The Best Beginners Guide to Sports Betting

Posted 5 months ago in Beginners Guide, Sports Betting Talk

This is the best beginners guide to sports betting, as it will cover tips about finding a good sportsbook that fits your needs, how to manage your money efficiently as well as many other topics.

It’s a pretty extensive guide, but we suggest that novice bettors make sure to read it carefully and bookmark it for future reference. This information will almost definitely prove useful to you as you get your feet wet and could be the difference between going broke quick and building your bankroll at a steady pace.

Of course, with the professional handicapping services posting picks on this site it isn’t that hard to make a profit through sports betting. You can either take a look at our leaderboard for the Hottest Cappers right now, our Yearly Leaderboard or our Top Handicapper Trends. If you’re not comfortable spending any money on picks right we recommend building your bankroll with our Free Betting Tipsbut there’s no doubt that the premium picks will provide you with the best picks.

You still probably want to know the following basics in order to not get lost in a sea of numbers and tricky decisions. With that said, let’s get started!

Why Do You Want to Bet on Sports?

There are some professional sports bettors out there, people who make the majority (if not all) of their income from this hobby alone. Are you hoping to be one of them? Or are you just in it for the excitement?

Figuring out why you want to bet on sports will help you reach your goals in the end.

  • The recreational bettor: If you’re in it because you want to engage yourself in a fun hobby, want a bit of extra spending money and don’t care about the experience coming with doing your own research, then you might just sign up for one of our services, follow their picks, and not give it another thought. You can be a complete novice bettor and not even watch the games you’ve wagered on, just go on with your life and look up the scores later to see how your bets did.
  • The action junkie: If you like the action, then you’re probably taking another approach. You might enjoy doing research on each team, to the extent that you bet on games without following any picks provided by our experts. This will often be a losing proposition though, and you might occasionally bet more of your bankroll than suggested by the pros. While watching the games, you’re likely to be holding your breath every second, while hoping and praying your ticket will win.
  • The aspiring pro: If you like doing your own research but struggle to get an edge over the book, subscribing to a handicapper that provides analyses and write-ups with their picks is a good way to gain an edge on the book. The bonus is that you’ll get sports betting education through the write-ups and winning picks all at the same time.

Various Kinds of Bets You Can Make

Money Lines

We’ll start with money lines, since they are the most common bets for punters, and this is particularly true if you’re going to bet on baseball or hockey.

When you bet on the money lines, literally all you are betting on is whether or not a particular team is going to win the game, so sometimes you might want to take a -1.5 or -2.5-point football/basketball favorite on the money line if you think they’ll win a close game.

A money line example would be Chicago Cubs (-110) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (+110). In this example, Chicago is the favorite and you would need to wager $100 on the Cubs for a return of $100 while a winning $100 bet on the Cardinals would return $110 in profit.

Point Spreads

Now, let’s look at point spreads, also known as run lines or puck lines if you are betting on baseball or hockey, respectively. The point spread will always be the same number for each team, and the positive number will denote which team is the underdog while the negative number indicates the favorites.

Point spreads are the most common type of bet for basketball and football games and can vary a lot depending on the skill difference between the two teams. In baseball and

Point spreads are the most common type of bet for basketball and football games and can vary a lot depending on the skill difference between the two teams. It is extremely uncommon to see run lines or puck lines above -1.5/+1.5 in baseball and hockey respectively.

An example of a point spread would be Patriots -3.5 vs. Panthers +3.5. In this case, a winning wager on the Patriots would require them to win by four points or more while the Panthers could afford to lose by up to three points and still produce a winning ticket.


Next, let’s consider over/under bets, also known as O/U bets or totals. These are not the most common type of wager, but they occur with relative frequency in all major sports and are getting more and more popular.

The total will basically give you the number of points (or runs in baseball and goals in hockey) expected to occur between both teams. It doesn’t matter who wins or loses, or even how many points are scored by each team, it’s the total that counts.

The reason that totals play is also referred to as an over/under bet is that you are betting on which side of the given number you expect the actual total to fall.

Let’s make an example of a football game with a total of 46.5 points. If you bet the over and the teams combine for a total of 47 points or more you win your bet. If they only score a combined 46 points or fewer you lose, simple as that.

Beware of even number lines as 46 points etc. as that would mean that nobody wins, and all of the money is refunded.


Parlays are similar to betting point spreads, but you are betting on more than one game at the same time.

The first thing you need to know is that they are incredibly risky, since losing any one of the games that you add to your parlay results in a loss on the whole stake. The reason that some people like to bet parlays is that the odds appear to be greater as money line for a parlay will usually be determined by taking each of the decimal lines for the teams that you have wagered on, multiplying them by one another, and converting them to the appropriate money line.

The reason that some people like to bet parlays is that the odds appear to be greater as the money line for a parlay will usually be determined by taking each of the decimal lines for the teams that you have wagered on, multiplying them by one another, and converting them to the appropriate money line.


Also note that many sportsbooks will offer teasers, parlays in which the spreads have been altered (either getting more or giving fewer points/goals) to make them easier to beat.

However, the payout on such bets is usually far less than it would be for a standard parlay, and the chances of winning every bet included in the parlay are still rather low.

Teasers are particularly popular bet types for both NFL and College Football.

Sports Betting Fundamentals

The main objective when betting on sports is easy; you want to beat the bookie and make money. But how do you do it?

How to read the lines offer by sportsbooks

The first of the basics you will have to learn if you want to bet on sports with any kind of success is how to read the lines.

The most important lines will be determined by the sport upon which you are betting. For instance, in baseball and hockey, most sports betting is done by the money lines. In basketball and football, most bets usually pertain to the point spreads. There are also numbers known as the over/under or O/U, which more casual bettors will generally refer to as totals.

The money lines commonly used for the major US sports is the American system which is written like -110, -120, +150 etc. Lines written in this fashion may be confusing for beginners, mainly because positive numbers actually indicate the underdog which naturally is expected to lose, whereas negative numbers signify that the team in question is favored by the sportsbook.

Let’s show and example; the Pittsburgh Penguins are given a money line of +120 in a game that has the New York Rangers listed at -130, then the Rangers are favored while the Penguins are considered to be an underdog.

If you’re betting on the Rangers in the example above, you’d have to put up $130 to win an extra $100. However, if you’re betting on the underdog in the example above, you’d only have to lay down $100 to potentially make a profit of $120. That isn’t to say that you’re actually required to bet those amounts, but this gives you an idea regarding the ratios. So if you bet $200 on the Penguins, you could potentially make back $240 etc.

The extra money you have to put down to bet on a favored team is referred to as the “juice,” the amount of money the sportsbook makes on each pair of bets if equal numbers of bettors bet on each side of the line.

Note that the numbers does not add up, so if you were to bet both sides you would be guaranteed to lose money. That’s how the sportsbooks make their money, by trying to get an equal amount of money on both sides of a wager to guarantee a profit. They can do that by either moving the spreads, changin the money line prices or both.

Implied winrate

An implied win rate is a percentage that gives you an idea of just how much the sportsbook has favored one team over the other. Before going over how to figure these out, we should warn you that the percentages for underdogs and favored teams will amount to more than 100%. This is the result of the juice that we mentioned earlier, which ensures that the sportsbooks will make a profit.

If you’re looking at an underdog, you add the line to 100, and then divide the resulting number into 100. So the implied win rate for our example line of +120 is 100 / (120 + 100) = .4545, or about 45.5%. For favored teams, forget that the line is negative. Treat it as a positive number, add it to 100, and divide that number into the value for the line. Our example line of -130 then gives you the equation 130 / (130 + 100) = .5652, or about 56.5%.

Novice bettors are often surprised by the result when breaking down the numbers like this, but this is how the professionals beat the books. First they make their research to determine a win percentage for their wager. For example, if they deem a -130 favorite to win the game 60% of the time while the implied winrate from the book is 56.5%, that is probably a good spot to throw in a wager.

Winning Percentages Cheat Sheet

Favorite Winning % Underdog Winning %
-110 52.38 +110 47.62
-115 53.49 +115 46.51
-120 54.55 +120 45.45
-125 55.56 +125 44.44
-130 56.52 +130 43.48
-135 57.45 +135 42.55
-140 58.33 +140 41.67
-145 59.18 +145 40.82
-150 60.00 +150 40.00
-155 60.78 +155 39.22
-160 61.54 +160 38.46
-165 62.26 +165 37.74
-170 62.96 +170 37.04
-175 63.64 +175 36.36
-180 64.29 +180 35.71
-185 64.91 +185 35.09
-190 65.52 +190 34.48
-200 66.67 +200 32.26
-220 68.75 +220 31.25
-240 70.59 +240 29.41
-250 71.43 +250 28.57

Deciding Where to Place Your Wagers

As a beginner, signing up at a sportsbook with a nice sign up bonus can give your bankroll an early boost. Such bonuses may include anything from a free trial to even a few free plays, allowing you the potential to make a bit of money without having to risk anything.

Sign up bonuses can be incredibly useful if played well, and will allow you to start making returns before you have made any type of investment. You want to do your research when looking at sportsbooks to ensure that you are getting the best bonuses possible, but we would recommend signing up for an account at

MyBookie accepts customers from the United States. You can safely bet with this US sportsbook from all 50 states. They offer a handful of discrete deposit methods that you can use to fund your account. They also process all withdrawals in under 24 hours making them one of the easiest sportsbetting sites to collect your winnings from.

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Simple Rules for Bankroll Management

For most plays, you’re going to want to bet somewhere between 1% and 3% of your bankroll in order to stand a chance against the variance coming with sports betting. Theoretically, you could bet 3% of your bankroll on one play per day every day for a month and still have money left at the end of a thirty-day period, but that doesn’t mean you’ll want to bet 3% every time.

If you’re making multiple plays per day, then you should stick to an average of 1%, only bumping up the percentage when you’re very certain about the play. If you’re not betting every day, then you might be able to get away with bigger bets.

Flat betting is for those who don’t want to do the math associated with more proper methods of bankroll management. If that describes you, then at least stick to pretty low percentages of your bankroll on each play.

Kelly Criterion

The Kelly formula, more commonly known as the Kelly criterion and also known by a few other similar names, is one of the most widely accepted rules in the world of sports betting, at least, as far as bankroll management is concerned. And that isn’t without reason.

If you use the Kelly formula often, you will come to understand why the above section on flat betting advised you to keep your bets relatively low in terms of your overall bankroll, even if you were fairly certain that you were going to win.

Prior to placing a bet bettors should consider six important questions: who, what, when, where, why and how? But here, it is the how, as in how much to bet, we are interested in.

The Kelly Criterion formula is:

(BP – Q) / B

B = the Decimal odds -1
P = the probability of success
Q = the probability of failure (i.e. 1-p)

You can use our Odds Calculator to convert between Decimal Odds and the American System.

Using a coin as an example of Kelly Criterion staking

For example, consider you are betting on a coin to land on heads at even money. However, the coin is biased and has a 52% chance of ending up on heads.

In this case:

P= 0.52
Q = 1-0.52 = 0.48
B = 2-1 = 1.

This works out at: (0.52×1 – 0.48) / 1 = 0.04

Therefore the Kelly Criterion would recommend you bet 4%. A positive percentage implies an edge in favour of your bankroll, so your funds grow exponentially. You can also test the criterion for different values using this Kelly Criterion Calculator.

We now believe you have all the tools needed to become a successful sports bettor.

Thank you for reading, and good luck. 

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