My foray into the world of sports betting was as a punter, primarily following the ups and downs (well, mostly downs…) of my local team as they battled against the ever-present threat of relegation. Over time, I began to become more and more interested in the ins and outs of various strategies and became adept at spotting a good operator.
My day job was, at the time, writing and editing for a local newspaper, so turning my professional skills to my interest in sports betting followed naturally. I started writing about sports betting as a hobby initially with my own blog, analysing odds and providing betting tips where I thought I could find value. Eventually, I was headhunted to write the same content for a betting firm, which resulted in me leaving my local paper job behind and turning my professional interests solely to sports betting writing by 2017. Since then, I have been proud of the body of work I have been able to produce.
Using my interest in all aspects of the sports and gambling world to guide me, I now write for Betting.net, compiling operator reviews, bonus reviews, and sharing the tips and tricks across our various sports betting guides. When I’m not at my keyboard, I am an avid rock climber, with an ultimate goal of eventually ascending the Seven Peaks — if I can fit it in between penning the latest bookmaker review, that is!
So you’ve come here looking to find out how sports betting works? Well, we’re pleased to tell you that you’ve reached your ideal destination. With betting.net as your tour guide, anyone has the potential to become a halfway decent sports bettor.
In our ‘sports betting for beginners guide 101’, we’ll tell you how sportsbooks work and give you our top tips to enhance your bets and begin your adventure in the world of sports betting. We’ll also tell you all about odds, betting markets and how to read them.
Although they may differ slightly throughout the world, the basic concept of a sportsbook is the same the world over. In both the online and offline spheres, a sportsbook is a place where you can place wagers on various sports.
In traditional sportsbooks, you (as the bettor) bet against the house (the operator who runs the site). Thanks to the emergence of online sports wagering and a relaxation of gambling laws and stigma the world over, sports wagering is becoming more accessible.
How to bet on sportsbook sites – the basics
The basic concept of placing an online sports bet is extremely easy, and thus is the most logical place to begin our online betting guide. When you land on the main page of a sportsbook, you should easily be able to filter what you’re looking for in terms of sports, games and betting markets.
Once you’ve found the sportsbook lines you’re looking for, the odds should be displayed beside the bet. When you click on the relevant betting market for the wager you want to place, it should then be added to your online sports betting slip. Once it appears on your sports betting slip, you should then be able to proceed to the payment, place your bet and wait for the excitement to begin.
The above has merely explained how to bet on games in the most basic fashion. To dig a little deeper we’ll need to start off by explaining two things; odds and betting markets.
How sports betting works – odds
Before we explain how the betting markets and wagers themselves actually work, it’s important to know how to read betting odds. Depending on where you are in the world, you may find that the odds on the sportsbook that you are using are displayed in different ways.
There are three different odds formats that are most commonly used throughout the world; fractional, decimal and American (moneyline) odds. We’ve provided you with a breakdown and explanation of each different odds type below. Knowing how to read odds is essential if you want to implement the sports betting strategies that we’ve explained further down this page.
Fractional odds is the oldest known odds format in the world, and remains the most commonly used in the UK and Ireland today. In their simplest form, fractional odds are easy enough to understand at a glance.
To give you an example, if you wager on an outcome at 2/1 with a $10 stake, your returns if the wager comes up would be $20.
To work out the above, multiply your $10 stake by the top number ($10 x 2 = $20) and then divide it by the bottom number ($20 ÷ 1 = £20).
You can also work out the implied probability of your outcome happening by dividing the total of the two numbers by 100, then multiplying it by the second number (100 ÷ 3 = 33.3% x 1).
With numbers like this, you can easily read and figure out fractional odds at a quick glance. However, with more complex odds, like say 13/26, things can be a little tricky. Fortunately, it’s 2021 and we have odds culators to help us out here.
Decimal odds are perhaps the easiest to understand and are most commonly used in continental Europe. Additionally, they are also becoming popular for online use in the UK and Ireland as well, with the majority of online sportsbooks allowing users to choose between fractional and decimal odds formats. With decimal odds, the probability of the outcome is displayed as a ration with a decimal point.
In order to calculate your winnings with decimal odds, you just need to multiply your stake by the odds amount. For example, if you wager $10 at odds of 3.1, your potential winnings would be $31.
Unlike fractional odds, the decimal odds calculation formula gives you your potential winnings with your stake return included. To calculate your win percentage with decimal odds, divide 1 by the odds, then multiply it by 100 – (1 ÷ 3.1) x 100 = 32.3%.
American (or moneyline) odds are, as the very name suggests, most commonly used in the USA. Once you know how they work, this is probably the easiest odds format to read as it was created for the specific purpose of sport wagering. If you want to know how to bet on sportsbook sites as easily as possible, this is the odds format to look for.
When it comes to American odds, there are two different types of numbers to be aware of: positive and negative.
Positive number Odds
With positive number odds, the number displayed is the amount you stand to win with a $100 stake. For example, odds of +200 means that you would win $200 with a $100 stake. This means that your total returns for the aforementioned bet would be $300 (including your $100 stake).
Negative number Odds
With negative number odds, the number refers to the amount you would have to wager to win $100. For example, if the odds are -200, then you would have to wager a $200 stake in order to get $100 profit from the bet.
Now that you know how to read three most common odds formats, the next essential thing to understand when it comes to sports betting strategies are the betting markets. Essentially, betting markets make up the bread and butter of what you are actually going to be wagering on.
From basic win markets, to more complex ones such as over under betting online and Asian handicaps, there are plenty of different betting markets out there. Whatsmore, there are different betting markets for different sports.
Below, we’ve explained some of the most common betting markets you’re likely to find, but you can also find sports betting strategies and guides for specific sports here at Betting.net.
When it comes to the very basics of how sports betting works, winning markets are the easiest to start with for beginners. With winning markets you simply bet on the team/player/horse that you think is most likely to win the game/race. With sports where a tie is possible you can also bet on a draw.
When it comes to horse racing, you can also make a more flexible version of a win bet that shortens your odds, but increases your chances of winning as the bet pays out if your horse comes second or third.
When most people ask us about how sports betting works, they usually have individual matches, races and games in mind. However, you can also bet on the outright winner of a competition as a whole.
For example, you could back Tampa Bay to win the Super Bowl ahead of the NFL season, or wager on Manchester City to win the Premier League at Christmas, when the season is only half way done.
Over/under betting markets are used by all sportsbooks and variations can be applied to most sports. With such betting markets, the sportsbook will provide a proposed stat for a specific match and you as the gambler can either bet on the outcome being over or under the proposed stat.
For example, with the NFL, you could bet on the total points being over or under the proposed amount. Or it could be on a more specific stat, such as total pass completions. With soccer over/under total goals scored is a popular betting market. When learning how to bet on sportsbook sites, over/under betting markets are very much beginner friendly.
Handicap betting is a concept that allows the bookies to even up a contest and to make otherwise one-sided bets more even. Due to the girth in quality created by the money in today’s game, handicap betting markets are particularly useful for betting on European soccer.
For example, let’s say you’re looking to place a bet on Manchester City to beat Exeter City in the FA Cup. Manchester City would be such heavy favorites in those fixtures that a straightforward win bet would be completely pointless.
You could therefore add value to your bet by backing Manchester +2, which would mean that they would have to win by three clear goals for your bet to pay out. In this case, Manchester City would have a handicap of -2, so a victory by two goals would be treated as a draw effectively.
How sports betting works – Live betting
The above betting markets are all examples of pre-match betting, meaning that your wagers can be placed up until the moment that the game actually starts. There’s also a concept known as ‘live betting’, where you can bet on games and competitions while they are actually happening in real time. Naturally, the odds change very quickly with live betting markets.
In essence, live betting isn’t really any more difficult than pre-match betting. However it is much faster paced by its very nature. We therefore wouldn’t recommend it to complete beginners. However once you’ve placed a couple of pre-match bets, you could be ready to dip your toes in with a live bet.
Live betting markets
The majority of pre-match betting markets can also be placed as live bets, however the odds may have lengthened or shortened depending on how the game is going.
If we once again use the Manchester City vs Exeter City in the FA cup example, Man City would’ve been heavy favourites going into the game. However if Exeter managed to go 1-0, then the live betting odds would lengthen for Man City and shorten for Exeter.
In addition to live versions of popular betting markets, you’ll also find betting markets that are specific to live betting. For example, you could bet on the next touchdown in the NFL or the next goal scorer in a Premier League match.
What other betting guides and strategies are available at Betting.net?
If you enjoyed our sports betting 101 guide, then why not take a look at our guides to betting on specific sports. You can also find guides where we go into more details about betting odds explained and specific betting markets. If you’re interested in online casino gambling, you’ll find guides and strategies to help you out here at Betting.net. You can also find out about the gambling age by state.
Conclusion – Apply your knowledge of how sports betting works
So there you have the very basics of how sportsbooks work and how to embark on your journey of betting on sportsbook sites. Just remember that if you’re a complete beginner to start slowly and with a modest budget. Stick to betting on sports you know and start off with the more basic betting markets before working your way up. If you take things slowly and keep learning as you go, then there’s no reason why you can’t become a successful sports bettor.
Whether it be offline or online, the basic concept of placing sportsbook wager remains the same throughout the world. There may be some subtle difference depending on where you are. You can find a beginner’s guide to global sports betting right here.
🤑 How can I learn about how sports betting works?
With a bit of study and slow practice, anyone can become halfway decent at sports betting. The best place to start is with our sports betting strategy guide here at Betting.net. Before you know it you’ll be up to speed on how to bet on sports betting sites.
🏆 How can I win at sports betting?
As with any form of gambling or game of chance, winning sports bets do depend partially on luck, However, you can also increase your chances of winning with experience and knowledge of how sports betting works. Find out more about how you can do that right here at betting.net.