How to Bet on Sports: Sports Betting 101

The NBA is one of the most popular sports for online wagering. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

With the rise of online sports betting across an increasing number of states, it’s crucial to get acquainted with the essential aspects of online sports betting, the subtleties of online sportsbooks, as well as the overall concept of betting via mobile platforms.

Dive into this comprehensive guide which will walk you through the various wager types, shed light on the assorted online betting platforms, dissect betting odds, and equip you with the necessary insights to engage confidently in how to bet on sports.

How Does Sports Betting Work?

The realm of sports betting encompasses a myriad of options, each offering a unique approach to placing wagers. It’s vital to understand the basic concepts before delving into the specifics of parlay bets, spread bets, moneyline bets, or other forms of betting.

Over the last decade, sports betting has seen a surge in popularity, providing fans with an immersive experience that goes beyond mere spectating. It’s an avenue for active participation, adding a thrilling dimension to sporting events.

Important factors to keep an eye on when betting include odds, which differ for every wager, heavily influencing potential winnings. Odds are meticulously crafted by oddsmakers for all bets available on the platform.

Also of importance is the bet slip. This is the command center for your wagers, showing current bets and allowing you to adjust your stake or apply bonus bets.

For newcomers, the wide array of sportsbooks to choose from can seem daunting, and pinpointing the best one can be a complex task. Each sportsbook presents distinct advantages, though some specialize and outperform in particular markets.

When engaging in sports betting, it is vital to thoroughly consider your financial comfort with risk before placing each bet. While the potential returns can be enticing, one should predominantly view sports betting as an entertaining pursuit instead of a reliable way to earn money.

Selecting the Right Sportsbook

Choosing the best sportsbook can be an overwhelming task with so many options available in today’s market. While an exhaustive list of all sports betting sites is beyond the scope of this article, we will focus on some of the top-tier platforms in the industry.

Fanatics Sportsbook

Many are familiar with Fanatics as a leading sports merchandise company, but it has recently expanded into the realm of sports wagering through its comprehensive online service, Fanatics Sportsbook.

This platform offers a diverse selection of bets and is operational in over 20 US states, making it a broadly accessible option.

Fanatics Sportsbook is currently promoting an enticing offer for newcomers based in AZ, CO, CT, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, MD, MA, MI, NC, NY, OH, PA, TN, VT, VA, WV, or WY. By opting in daily and placing a $100 cash bet, participants receive $100 in bonus bets for 10 consecutive days, culminating with a $1,000 bonus after the promotional period.

This deal connects the bonus bet value to the actual cash bet. Bet $100, receive a $100 bonus; bet $50, for example, and collect $50 in bonus bets. Remember, you must opt in each day for this promotion.

There is no promotional code required to access this offer.

FanDuel Sportsbook

FanDuel Sportsbook is another household name in the landscape of American sports betting, renowned for its user-friendly interface and extensive betting options.

FanDuel stands out as a widely popular platform with a plethora of promotional deals for both newcomers and regular players, offering a seamless user experience alongside a broad selection of leagues and betting markets.

For those just joining, FanDuel presents an attractive ‘bet and get’ deal. Newcomers placing a $5 cash wager will receive $150 in bonus bets once it settles as long as the bet wins. Spanning across 22 states, this offer is available without requiring any promotional code.

bet365 Sportsbook

bet365 has left a significant mark on the US betting scene, offering new users an exciting choice between two different welcome offers, and covering a vast array of leagues and markets. Present in 10 states as of 2024, bet365 provides these dual welcome offers to its customers.

Users who open a new account and deposit funds can select between a ‘bet and get’ bonus or an option for bet insurance. The insurance option is set at a maximum of $1K across the ten accessible states, while the ‘bet and get’ deal promises a $150 value, available even in the newly joined state of North Carolina.

By using the promotional code BNATION, bettors can unlock these offers in any of the qualified states. It’s worth noting that Kentucky permits legal betting for individuals aged 18 and up, whereas bet365’s other operational states maintain a minimum legal betting age of 21.

BetMGM Sportsbook

BetMGM, a reputable name in the betting industry, is known for its reliable and user-friendly platform. It offers steady promotions for both its new and existing customers.

With active operations in 19 states, BetMGM has various promotional offers on the table.

Right now, BetMGM provides new users the choice of either a $1,600 deposit match or a $1,500 bet insurance promotional deal.This deposit match promotion offers a 20% bonus on the amount you fund your account with. Should you reach the maximum deposit amount of $8,000, your bonus from sports wagers could be $1,600.

Additionally, this offer includes a wagering requirement: you must bet at least ten times the value of your sports bonuses within the first 30 days after account creation. Enter the promo code BN1600 to activate this deposit match.

Similar to other first bet offers, with this bet insurance offer, if your initial bet doesn’t win, you’ll receive your wager back as bonus bets, up to $1,500. To take advantage of this offer, use the BetMGM bonus code BNBONUS.

Standard Sports Betting Types

In the following sections, you’ll find an introduction to some typical sports wagers. While these aren’t exhaustive, as sportsbooks may offer more complex bet varieties, these are some of the more familiar options.

For those looking to place a bet on events like futures, point spreads, parlays, or just engaging in simple straight betting for added excitement during sporting events, the list compiled here should give you a good starting point.

These betting formats are widely applicable, covering bets on well-known franchises such as the Los Angeles Lakers or the New York Yankees, among others.


A future is a long-term bet, often placed on outcomes such as a team securing a championship or an athlete receiving an individual accolade. For instance, a future bet might involve forecasting Jayson Tatum as the NBA MVP recipient.


Moneyline wagers stand out as a popular and straightforward option in the betting world. This type of bet is simply on the victor of a particular event. Here, favorites are represented with negative odds, while underdogs have positive odds associated with them.

For instance, if you opt to bet on the Celtics (-180) against the Knicks (+220), the Celtics are the probable victors. Betting $100 on the Knicks could yield a profit of $220 if they win.


The attraction towards parlay wagers has surged recently. Essentially, a parlay combines several individual bets or outcomes to form a single larger bet.

Each component of a parlay is referred to as a leg and typically, a parlay comprises at least three of these legs. The allure of a higher payout is clear with parlays, but it is important to remember that they also carry a greater level of risk due to the need for each leg to be successful.

Prop Bets

Proposition bets, or prop bets, are gaining traction amongst bettors for their variety and specific nature. These bets can be placed on player performance, team statistics, or even specific events in a game.

With a more targeted approach, you could wager on a player like Steph Curry hitting over four three-point shots in a single half or bet on the Blackhawks scoring at least three goals in a game.


Point spread betting is prevalent in sports such as basketball and football. While it can be an option for sports like baseball and hockey, it’s not nearly as common.

Spread bets involve wagering on the point differential between the scores of the winning team and the losing team. When discussing sports betting, one often hears the phrase ‘covering the spread.’

This is akin to a moneyline bet. However, instead it involves wagering whether a team will win or lose by a specified number of points represented by either a plus sign for the underdog or a minus sign for the favorite.

Let’s take the New York Knicks as an example. If the point spread is set at +4.5, placing a bet on the Knicks to cover would mean you believe they will not lose by more than four points. On the flip side, betting on the Boston Celtics to cover implies you expect them to triumph by a margin of at least five points.


Commonly referred to as over/under bets, these types of wagers are particularly prevalent among those who bet on NFL or NBA games. This form of betting involves predicting whether the total number of points scored by both teams combined will be over or under a certain figure set by the bookmakers.

If we go back to our example and the over/under is set at 219.5, betting the over means you believe the combined score will be 220 or more. Betting the under means you expect it to fall short of 219 points.

Can I Make Money Betting on Sports?

The question of profitability in sports betting can be answered affirmatively: it is indeed possible to earn monetary gains from such activities. However, it’s a risky venture with no guarantee of significant returns on your investment.

While betting on an underdog or pursuing parlays might offer a high payout, the associated risk is equally significant.

It’s crucial to bet wisely and within your means on any betting platform and with any type of bet. To promote responsible gambling, the majority of sportsbooks implement various safeguarding measures, such as time and deposit constraints, or even provide options for self-exclusion.

For those seeking assistance with gambling problems, resources are available, including the extensive services of the National Council on Problem Gambling, which offers a nationwide toll-free helpline at 1-800-GAMBLER.

Diverse Sporting Events to Wager On

While the offerings across various betting sites might differ slightly, most will feature major sports leagues such as the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL. Additionally, gamblers may find opportunities to place bets on sports like MMA, different types of racing, or even cricket.

  1. MMA
  2. Soccer
  3. American football
  4. Basketball
  5. Racing
  6. Cricket
  7. Jai Alai
  8. Tennis

Understanding Moneyline Bets

Consider a scenario where you’re contemplating a wager between Clemson (+250) and Arizona (-302). If you’re looking for something uncomplicated, then a moneyline bet is a good choice.

A Clemson moneyline bet with odds of (+250) means that a $100 bet could bring in $250 in profits, plus you get to keep the original amount you bet. The odds presented suggest Clemson is less likely to win, which is reflected in the high potential reward.

Alternatively, placing $100 on Arizona with odds of (-302) would result in a profit of $33.11. Though you do win, the gain might not seem substantial against the original wager you made.

Spread Betting Explained

Building on our previous example, if Clemson is pegged as the underdog, they will have a positive spread, like +7 in this case. Betting on Clemson to cover doesn’t mean you believe they’ll win outright, but that they will keep the game within a seven-point margin.

On the flip side, a wager on Arizona to cover would mean you’re banking on the Wildcats winning by more than seven points.

Locating Favorable Odds

Navigating the complexities of placing bets on an online sportsbook can often feel overwhelming, especially for newcomers grappling with the intricacies of different kinds of odds. Familiarizing oneself with moneylines, point spreads, and over/under totals is essential for anyone trying to make sense of betting lines.

If you’re looking to place a wager, it’s prudent to meticulously scrutinize the American betting odds offered, and consider comparing these with the international odds listed for the same event. This process can be further enhanced by checking the odds provided by various sportsbooks to determine if one offers more value than another.

While odds offered by bookmakers in Las Vegas or elsewhere generally align closely, it’s still advisable to verify the odds, especially if the wager involves a significant sum of money.

To optimize your chances when seeking the most favorable odds:

  1. Stick to simple bets: Although accumulator bets might seem tempting with their promise of big returns, they come with high risk. Beginners are advised to start with more straightforward bets and graduate to complex wagers over time.
  2. Evaluate American odds against international ones: Certain sports, like soccer for example, might display different odds in different markets. It’s crucial to stay vigilant and explore all the odds on offer comprehensively.
  3. Deep dive into the sport of your interest: Having a deep understanding of the sport you are betting on can offer a significant edge. If you’re an ardent follower of a team like the Los Angeles Rams and possess detailed knowledge about their lineup, bets placed on such a team could be more informed.

Despite these strategies, it’s important to remember that sports betting is inherently speculative. You risk your funds in the hope of gaining profits.

It’s critical not to view sports betting as a consistent revenue stream. Enjoy the process as a form of entertainment, rather than a financial solution.

Exercise caution and thoughtfulness in your betting affairs. Avoid overextending your financial reach and strive to amass a wealth of knowledge about specific markets or teams prior to placing your bets.

Exploration of Various Sports Wagering Techniques

Certain sports wagering techniques are tailored to particular sports, while others are less common. Before engaging with a sportsbook, familiarize yourself with these diverse methods of sports betting.

Draw No Bet

Particularly pertinent to football (soccer), the ‘Draw No Bet’ option provides a form of protection for your wager. When betting on a team to triumph, in the event of a draw, your wager is safeguarded, and your stake is returned.

Betting Exchange

Differing from traditional sportsbooks, a betting exchange is a peer-to-peer platform where users can bet against one another, often securing better odds. Here, individuals mutually agree on odds and stakes for a particular game or event.

Handicap Betting

Handicap betting introduces a way to balance the winning probabilities for both teams in a contest, assigning advantages or disadvantages to level the playing field.

Double Chance

While its use is mainly seen in soccer betting, the ‘Double Chance’ bet allows you to cover two potential outcomes in a single wager. Though it comes at a higher price point, your bet wins if either of the teams you backed wins, and you’ll only lose if the game results in a draw.

Accumulator Bets

Simply put, ‘Accumulator Bets’ are the international equivalent to parlays, where multiple individual bets are combined, and all must succeed for the accumulator to pay out.

The fundamental concept remains consistent, albeit with slight variations and additional caveats when it comes to the mix-and-match of different sports. You’re combining several wagers on a single betting slip to form multiple components, or ‘legs’, that culminate in one composite bet.

The stakes are higher, but the potential returns are significantly greater too.

Steps to Creating a Betting Account

If you’re looking to download one of the mainstream American betting apps, the process is quite simple. To secure special offers aimed at new users, it’s imperative to input certain promotional codes during the registration process.

Further, it’s a seamless process to sign up by selecting your preferred bookmaker, hitting the “Join” or “Bet Now” button.

Typically, there’s a nominal fee required to activate your account, which holds true irrespective of the promotional deal you opt for.

Navigate to Your Preferred Online Betting Service

  1. Set up your new account.
  2. Input necessary personal information (birthdate, residential address, etc.) to create your account.
  3. When prompted, enter the promo code you have.
  4. Read the Terms & Conditions before accepting.
  5. The bonus amount will be reflected in your account.
  6. Proceed with your initial cash deposit.
  7. Note that bonus founds are time-sensitive and cannot be redeemed for actual money.

Frequently Asked Questions on Sports Betting

Here, we address some frequent questions regarding how to bet on sports in the sections below.

What is the process for betting on sporting events?

Simply select your game or event, study the betting odds and place your bet accordingly.

It’s a given that betting on the underdog could yield greater returns, but the chances of victory might be slimmer. Expect a narrower range of betting options for more obscure sports.

What’s the optimal approach to sports betting?

With an abundance of sportsbooks available within the US, the initial step for any bettor is to meticulously evaluate their options and create an account with a sportsbook of their choice.

Once registered, it’s advisable to place wagers on sports in which you possess extensive knowledge. This familiarity can significantly increase your probability of winning.

What are some tips for new sports bettors?

Those new to sports betting may want to start with straightforward wagers such as moneyline or spread bets.

These wager types are designed for clarity and accessibility in virtually all sporting events, offering newcomers a solid opportunity to turn a profit from their initial investments.

Are there introductory promotions for new sports bettors?

Newcomers to sports betting platforms are often greeted with sign-up bonuses or promotional offers. These welcome perks typically come in several forms including first bet specials, a bet and get promotion, or matches on initial deposits.

All Bleacher Nation betting content is curated in partnership with our expert friends at Better Collective. This means you'll get the best of both worlds: insightful analysis from the Bleacher Nation writers you love, combined with the betting expertise of Better Collective.

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