How to Bet on Sports: A Comprehensive Crash-Course


Sportsbetting is becoming less and less taboo. It’s been legal in the UK for going on 60 years, but wagering on sports is in the spotlight again with the recent legalisation in the American state of New Jersey.

With all the recent attention on the subject, you may have found yourself wondering how this all works and where you can learn to bet on sports? We’ve got good news for you. You are about to get a concise, yet comprehensive crash-course right here.

Step one: the odds

First off, you need to understand what you are looking at when it comes to the betting odds boards. There are three types of odds that you are going to see:

  • Decimal - example: 1.66

  • Fraction - example: 2/1

  • American - example +110 or -110

Initially, it may seem confusing, but each of the systems is quite simple. Decimal odds are commonly used in Europe and the UK, fractions are used in the UK and around the world at race tracks, and American odds are used in the Americas.To calculate decimal odds all you need to do is multiply the amount you wish to stake against the given numbers and the product equals the original stake plus your winnings. The larger the number, the longer the odds. Let’s create an example.

Sunderland Relegation Adds to Financial Woes

Sunderland is listed at 1.66 to win outright against the Wolves who are listed at 2.75. So, if I bet 100£ on Sunderland (100 x 1.66 = 166), I would win 66£ and have my original 100 returned to me as well. If I placed 100£ on Derby and they ended up winning, I would receive 275£. So we can see that the smaller number is the favorite and the larger number designates the underdog.

Fractions or even more simple. The first number tells you how much you in units how much you would win per second number risked. For example, at 3/2 odds, I would win 3£ for every 2£ that I stake, at 1/5 odds, I would have to stake five pounds to win one.

American odds are the most complicated concept, but it is still very straightforward. American odds, also called moneyline odds are always based off units of 100, and you always see a + or a - (plus or minus) in front of the numbers. The minus sign indicates the amount you have to stake to win 100. Conversely, the plus sign indicates how much you would potentially win by placing a wager of 100. So using the same example as above, Sunderland would be -151 and Derby would be +175.

Although the American system is based on units of 100, you can place any amount you wish. The big round unit is just for easily placing value on the matches.

Step Two: Bet Type

The most basic form of sportsbetting is outright or on the moneyline. This means you are simply wagering on who will win the match or event.

The next and most popular in most sports is spread betting. This is where the odds are adjusted according to a side’s form. So the stronger team is handicapped and has to win by more points. In this case, you will often see both sides with the same or similar odds, but an additional number that designates the point-spread or handicap. We’ll use basketball as an example: Golden State Warriors -2.5 (-110) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers +2.5 (-110). This means that the bookmakers believe the Warriors to be slightly better than the Cavaliers. It is impossible to score a half point, so this avoids and push. If you bet on the Warriors, they must win by three points to cash your ticket. If you bet the Cavs, they must not lose by more that two points. They must keep the game within 2.5. Spreads are used to create value in lopsided games.

Next is betting on Totals. Betting the total is simply betting OVER or UNDER the combined amount of points from both sides. In football, you may see OVER/UNDER 4.5 goals with a set of odds for the chance at scoring more than four and a half goals and a set of odds for the match being more defensive and both squads combining for less than 4.5.

There are many other totals markets to be found, like for each side, total amount of corners, total penalties, etc. But the total combined score is the most common.

Asian Handicap is a modified spread where you get multiple chances. It really deserves an article of its own so that I won’t get too deep into it. If you see Asian Handicap of 0, it is just an outright winner bet. If you see -0.25 or +0.25 it means if your side wins, you win your full bet, if they draw you win half your stake. At -0.50 the favorite must win and +0.50 the underdog wins on a draw or a win. At -0.75 a one-goal victory wins you back half your stake and a two-goal victory a full win. At +0.75, lose by 1 is only half a loss, you gain back half your stake. A draw is a win, and a win is a win. And so forth.


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