Sports betting in the United States has entered a new era. In 2018, a Supreme Court ruling opened the door for states to legalize and regulate sports wagering. Over 30 states have now legalized sports betting in some form, with more expected soon.
As legal online options have expanded, sports betting has exploded in popularity. According to ESPN, over $21 billion was bet legally on sports in 2021, generating over $1.5 billion in revenue. With more and more states onboarding, analysts predict the U.S. sports betting market could reach up to $39 billion by 2025.
So if you‘re looking to get in on the action with this exciting, fast-growing pastime, you‘ve come to the right place. This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know to start betting on sports online and do it safely, legally, and profitably.
Understanding Betting Odds and Lines
Before you can start placing winning wagers, you need to understand how betting odds and lines work. Here are the key concepts:
This is the most basic and common form of sports bet where you simply pick the outright winner of a game or event. The moneyline odds are expressed with a + and – symbol next to each team or participant‘s name:
- New York Giants +150
- Dallas Cowboys -180
The negative number indicates the favorite and the positive number signifies the underdog. The numbers represent how much you would need to bet to win $100. So for the Cowboys, you‘d need to bet $180 to profit $100 if they win. For the Giants, a $100 bet would return $150 in profit.
The higher the number, the bigger underdog they are. Heavy favorites will sometimes be expressed with a – symbol like the Packers -5000 versus the Lions. Yes, the Packers are expected to dominate that matchup!
The point spread is used to even out contests between mismatched opponents. The favorite has to win by more than the spread for bets on them to cash. The underdog can win outright or lose by less than the spread and still cover.
- Kansas City Chiefs -7.5 (-110)
- Denver Broncos +7.5 (-110)
The Chiefs have to win by 8 points or more to cover the 7.5 point spread. If the Broncos keep the game within 7 points or pull the upset, bets on them cover. The -110 indicates the juice or vig charged by the sportsbook. This means you have to bet $110 to profit $100.
Totals – Over/Under
Also referred to as the over/under, totals focus on the combined score of both teams in a game. Sportsbooks set a projected total and you simply bet whether the final score will be over or under that benchmark.
- Over 51 points (-110)
- Under 51 points (-110)
If the final score is 27-24 for a total of 51 points, the over cashes. If it‘s 30-20 for 50 total points, the under hits. Same -110 juice applies here for the vig.
Now that you‘ve got the basics of reading betting lines down, let‘s look at some of the more advanced ways to bet on sports.
Other Common Bet Types
Sportsbooks offer many ways to bet beyond just picking winners based on the point spread and moneyline. Here are some of the most popular:
Parlays involve bundling multiple wagers together on one bet ticket. The more bets or "legs" you add to a parlay, the higher the potential payout. However, all legs of the parlay have to win for the bet to cash. If even one pick is a loser, the whole parlay loses.
Because hitting a winning parlay ticket with 4+ legs is extremely difficult, this is considered a high risk, high reward betting option. Payouts on a modest $10 4-team parlay typically start around $200 and get exponentially higher as you add more legs.
Teasers allow you to adjust the point spreads and totals lines in your favor by 6, 6.5, or 7 points. So if you like a 3-point underdog, you can tease them up to +9.5 points to increase your chance of covering. The tradeoff is the payouts are lower than a parlay since you‘re buying those extra points in your direction.
Proposition or prop bets focus on outcomes within a game other than just who wins. These exotic wagers can be on almost anything like:
- How many touchdown passes a QB will throw
- Which player will score the first touchdown
- Total rushing yards for a RB
- Anytime TD scorer bets
- Will there be overtime?
Props offer a fun way to bet on games without relying on the final score. Public bettors love rooting for props on big events like the Super Bowl.
Futures bets are placed on longer term outcomes well in advance like championship and division winners. For example, you can bet on which team you think will win the World Series months before the MLB season starts. The odds are much higher since you have to correctly predict far into the future.
Thanks to mobile sports betting apps and sites, you can now wager on games already in progress. Odds shift in real-time based on changing game conditions. This creates exciting opportunities to capitalize on your sports knowledge.
Betting Volume and Revenue by Sport
Now let‘s break down betting interest and revenue generated on some of the biggest sports. According to the Action Network, here is the most recent data on handle (total amount wagered) and revenue by sport:
NFL (handle $12 billion, revenue $1.2 billion) – Football ranks as the most bet on sport in the U.S. The NFL brings in around $1 billion per month over the 17-week season.
College Football (handle $4 billion, revenue $500 million) – The popularity of college football creates huge betting interest, especially for high-profile programs and the national championship.
NBA Basketball (handle $2 billion, revenue $250 million) – The NBA has embraced legal betting, even partnering directly with sportsbooks. The game‘s fast pace lends itself well to live wagering.
MLB Baseball (handle $1.5 billion, revenue $150 million) – Baseball‘s 162-game marathon leads to steady betting volume across six months of action. Totals and props are popular bets.
NHL Hockey (handle $1.5 billion, revenue $100 million) – While lower scoring than other sports, hockey betting still draws plenty of interest for its speed and parity.
UFC/Boxing (handle $1 billion, revenue $75 million) – Combat sports continue to see slow and steady growth as legal betting expands across the U.S.
Now let‘s get into some tips and strategies for betting on the most popular sports.
How to Bet on Football
Football is the undisputed betting king in the United States. You can bet on pretty much any college and pro football game year-round. Here are some keys to betting on football:
Consider home field advantage – Home underdogs tend to provide value, especially in divisional matchups where they are more familiar with their opponent. Road favorites are also worth targeting when playing an inferior opponent.
Primetime and playoffs bring value – Teams tend to play better with the bright lights on. Dogs cover the spread more often in nationally televised games. The intensity picks up in the playoffs so watch out for overreactions.
Study injuries – The injury report plays a huge role in football betting. Losing a starting QB, skill position player, or lineman can impact outcomes. Monitor statuses leading up to kickoff.
Dig into advanced stats – Metrics like yards per play, yards allowed, and turnover margin offer great betting insights. Good offenses and defenses show up in the box score stats.
Watch the weather – Inclement weather like snow, rain, and wind can obviously affect game plans. Rain leads to more running, while high winds hurt the passing game.
Consider totals – Lower total games with two strong defenses tend to go under. While shootouts between weak defenses are likely to sail over the projected point total.
Know the trends – Some useful betting trends include underdogs on Thursday Night Football and under totals for cold weather December/January games. Just don‘t overreact to recency bias.
Betting on Basketball
The fast-paced action on the hardwood makes basketball a favorite sport for live betting. Like football, both college and pro hoops offer plenty to get your action fix. Here are some basketball betting strategies:
Schedule analysis – Target rested home teams versus tired visitors playing their 3rd game in 4 days. Also watch for travel situations like East Coast to West Coast trips.
Study pace and defense – Possessions per game show a team‘s tempo. Points allowed indicates defensive strength. Compare ratings to identify mismatches. Fast paced, poor defenses lead to high scoring.
Follow motivation – Teams battling for a playoff spot or seed down the regular season stretch have added incentive. Teams already eliminated have less urgency late in losing seasons.
Examine extended trends – One game shooting slumps happen. But examine 10-20 game averages on key metrics like scoring, turnovers and shooting percentages to identify real changes.
Watch styles – Rebounding and defensive oriented clubs fare better in the slower paced playoffs. Running teams dominate the regular season. Bet accordingly.
Shop for best number – The high volume of basketball games leads to softer lines. Compare prices across multiple sportsbooks to get the best spread and moneyline value. An extra half point matters!
Live betting – The scoring runs in basketball lend themselves perfectly to live betting. Watch for streaks that oddsmakers over adjust to and regression toward the mean when prices get stretched too far.
How to Bet on Baseball
With baseball you can pretty much bet daily from April through October. The huge volume of games over a grinding 162-game season leads to great betting opportunities night after night. Here are tips for betting on MLB:
Schedule analysis – Teams with a rested starting pitcher facing an opponent using a less rested bullpen is a huge advantage. Pitching depth matters over the long season.
Watch for travel challenges – Cross country trips and switching time zones can take a toll. Target teams traveling home off long road trips or heading on the road after extended home stands.
Study starting pitcher styles – Strikeout pitchers dominate weak contact clubs. Pitch to contact starters excel facing patient teams that draw walks. Check batter versus pitcher matchups.
Dig into bullpen numbers – A strong or weak relief corps helps decide close games. Bullpen ERA and inherited runner scoring reveal late game strengths and weaknesses.
Target divisional matchups – Familiar opponents generate close contests as teams battle rivals directly in the standings during pennant chases. Emotions run high too.
Examine weather reports – Strong winds blowing in knock down potential home runs. High heat helps the hitters. Balls really carry on hot summer days in the bandbox stadiums.
Watch the totals – Higher scoring games often sail over the total. But beware of very high 11+ run over/unders that encourage public over betting. Books set those high intentionally knowing public tendency to bet overs.
Live betting – With all the scoring in baseball, live betting is vital. Watch for early scoring and bet unders as the market corrects. Overs hold value if pitchers tire late in games as bullpens enter.
Betting on Hockey
While lower scoring than basketball or football, betting on hockey picks up steam when the NHL playoffs roll around. You‘ll also find solid regular season matchups to target. Here are some hockey betting pointers:
Schedule spot – Look for rested home teams against visitors playing back to back nights or their 3rd game in 4 days. Energy level matters in the fast-paced NHL.
Target divisional games – Rival opponents generate close hard-fought contests and familiarity makes for tight matchups with playoff implications in the standings as teams battle.
Study goalie trends – A rested starter in net has a big advantage over a fatigued goalie playing back to back contests. This is a key betting angle in NHL action.
Lean toward underdogs – The parity in the NHL makes dogs tempting. Consider underdogs on the puck line at +1.5 to get that 1-goal cushion.
Watch for letdowns – Teams coming off huge wins or emotional victories tend to let up in their next game. It‘s hard to sustain high energy night after night over a long season.
Live betting – With lower scoring hockey, early goals lead to immediate line shifts. Capitalize on volatility when markets overreact to strikes and misprice based on changing score.
Betting on Soccer
International soccer leagues and tournaments like the World Cup generate intense worldwide betting interest. Here are some keys for wagering on the global game of football:
Consider 0-0 draws – With relatively lower scoring, a nil-nil draw has good value on the 3-way moneyline for even matchups. This avoids outright choosing a winner.
Target home underdogs – The raucous home crowd atmosphere helps underdog clubs rise up against favored road opponents in Soccer. Home field matters!
Watch for sandwich spots – When a club has a huge marquee game on deck against a rival, they often stumble in a less significant spot sandwiched between big matches.
Study standings implications – Teams battling relegation or chasing a playoff spot have added urgency late in the season. This leads to better effort and intensity.
Fade heavy favorites – Big chalk has trouble covering large 1.5+ goal spreads even when they win outright relatively comfortably. The scoring often stalls with a comfortable lead.
Live betting – With lesser scoring opportunities, goals drastically sway live odds. Capitalize when adjusted lines overreact to early goals and overlook offensive capabilities of trailing clubs with ample time left.
How to Bet MMA
MMA continues to grow rapidly in popularity, especially the leading UFC promotion. MMA betting focuses heavily on the individual matchup and fighter styles:
Striking and grappling skills – Compare stand-up and ground games by stats like strikes landed per minute, takedown accuracy and submission averages. Contrast strengths and weaknesses.
Weight class history – Fighters tend to perform best at their ideal weight. Moving up or down a class can hamper cardio and power.
Age factors – Younger fighters hold advantages in speed, stamina, and durability. Reflexes diminish for fighters over 35 leading to defensive lapses.
Injury history and layoffs – Long gaps between fights lead to ring rust. Accumulated damage from major injuries adds up over time as well.
Fight schedule analysis – Inexperience fighting into championship rounds of 5-round fights can prove costly for inexperienced fighters who fade late.
Line value shopping – With lower betting limits and volume, MMA sees significant line discrepancies across sportsbooks. Always get the best price.
Live Betting Tips
Thanks to mobile betting apps, you can now wage on sports already underway. This exciting form of wagering is growing exponentially. Here are some tips for live betting success:
Avoid betting too early. Let opening moments settle down before making picks.
Compare updated live odds to starting odds to detect value opportunities.
Don‘t overreact to scoring spurts. Bet unders after flurries as markets correct.
Target fatigued teams late in games playing their third contest in four nights. Depth hurts late.
Monitor lopsided contests for "garbage time" backups giving up meaningless points in blowouts.
Shop multiple books. Live odds and limits vary significantly across sportsbooks.
Balance taking advantage of volatility with not forcing the action. Some games provide zero value if lines don‘t move substantially.
Prop Bet Pointers
Prop betting adds extra fun by betting on outcomes within the game other than just who covers the spread. Here are some prop betting tips:
Focus on primetime games and big events where books offer the most prop variety.
Consider waiting closer to game time as books limit liability on these soft lines earlier in the week.
Favor player props over situational team props with more control by individuals.
If you like a player to have a big game, play his points scored, rebounds, touchdowns scored props together rather than just one isolated wager.
For novelty props on events like the Super Bowl, study historical trends and tendencies to identify bettable situations with an edge.
Be cautious with parlays on props. With correlated outcomes, missing on one significantly drops chances of hitting the parlay.
Always shop around. Prop odds and varieties differ quite a bit across sportsbooks.
There you have it – a complete crash course on everything you need to know to start betting on sports online in 2022. Just take it slow, do your homework, shop for the best odds, and manage your bankroll wisely. Sports betting should be fun! Please bet responsibly.
Let me know if you need any clarification or have additional questions on anything covered here! I‘m always happy to help a new bettor get up to speed navigating this exciting world of legal online sports wagering.