Sports betting – What you need to know to get started

So, you want to get started in sports betting? Interested in placing a few singles on Cricket? Or maybe try out accas on a series of events that you’re sure will win?

Not so fast, though. Let us give you an overview of what to expect when getting into the realm of sports betting and how to best go about it. There are a few things you should know.

Some basics before we get started

Alright, so, you probably know that the essence of sports betting includes putting money on an expected result of some sporting event. This could simply be your best guess at who the winner might be, or you want to be on how many runs a particular player will score. Maybe you are sure to know which horse will come in second in that race. The options are endless and thus we have bookmakers that offer odds on thousands of markets on dozens of sporting events and even things such as the weather.

Before we get into some more details of how sports betting works, let’s clear up some terms you will frequently encounter.

The terms you should know

Let’s keep things simple here. Once you’re a more experienced punter, you can read through all the sports betting dictionaries you like:

Accumulator: Here several bets placed on multiple outcomes. All your predictions must be correct if you want to win.

Action: A term for any kind of bet.

Banker: As sure a bet as you can make – the outcome is almost guaranteed.

Bet: Quintessentially putting money on an expected outcome of an event.

Cash-out: If you’re not sure that your bet will win (in particular an accumulator), many bookmakers offer the chance to settle your bet before the final result. You may lose some of your stakes, but not all of it.

Combination bet: Multiple bets are placed on your selections, which is intended to reduce the risk of losing. This is not like an accumulator bet, meaning not all your predictions have to succeed for you to win.

Edge: This is your advantage in a given bet.

Odds: Describes the price of a bet, which includes the return a bookmaker offers for a selection to win.

Punter: The person that’s placing the bet. In other words, you.

Sharp: Describes an experienced punter, also frequently called a ‘Wise Guy’.

What kind of wagers can you place?

There are many different types of bets you can place and if you keep your betting casual, you won’t encounter most of them. But if you want to try out more than placing a single bet on a single outcome, there are some types you should be aware of.

  • Single – The straightforward bet for you to make: you select a single outcome and put money on it. Done.
  • Doubles – You are betting money on two outcomes. If the first wins, the winnings are added to the second bet as well. Both must win for you to get a return.
  • Trebles – Here you bet on three outcomes. Once again, in case of a win of the first two selections, the stakes are added to the third. All selections must win for a return.
  • Accumulator – Whilst the previous two options are essentially accumulator bets as well, we only start calling them that once you have at least four selections on your betting slip. Once again, all selections must succeed for you to win.
  • Trixie – Similar to a treble, except that you make three selections in three different events. Here, only two have to be successful for a return.
  • Each Way – A handy type of bet when you are unsure if your selection will win or just place (especially in horse races). You can bet on your selection to win and place. If your selection wins, you win on both bets. If your selection places, only the second bet will yield a return.

These are truly just some basics. As soon as you are more familiar in the sports betting realm and the different sports you might bet on, you’ll also find that there are many more ways to place bets.

Let’s talk about odds

We refer to odds when talking about the price the bookmaker offers on a bet. However, they also tell you what a bookmaker believes the likelihood to be of that bet to be a success and what your returns will be.

Odds are displayed either in fractional or decimal. Most bookmakers will let you choose how you want your odds displayed.

A few simple examples:

  • We have odds of 2/1 (fractional). In this case, you bet 1 unit and would win 2, if your selection wins.
  • Odds of 5/1 would mean betting 1 unit and winning 5.
  • If you look at odds of 1/2, you’d risk two units for winning 1, however.

Now, these odds also tell you that the bookmaker believes the chance of a 1/2 result is higher, as the odds of 2/1 are considered ‘longer’ (i.e. more unlikely).

Thus, the longer the odds, the more unlikely the outcome, the higher your potential wins, if the result should come about anyway.

Decimal odds will tell you the same thing, they just look different. They include the stake in the return, which means fractional odds of 3/1 are displayed as 4.0.

Converting fractions to decimal looks like this:

x/y + 1

Example: 2/3 = 0.67 + 1 = 1.67

What is probability?

Probability indicates the likelihood of an expected outcome. This is how it is calculated:

 (x + y) / y x 100 = z

Example: 4/6 equals: (4 + 6) / 6 x 100 = 60%

So, odds of 4/6 have a chance of 60% of happening.

If you want to use decimal odds, you can calculate the probability (against 100%) with the decimal odds quoted: 100% divided by 2.50 = 40%. Thus, your probability here is 40%.

Probability is important to keep in mind if you want to decide how likely the success of your bet might be. It is only one factor, however.

How to get the best odds

Odds differ between bookmakers. The differences may not be massive, but bookmakers have a winning margin and something akin to a ‘house edge’. They want to make money on every bet placed, even when you end up winning.

Some bookmakers increase their margin as much as possible, at the price of the odds, which the punters pay.

In reality, that means possible results are slightly inflated to reality. Here is an example for a football match:

Team A wins, Team B wins, both teams score and there’s a draw

A bookmaker will offer odds on all three outcomes. There are many calculations to arrive at these odds. The margins, however, are calculated as follows:

1/odds x 100 + 1/odds x 100 + 1/odds x 100…

Imagine Team A has a probability of 57.5% to win. Team B only gets 21.5% and a draw comes in at 25%. This gets us to a total of 104%. That seems… odd. You wouldn’t expect more than 100% in total, right?

Well, the additional 4% are the bookmaker’s margin and their profit.

So, you compare odds and the closer the total adds up to 100%, the lower the margin and the better price on those odds you get. Ideally, you visit odds comparison sites who do that for you.

What are sports betting strategies?

Let’s assume you are new to the whole sports betting thing and only want some basics. If you want to get more involved and need further information, you can find plenty of that around the internet. We could write books about this topic. But here we simply want to get you started in the smartest and easiest way possible.

No betting system or strategy can guarantee that you will always win. Anyone making such promises is after your hard-earned cash and you won’t see results. But you can improve your chances by knowing a few things before placing your bets.

What is value?

You’ll hear the term value a lot and it’s not the easiest concept to understand. What we talk about here is the expected outcome of a bet depending on the odds that are offered. If the value is good, your wins will be good as well.

Imagine this:

  • A tennis player wins 60% of his games
  • The bookmaker calculates odds of 2/1 that he’ll win his next match, which gives us a probability of 33%
  • The value is now calculated as such: 60% – 33% = 27% – this means the value of your bet (selecting that the tennis player wins) is 27%

This is a good calculation to keep in mind and not very difficult either. But it is only part of the picture.

Further things to consider

Whatever your betting strategy, bet on sports you know well. Bet on teams you know well. The less you know about the event you are betting on, the worse are your chances of a successful selection.

It’s unwise to bet on the outcome of the next US election without knowing who the candidates are, what the political climate in the US is and without ever having looked at any of the polls.

So, here is what you need to be aware of before betting:

  • The form of a team or player (how have they been doing lately)
  • The form of the opponent
  • Recent wins and losses
  • Current or recent injuries
  • Penalties in recent games or matches
  • Are they playing at home or away?
  • What is the weather forecast?
  • What about personal problems?
  • Is this tennis player doing better on grass or other surfaces?

If you really want to bet smartly, you won’t simply bet on your favourite team to win or listen to your gut or pick the horse with the coolest name. You will do your homework, take all relevant aspects into consideration and then place the smartest bet you can come up with.

Bankroll management

This is not so much a strategy as a mindset: only bet as much as you are comfortable to lose. This is true for any form of gambling. But even with the best of homework and the smartest bet placed, you can’t factor in chance events and pure dumb luck.

You may still lose. And making money cannot be the aim of your bet. It’s an added thrill. It’s meant to be fun. If it is only about the money, you’re doing it wrong and shouldn’t be doing it at all. Never chase your losses.

Decide how much money you can lose. Place your bets as smartly as you know how and don’t bet everything at once. Take your winnings and don’t use them on your next bet. Only bet whatever limit you have set. So, set a limit. And go home once your money has run out.

Betting online, offline or on the go

Your first encounter with any kind of sports betting is probably somewhere in your area, where a bookmaker resides. In many cities around the world, betting shops house bookmakers. You can go there, watch screens, talk to other punters, read the news and place various bets with your bookie. You get a paper betting slip which you can present in case you win.

These days, however, most betting is done online. The choice of bookmakers, markets and odds is just that much bigger online than in your neighbourhood. Plus, many bookmakers even offer live streaming, meaning you can follow the events on your computer in real-time.

And those very same online bookmakers usually also offer mobile betting. Even when you are not at home, you can check your betting slip on your mobile device and choose whatever action you prefer, cash out or place live bets.

Do be sure to check what the options and advantages are at the bookmaker of your choice. Not all of them have good mobile apps, user-friendly interfaces or live streams. When we review a bookmaker for you, we’re always checking for these things.

The best bookmakers and sportsbooks

And speaking of which. Our reviews of various gambling sites will include bookmakers as well. There are tons of good ones, but few great ones. Here’s what we look out for and what you should look out for as well:

  • Are the odds competitive?
  • What is the selection of markets and sports like?
  • How user-friendly is the sportsbook? Is it easy to navigate?
  • Is live betting available? And do they offer live streaming?
  • Are we getting bonuses, promotions, free bets? Enhanced odds or accumulators?
  • What’s their reputation? Are they trustworthy and well-regulated? What do others say?

Whilst we do our best to answer these questions, you should also always do your own research. Just because we might have had good experience with a bookmaker, doesn’t guarantee that someone out there may not have negative experiences. We do try to give you an unbiased view, however. But you are always welcome to let us know if something is amiss.