Sports Betting 101
No matter whether or not you want to place a sports bet online that covers the spread, learn more about moneylines featured by major sportsbooks or more clearly understand parlay sports betting online this page can help. With this brief overview, The Quant Edge is pleased to offer the basics of sports betting as it becomes legal in more and more locations in the United States. Now isn’t the time to miss out just because placing bets on NBA, NFL, MLB, UFC and NCAA basketball games is slightly different than your fantasy leagues, or the terminology is a bit confusing. To help you gain knowledge, the information below covers the major areas of sports gambling and includes examples from different leagues to highlight the general concepts.
Let’s begin by looking at example NFL matchups as they would be used for online football betting:
Moneyline: Placing a sports bet on a “moneyline” means you are taking a team to win the game. It can occur in regulation or overtime, but as long as your team wins, you will win the bet. It is the simplest way to get started betting on sports because you are merely picking the winner.
What do the numbers mean? Regardless of how much you are wagering, it’s easier to scale everything to a $100 bet.
So, using this NFL betting example, the Chargers are -225 favorites to win the game. It means that for you to profit $100, you need to risk $225. In the other game, the Titans are -475 favorites. It would mean you have to risk $475 to profit $100.
Looking at the underdogs in these scenarios, the Ravens are +195 on the moneyline. It means that if you risk $100, you would profit $195 if they win. The Redskins are even more substantial underdogs and are +400 on the sportsbook moneyline. It means if you bet $100 you would profit $400.
But why is there a difference between the favorites on the moneyline and the underdogs? For example, if you wager the same unit size on both teams, you either come out even or behind.
$475 to win $100 on the Titans Moneyline (-475)
$100 to win $400 on the Redskins Moneyline (+400)
If the Titans win, you break even, if the Redskins win you lose $75. It is called the “Vig.” It’s one of the ways Sportsbooks tilt the odds in their favor to earn money.
Spread: This is the most common type of sports bet and means that you are taking a team to outperform the sportsbooks’ projection and betting market. Sportsbooks set a projected “spread” of the game based on what their statistical models believe and how the market has been betting it.
Using the same football betting examples as above, the Chargers are -4.5 (4.5-point favorites) over the Ravens. This means, for your bet against the spread (Commonly referred to as “ATS”) to win, the Chargers have to win by five points or more. If they win by four points or less or lose, you would lose that bet.
Side Note: Sportsbooks like to set lines at half of a point so that there can’t be a “push” or tie. If that does happen and it lands precisely on that number, you get your money back.
Looking at the underdogs, the Redskins are +10.5 on the spread (10.5-point underdogs), meaning they would have to lose by 10 or less for your wager to cash.
The Titans are 4.5-point underdogs, meaning they would have to lose by four points or less to win.
That’s not all though. Wagering on the spread isn’t just an even money sports bet where you risk $100 to profit $100. Most frequently sportsbooks will put a -110 moneyline on the spread, also known as the “juice.” It means that if you want to wager on a team against the spread, you would have to risk $110 to profit $100. (See moneyline section above for more detailed explanation if needed).
In the specific examples above, the Chargers spread carries a -113 moneyline. So, for you to wager on the Chargers at -4.5 you would have to risk $113 to profit $100.
Totals: In the same way, sportsbooks create spreads; they also offer “Totals.” A “total” is the combined amount of points scored in a game between the two teams.
Looking at a handful of matchups for NBA betting, you will see the “Total Points” column. For the Knicks vs. 76ers game, sportsbooks suggest a total of 228 combined points will be scored. Depending on your thoughts, research, or betting tools offered by The Quant Edge, you can wager the under or over that total. Just as you would with a bet against the spread, betting on a total also carries a moneyline. So, if you want to wager on the Knicks-76ers going over its total, you would need to risk $112 to profit $100. If you’re going to bet the under, you will risk $108 to profit $100.
Team Totals: wagers on “Team Totals” take it a step farther. Using the “Spread” and “Total” that the best online sportsbooks generate, each team is projected to score a certain number of points. Most books will offer the ability to bet on those individual team projections, otherwise known as Team Totals. For example, the Pacers are projected to score a total of 102 points. If you want to be on either the under or over, you would have to risk $115 to win $100.
As you try to place wagers on more granular ideas, sportsbooks tend to raise the moneylines on both sides. This something to watch out for over time because if you are trying to be a profitable long-term bettor, taking bets with a lot of juice can severely limit your profitability.
Parlay: A “Parlay” is when you wager on multiple spreads or totals at the same time. All of them need to win for our parlay bet to pay off. The more wagers you place in the parlay, the higher the payout. If just one loses though, you don’t win anything. Using our example from earlier, say you think both the Redskins and Chargers cover the spread (THIS IS NOT A REAL BET I MADE). Parlaying them would give you a payout of $254 on a $100 bet.
The multiplier also increases as you add more bets to the parlay. See below for a basic parlay calculator payout chart. Parlays are generally something profitable long-term bettors avoid. But for people looking only to have a good time, there is nothing like the sweat on the last leg of a parlay.
Teaser: A “teaser” involves manipulating a spread or total toward teams you want to bet on. Similar to a parlay though, all wagers of the “teaser” need to win for you to win. The most common teasers involve two teams, but you can include more if desired.
Football Example: (Teams are generally “teased” by 6, 6.5, or 7 points)
The first picture shows the regular football betting odds for placing a wager a bet on an individual spread, total, or moneyline. The second is what the odds look like when doing a 6-point teaser. The Cowboys were 7-point home favorites against the Buccaneers while the Colts were 9-point home favorites against the Giants. A “teaser” allows a bettor to add 6, 6.5, or 7 points toward their side of the spread.Cowboys: 7 (original spread) — 6-point teaser = 1-point favorites
Colts: 9 (original spread) – 6-point teaser = 3-point favorites
The catch is as you add more points, the moneyline gets heavier. So, for a 6-point teaser, you would need to risk $120 to profit $100.
If you “Buy” half a point, notice the moneyline went from -120, to -130. While you are risking more, it may help your wager get through “Key Numbers.”
Those enthralled by teasers like to try and grab teams who will be “teased” through key numbers. So, in the NFL, those numbers are 3, 4, 6, 7, 10, and 14. They are “Key” because they are the most frequently landed on win margins.
The NBA and CBB both have different teaser numbers. The NBA uses 5, 5.5, or 6-point teasers as their base and CBB is even lower with 4, 4.5, and 5-point teasers.
Pleaser: A pleaser is the opposite of a teaser. Instead of getting points toward your teams spread or total, it moves away from your team. The reason people do this is that you get excellent odds if you win. A 6-point pleaser involving two teams will land you +600 or 6-to-1 odds if you win. Just like teasers and parlays though, all parts of the wager need to win; otherwise, you lose everything, no partial credit.
Props: “Props” are a way to gamble on more specific events to happen. The most straightforward example is player props. You can wager on which player you think will score the first touchdown. Because there are so many options, you will likely get 2-to-1 betting odds or better.
Sportsbooks also set player totals, such as Julian Edelman over/under 6.5 receptions. For those looking to get into wagering from the fantasy world, this is the easiest way to get into the gambling world. Player props also happen not to be as accurate because Sportsbooks aren’t able to spend as much time creating/adjusting them. These carry lower limits, but that shouldn’t be too much of an issue if you are starting.
Beyond player props, sportsbooks will set lines of “When will the first score be,” “Total combined sacks,” etc. In the Super Bowl, people most notably gamble on the coin toss, but you can also wager on the color of the winning team’s Gatorade, the color of the performer’s hair and many other wild ideas. If there is something you want to bet on, there’s an excellent chance you can.
Futures: A future is a bet placed multiple weeks before the event occurs. So, for example, betting on a team to win the Super Bowl would qualify as a future. In a past season, one of my futures was the Rams to win the Super Bowl at 11/1 (+1100).
Before a league’s season, Sportsbooks will also create a list of season-long win totals for people to wager on. These are considered futures.
Using another past season example, the Colts win total Over/Under was set at 6.5 for most of the off-season with -110 juice on both sides. These Over/Under bets were movable if they saw a large amount of money coming in or a serious event happening. For example, the Raiders opened the offseason with a win total of 8.5 but went into a regular season with a win total of 7.5 after making a key player trade.
Unit sizing: This is important for those who are trying to make money over a long period of time. A “Unit” is the standard size bet you make in terms of dollars. So, if your unit size is $100, you should be putting $100 on nearly all of your bets. It’s generally anywhere from 1-5 percent of your starting bankroll. It helps to keep a bettor consistent.
Where to begin: Now that you understand the basics, where do you start betting on sports? Sugarhouse has a great opening offer where it will match your original deposit up to $250 and give you a free play. Taking advantage of introductory offers like this are always an excellent way to get started and build a bankroll.
It’s also important to have access to multiple sportsbooks to “shop lines” since they will vary across the industry.
For example, if you want to bet on Tennessee against the spread, you would look to take them at the Greek sportsbook as 10 point favorites with a -105 moneyline. These are the best odds among several books for that side. If you want to wager on Washington, you can grab them at 11-point underdogs online at 5Dimes. While this difference may not seem like a lot, you would be surprised at how frequently a game can come down to half a point.
Betting Tool: Now that you know the lingo and where to bet, it’s important not to dive in head first without doing any research. Here at TheQuantEdge.com, we not only have multiple analysts, betting tools and DFS optimizers for NFL and NBA lineups for those grinding to find their favorite wagers, but each sport has its own betting tool. Each sports betting tool uses in-depth statistical models to produce a lean on every game, spread, and total based on a number of factors. All of our models have also been back-tested for thousands of games, something that helps to show it’s predictive rather than descriptive nature.
If you still have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out on Twitter @ConnorAllenNFL. Happy Betting!