Sports Betting 101: What You Need to Know Before You Place That Bet

Sports Betting 101: What You Need to Know Before You Place That Bet
✍️ Written by
Frank Weber
🗓 Updated
May 19th 2023

I was listening to WFAN yesterday (New York’s premier sports talk radio station) when the hosts were talking to a caller that had lost a $17,000 parlay payout when the Jets failed to cover against the Bills. Craig Carton, one of the hosts who has a deep and dark gambling history, immediately jumped down the caller’s throat, asking him why he didn’t hedge his bet.

“I never considered that,” the caller said.

And that’s when Carton said something that lit the lightbulb over my head.
“There needs to be a sports betting class.”
Now real sports betting classes from an accredited university would cost thousands of dollars. So why do that, when you can read this article for free?
Here are some basic tips and tricks to keep in mind before you place any wagers.

Know What You’re Betting On Before you Bet It

I know, it sounds simple–but it’s always safe to double-check that the bear is tranquilized before you start poking it.
If you’re new to sports betting, logging on to a sportsbook for the first time can be incredibly overwhelming. There are so many numbers, buttons, games, and teams that it can make your head hurt. But before you overload and just start clicking every button in sight, take a minute to breathe and read what I have to say.
On almost all sportsbooks you'll see something like this:
New York Jets +14.5 (-110) O 46.5 (-115) +560
Buffalo Bills -14.5 (-110) U 46.5 (-120) -950

From left to right, you should read that slip as such:

  • Team Name
  • Spread (Odds)
  • Over/Under (Odds)
  • Moneyline

So, if you wanted to bet on the Bills to win outright you would choose the Moneyline bet. If you think the Bills are going to crush, you may consider taking the spread so you can get better odds. Or, if you're less interested in who wins and just want to watch good (or bad) football, the points total is always an option.

How you read the Moneyline odds and the spread are a bit different, but they share similarities. In both scenarios, the team with the MINUS (-) in front of their odds are the favorite. So in my example, the Bills are heavy favorites to win the game. If you chose to bet on the Bill with the spread, not only do the Bills need to win, but they need to win by more than 14.5 points. On the contrary, if you bet on the Jets with the points, the Jets can lose the game and you still win your bet as long as they lose by less than 14.5. 

Now the Moneyline is a bit simpler. Moneyline deals with NO points, and whoever wins at the end wins. How to read moneyline odds is as follows:

  • If it starts with a MINUS (-), that number indicates how much you would need to bet to receive a $100 profit. So, -200 means you must bet $200 to win a PROFIT of $100 (so the payout would be $300)
  • If it starts with a PLUS (+), that number indicates how much you would WIN if you bet $100. So, +200 means you would win a PROFIT of $200 if you bet $100 (so the payout would still be $300). 

Do's and Don'ts of Sports Betting

  1. DO know your limits: It's the golden rule of sports betting--BET RESPONSIBLY. Sports betting is supposed to be something that's fun, and it can only be fun as long as it's done responsibly. Set a cap for how much you can deposit a week, month, or year. Set a limit to how much you can bet on a particular game. NEVER put gambling in front of anything else. Make sure your bills are paid, rent is paid, and the car is full of gas before you dump any money into betting. 
  2. DON'T bet heavily on parlays: Parlays are like a supermodel serial killer--highly attractive, but incredibly dangerous. If you're unfamiliar with the parlay bet, GOOD. But if you really must know, a parlay bet is when you combine several different bets into one in order to receive an odds boost. Sounds cool, right? WRONG. In order for your parlay to hit, ALL LEGS must cash--and it's much harder than you may think. A four-leg parlay has only a 10% chance of hitting, and an 8 leg parlay only hits less than 1% of the time. So parlays are good every now and then, but the whole concept around sports betting is that you NEVER know what will happen. So why put your money into something that needs 100% certainty?
  3. DO hedge your bets--ESPECIALLY if you place a parlay: let's go back to our buddy at the beginning of the article, who lost $17,000 when the Jets didn't cover the spread. If he had bet enough on the Bills TOO cover the spread separately, he would've been guaranteed money regardless of the outcome. Please, think with your brain not your pockets. Walking away with some cash is much better than walking away with none.
  4. DON'T assume anything is a lock: You're not Biff with the sports almanac from Back to the Future. The Jaguars just beat the Colts in Week 18, and the colts were -1000 favorites before kickoff. ANYTHING can happen, and it's important to remember that.
  5. DO walk away when you're up: This is how sportsbooks get you. You win big and immediately dump the winnings into another bet to try to spin it into something bigger. Only there's one problem: you're not Rumplestiltskin. You can't spin anything out of anything. Walk away when you're up, and come back tomorrow.

Think you got what it takes? Well, click HERE to see if sports betting is available in your area, and click HERE to see which sportsbooks are available

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About the author
Frank Weber
Frank Weber
Sports Journalist & Betting Analyst

Frank Weber is a sports & gaming writer with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism and years of experience in the gambling world. He loves baseball, football, basketball, soccer, and the UFC - he even collects sports cards and memorabilia! In his free time, you could find Frank either out at a concert with friends, or at home sweating out all his (soon to be won) bets!

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