Sports Betting Education: Guide to Betting on Sports

This is a guide that will assist beginners who are interested in understanding how sports betting works, whether that is online sports betting or through a sports bookie, and how to put on a sport bet and getting a grasp on the odds and payouts. Enjoy the read, hopefully if you are a beginner, you do get something out of this article.

Sports Betting – What is it?

When we talk about sports betting, we are talking about placing a stake i.e. money, on the outcome of a sporting event. Sports bettors do the best that they can to predict a particular result of an event to win their placed bet, and with the result falling in their favor, take a profit from that bet.

Sports Betting Odds

These are representations of probability, that a result will go one way or another. To describe this as an example, a $2.00 odd, or 1/1 as a fractional odd, suggests that the result has a 50% chance of happening. We’ll go a little deeper below on how to bet on sports and the different types of sports odds.

Horse Racing Odds

Whilst these odds are used in other sports as well, they are commonly associated with horse racing.

Let’s use 3/5 as the example here. When you see 3/5, it is telling you the profit that you will make from $1, so in this example you would profit three-fifths of a dollar. The other way you can read this is for every $5 you bet, you get $3 in return.

$20 bet at 3/5 odds means that if you win, you are getting $12 in return as profit and your original $20 outlay back.

So, $32 total win is worked out by, ($20 + [20 x 3/5])

Sports betting, Sports Betting Education: Guide to Betting on Sports

3/5 would likely be close to a favorite, if you were betting on an underdog/donkey etc., the odds would likely be higher, like 3/1.

Using 3/1 as the example, if you outlay $100, you would get $400 back. The original $100 + 3 X $100 = $400. If the odds were reversed and were 1/3, you would be getting back $133. The original $100 + $33 = $133.

Sports betting, Sports Betting Education: Guide to Betting on Sports

MoneyLine Odds

Moneyline odds are a quick way of determining which team is supposed to win an event. Moneyline odds are represented by positive and negative numbers, negative meaning the team should win, whilst positive representing the underdog.

Kansas City Chiefs -135; New England Patriots +135

The above moneyline means that KC Chiefs are the favorite to win and NE Patriots are the underdog. Betting on the KC Chiefs will win you less money though on a bet size, the same as one put on NE Patriots.

We will use a $250 wager as the example on the above money line.

Sports betting, Sports Betting Education: Guide to Betting on Sports


$250 on a +135 bet = 250/100 = $2.50 X 135 = $337.50

$250 (Original outlay) + $337.50 profit = $587.50

Sports betting, Sports Betting Education: Guide to Betting on Sports


$250 on a -135 bet = 100/135 = $0.7407 X $250 = $185.19

$250 (Original outlay) + $185.19 profit = $435.19

Sports betting, Sports Betting Education: Guide to Betting on Sports

Point Spreads

When you look at point spreads, typically what you will find is that they are either a whole number or a .5 number, i.e. 5.5. When you see a spread like 5.5, this is done to avoid a “push” result, meaning that you get your money back, no profit or loss; more on that in a second.

If LA Lakers are playing Chicago Bulls, and LA Lakers are favored to take the win by a 5-point spread, you would only win your bet, if the LA Lakers win by MORE than 5 points. On the flipside, a bet on Chicago Bulls wins if the Bulls just win, or they lose by LESS than 5 points.

Going back to the 5.5 scenario, in this case, if the final score between Lakers and Bulls was 85-80, and your bet of $100 was on the Lakers with a spread of 5.5, you would just get your $100 back. If the spread was 5, you would win.

Sports betting, Sports Betting Education: Guide to Betting on Sports

Point Spreads & Vig

You will notice in the above point I didn’t spell out how much you make off bets for winning. That is where “vig” or the vigorish comes in. The vigorish or you might even hear it called “the juice”, is the commission that will be charged for making a bet. The normal vig on point spreads is -110 and you would read this number like the moneyline.

If the vig is -110, you need to outlay $110 to get back $100 profit.

If we continue to use the Lakers V Bulls example from above, If I place $100 on the Lakers to win with a 5 point spread, and the end score is 85-80 to the Lakers, I win $210. $110 profit plus my original $100 outlay.

Sports betting, Sports Betting Education: Guide to Betting on Sports

Over/Under Odds

Over/Under odds are relatively simple and what you are betting on here, is the total combined score between two teams. Simply, all you will be doing here is checking the bookies over/under score and then choosing if you believe the end score of the combined game total will be over that number, or under.

If the over/under was set at 195.5, and you choose over, you need the combined game total to be 196 or better. If you choose under, you would need the combined game total to be 195 or less.

Sports betting, Sports Betting Education: Guide to Betting on Sports

If the over/under is set to a whole number, like 195, and the score ends at 195, then that would be a push and you would get your bet back.

Check with your bookie first, but normally over/under bets are even, meaning you bet $100 to make $100 = $200 ($100 profit + $100 outlay)

Sports betting, Sports Betting Education: Guide to Betting on Sports

Major Odds Formats

Decimal Odds

These are likely going to be the easiest format to read as they are simply a return for each unit that is bet or outlaid. To provide an example, a decimal odd of 3.50 means that for every unit that a bettor stakes, they will get back 3.50 units in return. Bet $1, get back $3.50 or bet $100, get back $350.

Fractional Odds

When you see fractional odds, these are a little more complicated than decimal. Whilst they show the same information as decimal, they are shown in a different way. You have two numbers, separated by a “/”, with the number on the left being the profit that will be returned to the bettor, by betting the number on the right. The bet obviously needs to be successful. You also get back your original stake on top of the profit.

The 3.50 decimal odd example I gave above, would be written as a fractional form of 2.5/1. In layman’s terms, to make $2.50, bet $1 or to make 2.5 units, bet 1 unit.

American Odds

Relative to using a 100-unit figure as the base, American odds are regionally popular, and like decimal or fractional, share the same information, just in a different way.

We spoke earlier about some bets using the -110 and +110, the minus meaning that you need to bet that amount in order to win 100 units, or the plus meaning you win that amount for every 100 units bet.

3.50 in decimal, which we already know is 2.5/1 in fractional, would be 250 in American odd format.

Implied Probability

You may see implied probability when viewing odds, and this just means what the correlated probability is when viewing any type of odd. A fractional odd of 3/1 suggests that you have a 1 in 4 chance of success, meaning the implied probability is 25%. 1/4 suggests you have a 4 in 5 chance of success, therefore the implied probability is 80%.

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