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How Sports Betting Works: A Complete Guide

If you’re a sports fan, you’re probably familiar with sports betting – even if you haven’t tried it before. Wagering on major events is an excellent way to add excitement to the game, and it also allows you to show your friends that you truly know what you’re talking about. 

Wagering markets used to be pretty simple. Most of the time, you would go to your local bookmaker and choose the winner of a specific match. In many instances, you would include multiple games on your bet – with those odds accumulating and offering the potential chance for a bigger payout. 

But over the 21st century, sports wagering has evolved into something unrecognizable compared to 40 or 50 years ago. Players have access to more betting markets than ever, and you can choose leagues and sports that would never have been possible. 

If you’re looking to start betting on sports, you’ll probably have noticed that it’s not as simple as it seems. Even if you pick the results you think will happen, many people fail more often than they succeed. And if you’ve never bet online before, you’ll notice a host of betting types that had probably never crossed your mind beforehand. 

Performing extensive research is crucial before you start sports betting. Wouldn’t it be great if somebody put together a comprehensive guide explaining how it works? Perhaps it would… even look like the one you’re reading now? 

This article will explain the different types of sports betting and odds. You’ll also learn more about how live sports wagering works, plus much more. 

What Is Sports Betting? 

In its simplest form, sports betting involves placing money on a particular sporting outcome that you expect to happen. It’s one of the oldest forms of gambling and is incredibly popular in several countries worldwide.

Depending on where you live, you can bet on sports both online and offline. Some countries have dedicated bookmakers that take bets, with the largest operators having mobile apps and well-optimized websites. While some nations have bookmaker stores, you might need to bet in a kiosk in other places. 

You can bet on a wide range of sports, though rules vary depending on your jurisdiction. For example, some states in the US permit wagering on college sports – whereas others will only let you bet on fully-professional sporting events. 

Examples of markets that have regulated sports betting across the world include:

  • The UK 
  • The US (but not in all states) 
  • Sweden
  • France
  • Germany 

Some countries allow commercial operators to offer sports betting to customers, but that isn’t the case in all of them. A selection of countries, such as Norway, have monopolies. 

Today, the sports betting industry is worth billions of dollars. However, it still has the potential to grow even further in years to come. Many countries have not regulated the vertical, and others have gray markets. 

In regulated markets, age restrictions vary. For example, you only have to be 18 to gamble in the UK. However, many US states only let you bet on sports once you turn 21. 

What Types of Sports Bets Are There? 

By this point, you should have a basic understanding of what sports betting is – and where you can play it. Now, we’re ready to dive deeper into the different kinds of sports betting. 

Below are the most popular types of sports wagering that you will find. 

Moneyline or Straight Bets

If you have no prior knowledge of sports betting, moneyline and straight bets are probably the forms of wagering that you’re the most familiar with. These are the standard types of sports betting that you will see, and they involve betting on a specific outcome. 

Let’s use a hypothetical soccer match to explain what we’re trying to say. Tottenham plays Liverpool in the Premier League, and you have three initial choices: a Tottenham win, a draw, or a Liverpool victory. If you choose a Liverpool win and the Reds walk away with three points, you win the bet. 

Point Spreads

Straight bets are a helpful starting point if you’ve never bet on sports before. But as you become more experienced, you might want to look at alternatives. Point spreads are an exciting way to challenge yourself, and it’s not as simple as it looks. 

When you bet using point spreads, you will wager within a range – giving you more possible opportunities to win. Generally speaking, you will choose a particular point; the amount you win depends on how close the actual result is. If you’re nearly correct, you’ll win more than if you’re further away. 

The term “point spreads” is also known as spread betting. If you’ve spent some time trading stocks or commodities, you will probably have at least a basic understanding of what the term means. 


Futures betting isn’t too different from straight bets, but you’ve got one big differentiator: futures bets are designed with the long term in mind. 

With this form of wagering, you are still choosing an absolute to occur. But rather than picking, say, who will win a particular game, you might prefer the team that will finish top of a league table. And if you’re betting on an event like the World Cup, you could choose who will win the tournament overall. Other kinds of futures bets include: 

  • Group winners for a tournament’s group stage 
  • Who will get knocked out in the semi-finals
  • Who will get relegated from a particular division during the league season. 

You can also use futures betting to determine who will finish top scorer, along with the potential player of the tournament and much more. 

Totals or Over/Under

Totals and over/under betting are slightly different but follow similar principles. So that it’s easier to follow along, we’ll break the pair down individually. 

Let’s start with totals. This form of sports betting is somewhat simple to understand; you will choose the total number of something in a particular event. For example, you might predict that a soccer match will score precisely four goals. It doesn’t matter if the score is 4-0, 3-1, or 2-2; you only need to ensure that four goals are scored. If more or less occur, you will not win the bet. 

You can also bet on the total number of:

  • Fouls
  • Corners 
  • Yellow and red cards 

Over/under provides a little more flexibility, and it’s a good choice for events that you don’t feel so comfortable predicting. If you bet on over a certain number occurring, you simply need to surpass the milestone. For example, let’s use a scenario where you bet on over 3.5 points. It doesn’t matter if four, 10, or 20 points are scored; the winnings remain the same. The same goes for under. 

With both totals and over/under betting, you can choose to bet on one particular team hitting the required amount. However, it’s more common to focus on the overall instead. 


Parlays involve combining multiple bets into a single slip; in some countries, the term “accumulator” is used instead. This form of betting is very popular in the UK for predicting the weekend’s games, but you’ll also find it in the US and other countries. 

When you put together a parlay bet, you will select two or more outcomes you think will happen. To win money, you need to get all of these correct; getting the majority right is not enough. 

If you win a parlay bet, your winnings will involve the combined amount of whatever the odds were for your selections. 

Props, Teasers, and Pleasers 

Props betting is a little different from betting on outright results. Instead of wagering on a particular team, you will choose something that focuses more on a specific player. For example, you might pick someone you think will score in the match; if you’re betting on an event with a heavy favorite, props can offer better value for money. 

Teasers and pleasers, on the other hand, are effectively a combination of parlay and spread betting. You will still choose more than one result, but you don’t need to get all of them right. Like spread betting, you will win more if you’re closer and less if you’re further away. 

What Types of Odds Are There? 

Different betting odds types will be more or less popular depending on where you live. The value is still the same regardless, and how they’re displayed is more of a preference thing. To help you out, we’ll outline each of the three main ones below. 

American Odds

American odds might be slightly confusing if you’re reading this from a European country. But once you know how to use them, they’re pretty straightforward. If you look at a particular market and see a – next to it, that indicates the favorite. 

The odds will show you how much you would win back if you placed $100 on that particular occurrence. If you see “EVS”, that means “evens” – meaning that you would win the same amount of money you placed, along with your stake. 

Decimal Odds

Decimal odds are more frequently used on the European mainland, and their starting point is 2.00. If you go underneath that, a result is odds-on to happen – with the opposite being true if you see a number bigger than 2.00. 

Fractional Odds

Fractional odds are more commonly used in the UK, and they’re pretty simple to understand. Like the US, these odds start as evens – which would mean that you win the same amount as your stake, plus your stake. If you see odds that look something like 4/5, it means that a result is slightly likelier to happen – whereas something like 2/9 would indicate that a team is heavy favorites. 

If you have a bigger number on the left fraction, and there’s a huge difference, the outcome is less likely. Vice versa is true for something on the other side. 6/5 would indicate that it’s not odds-on to happen but likely, whereas something like 25/1 would equal a result being less probable. 

How Does Live Sports Betting Work?

With the rise of mobile sports betting and a bigger-than-ever coverage of live sporting events, live sports wagering is incredibly popular in many parts of the world. Odds change as an event progresses, and live sports betting allows you to make a potential profit in-game. 

Live sports betting involves you wagering on an outcome as the match is going on. If a team has taken a shock lead, but you expect the favorites to come back, it’s a big opportunity to get better odds than you would have before. 

Where to Place a Bet: The Best Online Sportsbooks

Nowadays, you will find plenty of sportsbooks to place a bet online. When picking one, it’s a good idea to check that they have both mobile and desktop capabilities; most of the major ones do. 

Some of the most popular sportsbooks include: 

  • Ladbrokes
  • Unibet
  • DraftKings 

Availability for online sportsbooks depends on the jurisdiction in which you operate. For example, some European operators are not available in the US – and the same is true the other way around.

When looking for an online sportsbook to wager with, many of the best ones share several commonalities. They usually have a reputable gaming license, which can include the US state they operate in or one from the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC). The Malta Gaming Authority is another popular license that offers high standards. 

Signs of a good sportsbook include: 

  • A reputable gaming license 
  • Data and insights to help you make the right betting choice 
  • Well-functioning apps and websites 

Best Online Sports to Bet On

As we’ve already mentioned in this article, you will find a huge range of sports to bet on from your smartphone or computer. In the US, the NFL is incredibly popular – with the NBA also ranking highly. You can choose from the country’s other major leagues, too, with almost all games featuring in markets. 

Tennis is another popular sport to bet on across the world. You can choose from all of the Grand Slam events, along with a range of other events in multiple countries. 

In Europe, soccer is the go-to sport to bet on for many people. The English Premier League receives significant attention from all corners of the globe, and other major divisions – such as Serie A and the Bundesliga – also have high numbers of people betting on them. 

Depending on the sportsbook you choose, you might also have the choice to live stream events. Generally speaking, you’ll have to deposit some money in your account before doing this. 

How to Bet on Sports Online 

Participating in online sports betting is pretty simple. First, you’ll need to sign up for an account with your preferred sportsbook. After that, the operator will usually ask you to verify your age. Then, follow these instructions:

  1. Choose your payment method and how much money you want to deposit into your account. 
  2. Select the market you want to bet on. 
  3. Place your bet. 

Everything You Need to Know About Sports Betting

That’s all for this article; having gotten to the end, you should have a decent base understanding of how sports betting works. While you’ve got a lot to learn in the early stages, the concept of sports wagering is pretty simple once you’ve gathered that information. 

Sports betting is much bigger than it once was, and players have more choices than ever to get involved with their favorite events. And thanks to the innovations made by global sportsbooks, wagering is much more fun. 

If you’re an affiliate, sports betting is an excellent market to get involved in. While it is saturated, you have plenty of opportunities to stand out and create an authentic voice. Joining an affiliate program will help; join Casino Affiliate Programs to find some of the best in the industry.