How to Bet on Sports

The anti-gambling stigma that existed for decades in American popular culture faded quickly, paving the way for legal sports betting to explode. With so many new people entering the market, many have questions on how to bet on sports.

Making money betting on sports is about creating value — getting more return for your wager than you risk. To do this, you need to understand odds and implied probabilities. Having a solid grasp of these concepts will give you a greater advantage over the books and allow you to make smarter bets.

Moneyline bets are based on the probability that one team will beat another, with lower-risk moneylines (favorites) paying smaller returns and higher-risk ones (underdogs) paying larger returns. You can also bet on total points, which are predicted by the bookmakers, with bettors betting on the over (total points will exceed the predicted amount) or under (total points will fall short of the predicted amount).

Point spreads vary based on the sport and its unique circumstances, but they all use the same basic formula: the number of points that a favored team must win by to cover the point spread. The term “push” refers to a game that ends up landing exactly on the line, meaning no one wins and all bets are refunded.

Proposition bets, or props, are any wager that’s not a standard point spread, moneyline or total. They’re often priced based on player/team stats and can be found at most online sportsbooks. Some are created by professional handicappers, who are known as sharps or wiseguys. Other props are simply a result of heavy wagering, which leads to the lines moving rapidly.