As sports betting becomes legal in more and more states, it’s becoming increasingly embedded into our national sports culture. We are starting to see discussions of sports betting on national broadcasts, along with odds and lines appearing on screen, and the proliferation of this once largely illegal activity in popular culture.
For casual fans who have never ventured into sports betting, the amount of jargon may seem intimidating. However, the good news is that with just a little bit of learning, you can understand everything you need to know about how sports betting works.
Keep reading for a full guide on the basics of sports betting and how to bet online in Massachusetts. From how the industry works to what the odds mean, this page has you covered.
How sports betting works
One of the key concepts to understand about sports betting is that you’re not playing against other bettors. You’re going against the sportsbook. Sportsbooks offer a huge variety of bets and sports. All the major North American leagues are available at legal sportsbooks, as well as international competitions and potentially some niche options.
When you decide to place a bet, you put down money upfront that is at risk. This is your stake. Each bet will have an associated set of odds. Depending on those odds, you will stand to win a certain amount of money.
Sportsbooks make money by placing a small house edge into every set of odds. They then aim to ensure that they get relatively equal action on either side of the bet, ensuring that they stand to make a profit in every outcome. If they ever feel the action is slanted too much toward one side, they will adjust the odds to encourage people to bet on the other side.
How to read sports betting odds
At US sportsbooks, odds for the vast majority of bets will appear in the American format. The important concept to understand when reading American odds is that in a matchup between two teams, there’s going to be a favorite and an underdog.
The favorite’s odds will be a negative number of at least three digits. This number represents how much you would need to wager for a chance to win $100. For example, betting on the New England Patriots to win a game at odds of -300 means that a bet of $300 would have the potential to win $100, returning a total of $400 if that happens.
Underdogs, on the other hand, will usually have a positive odds number. This number represents how much you could win on a $100 bet. For example, betting on the Boston Bruins to win a game with odds of +250 means that you could bet $100 to win $250, returning a total of $350 if you’re correct.
If legal sports betting in Massachusetts becomes a reality, online sportsbooks will do the calculations for you, so there’s no need to worry if you find this confusing. Simply add a bet to your ticket, input how much you want to risk, and the platform will show you how much you stand to win.
Popular sports bets
You’ll be able to bet on virtually any event within a game, as sportsbooks compete with one another to have the best offerings. Here are the three most common sports bets that you will see and what they mean:
This is a simple bet where all you’re doing is wagering on one side or the other to win the game. The important thing to keep in mind for moneyline bets is the odds for each side. You want to find selections that have strong odds compared to their chance of winning the game. The examples in the section above show sample moneyline bets and odds.
Spread bets involve wagering on the margin of victory. The spread is a number that the favored team must win by or the underdog team must finish within for a bet on that side to win. For example, the spread might look like this for an NBA game:
- Boston Celtics -7
- New York Knicks +7
According to the Celtics odds, the C’s must win the game by more than seven points for a spread bet on them to cash. The Knicks must lose by six points or less (or win outright) for their bet to cash. If the game ends with the Celtics winning by exactly seven, that’s a push and bettors will receive their wagers back.
The over/under bet on the total score is the third standard bet you’ll see for team-based games. The sportsbook will set a line for the combined total score by the two teams in the game, and you can wager on whether the actual total score will end up over or under that line.
For example, the total for a game between the New England Patriots and New York Giants might be 52.5. If the two teams combine for 53 or more points, over bettors win. If the two teams combine for 52 points or fewer, under bettors win.
These are bets on long-term outcomes that often will be available for most of the year. For example, betting on which team will win the next Super Bowl is a popular futures bet that you can place at any point from before the start of the season until right around Super Bowl time. Another might be placing a wager on which player you think will be the next NBA MVP.
These are wagers on smaller events within the game. Props are not bets on which team is going to win. Instead, they are on events that are separate from the overall outcome. For instance, you could bet on Jayson Tatum to notch over or under a certain number of 3-pointers, or any number of other NBA player props.
Prop bets encompass so many potential wagers that it acts as an umbrella term. The Super Bowl is like Christmas for prop bet enthusiasts, as sportsbooks will take the time to create many distinct options.
The advancement of technology and move toward online gambling have allowed for the proliferation of live betting. This is the act of betting on a game as it happens. Sportsbooks will keep the lines moving to reflect what is happening in the game, and you can place a bet whenever you see some odds you like. Make sure to move quickly, though, because those sports odds or lines that you like can disappear in a second.
How to choose the best sportsbook
There are a couple of things that your sportsbook needs to have for you to even consider betting there. The first is that you should pick a legal and regulated sportsbook. This helps ensure that you will receive fair treatment and that your money is in safe hands.
After limiting the options to legal sportsbooks, there are a few qualities that you can compare to find one that is right for you. You want to make sure you sign up at a sportsbook that has a bonus for first-time users. Another important aspect is how many regular promotions the sportsbook runs.
You also want to make sure that your sportsbook has a good variety of sports and bets to meet your needs. If you have any favorite sports, make sure the book allows you to bet on them. It’s also a good idea to check online and see what other people are saying before you sign up.
Last but not least, make sure that your sportsbook offers convenient deposit and withdrawal options. You want it to be easy to get your money in and out of the sportsbook, so check to make sure that your preferred option is available.
How to place your first bet online
Once you find a sportsbook bonus that you want to claim, head to that sportsbook’s website, where you will have to register for an account. Fill out all the details and then proceed to the book’s website, where you will see various available lines.
Once there, click on the bet that you want to make and then input how much you want to wager. The website should show you how much you stand to win, and that will change alongside your stake if you change that number. When you’re ready, confirm your bet and then wait for the game to play out. Congratulations, you just placed your first bet.
Tips for beginners to sports betting
Here are a few basic tips on how to bet on sports to help you get started:
1. Bet with your head, not your heart
Every sports fan has a favorite team, but when it comes time for betting, you can’t let that be a deciding factor. You need to be thinking with your head and make smart decisions without letting emotions become too involved if you want the best chance at making a profit.
2. Don’t chase losses
You’re going to go through cold streaks where it feels as if you’ll never win again. You need to be able to keep a steady head and not go wild with your bet sizing. Don’t try to make up for all of your losses with one monster bet.
3. Don’t wager when intoxicated
It’s best not to wager when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. When intoxicated, your decision-making process is going to be hampered, and you do not want to be putting your money at risk during this time.