How to Bet on Sports: A Beginners Guide to Sports Betting

How to Bet on Sports: A Beginners Guide to Sports Betting

Barry Devoe
2 years ago
6 min read
The Cavaliers celebrate in a 2021-22 NBA Regular season contest.

As legal sports betting rolls out across the United States, first-time bettors will be excited about placing wagers on their favorite teams and sports. There are many different types of bets and markets to consider, so starting might be a little confusing for some.

To help, we’ve put together this guide on how to bet on sports, explaining what sports betting is, the different types of bets you can place, and some of our top tips on getting started. 

What is Sports Betting Exactly?


Sports betting is the practice of placing money on an expected outcome within any sport. You can bet on a huge range of popular sports and markets, including football, baseball, basketball, and hockey, as well as many of the less prevalent sports like handball, pool, and darts. 

Here’s a simple example to get us started: 

Let’s say you’re watching the Cleveland Browns go up against the Green Bay Packers. To make things interesting, you might want to bet on the Browns to win outright, which is called a moneyline. You might see the odds represented like this: 

Browns +310

Packers -400

In the above example, the Browns are underdogs (represented as +310) for the matchup, meaning that a $100 bet would pay out $310 in winnings. On the other hand, if you fancy the Packers, you must bet $400 to return $100 in profit, and a win would see your stake returned in both instances.

The beauty of a moneyline wager is that the winning margin doesn’t matter; you’re merely betting on the outcome of the game. And you don’t need to bet $100, of course. It might be $10, so work out the proportional profit; you would win $31 on the Browns (+310) and the ticket would payout $41. If you bet $10 on the Packers (-400) you would win $2.50 and the ticket would payout $12.50. 

With this as a foundation, what other types of bets can you place on your favorite sports? Let’s dive into the detail. 

How to Bet on Sports: Five Different Types of Sports Betting Explained


As introduced above, a moneyline is the most straightforward bet you can place. All you need to do is pick a winner and sit back and watch the game! Just be mindful that the favorite is represented as a minus (-) and the underdog as a plus (+). The wider the distance between the odds, the more confident the sportsbook is of a particular outcome.

Point Spread 


While a moneyline is only concerned with who wins and loses, a point spread allows you to bet on the margin of victory. For instance: 

Cavaliers +6.5 (-110)

Lakers -6.5 (-110)

In this basketball example, the Lakers are favored by 6.5 points. If the Lakers were to win the game by a margin of seven points or more (-6.5), they would win the bet. If you place $110 on the Lakers to beat the Cavs at that -6.5 margin, you will profit $100. But if you bet $110 on the Cavs and they lost by six points or less, or win the game outright, you would win $100 in profit.

Point Total (over/under)

This type of bet refers to the over/under line that the sportsbook sets. It’s a prediction of the total number of points that will be scored in a game by both sides, and you can bet on whether you think that total will be over or under the given number. For example: 

Bengals vs. Browns O/U 47

If you’re confident that the Browns and Bengals will compete in a high-scoring encounter, you can bet that more than 47 points will be scored, or vice versa. If the game ends 17-23, a total of 40 points, you will lose if you placed an ‘over’ bet on the game. If exactly 47 points were scored, the result would be a ‘push,’ and your stake would be returned. 


How to bet on sports online becomes even more intriguing if you want to combine more than one bet to increase your odds. This is called a parlay bet, and all of your selections must win for the bet to payout, but the profit can be more rewarding. Here’s an example of a two-game MLB parlay bet: 

Game 1

Detroit Tigers (+180) vs. Cleveland Guardians (-200)

Game 2

Chicago Cubs (+134) vs. New York Yankees (-200)

You want to back the Guardians and the Cubs to win, but to work out how much you can get back is a little complex. The easiest thing to do is bet online, and the sportsbook will work out the odds and potential return for you before you place the bet.

However, if you wish to challenge yourself to do it, here’s how…

First, you must convert each moneyline bet to a decimal. This is the format favored in European sportsbooks, and there are numerous online calculators to do it. In our example, the Guardians at -200 equates to 1.5, while the Cubs at +134 is 2.34.

Next, multiply the two decimal figures together; in this case, it equals 3.51. Now, multiply this figure by your total wager on the parlay bet. So, if you bet $100, you will get a total of $351 back, including your original wager (so $251 profit).

You can add as many games to your parlay bet as you wish. But remember, each result must come in for you to win, so although the potential payouts are higher with more games, it only takes one team to lose, and your bet is lost.



While the above four betting types are concerned with game-day outcomes, you can also place a futures bet on the outcome of a season. For instance, if you fancy the Columbus Blue Jackets’ chances of winning the Stanley Cup, you can place a futures bet on that happening. 

You will find the moneyline betting to have more generous odds on the outcome because rather than betting on one game, you are speculating on an entire season. For example, you might find the Blue Jackets are at +8000 to win the Stanley Cup. In this case, if you bet $100, you would get $8,000 back (or bet $10 to get $800 back.)

Top Tips for Sports Betting as a Beginner

Now that we’ve explained how to bet on sports, here are some tips to ensure you make the most out of sports betting from the very start.

Conduct Some Research

While most bets start with a hunch, it’s so important to do some research before placing a wager. You should look at current form, injuries, and the fixture history as a minimum requirement before choosing the team you think will win. For instance, if the Browns are without Garrett and Chubb for their upcoming matchup, their chances of winning are much lower than they ordinarily would be.

Set Your Limits

Sports betting should be fun. As such, you need to work out what you can afford to lose before placing a bet. Whether you limit yourself to $1, $10, or $100 per bet, just make sure you don’t put yourself in any financial difficulty should you lose it.

Keep Things Simple

In the early days of your sports betting career, we’d advise you to keep things simple. As you’re learning about the available markets, placing a couple of moneylines each week is much more straightforward than diving straight into a multisport parlay. As you become more confident, you can increase the complexity of your bets to maximize your potential returns.

Bet With Your Head, Not Heart

A common mistake is to always bet on your favorite team to win. It’s easy to do, but this is betting with your heart. Those +8000 odds on the Blue Jackets winning the next Stanley Cup are long because it’s unlikely to come true! Instead, it might be better to back the Colorado Avalanche at +600, or Tampa Bay Lightning at +850 – that’s betting with your head.

Get Started with Sports Betting

Learning how to bet on sports online, or how to bet at a sportsbook, isn’t something that will happen overnight. It will probably take several attempts to come to terms with how sports betting works, so it’s best to take things slow from the outset. Keep an eye on the helpful betJACK Training Camp articles. 

Whatever you decide, we hope that you enjoy placing wagers on your favorite sports teams and now have all the information you need to get started. 

Be sure to like betJACK on Facebook for all the latest as Ohio gets closer to day one of legal sports betting!

Share article on: