Beginner’s Guide to Sports Betting

Sports Betting for Beginners

Interested in sports betting but don’t know where to start? Looking to learn how to bet on sports?

To help novice bettors get started, we’ll discuss the different bet types, how to bet, where to place bets, and how much to bet. Here, you can learn the top betting strategies to apply so you can enjoy the betting experience and earn some profit, too.

Top 11 Betting Strategies for Newbies

Sports betting can be an exhilarating experience for the uninitiated. To help newbies enjoy betting while making some money, here’s a beginner’s guide to sports betting.

This guide lists the strategies and everything that’s important to know even before you start betting.

1. Set Aside a Budget and Start With Small Bets

Sports fans betting for the first time should start small regardless of how much money they have. While still in the learning process, newbies are likely going to lose the first few bets.

It’s wise to set aside a small amount of money and see how things go. It would help if you set a weekly or monthly budget and make sure you stick to it.

Betting small means you’re using only a small percentage of your budget, which means you can make plenty of bets before you run out of money.

More importantly, you should only risk money you don’t need for other essential things, like rent, tuition, mortgage, and medical expenses.

The longer you can stay in the betting game, the better your odds are of coming up with a winning system that works for you.

2. Limit Your Area of Focus

Instead of betting on every sporting event, like the NBA (National Basketball Association), NFL (National Football League), NHL (National Hockey League), MLB (Major League Baseball), and NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) games, focus on just one sport to start.

Your chances of winning your bet increase when you know the sport and the players well enough.

An even better idea is to focus on a small part of a sport so that you have the opportunity to build a base of knowledge that helps you pick winners.

For example, instead of betting on the NFL, just bet on games in the AFC East (American Football Conference – Eastern Division).

When you focus on a niche, you will find that sports betting can be less overwhelming for you. Your gambling experience becomes fun, not stressful.

3. Avoid Betting on Dangerous Sports

Sports bettors often make the mistake of not considering the possibility of a game being fixed. Doing so can cost them money without them ever even knowing it.

One-outcome sports, like tennis and golf, are often easier to fix. In these individual sports, you need only one person to alter the outcomes to be profitable to the fixer.

Team sports are harder to fix, but basketball has a history of games rigged rigged. For example, the 2007 NBA fixing scandal involving referee Tim Donaghy was huge in the news.

While most bookmakers strive to keep their odds honest, the reality is that fixing does happen, especially with smaller bookmakers (also called bookies) or sportsbooks.

A sportsbook is an organization that accepts bets. A bookmaker is a person who determines the actual odds in the betting lines.

4. Learn the Key Positions by Sport

Depending on the sport, certain positions are more important than others and affect the handicapping procedure.Handicapping sports is a process in which the oddsmakers break down games or matches to determine who has the better chance of winning.

In baseball, for example, the starting pitchers for each team are the most important positions. In football, the most critical position is the quarterback.

There are two key positions on the court in basketball: the point guard on offense and the center on defense. But basketball is one of the few sports where the position isn’t as important to sports bettors.

The NBA and the NCAA are star-driven sports. Their best players are the most important considerations for handicapping purposes, no matter where they play.

Smart bettors look at each team’s position and player to do a good job handicapping sporting events. Still, it's wise to always start with the key positions.

Once you learn the key positions in each sport, you can spend more time analyzing the players at those positions to improve your chances of winning your bet.

5. Recognize That Bigger Games Have Tighter Betting Lines

A betting line is when a bookmaker sets the odds and determines the favorite and underdog teams in a match.

This handicap creates a margin (a line) between the two teams, indicating that there are only two outcomes possible.

Several factors can affect betting odds, but the primary reason that drives these changes is new information. The latest info may be about a team selection or disqualification, player injury, or weather condition.

These changes determine where most bets are going, which consequently determines how odds move (line movements). Lines move in real time.

Oddsmakers will want to make sure the betting line gets as much action and interaction as possible so that the odds meet a medium between profit and loss.

The tighter lines on bigger sports events do not necessarily mean that the least popular game is always the best betting option.

Still, it’s easier to find the betting lines that offer betting value on one side or the other of these events than the bigger games.

6. Go for Moneyline Bets

Many successful professional sports bettors have been known to exclusively use moneyline wagers in their winning strategy.

What’s great about moneyline betting is they’re not only easy enough for newbie sports bettors to recognize and understand, but they’re also a straightforward type of bet. You just pick the team you think is going to win the game outright.

With moneyline betting, it costs more to pick the favorite, but you can also bet on underdogs that have a good chance to win.

When you can win more money than you risk, you don't have to pick as many winners to earn a profit.

7. Do Some Line Shopping to Improve Profitability

Sharp bettors check out several online sportsbooks to find good games to bet on at the best odds. This practice is called line shopping.

Line shopping can improve your winning percentage throughout an entire game season.

8. Stay Objective: Don’t Bet on Your Favorite Team

When you follow a team, you want it to win. The problem with betting on games starring your favorite team is that it’s hard to be unbiased.

When you let emotions, attachments, and feelings get involved, they affect your rational judgment. In the long term, betting on your favorite can be the difference between making a huge win and avoiding a senseless loss.

You can still continue supporting your favorite teams and rooting for them. But do not let that bias cause silly mistakes, which can severely affect your betting budget.

9. Overcome Home Team Biases

Sports fans see that, across all sports, the home team wins more than the visiting team. The exact percentages differ from sport to sport and from season to season.

Many bettors give the home team too much credit when they place their best bet. This is called home team bias, which can hurt your sports betting results.

Meanwhile, some sports bettors give road teams too much credit when they try to eliminate home team bias in their betting.

Unfortunately, it’s just as costly to bet on too many road teams as it is to bet on too many home teams.

10. Understand How the Sports Betting Profit Model Works

Sports betting companies are businesses that make money by collecting commissions on losing bets.

Vig (the vigorish) is the cut or amount a sportsbook charges for taking a bet, also known as juice. Sportsbooks only collect the vig if the bettor loses a bet.

For the best chance of making money on sports betting, you need to be skilled in identifying betting opportunities that represent good value.

You have to assess the probabilities of potential outcomes by doing some research and analyzing your data to make accurate assessments.

11. Treat Sports Betting Like a Business

Successful sports bettors view betting as a business, and so should you. You need to view sports betting as a way to earn a profit, not just a casual hobby.

With a business mindset, use every loss as a reason to see past your mistakes and learn from them.

Make every betting decision with your own profit in mind. Even if you have to bet against your favorite team, do it if you believe the facts you gathered indicate they're likely to lose.

Sharps (serious sports bettors) analyze their own behavior, where they record everything from spending to bankroll maintenance, for good reason.

Like the sharps, you should know where and when you spent, with reflections of why you lost.

Keeping your bankroll separate from your regular finances also helps you track your finances better.

Reading Betting Odds and Calculating Potential Payouts

Knowing how to read betting odds for different types of bets is important in knowing which bets are worth making and how to make those bets.

Odds are displayed in different formats, depending on the bet type. You can use odds to calculate the potential payouts when you win a bet.

1. Moneylines

Decimal (European), fractional (British), and American (moneyline) odds are the three main types of betting odds. Moneyline odds are popular in the United States.

The favorite team is expected to win the game, while the underdog is expected to lose.

The odds for favorites are displayed with a minus sign (-), indicating the amount you need to stake to win $100.

For example, if the odds says -110, you have to bet $110 to win $100.

The odds for underdogs have a positive sign (+), indicating how much you could win for every $100 wagered.

In both cases, you should get your initial wager back, plus the amount won.

Meanwhile, moneyline bets “push” in the case of a tie, and you’re refunded your stakes.

2. Point Spreads

A point spread is a bet on the margin of success, or the difference between the winning side and the losing side.

In an NFL point spread, for example:

Team Point Spread Odds
Philadelphia Eagles -3.5 -110
New York Giants +3.5 -110

Philadelphia is the 3.5-point favorite, which means if you bet on the Eagles to win, they would need to win the game by four points or more for you to win your bet.

Likewise, New York is a 3.5-point underdog, which means if you bet on the Giants to win, they would need to win outright or not lose the game by more than three points.

If the Eagles win 20-17, they win by three points and do not cover the 3.5 points. But the Giants stayed within 3.5 points, so they covered the spread.

Point spread wagers are often put into parlays, where you can make multiple bets on one slip for a larger payout.

3. Over/Unders (O/U) or Totals

When betting O/U, you simply choose whether the total number of points scored by both teams will be over or under the listed total of points to be scored (sum of final scores).

With this kind of bet, the only thing that matters is the number of points, runs, or goals scored.

For example, the Los Angeles Lakers are playing against the Houston Rockets. Say, for this match, the predicted total is 185.

Over 185.5 -110
Under 185.5 -110

Usually, the totals will be in half points to prevent ties.

If, for example, the total number of points scored by both teams is more than 185, the over bet wins. If the total is under 185, the under wins.

In this case, for either an over or under bet, the payout is the same.

Useful Tips Before You Start Betting

1. Identifying Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Sports betting is a good way to make money if you capitalize on your strengths.

Bettors need a set of basic skills, like bankroll management, analyzing betting odds, and calculating potential payouts. These skills take time and lots of practice to develop.

Meanwhile, you should know how to identify and assess your strengths and weaknesses. You can do this by tracking your progress as a bettor.

What types of bets are easy for you? Are you more successful betting on the NHL or MLB? Do you know enough about greyhound racing to bet on it?

The easiest and most profitable sports to bet on are the sports you know very well. Betting on these sports will give you the best winning chance, especially if you’re betting for the first time.

2. The Importance of Bankroll Management

There are three stages in bankroll management.

Stage 1 - Set a budget for how much money you’re prepared to lose on sports bets. This budget is called a bankroll, which you’ll use solely for betting on sports.

Stage 2 - Based on your overall budget, establish rules that limit how much you should bet and how often.

A practical way to keep your bets small is to divide your total wagering budget by 100. This way, you’ll know how much you should bet if you are looking to make 100 bets for the month, for example.

So, if you have $1,000, you shouldn’t make any bets for more than $10. Say you lost a single bet of $10. That would only be a 1% loss, which definitely isn’t costing you too much.

Stage 3 - Continue to apply the rules defined in stage 2. This is an ongoing process; you should follow these rules for every bet you make.

Bankroll management helps you gamble responsibly. When appropriately applied, it ensures that you bet within your means and don't risk money you can't afford to lose.

3. Knowing When to Stop

We believe that gambling should always be an enjoyable activity and not a problem.

One outstanding feature of our interface is that you can track your activity in your account history. You always know how much money you’ve spent on gambling and how often you bet.