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Sports Betting Basics

New to sports betting and not sure what all the jargon means or how to place a bet? Here you can find most basic vocabulary, tips, and tricks to get you started the smart way from the beginning. You're in the right spot!

What do all those words mean? 

Point Spread - "What's the spread?"

  • Margin of victory set by oddsmakers to get bettors to place bets on both the favorite and underdog

  • For example: Team A is playing Team B, the point spread is 4.5. If Team A is the favorite (supposed to win), a bettor may bet the spread for Team A, meaning Team A must win by MORE THAN 4.5 points (also known as -4.5). This means that Team B is the underdog and if a bettor wants to bet the spread for Team B, Team B must win or lose by LESS THAN 4.5 points (also known as +4.5)

  • This IS NOT choosing the winning team, this is "betting the spread"

  • The advantage of betting the point spread is that you can bet on an underdog, but that underdog doesn't need to necessarily win. As long as they lose by less than the point spread, the bettor will still win their bet

  • On the flip side, this makes betting on a favorite more difficult but more profitable. Normally odds when betting on a spread is -110 (bet $11 to win $10), which is better odds than betting on a 4.5 point favorite to win straight up, which would be odds of around -175 (bet $17.50 to win $10)

Over/Under or Total - "Do you think it's hitting the over?"

  • The over/under is the combined points between both teams in a game, a bettor may choose that the teams will score more or less than that number

  • For example, Team A is playing Team B, the total (or the over/under) is set at 39.5. The bettor chooses to bet the over, meaning that both teams combined score at the end of the game must be 40 or more. If the final score is 28-14, the bettor will win. If the final score was 28-10, the bettor would lose. 

  • Vegas sets the lines so that odds are even on both sides of the number, similar to how they set the number for the spread. Odds for betting on either side of the over/under are normally at -110 (bet $11 to win $10). 

Moneyline - "Are you betting the 'dog?"

  • A moneyline bet is a bet on a team to win a game, regardless of margin of victory. 

  • Odds on moneyline bets differ, rather than being at -110 like a spread or total bet. If Team A is favored over Team B, betting on Team A moneyline the odds may be at -250 meaning a bettor will risk $25 to win $10. 

  • When betting on moneyline there is less risk when betting a favorite because they don't need to cover the spread, they just have to win. But if they lose, a bettor will lose more money than they would on a spread bet. 

  • On the flip side, betting on an underdog to win has a high reward. A moneyline bet on an underdog of +250 would win a bettor $25 on a $10 dollar bet. The risk of betting the moneyline on an underdog instead of spread is that they need to win the game, rather than cover the spread. 

Parlay - "There's no way this parlay doesn't hit!"

  • A parlay is a bet that is a combination is multiple bets that all must win for the parlay to win

  • Parlays are the statistically worst bets to make, the highest risk for the highest reward.

  • A $10, 5-team parlay could have odds around +3000, which would pay out $300.

What is Bankroll?

  • A specific amount of money set aside by a bettor to use for betting

  • Management of your bankroll is a integral part of going from a recreational bettor to a professional bettor

  • If you want to learn more about becoming an semi-professional or professional bettor, click the intermediate or advanced betting strategies below

What is a Unit? 

  • The average mount of money a bettor wagers on a single bet

  • Depending on your bankroll, your unit size will differ

  • Calling it a unit around other bettors keeps a sense of comfortability so that you don't have to share specific dollar amounts, because everyone is at a different spot financially

  • Many bettors will place a 1-unit bet on an average bet, and on a bet they feel more confident they might wager 2 or 3 units

And for even more

Check out these intermediate and advanced strategies!





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