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Feeling Lucky? BDB’s Basic Guide to Sports Betting

Posted February 14, 2013 by Mika Marquart in Articles

Sure, you love sports. You talk smack to your friends, and run your mouth about how your team is the one to beat. But do you know sports well enough to put your money where your mouth is? Every year, millions of sports fans fill out their brackets and place a wager on March Madness. But there’s more to sports betting than just joining in your work pool or making a small wager with friends.  If you’re ready to play the odds with the big guns, here’s the rundown on what you should know before you place your bets.

Types of Wagers: The first decision you need to make when deciding to bet on sports is what type of bet you want to make. If you think you can only bet on who’s going to win, you’d be mistaken. There are actually a TON of different ways to bet. Here are 5 of the most popular ones:

  • Straight Bet:  This is your basic bet – who is going to win the game. If you place a straight bet, that means no matter what the score is, you win if the team you pick wins. For example, let’s say the Patriots were to play the Jaguars. If you make a straight bet on the Patriots, and the Patriots win, you win. Easy peasy.
  • Betting the Point Spread:  Probably the most popular way to bet is to bet the spread. The spread is the amount of points that a team is either favored or an “underdog” by, as is set by the oddsmakers in order to generate bets on both sides. In a points spread bet, rather than just picking the team that would win, you pick based on how much you think they’ll win by. The team that is favored will have a minus sign with the amount of points they are favored by, and the underdog will have a plus sign with the amount of points they are an underdog by. So taking our example from above, if the Patriots were playing the Jaguars, the Patriots would probably be the favorite, and therefore have to “give up” a certain amount of points. Let’s say 7, as an example . (So the spread would be Patriots -7, Jaguars +7.) If you bet the Pats with the spread, they would then have to win by more than 7 points in order for you to win. If they won, but only by 3 points, you lose, even though they won, because you were betting that they’d win by more than 7. Therefore, if you thought the Patriots were going to win, but only by 3, and the spread was 7, you’d actually want to bet on the Jaguars with the spread. As long as the Patriots didn’t win by more than 7, you’d win! (You’d also win if the Jaguars won.)  NOTE: Some sports, like baseball, boxing, and horseracing, don’t use spreads.
  • Over/Unders (aka Totals):  Betting the Over/Under, or Totals Betting, is where you place a bet on what you think the total combined score of both teams will be at the end of the game. Basically, the oddsmakers set a number, and if you think the total score will be over that number, you take the “over.” If you think it’ll be under that score, you take the “under.” So if the over/under on the Patriots vs. Jaguars game is 41 points, and you think the Patriots are going to run up the score like they often do, you should take the over. If you think that the defenses are going to show up that day, you should take the under.
  • Parlays:  One of my favorite ways to bet is to Parlay. A Parlay is a combination bet, in which you make at least two or more picks and combine them into a single bet, which pays out higher than if you had bet on them individually. So, using our examples above, let’s say you want to take the Patriots with the spread (Patriots -7) and the Over (41) in a parlay. To win, the Patriots would have to win by more than 7, AND the total combined score would have to be over 41 points. You can also parlay different games, and as many picks as you want – something that you can do if you’re feeling really lucky this year when betting on March Madness.
  • Props:  Betting on Props, or Propositions, is where you bet one some occurrence (or non-occurrence) in the game, other than the outcome. These are oftentimes bet on by casual bettors, especially in big games like the Super Bowl. Some examples of prop bets include betting on whether the coin toss will be heads or tails, which team will score the first point in the game, and how many points a particular player will have. There are literally hundreds of props to bet on, and they can be bet on individually, or brought in as part of a parlay.

The Money Line: In addition to the point spread (or in the case of baseball, boxing and horseracing, in lieu of it), you will see numbers next to each team or player you are betting on, which are in the hundreds and notated with a plus or minus sign (ex. -110, +240). These are, in layman’s terms, the odds of the bet if you took a straight bet on it. Like the point spread, a minus sign signifies a favorite, a plus sign signifies an underdog. In the case of a minus sign, the team is favored, so the reward for betting on them will be lower. So if the Patriots are favored and the money line is -110, that shows you that you will have to bet $110 in a straight bet to win $100. Conversely, if you are betting on the underdog with a plus sign, you will be rewarded more handsomely if they win. So if the Jaguars are the underdog with a money line of +240, you will win $240 if you bet $100 on them straight up.

Handicappers: Handicappers are people who advise others on how they should bet. They are oftentimes professional bet makers, and spend their lives studying the games and matchups and utilizing various methods in an attempt to determine who is going to win, and by how much. Handicappers can make millions – even billions – of dollars betting on sports, depending on just how good they are, and if you can get in with one, help you to make a lot of money, too.

Strategy: Every person has their own strategy in terms of betting, and of course there are many out there that purport to have found the best strategy for success in sports betting. Some rely on their gut, while others spend hours researching everything from the teams to the weather on game day. After speaking to one betting pro, the biggest piece of advice that I took was the importance of betting consistently. “You’re not going to win every bet,” he said. “And you don’t have to. You just have to be right more than 50% of the time to come out on top, and the more consistently you bet, the better chance you have of doing that.”

That being said, please don’t run out and bet on every game this instant. Try your hand at a few, and work your way up. As with everything, MODERATION is key, and if you’re going to gamble, please, gamble responsibly!  If you’re feeling ready, maybe start out by putting alittle action on March Madness, and take it from there.

Best of LUCK from the babes of BDB!

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