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Online Odds & Placing Sports Bets
Online Odds: A Beginner’s Guide to Sports Betting
Sports betting enables you to bet on a specific outcome in the sport of your choice. In the US, the most popular team sports for betting are American football, ice hockey, soccer, and basketball.
Individual sports bets are also popular, with boxing, golf, and tennis markets widely available on all US sportsbooks.
Within each sport, there are various types of bets that you can place. One of the most common is known as the moneyline, while you can also place futures and totals bets, among others.
You can decide to bet on an individual player, a team, or even the outcome of a competition. The sportsbook will set the prices, and you can bet on the likelihood of an outcome occurring.
To make a bet, you need to create an online account with a sportsbook and deposit money into your account. You should do your research and ensure that the sportsbook is licensed to operate in your state.
You’re all set to place your first sports bet with the money in your account. But where on earth do you begin? Let’s take a closer look at the online odds available and what they all mean.
How are Online Odds Presented?
You will see odds represented in one of three ways on your chosen sportsbook:
As a US bettor, you’re most likely to see odds represented in the American format. Here’s what it looks like in practice:
Steelers (+190) vs. Bengals (-180)
In this example, the Bengals are the favorites, and the Steelers are the underdogs. A $100 bet on the Steelers will return $190 of profit, while a $180 bet on the Bengals will return $100.
The American system is also called the moneyline, and we take a much closer look at how it works in the following section.
European online odds are given as a decimal. For instance, in a soccer match between Columbus Crew and LAFC, the Crew might have odds of 2.00. Therefore, a $10 bet on Columbus would return $20 in winnings as you multiply the decimal by 10.
Finally, online odds are given as a fraction at a British sportsbook. So, in an EPL game between Manchester City and Aston Villa, City could be 1/3 favorites, while Aston Villa might be 7/1 underdogs. Therefore, a $10 bet on Aston Villa would return $70 in profit if they won the game.
How to Spot the Favorites and Underdogs?
Before placing a bet, you need to be able to discern which team is the favorite and which is the underdog. Fortunately, this is super simple in the American system.
The favorite is always represented by a (-), while the underdog is represented by a (+). Even if you know nothing about the sport, you can tell which team is more likely to win thanks to the plus or minus given by the sportsbook.
However, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the favorite always wins! Sports are completely unpredictable, and anything can happen out on the field.
Now, as you might already be aware, there are lots of different sports bets that you can place, which changes how the odds are presented.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the different types of bets you can place, as well as how the online odds are presented in each instance.
Sports Betting Types Explained
With sports betting now legal in Ohio, many sports fans will be placing bets on their favorite teams for the first time. While there’s a lot to get through, you will soon learn that sports betting is relatively straightforward, particularly when you get the hang of the terminology.
So, let’s take a look at the different online odds you will see at online sportsbooks and what they actually mean.
The most prevalent bet at any sportsbook is known as the moneyline. When betting on the moneyline, your sole objective is to decide which team is going to win the game.
Here’s how a moneyline might appear at a sportsbook:
Arizona Cardinals (-190) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (+160)
Now, the easiest way to understand a moneyline bet is to assume that you’re going to place a $100 bet on the outcome, although you can bet as much or as little as you like.
In the above example, the Bengals are the underdogs. We know this because they are represented by a (+). The Cardinals are the favorites, as their odds are given as a (-).
So, if you fancy the Cardinals to win, you would need to wager $190 to win $100. If you think the Bengals are capable of a surprise result, a $100 bet will net you a $160 profit.
Simple enough, right?
Remember that you don’t need to bet $100 - it’s easy to work out your odds this way. A $10 bet on the Bengals would return $16, and so on.
When you’re just starting out with sports betting, moneylines are the easiest to understand and are a great place to begin.
Totals bets (Over/Under)
If you’re not sure who’s going to win a match but still want to place a wager, a totals bet is a great option. Why? Because your only concern is how many points are likely to be scored in a match, rather than who scores them.
Let’s use an MLB example to show you how this works.
The Cleveland Guardians are going up against the New York Yankees at Progressive Field. The sportsbook has set the over/under run total at 8, with -115 juice set at both sides.
In this example, you would have to bet $115 on the over/under to win $100. But the beauty of a totals bet is that you don’t need to worry about who scores the runs.
Let’s say Cleveland are down 7-1 at the bottom of the ninth. Bobby Bradley steps up to the plate and slugs one into the bleachers, bringing the final score to 7-2, meaning that nine runs were scored in the match.
If you bet on the over, Bradley’s last-minute slug just won you your bet, even though the Guardians lost handsomely. However, if you bet the under, you would lose your bet.
This is the beauty of under/over betting, as it keeps things interesting right to the last.
The result would be a push bet if exactly eight runs were scored in the match. In other words, you get your money back and can use your stake to place another bet.
Prop bets are where things really start to get interesting. Instead of betting on the outcome of the game, a prop bet enables you to bet on a specific outcome occurring within the game.
There are player, game, and novelty props, and there are markets available in most sports. Let’s take a look at some example NFL player prop bets you could place on the Bengals:
Joe Burrow over 274.5 passing yards.
Ja’Marr Chase under 78.5 receiving yards.
Tee Higgins over 5.5 receptions.
Joe Mixon under 62.5 rushing yards.
As you can see, the above prop bets aren’t based on the match’s outcome and can occur during play. They’re another way of keeping your wagers alive throughout the game.
As well as player props, you can bet on novelty props (who will win the coin toss?) and game props (which team will score first?).
The best thing about prop bets is that they allow you to stay involved in almost every play, particularly when you bet the over. Prop bets are also a great option when you’re watching a game as a neutral, and you don’t care about who wins.
Spread betting is a super popular method of sports betting. It’s essentially handicap betting and enables you to get better odds across the board.
Spread betting is great in sports like baseball and ice hockey, where the scores are often closely matched at the end of the game.
In hockey, the point spread is also known as the puck line, and here’s what it might look like in a regular-season matchup:
Columbus Blue Jackets -1.5 (-130) vs. Washington Capitals +1.5 (-130)
In the above example, the Blue Jackets are the favorites for the match, and the sportsbook is offering you a 1.5 handicap at -130. In other words, if the Blue Jackets win by two or more, a $130 bet will return $100.
Spread betting is a good option when a match has a clear favorite, as the handicap levels the playing field somewhat.
In sports parlance, you will often hear it referred to simply as “betting the spread” or “the spread,” while bettors in different parts of the world know it as handicap betting.
Parlay bets enable you to build value on your betting card, as you can include more than one bet on the same line.
To build a parlay, you need to bet on multiple outcomes, and if one of them fails to come in, you will lose your entire bet.
Also known as accumulators, you can win big when a parlay comes in, but you’re given such great odds for a reason - they’re relatively unlikely!
Here’s what an NBA parlay bet might look like:
Cavaliers, Raptors, and Celtics (+160)
Assuming that the Cavaliers, Raptors, and Celtics are all favorites for their upcoming match, bringing them all into the same parlay bet is likely to improve the odds. So, in the example above, a $100 bet would return $160.
If you fancy three NBA underdogs in a parlay, say the Grizzlies, Hornets, and Kings, your online odds might look like this:
Grizzlies, Hornets, and Kings (+2200)
In this example, the sportsbook is pretty confident that all three of these teams won’t win, offering you the chance to win $2,600 from $100. Stranger things have happened, but it’s not likely!
Some sportsbooks offer fixed-odds parlays, while others allow you to build your own odds, depending on the teams that you add to your betting slip.
While parlays are a lot of fun, we wouldn’t recommend them for your core betting strategy as they rarely come off.
So far, each of the bet types has introduced a focus on the gameweek in question. Futures bets allow you to bet on an outcome, you guessed it, in the future!
For instance, you might fancy the Bengals to bounce back from their defeat to the LA Rams by winning the next Super Bowl. Placing a futures bet for the Bengals to be crowned champions next year before a ball is thrown will present you with much better odds than if you place the bet halfway through the campaign.
Futures bets are available in all sports, but they’re a great option in soccer. For example, if you fancy Columbus Crew to win the MLS Cup in 2023, you can place a futures bet at the start of the season.
Whether you’re confident of your team’s quality during the upcoming campaign or if you have some insider information, a futures bet is a great way to add value to your betting slip.
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