How to bet on Sports: Betting guide for beginners

New to sports betting? That's OK. As more states legalize sports betting in the U.S., rest assured you're not alone. We have guides for how to bet on North American sports. The most important rules to follow are simple: bet responsibly and have fun.

  • NFL
  • CFB
  • MLB
  • NBA
  • NHL
  • CBB

Start with the basics

1. Wagering Pools

For most any game on the board, these are the types of wagers you can make:

  • Point Spread
  • Moneyline
  • Over/Under or "Totals"
  • Parlays
  • Live Betting or "In-Game" Betting

See below to learn more about each type of wager.

2. Spreads

Spread betting is any of various types of wagering on the outcome of an event where the pay-off is based on the accuracy of the wager, rather than a simple "win or lose" outcome, such as fixed-odds (or money-line) betting or parimutuel betting.

A point spread represents an estimated margin of victory in a basketball game, giving bettors an opportunity to wager based on that perceived margin of victory. The team that is considered more likely to win – known as the favorite and listed with a “-” sign in front of the spread – would need to win the game by at least a certain number of points. The team that is considered less likely to win – the underdog with a “+” sign preceding the number – is given a margin by which the team can lose the game but still cover the point spread for a winning bet. A very rough rule of thumb is that spreads are set by oddsmakers at a number to make both sides equally enticing to the general betting public, so evenly matched opponents will generate lower number spreads while apparent mismatches will lead to larger spreads.

3. Moneyline

Moneyline bets refer to straightforward wagers on which team will win the game. Payout rates are adjusted to compensate for each team’s perceived chances of winning, with lower payouts for the favorite and higher potential winnings for picking the underdog. As with point spread betting, the favorite is indicated with a “-” sign and underdogs with a “+” sign. The number listed with the favorite indicates how much a bettor needs to wager in order to win $100, while the number listed with the underdog shows the payout from a winning $100 bet.

4. Over/Under

Over/under wagers refer to the total number of points scored. This bet is also fairly straightforward. A number will be offered for how many points the teams will combine to score and a bettor can wager on whether they expect the total will be higher or lower. The spread, who wins, and how the points are distributed have no effect.

5. Parlays

Parlays allow bettors to tie together multiple bets and create a high-risk, high-reward wager. By creating a parlay, payouts are multiplied together and grow significantly, but a single wrong pick within a parlay triggers a loss for the entire series of bets. Simpler parlays include combining an over/under bet with a spread or moneyline pick within the same game, or tying together a series of spreads or moneyline wagers on games happening the same night. More wild and complex parlays might involve player props (based on who will score the first or last points, whether a player lands over or under a given stat accumulation, and more), tying together bets from different sports or leagues, or any combination of seemingly incongruent events that a bettor can imagine.

6. Live Betting

Bettors can make wagers on dynamic, constantly changing odds as a game unfolds. A wide variety of betting options are available with numbers adjusting in response to a game in real time. With every lead change, momentum shift and injury, oddsmakers will update spreads and moneylines to give bettors more opportunities to wager. If you think the losing team has a good chance of winning, live betting is an opportunity to choose that team with a more favorable moneyline or spread than what was offered before the game started. If you sense a change in momentum or spot a developing advantage for one team, you can get in on the action as you watch the game.

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