Sports Betting 101
Basics by Sport
The Basics of Sports Betting
by Dave Schwab
One of the only things more popular than sports themselves is betting on the games. The growth of the sports betting industry in the United States alone has turned this into a billion dollar industry and there are no signs of this slowing down in the near or distant future.
Betting on sports is a very simple concept on the surface, but if you are looking to get serious about wagering on the games on a regular basis, there are some important things you need to know in order to get a solid feel for how this whole industry works.
The first part of the process are the betting lines and spreads that are routinely set by Oddsmakers. A betting line is designed to handicap a specific sporting event to even-out the playing field between a favorite and an underdog. When it comes to a sport such as football, a spread in points is created as the most popular way to even things out.
It is important to remember that a point spread is not designed to predict what the margin of victory will be in any particular game, rather it is designed as a betting tool that aims to even-out the money that is bet on either side of that matchup.
That brings us to the next step in the sports betting process; the bookmaker. A bookmaker can be an independent agent that runs his own sports betting business, but the bulk of the money that is bet on sports today goes through an online sportsbook. Some of the biggest in the industry would be sportsbooks such as Bovada (read review), BetOnline (read review) and 5Dimes, but there are any number of online companies out there where you can actually place a wager on a game.
Very simply, you set-up an online account with whichever sportsbook you choose and once you have made an initial deposit you should be all ready to go. Keep in mind that all sportsbooks are not created equal and it is always in your best interest to do some consumer research on a potential sportsbook just as you would with any other online entity that you would use to conduct financial transactions. Fortunately, there are a number of unbiased sportsbook review websites out there to help point you in the right direction.
Now that you are all set-up to bet on the games with an account at an online sportsbook, the next thing you need to know is how to bet on the games. If you are relatively new to sports betting then you might want to limit your wagers to straight bets using a set point spread.
Going back to the sport of football, a straight bet would be a set amount of money wagered on the favorite giving the points or on the underdog getting the points. For example, if Seattle is a seven-point favorite at home against San Francisco, the Seahawks would need to win by more than those seven points to cash-in on that straight bet. Also keep in mind that you will usually have to risk 110 percent of your total bet as part of the commission or “juice” that the sportsbook charges to take that bet.
In this same example, if you bet $100 on the Seahawks and they “cover” that seven-point spread with a victory by more than the spread you would receive $100 from the sportsbook that took the bet. However, if the Seahawks failed to win by more than seven points or lose the game outright, you would owe that sportsbook $110.
Another big facet of the sports betting industry is the professional handicapper. Betting on sports is not as nearly as easy as it may appear and the average bettor is making nothing more than an educated guess at best when betting on the outcome of any sporting event. Utilizing the services of a professional handicapper in the form of buying picks for the games as part of a selection package they sell, is one way to improve your overall odds of winning. Even the best handicappers struggle to keep their winning percentage above 60 percent, so there is no such thing as a “sure bet” or a “lock” when taking this approach to wagering on sports. That's why they call it gambling.