The Complete Guide To Getting Started With Sports Betting

The Complete Guide To Getting Started With Sports Betting

Sports betting is one of the biggest industries in the United States. Since legalization in 2018, sports betting has seen over $125 billion wagered. Each year, the industry grows larger.

There are currently 30 states that allow sports betting, with this number expected to grow. Some states allow online wagering while others require in-person betting.

Read along to find out how to bet on sports!

The Ultimate Guide to Sports Betting

Sports betting is a fun and enjoyable way to make money. If you are a sports fan and watch games each week, sports betting is for you. Not only can you make money, but it makes each game more exciting.

With the right knowledge and know-how, anyone can become a great sports bettor. In this article, you will learn about the terms associated with sports betting and how to use them.

After this guide, you will be able to start sports betting!

Maintain Your Financials

The very first step you need to consider when starting to bet is your finances. Without proper documentation, analyzing, and strategizing for your money, your sports betting career may be very short.

Whether you are just getting started or have been betting for a long time, maintaining your money is the most important part of sports betting. There are three easy-to-remember steps to take for managing your bankroll.

Create a Budget Size

You need to determine how much you can allocate to sports betting. Based on your standing and comfort, each individual has a different bankroll for sports betting.

You will need to determine how much money you can afford to lose on a single bet. Once you have that amount in your head, you can then determine how frequently you should bet. This could range from once a day, to once a week, to only betting on large events.

Betting on large events can be fun but require additional research. The Kentucky Derby is one of the hardest sporting events to bet on but can pay out very well.

Set a number for your bankroll or budget and stick to it.

Establish Your Units

A unit is the amount of money you will place on a single bet. A unit can be thought of as a percent of your overall budget. If you are just starting, you might want to keep your units at a small amount until you become more comfortable.

If you are betting frequently you should only wager 1-3% of your total bankroll for sports betting. If you are betting at a less frequent rate and feel more comfortable, you can wager more per bet. This will vary for each bettor.

Staying between 1-4% of your total bankroll is the recommended unit amount. Start at a low amount and work your way up.


Each individual will need to reevaluate their betting amounts and habits. Throughout your time sports betting, you will want to evaluate and recalculate your unit size. Based on wins or losses you should be keeping a firm grip on what is best for you.

If you are on a losing streak, maybe you should make your units smaller. If you are on a hot streak and feeling good, you can afford to wager a little more with each unit.

Professionals usually win 60% of all their bets. If you are just starting, you most likely will not reach the 60% thresh hold. Stay patient and with practice and experience, you will become a better bettor.

Sportsbook Rules

Each sportsbook will have its own rules. However, several common rules are across all sportsbooks. There is lots of important information you should know before you start placing your bets.

Games Must be Played When Scheduled

If a game is not played on the date listed, it will be counted as a non-wager. These games will not hurt your parlay or take money from you, you will often be refunded the amount you bet.

If the website makes a mistake on their sportsbook, you will also receive a no contest type of bet and be refunded your bet amount.

Things Change All the Time

Not a single odd is guaranteed to be the same. If you read that odds for a game are -350 then you go to place the bet and it’s -500, do not be shocked.

Place bets early to make sure that you get the best odds before they change. Once you place your bet with the specific odds, you will not be receiving a payout for odds that change.

MLB Rule

It’s strange but it’s true. The MLB will often deem their scores official after only 5 innings of play. If the home team is winning, the sportsbook will often count the game as over with half the game to be played.

This only applies to baseball. The other major sports in any sportsbook do not follow the same rules.

Other Common Rules

Each bettor must be 18 years old and must prove they are at least 18 years old.

Once you receive money from the sportsbook, you can use that money to place more bets. Instead of depositing more, you can just use the money already tied to your account.

You will need to verify your identity before you withdraw funds. Most withdraws go to a bank account or credit card, so you will need to verify that it is you taking the money.

There is a maximum bet. Each sportsbook has the right to create a maximum amount that you can place o a single wager. It is not a personal wager amount from person to person, the sportsbook usually has a set bet limit.

Common Mistakes to Avoid in Sports Betting

When you are starting to bet on sports, you will most likely make some mistakes. With this guide, you will be able to avoid large mistakes that could make you stop betting quickly.

No Financial Maintenance

If you don’t keep a constant eye on your financials, you could end up in trouble. You will need to always look at how you are doing in terms of wins and losses in correlation to your bankroll.

Do not ever go all-in with your money. If you risk all your allocated bankroll for sports betting, you will need to cool down. Taking more money than you wanted for sports betting could be the start of an addiction.

Letting Emotions do the Betting

Do not bet on your emotions. This is an easy trap for anyone to fall into, even the professionals. Do not just openly bet on your favorite team without looking at the odds or doing a little digging into injuries and stats. This sort of betting could do damage in the long run.

You must remain objective while betting. You have to keep the goal of making money in mind and not blindly bet on which team has your favorite player. You can bet on your favorite team, but it’s not a good idea to blindly bet on them because you love them.

Sports Betting Without Knowledge of the Sport

It may seem like a lot of fun but you will most likely lose. If you bet on a contest that you know nothing about, you could lose a large sum of money in a very quick period.

Make sure that you know who is playing, what the better team is, and at least 2 players on each team before placing a bet. In terms of combat sports, at least know the basics of how the two fighters are in the ring or cage.

You do not have to be an expert on sports betting but it is a safe practice to have a grasp on the event you are betting on.

Betting Under the Influence

Don’t do it. Just don’t.

You might be out at a bar and a game might be on one of the TV. If you are feeling a little more confident than usual, you might want to place a bet on the game. This is a quick way to lose a unit or several units.

Make sure to always place a bet when you are fully focused. Being under the influence of alcohol may lead to bad betting decisions. You might wake up the next day and be mad at yourself. Stay away from this type of betting.

Understanding Sports Odds

If you want to start betting, you need to understand the odds. Odds will let you see how much money you will make if your bet hits. Odds will also help you determine who is the favorite and who is the underdog.

Odds are implemented for two main purposes. The first is to show the probability of any match or game that the odd is attached to. The second is to give you insight into how much you will make if your wager is correct.

Sportsbooks will change odds frequently. Sportsbooks will create odds to incentivize users to sway sides. No matter the odds, the sportsbook will also take a cut of your winnings, there’s nothing you can do about this.

Odds Explained

When placing a wager you will likely see a three-digit number with a + or – in front of it. This is how you will know if you are betting on the favorite or the underdog. The – refers to the favorite while the + is the underdog.

The favorite (minus sign) indicates how much you need to wager to make $100. If the Chicago Bears are -130 against the Detroit Lions, you would need to wager $130 to make $100.

The underdog (plus sign) indicates how much you will make if you wager $100. If the Detroit Lions are +250 against the Chicago Bears, you would make $250 off your $100 wager.

Every bet you place will consist of these rules for odds. In American sports, the plus and minus signs are used to distinguish every bet you can place.

Calculating Odds

If you don’t bet $100, there is a formula to see how much you will make. If you place a wager of $40 on the Chicago Bears at -130 here is how to figure out your payout.

  • The odds divided 100 = your wager divided by x
    • 130/100 = 40/x
  • Cross multiply to restructure
    • 130x = 4000
  • Solve for x
    • x = 4000/130
    • x = 30.77

Wagering $40 on the Bears will net you $30.77. Your total payout will be $70.77 because you receive your wager amount plus the winnings.

If you bet $40 on the Detroit Lions at +250 this is what your equation looks like.

  • 100 divided by the odds = your bet over x
    • 100/250 = 40/x
  • Cross multiply to restructure
    • 100x = 10,000
  • Solve for x
    • x = 10,000/100
    • x = 100

Placing a $40 wager on the Lions will net you $100 giving you a total payout of $140.

Understanding the Moneyline

One of the simplest bets in sports is the moneyline. You might have even been placing moneyline bets with friends without even knowing it. Simply put, moneyline bets are picking the outright winner of a contest.

To place a moneyline bet, simply click the corresponding box of the team you think will win. That’s all it takes.

The moneyline will have the odds mentioned above. The moneyline will have the odds to determine the underdog, favorite, and how much money you will win based on the team you select to win the game.

Moneyline bets are calculated using the formula above. These bets are the same across all sports on any sportsbook. The NBA, NHL, NFL, MLB, UFC, and soccer are popular sports that use moneyline bets.

Moneyline Changes

There is a difference between the opening moneyline odds and the closing moneyline odds. The odds will change based on the number of wagers placed on the specific odds. This changes the value of placing a bet on the specific outcome.

Say the Philadelphia Phillies start a game at -100 odds on the moneyline. If a lot of people place a wager on those odds, the sportsbook will move the odds for a less favorable payout. They may move the line to -125 or -140. Betting on a game earlier will give you a better payout if it hits.

What is Spread Betting?

Betting on the spread adds to moneyline betting simply. With a favorite and an underdog comes the spread. The spread lets you bet on the margin of victory for either team in the competition.

An underdog will have a spread with a plus sign followed by a one or two-digit number. The number following the plus sign is the number of points they need to cover the spread.

If the Dallas Mavericks are +2 against the Golden State Warriors, then the Mavericks need to not lose by more than 2 points. If the Mavericks lose by more than 2 points, you have lost the bet. If the Mavericks lose by 1 point or win the game, you win the bet.

The favorite will have a minus sign followed by a one or two-digit number. Similar to the underdog, this is the margin of victory.

If the Warriors are -2, they need to beat the Mavericks by two points to cover the spread. If the Warriors win by 1 or lose the game, you have lost the bet. If they win by more than two points, you won the bet.

The spread makes each selection a 50/50 proposition. If the favorite is -10, the underdog will be +10, if the favorite is -3 then the underdog is +3, etc…

The odds will be different based on which team is more likely to cover the spread.

Can the Spread Change?

Yes, absolutely. The spread can change like how the moneyline can. Nothing is set in stone until the contest begins.

More times than not, a sportsbook will change the spread based on injury reports. If a team opens at -7 but has an injured key player, the line may change to -5.

What do Decimals Mean?

If you see a spread of -2.5 or +2.5 that means to win or lose by three. This is very common in the NFL. Making the spread half points may look confusing but it can make betting easier.

Betting the Total

One of the most common bets is the total. Betting the total does not have you pick a side or favor any team. Betting the total doesn’t care about who wins or by how much, it focused on the number of points in the contest.

For each game, a sportsbook will place an initial projected number for users to bet on. The bettor then decides if the total will be over or under the point total the sportsbook has set.

The odds for totals will usually take into historical context and team trends. Based on what the trend may be, the under or over may have better odds to wager on. The over and under are not required to have the same odds.

Parlay Betting

Parlays are often viewed as the most fun bets to place. These wagers have very high odds with very high payouts. Parlays occur when a better selects several outcomes to the same or different games.

A parlay will allow a bettor to string several different bets into one betslip. This makes it much harder for your bet to hit because it relies on several outcomes. If a single part of your parlay doesn’t hit, the whole betslip loses.

When creating a parlay you can select from several options. These options will typically include moneylines, totals, and the spread of various games. Each part of the parlay is referred to as a leg of the overall bet.

What You Can’t Parlay

You cannot parlay certain bets with each other. For example, you can’t parlay different outcomes into the same game. This means you can’t parlay the Miami Heat to beat the Charlotte Hornets with the Hornets to beat the Heat.

Most sportsbooks also will not allow you to place the spread and moneyline of the same game into a parlay. However, there is a new Same Game Parlay feature where you can wager several outcomes of the same game.

Massive Payouts

Parlays are known to create incredible payouts. Whether accidental or not, parlays normally payout very well. This is because you keep selecting more outcomes.

The more outcomes you select, the less likely all legs are to hit. On social media, you can see pages posting about parlays all the time. This is how sportsbooks can lure in new bettors. By highlighting that someone made millions off of $10, the sportsbook can attract new users.

Be smart while placing your parlays. The longer the shot is, the more odds you will have but the chances of the legs hitting are incredibly slim.

Live Betting

Growing technology has allowed for the rise of live betting. Live betting is exactly what it sounds like. Betting on the outcomes of a game as it is happening in real-time.

Live betting allows for a quicker paced style of betting. This is due to the ever-changing environment of a game.

You can still bet on totals, moneylines, and the spread with live betting. As the game goes on, a team may start to pull ahead, changing the closing lines at the beginning of a contest.

Here is an example. Say the Houston Rockets and the Utah Jazz have a closing total of 220 points, Jazz ML -220, Houston ML +225, and a spread of -/+ 8. As the game is happening live, those numbers will change the pace of the game flow and trends.

If the Rockets start to win and by a large margin, the ML and spread will change and vice versa.

In live betting, you can also select the outcomes of the next play. Depending on the sport you can make a wager based on what will happen next. Examples of this include the next basket made in the NBA or the outcome of the next pitch for MLB.

Future Bets

Future bets are exactly what they sound like. You can place a wager on what you think will happen. You can wager things such as who will win an MVP, championship, conferences, and so on.

Future bets can be placed very far in advance. Betting on playoff teams or champions at the beginning of the season can make you lots of money. As the future bet gets closer to happening, the odds will decrease as the outcomes become more apparent.

With future bets, the favorite will often have great odds. With so much time between the start and end of the season plus so many variables, feature bets have large payouts.

A popular future bet is team win totals. These bets are placed at the beginning of the season. As the season unfolds, the teams will often have different win totals.

The Field

“The field” option in future betting is a great option. If there are a handful of contenders for a certain award, there will often be an option that says “the field.” This means that if there is a player who you think will win the outcome but isn’t listed, you should take the field.

Prop Betting

Proposition betting or prop betting is an exciting way to bet on games. These bets allow you to place bets inside of a game. Prop bets do not include the spread, totals, or moneyline bets. You can instead place a bet on player performances or more fun bets such as Gatorade colors.

Each sportsbook will have a different selection of prop bets. Standard prop bets are usually point totals, certain players to score, and the first point. Unique events often have unique prop bets. A favorite is the color of the Gatorade that will be poured on the winning coach of the Super Bowl.

Prop bets are usually geared simply. They are normally set as “yes” or “no” bets. Prop bets are similar to total point bets. You can place a wager without choosing a team or side to win. You simply select a certain bet within the game to occur.

List of common prop bets:

  • Over/under receiving yards (NFL)
  • Over/under rebounds (NBA)
  • Over/under point totals (NHL)
  • Over/under hits (MLB)

If you want to make sure your prop bet is solid, do some research. If you want to take the prop bet of Jimmy Butler to score over 25.5 points against the Indiana Pacers, look at his history against the team.

Prop bets can be a way of making wagers on games inside of the game. Prop bets allow for bettors to place wagers on their favorite players.

The Grand Salami

The grand salami is a popular prop bet. It is very similar to the over/under bet placed for single games. However, the grand salami takes into account a single outcome across all games happening on a day.

The bet is only used in the NBA and NHL. The big salami often predicts the total of several props across the sport.

Popular props used for the grand salami include total goals, total points, total strikeouts, or home runs.

This is a very popular type of prop bet that might become a part of other sports soon.

What are Odds Boosts?

An odds boost is a great way to make money on a pre-existing parlay or bet. A sportsbook will often take a certain bet and make the odds on it more appealing.

Odds boosts can vary from two leg parlays to a single outcome, to prop bets. Odds boosts can be a great idea for someone looking to make money off a parlay that doesn’t have many legs.

Best Sports Betting Sites

There are several online betting sites available depending on where you live. Each site offers different wagers and odds. Several sites claim to be sportsbooks but will rip you off instead. If you are starting, try to stick to the major sportsbooks.

No matter the sportsbook you choose, you will often receive a reward. These awards are usually handed out when you sign up. However, you can also get codes for placing a basketball wager, placing a golf wager, and so many more.

DraftKings Sportsbook

DraftKings is one of the largest sports betting platforms in the United States. The Sportsbook has grown through its easy-to-use interface and several betting options.

Draftkings sportsbook is one of the best sports betting sites. The platform can be used on your phone or a computer. The sportsbook currently has a projection for $1.92 billion in revenue in 2022.

FanDuel Sportsbook

FanDuel is also a large name in the sports betting space. The sportsbook is regarded as one of the best online betting sites and has been around for several years.

FanDuel was the first sportsbook to create the Same Game Parlay feature which has grown in popularity. The sportsbook has taken advantage of the growing industry. FanDuel generated an incredible $1.6 billion in Q1 of 2022 alone. This makes it the largest sportsbook.


BetMGM is one of the more established sportsbooks, as it went live shortly after the Supreme Court ruled on the landmark case that opened up the door for legalized sports betting across the United States.

It’s also one of the more popular and generated $850 million in revenue in 2021.

Barstool Sportsbook

Barstool Sportsbook is not as widely known as FanDuel or DraftKings but still offers great bets and odds bets and odds—including a number of unconventional wagers dreamed up by the various personalities at the company that lends its name to the platform.

Start Betting Today

Now that you know how to bet on sports, begin sports betting today.

There are so many amazing sites that can help you make money on your passion for sports. Sports betting can be a fun way to get involved in what you love but can also be dangerous. If you or someone you love has a gambling addiction call 1-800-GAMBLER.

For more on sports and sports betting, read more of our articles.

Connor Toole avatar and headshot for BroBible
Connor Toole is the Deputy Editor at BroBible. He is a New England native who went to Boston College and currently resides in Brooklyn, NY. Frequently described as "freakishly tall," he once used his 6'10" frame to sneak in the NBA Draft and convince people he was a member of the Utah Jazz.