Sports Betting 101
Basics by Sport
Different Types of Sports Bets
by Dave Schwab
There is little doubt that betting on sports is one of the biggest and most popular forms of gambling in the world, but there are a number of different ways you can create action wagering on the games.
Most sports fans are probably familiar with the most basic bet in sports; the straight bet. It is also the most common wager placed by sports bettors especially when it comes to sports such as football and basketball. A betting line is set, which is often referred to as a point spread, and you can either bet on the favorite and give-up the points or place a bet on the underdog and get the points. The favorite has to win the game by more than the set point spread in order to cash-in. The underdog has to win outright or lose by less than the point spread to “cover” and win the bet. Ties in this situation are known as a “push” and no money is lost or won.
Total Line Bets
The second-most popular bet in many sports is on the total line. In this type of sports bet, a number is set for the combined final score of both teams and you then bet on the actual score staying “under” that total or going “over” the set number. Often times you can bet on a total line by each half of a game when it comes to football and in basketball.
Money Line Bets
When you make a money line bet, you are picking a team to win straight-up without any point spread. The risk involved is the amount you have to wager to pick the favorite verse the amount you stand to make if you pick the underdog. These types of bets are released for all the major sports, but they primarily come into play for baseball and hockey. For example; if the Dodgers are favored at home against the Giants the money line might read San Francisco (+120) vs. Los Angeles (-135). You would stand to make $120 on a $100 bet on the Giants if they win and you would have to risk $135 to win $100 on a Dodgers’ victory.
The act of grouping together two or more picks into one single bet is known as a parlay. It can be as few as two separate picks all the way up to a particular sportsbook’s set limit (10-12 picks). The betting odds on a parlay payout are adjusted accordingly based on the total number of picks you group together. Usually they start at a 13-to-5 return in your favor for a two-team parlay and can go as high as 645-to-1 for a 10-team parlay. The trick to cashing-in on a parlay is that all of your picks must win or the entire parlay is lost. Parlays can be a very high risk/high reward sports bet and not always appropriate for the faint of heart.
A teaser bet is a twist on a parlay in that you are still grouping two or more picks together in a single bet, but you can now tweak the point spreads in your favor in return for a lower overall payout. If the sportsbook is offering a six-point teaser bet, then a 3.5-point underdog would now be getting 9.5 points. The downside to teasers is that they are still hard to hit and your overall payout is reduced quite a bit using the adjusted betting lines. Typically a straight-up three-team parlay would pay 6-to-1, but once you decide to tease the spread in your favor, the payout drops to 2-to-1 on a winning bet.
For sports such as NASCAR and professional golf, a common way to bet these events is to bet on the head-to-head results between just two competitors. Whichever one finishes the race or the tournament in the higher position wins. Many times a money line will be attached to each competitor as a way to handicap the match. This type of bet is very popular for sports such as these considering just how hard it is to pick an outright winner among a very large field.