Sports Betting Basics: What You Need to Know Before You Bet

So you’re interested in sports betting—congratulations! You are among the millions of people who have benefited from the legalization of sports betting and are now able to engage in wagers on sporting events. Whether you are a professional sports bettor or a casual fan, it’s imperative that you learn the basic rules and terminology before you delve into the complex world of sports betting. Here we answer some of the most common questions regarding sports betting etiquette and explain the odds and spreads that you’ll usually encounter when making wagers on sporting events.

Should I Bet On The Underdog?

First off, never bet on the underdog. To quote the late, great Jim Rohn, “No one is responsible for the outcome of a game; however, everyone is responsible for their own actions.” You’ll find that most bookmakers offer good odds on most games, so there’s rarely an excuse to bet on the over. Unfortunately, there are exceptions to this rule, especially when it comes to college football and basketball. Professional football and basketball leagues still operate without legalized betting, so underdogs there are common. In those cases, it is perfectly acceptable to wager on the upset and even the long shot to win.

Should I Bet On The Home Team?

Second, always bet on the home team. It’s not fair to the home underdog, and it definitely isn’t smart business practice to bet on the opposition. Most people think that sportsbooks tend to favor the home team, but this isn’t always the case. Bookmakers may have certain stipulations regarding wagers placed at certain locations. For example, if you are in Boston and bet on the Red Sox, you’ll likely incur some kind of a booking fee. But if you place a wager at a different location, such as New York, you’ll be fine.

How Do I Calculate The Odds?

Third, you calculate the odds before you make a wager. Odds are always expressed as fractions (e.g., 3.75 to 1), and they are usually given for either side of a wager. When you are calculating the odds, always use this format:

  • Odds On Home Team
  • Odds On Away Team
  • Odds Of Winning

So for example, if you wager on the Cleveland Browns to win, the odds will be 2.5 to 1, as there’s a good chance they’ll be victorious. Knowing the odds will give you a better idea of how much you should be betting on each side of a wager. If you aren’t sure where to start, use this handy online tool to get instant Las Vegas odds on virtually any sporting event.

Should I Bet On The Game With The Most Action?

Fourth, always bet on the game with the most action. This is usually the most intriguing game of the week, as there’s plenty of action surrounding it. If you are trying to make some extra money, this is the perfect opportunity to do so. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you are looking to minimize your losses, you may want to avoid games involving high-flying athletic teams that are prone to gaffes.

What Is The Margin Of Betting?

Fifth, the margin of betting is the amount of your wager minus the amount of the winning payout, expressed as a percentage. For example, if you wager $100 and the payout is $500, your margin is $400 (100% × $500). Most sportsbooks offer a standard betting margin for their bets, which is usually 10-15%. Feel free to explore different betting margins depending on where you are placing your bets and how much you are willing to wager. For instance, you may want to experiment with a small margin at the local racetrack, where the vigor of the competition can be somewhat high. You may also want to use a larger margin at your favorite sportsbook, where the competition is typically less fierce and the vigor fee is negotiable.

How Do I Calculate The Spread?

Sixth, you calculate the spread before you make a wager. A spread is the amount of the difference between the “point spread” and “line spread”, expressed as a percentage. For example, if the point spread is –3 and the line spread is +2, the spread is +5% (–3 + 2/–3 × 100%). Most sportsbooks offer good spreads for their wagers, so you can’t go wrong with them. Just remember that if your team is extremely weak, you may want to limit your wagers to defensive spreads (i.e., games involving an underdog).

As you can see, there are numerous variables to consider before placing a wager on a sporting event. But don’t worry, everything you need is contained in these six items:

  • Home team
  • Away team
  • Odds Of Winning
  • Margin Of Betting
  • Spread
  • Type Of Game

With this information, you’ll be able to make the right wager every time.