Sports Betting 101: How to Bet on Sports

Sports betting often goes hand in hand with spectating, and that's not limited to any one sport. Fans of football, motorsports, soccer, and more all have options to bet on the moneyline, props, and point spreads.

And whether you're in it for the long game, preferring to place a bet at the start of the season and sit tight until the end, or faster-pace micro-betting is more your thing, there's not just one single market for you. At Bally Bet, you've got a ton of betting options, and the aim of our guide below is to talk you through how you get the most out of them.

How Does Sports Betting Work?

You place a bet on something happening and you get your money back plus a profit if it’s a winner. That's the simple version. But with thousands of different sports betting options available, it's way more fun than that.

For each sports market, sportsbooks look at the probability of a certain event occurring then set odds to reflect that. If a book thinks an event has a high probability of happening, it has a lower risk and therefore lower odds, i.e. it won’t offer as high a potential payout. If a book thinks an outcome is unlikely, the odds will be higher and so will the possible profit you can make back from the bet.

The odds consider a range of variables, like player injuries, weather, among others. So - as we'll keep reminding you - if you're hoping to make informed wagers, you need to get clued in on the sport and the players involved.

Popular Types of Sports Bets

Moneylines, point spreads, and parlays are the most popular types of sports bets, but you can also choose between prop bets, futures, and more. The online sports betting world caters to everyone, regardless of what sport or event piques your interest.

Read more below to learn about how sports betting works and what different types of wagers are available.


Moneyline bets are the most basic type of sports wager you will find. You predict who you think will win the game or race. The odds simply display the probability of each party - whether that's a football team, a driver, or a tennis player - winning outright. There are no handicaps or spreads involved here.

If you go for the favorite in a moneyline bet, you're more likely to win but your returns will be pretty low. Go for the underdog and the potential returns are higher. But remember, there's a reason they're considered the underdog. The favorite will be indicated by a negative value, and the underdog by a positive. For instance, an football moneyline bet would look something like this:

• 49ers (-150)

• Jaguars (+135)

Point Spread

Also known as spread bets, this type of bet is used to close the gap in an uneven matchup. A point spread is the difference a book expects to see in the final score. It's up to the bettor to predict how strong one team is compared to the other, which can depend on additional factors affecting player performance and advice from betting tips.

For example, in a basketball game where the Celtics are against the Lakers, a point spread could show that the Celtics will win the game by 6.5 points.

If the expected result is too close for there to be a point spread - the teams are evenly matched - it's called a "Pick’em" and you just bet on the team you think will win.


Another popular bet is known as over/under (totals). What will the total number of points, goals, or runs be in one game?

Let’s say we predict that in an NHL game where there is a matchup with Buffalo and Toronto the total number of goals will be 6.5.

If you bet the under in this scenario, there will need to be a maximum of five goals scored. If you bet the over, there will need to be at least seven.


A parlay bet combines two or more bets into one for the chance at a larger payout.

For example, you can bet on the total number of points a player will score, the total number of points a team will score, and which team will win. You can combine these bets into a parlay for a bigger potential return.

However, all your bets must be correct for you to win. Even if just one bet loses, the entire parlay falls through.

Let's take a look at how a parlay bet could work for tennis.

You could bet that Djokovic will win against Federer and then make a second selection of how many games Djokovic will win during the season. To get a payout, both of these selections will need to win.


As the name suggests, a futures bet is based on an outcome that will be decided in the future. This can be days, weeks or even months ahead. You could predict the overall winner of a tournament or series rather than an individual game.

The odds for futures tend to change as the outcome draws closer and it becomes clearer who's left in the running and who has what takes to go the distance. If a team loses its ringer to injury, its chances of winning may look very different.


Place a prop bet and you've got a vested interest in a very specific result or outcomes. For example, it could be how many points a specific player will score during a game. Prop bets are often placed on individual player performance rather than the team as a whole.

For instance, a prop bet could be predicting that Lewis Hamilton will get the fastest lap during a Formula 1 race or predicting the number of points LeBron James will score in a basketball game.

Live Sports Betting

Pregame betting is a solid way to build excitement in the run-up to a game, but in-play betting will take your experience to the next level.

Set your pulse racing as you watch the odds change throughout the game, and strike with a wager when the opportunity arises.

There’s plenty to choose from as far as wager options go, and you’ll still be able to bet on a game’s moneyline, spread, and the over/under — as well as props like total field goals and the number of rebounds a player racks up.

Live betting is also appealing as it can give you an opportunity to hedge an unsuccessful pregame wager. You could do this by betting the opposite line of your original wager at an inviting price to cut the losses you may have made on that wager.

College Sports Betting

Betting odds are available for leagues like the NFL, the NBA, the MLB, and the NHL. But they’re also available for college sports and the NCAA, so no matter who you follow, you’ll be able to take part in the fun.

The excitement for both professional and college sports ramps up near the end of the season, when the playoffs start to appear on the horizon. Playoffs and championship games are consistently two of the most popular events for bettors.

As far as betting options go, there are a lot of similarities between professional sports betting and college sports betting. You can place moneyline, spread, and totals wagers for both — and you can do all three before the game or during.

One key difference between the two is the near-total absence of prop betting from college sports. Only a few states allow wagering on player or team events in a game, so if you’re looking to make one, you’re better off sticking with a professional league.

Best Sports to Bet On

So, among all these available betting markets, which are the most popular? Let's take a look.


Unsurprisingly, football tops our list of the best sports to bet on. It’s the biggest sport in the country, and it grows more popular across the globe every day. When the season kicks off in September, you’ll have the opportunity to wager on many different markets, such as moneylines, point spreads, over/unders, parlay bets, and so much more.


Basketball is a complex game to bet on due to the number of players, divisions, and teams. This creates many variables that make it difficult to place correct bets, but that only makes it more rewarding when you do get it right.


With the gamut of games that make up the regular season, baseball provides bettors with real flexibility. It’s also simple to get started with the sport’s most popular wagers. Those are just two of the many reasons that help explain why betting on baseball is so well liked.


Each year tennis draws in huge crowds and with those crowds comes a variety of bets and markets. While it’s a simple game at heart, with tournaments being hosted throughout the year, it’s one of the most accessible sports to bettors around the world.


Soccer is one of the most played sports in the world, with a dizzying number of professional leagues, systems, and competitions to be found in all of the countries where people play it. Because of this, it should come as no surprise to find hundreds of different bets and lines to choose from when browsing soccer markets.

Betting Odds Explained

Odds can be displayed in three ways - American, decimal, and fractional - and you can use whichever you find most intuitive. Now that you know all about the different types of bets and popular sports, let’s move on to reading the odds.

American Odds

American odds are our default and they're displayed as either a positive or negative number. The positive number refers to how much money you could win if you bet $100; the negative number is how much you need to bet to make a $100 profit.

For example, -106 means that you need to bet $106 to make a $100 profit. +475 means that you will make a $475 profit for every $100 you wager.

Decimal Odds

With decimal odds, all you need to do to calculate how much you may win is multiply your bet by the decimal number.

For example, if the decimal odd is 5.33, a $10 bet will then return $53.30 to you (and that includes your original $10 bet).

Fractional Odds

Whenever you see odds presented with a slash (10/1), this is a fractional odd. This will allow you to work out how much money you may win. The number on the left (10) represents how much you may win, while the number on the right (1) refers to how much you need to bet.

For example, if you correctly bet $1 on 10/1 odds, you will win $10.

Have we piqued your interest? If so, you can learn much more about reading odds by checking out our dedicated guide.

Bankroll Management

A vital component of your success as a sports bettor is how you manage the funds you're playing with, otherwise known as your bankroll.

Read our comprehensive rundown of bankroll management, which provides advice and strategies to consider using the next time you place a wager.

Popular Online Sports Betting Questions

It is, but we’d highly recommend playing with a regulated online sportsbook like ours.

That’s because when you play with a licensed sportsbook, you can have peace of mind that your details are protected by industry-standard data encryption, that there are responsible gaming measures in place (and support for problem gambling is readily available), and that the sportsbook adheres to the rules and regulations set out by the relevant governmental agency.

Although the federal law prohibiting online gambling was overturned years ago, there’s currently no interstate legislation explicitly allowing online sports betting. Bills are for the time being passed at state level. So, depending on where you are, online sports betting may or may not be legal.

With that said, the list of states where you can legally bet on sports online is growing rapidly. More than 20 states now make it possible for sports fans to bet on their favorite teams online – as long as they’re within state lines.

With Bally Bet Sportsbook, it doesn’t matter which team you root for, what kind of bet excites you the most, or whether you’re new to the scene: We provide betting thrills for everyone. And you’ll see how that way of thinking has shaped our app soon after you download it.

So, if you’re looking to bet on your hometown team or alma mater – or someone you’ve never heard of but like the look of – Bally Bet Sportsbook makes it a possibility.

And thanks to the app’s intuitive interface, finding that perfect bet, making use of a variety of slick features, and getting help can all be done in seconds.

The vig – short for vigorish and otherwise known as "juice" or "house edge" – is the term used to describe the fee bookmakers charge when taking a bettor’s wager.

You’ll usually see the vig next to a bet’s odds, so you can get an idea of what the return should be for a successful wager.

A push in sports betting is basically a tie between you and the sportsbook. They occur whenever your bet ends up matching exactly the sportsbook’s line or if an event is cancelled suddenly.

If the bet you place turns out to be a push, you’ll receive your initial wager because that bet effectively has no winner.

Because of their nature, spread bets and over/under bets tend to be hotspots for pushes. You’ll often see lines for these bets accompanied by half points (displayed as .5), which are in place to prevent pushes from happening so frequently, as a result.

While you can go down a rabbit hole of number crunching trying to work out the perfect strength of schedule, the phrase itself simply refers to how difficult a team’s run of games appears to be, based on their upcoming opponents’ ratings.

More than 30 different U.S. states have legalized sports betting including Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Illinois. To find out if your home state has legalized sports betting, you can check with your local authority.

Every U.S. state that offers sports betting introduced it at different points, but the key year for sports betting was 2018. That's when the Supreme Court overturned PASPA: Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which then made over 37 states act.

Depending on where you are, sports betting is available to anyone who is at least 18 or 21 years old, but this can vary according to each state and the individual betting activity. The general age restriction for sports betting is 21 years old, with other betting activities such as Daily Fantasy Sports, lottery, and horse racing betting being allowed for anyone aged 18 and over.