts. They rallied for a 27-20 triumph. If you liked the Jags to cover, maybe you were shaky about picking them to pull the upset. The spread (JAX +8.5) provided a greater margin for error.

2. Moneyline

Another common staple in sports bets is the moneyline, which is simply picking one team or the other to win. The favorite will have a negative number, while the underdog will have a positive-number moneyline. Moneylines are often three digits and are related to how much money you'd win relative to a $100 bet.

If the Milwaukee Bucks are heavily favored over the Houston Rockets in the NBA, let's say these are the moneylines: Bucks (-200) and Rockets (+175). You'd need to bet $200 to earn $100 on Milwaukee, while a winning Houston ticket would net you $175 off a $100 bet.

3. Over/Under

Also known as a Total, the Over/Under is how many points or goals will be scored between the two teams in a game. The odds on either side are generally between -110 to +100 pre-game. They can become more volatile with live odds as books try to coax out additional bets.

Proceed with caution when going live here, because in baseball, one inning can change everything; in basketball, one run or garbage time can totally shift the Total; in hockey, an empty net can lead to a ton of goals in a hurry — or not. You can see the potential pitfalls here.

4. How to Read 'Juice' Odds

This number is frequently listed alongside a spread or an Over/Under as the "juice" a sportsbook takes, instead of offering you even money (+100). All it means is, you need to bet $110 to win $100. Thus, if you do decide to wager $110 and win, you'll get back your money, plus the winning payout, bringing your gross money to $210, with a $100 net profit.

5. Best Online Sportsbooks to Use

Although you can place wagers at land-based books, casinos, racetracks and other venues, sports betting online is undoubtedly the way the industry is going. As far as the best sportsbooks to use for this, we at abe have partnerships with all the major oddsmakers.

DraftKings and FanDuel are the two industry giants, yet it's quickly becoming a crowded marketplace. Fox Bet is coming on strong, while PointsBet is making waves, too. For more of the best books to use, visit our free bets page to get sign-up deals from our major partners.

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6. Betting via Online Sportsbook

First, simply scroll or click on the bet you want to make at the sportsbook of your choosing. From there, enter the amount of money you want to wager. You'll see the displayed payout and the total betting odds on your ticket. Click the push button, and boom — you've placed a bet.

7. How Much Should I Bet?

Odds dictate this to a great degree. Be wary of betting too much on a heavy favorite. You're better off sticking with single-game bets so you're not having to be absolutely perfect out of the gates. There's a learning curve to sports betting, and you'll feel your way through it as you gain experience.

Many sportsbooks have responsible gaming initiatives, allowing you to set deposit limits and caps on the amount you can wager. When budgeting your sports betting bankroll, it's highly recommended to take advantage of these tools.

8. Hedging Your Bets

All this means is not putting all your eggs in one basket. Using the prior Jags-Colts example, say you take the heavily favored Colts' spread, but have a sneaking suspicion Jacksonville could pull the upset. You'd hedge with the Jags' moneyline at something like +340. That way, you'd win the moneyline and offset some of your loss on the Indy bet.

9. Live Odds

Live odds at major sportsbooks allow you to follow the action as it's happening, and bet accordingly. The numbers are constantly changing, so it can be a little chaotic to navigate, but just follow what we've outlined in the previous steps and you should be fine.

10. Parlays/Teasers and Prop Bets

There are instances where you can group multiple bets together on a single ticket to increase your odds and prospective winnings. A parlay is simply combining two or more bets for a higher payout.

A teaser is most often seen when you bet multiple game spreads and use a modified spread (either more or less) that applies to all spreads on your ticket. If you take on more spread points, your payout is less. If you decrease the collective spread, you boost your odds and net a much higher payday — albeit with more assumed risk.

Prop bets are for individual players to achieve a certain stat during a single game. For example, an Over/Under point total of 27.5 for LeBron James. Odds are often similar on either side of the Total, around -110 or even money.

11. Stick to Sports You Know Best

This comes a little later down the line, but is nevertheless important. Betting on sports you know best is a vital tip to follow. Otherwise, you can get into the cycle of getting down and wagering on sports, games or players you haven't properly researched.

Do your homework. Start with what you know best. Slowly branch out into other sports as you grow to understand them better. Look at sports betting as a way to add spice to your sports viewing experience, yet do make sure you look before you leap in terms of betting.

abe's Odds Comparison Engine

Thanks to our cutting-edge software, we provide you with listings from many of the major sportsbooks to help you maximize your payouts when you bet online. When you're just starting out, you can get a big sign-up bonus on us.

Our partnerships redirect you to whichever sportsbook you want to use, and with our promo code or redirect link, you'll have either a deposit bonus or a sizable free bet to get you started on the right foot. You're playing with house money to begin. As you take advantage of our offers and use the tips explained above in your betting journey, you'll find out which bookmakers are the best fit for you.

- Betting 101
Betting 101
What is a Moneyline?What is a Point Spread?What is a Total or Over/Under?What is a Futures bet?How to Read Betting OddsWhat is Parlay Betting?A Guide to Hedging BetsTypes of Horse Bets
Betting 101
What is a Moneyline?What is a Point Spread?What is a Total or Over/Under?What is a Futures bet?How to Read Betting OddsWhat is Parlay Betting?A Guide to Hedging BetsTypes of Horse BetsWhat does Pickem mean?What is a Backdoor Cover?5 Key Pieces of Sports Betting AdviceOdds Comparison EngineLegal Online SportsbookSports Betting GlossaryBetting Tips from the SharpsIn-Game Betting

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If you or someone you know has a gambling problem and wants help, call 1-800-Gambler. You must be 21 years or older to place a bet.

About AbePrivacy PolicyTerms of Service
© 2020 PopOdds inc. Reserved
If you or someone you know has a gambling problem and wants help, call 1-800-Gambler. You must be 21 years or older to place a bet.