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10 Tips for How to Bet on Sports for Beginners

by May 16, 2020
Week 1 Preseason NFL

Whether you’re new to sports betting or a betting pro, our How To Bet and Sports Betting Strategy and Advice pages are for you. You can get started with our 101 section — including Common Sports Betting Terms — or head to more advanced strategy — like 10 Tips to Become a Sharper Sports Bettor — to learn more.

Now that sports betting is being legalized in more places, its terminology and jargon may eventually be household lingo. For the time being, sports betting is still seen as an intimidating industry to many. An avid fan of any of the professional sports leagues may be curious about wagering on games but does not feel confident that they know enough about the rules.

This article will provide much of the groundwork for a novice sports bettor to be able to feel comfortable placing their first bets. We will cover everything from the most important terms to know to the steps one can take to begin wagering.

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Favorites and Underdogs

When lines are released, sports bettors should be able to identify which team is the favorite (the team expected to win) or the underdog (the team expected to lose). Favorites will always be listed with a minus sign next to their odds, while underdogs will have a plus sign.

In rare cases, the line on a game will read “PK.” This can be read as a “pick” or “pick’em” and means that oddsmakers think it is an evenly matched game with no favorite or underdog.


A spread is an oddsmaker’s way of “evening the playing field” so that the favorite and underdog have an equal chance of attracting bettors. In many sporting events, one team is much more likely to defeat its opponent. However, with a spread, the underdog is given an artificial number of points with which it can overcome its point differential and theoretically beat the favorite.


A moneyline bet is as simple as it gets. The bettor has to do just one thing: pick the winning side. Whether it’s a game, a match between two teams, or a competition between two individuals, moneylines are always offered. If you place a moneyline wager on a team or individual that goes on to victory, you’ll have won your moneyline bet.


Over/unders or totals are lines that oddsmakers set reflecting what the total score of a game will be. Betting the over means a bettor believes the two teams’ combined scores will be higher than the predicted total. On the other hand, a bet on the under implies a bettor thinks the two teams’ combined scores will be lower than the predicted total.

The “Vig” or “Juice”

“Vig” and “juice” are two important terms to know in sports betting as they have a direct impact on your winnings. On a standard against the spread or over/under bet, you may see a number like -110 next to the line. This is the vig and means that a bettor who wagers $110 on the line would profit $100 on a winning bet. If the vig is +110, the reverse is true and a bettor who wagers $100 would profit $110 with a winning bet.

Moneyline bets also have vigs or juice attached but are often vastly different in their amounts. For example, a football team that is favored to win by a touchdown will likely be roughly -300 to -400 on the moneyline. Remember, the juice is steeper in this situation since the team only has to win the game, not cover a spread.

Where to Bet

BettingPros has a great resource page for the 13 states where sports betting is currently legal and operational. Each state has a detailed breakdown of available sportsbooks with links provided to their homepages.

One does not have to be a resident of these states to place a legal sports bet. Anyone can visit these states’ various brick and mortar sportsbooks and place a bet at a cashier’s window. However, if you are using a mobile app to place bets then one must be physically in the state when making the bet. Mobile sportsbooks will check your location before allowing you to sign in and wager.

How to Place Bets

Placing a bet in person at a sportsbook requires knowledge of how to read an odds board. When entering most sportsbooks, bettors are greeted with a massive screen that has all available bets displayed. Often times these bets will have a three-digit number before the team names, called a rotation number. When approaching the cashier, it makes their lives easier to provide them with the rotation number so that they can locate your bet on their screen quickly.

An example of what to tell a cashier is “I’ll take game 506 Los Angeles Lakers minus 6.5 points for $50.” The cashier will load your bet onto a screen in front of you with your possible winnings. If everything is agreeable, your transaction is finalized after you hand the money to your cashier. They will hand you a betting ticket which you will use to redeem your winnings if your bet cashes.

Making bets on an online sportsbook is rather easy once your account is created. The first thing you will see are the featured bets which are likely from the most popular sports leagues. You can toggle through the various menus until you find the appropriate league and game you want. Your bets are just a few clicks away. Similar to a brick-and-mortar sportsbook, you will have to confirm your bet before it is finalized.

Mistakes to Avoid

There are many ways one can get into trouble quickly when betting on sports. The first is with their finances, namely betting too much on one individual game. Sports bettors often identify a “can’t miss” game and bet most or all of their bankroll when they are confident. However, that is a losing long-term proposition. It is always better to bet conservatively with respect to your bankroll. Typically each individual bet should not be more than 5% of your overall bankroll.

In addition, sports bettors who get down early tend to act impulsively in an effort to win their money back. They may take to betting on sports they have no clear knowledge of. One should always have the discipline to contain their bets to sports that they have a clear knowledge of. Blindly betting on a league or a team you have no knowledge of is asking for trouble.

Picking the Right Sportsbook

Many people will pick the sportsbook that is closest to their house or that has the most user-friendly interface on their app. However, choosing the “right” sportsbook does not mean that there is one right choice. Unbeknownst to many, betting lines can vary widely at different sportsbooks. While one sportsbook may have a line of -3, another one may have a line of -4. Even half-point differences can make a difference between a bet that wins, loses, or pushes.

Therefore, do your due diligence and shop around for the best lines before making a wager. The “right” sportsbook is the one that gives you the best chance to win.

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Mike Spector is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeSpector01.

Betting 101, Betting Tips, How-To