Sports Betting 101

Millions of sports fans watch games and likely think to themselves, “betting on sports must be easy.” It isn’t. In fact, even the most successful “expert” sports bettor must hit 52.4% of their bets to break even after accounting for the vig or “juice.” And most everyone, no matter how good they are, will experience cold streaks as well.

One of the biggest mistakes bettors can make is believing that they’ll always win. This is especially common amongst beginners who start betting on multiple sports. They’ll often bet on teams they like or teams that are hot, thinking they can’t lose. The truth is that winning is about doing your homework and being disciplined enough to not bet more than you can afford to lose. It’s also about finding an edge and proving to the bookie that you know more than they do.

A sports bettor’s edge may be in the form of a misread line or the ability to find an un-covered angle in a game. Many professional bettors are math freaks and are able to spot situations where the line a sportsbook is offering is vulnerable. In order to do this they must read stats and keep near-obsessive records of their bets, both in their head and on paper. They also look for trends that can be used to make better picks.

Most bets on sports are simple wagers based on yes/no logic, such as over and under bets. These bets predict whether the teams involved in a game will combine for more (over) or fewer (under) runs, goals, points, and other scoring events than the total number posted by oddsmakers. This is why a bettor must consider how the game is played as well as who they are betting on.

Point spreads are another common type of bet. They are made by adding the amount that a team is expected to win by to the number of points the favorite is favored by. This is done because if a favorite wins by exactly the number of points predicted, it’s a push and both sides get their money back. This is why the favored team’s number will often include a half-point.

In addition to point spreads and over/under bets, bettors can also place wagers on player or game props. These bets relate to a specific aspect of a game or event and may be as simple as betting on the number of touchdown passes a quarterback will throw in a game, or as complex as betting on how many yards a player will gain or lose on each play.

Finally, bettors can also place bets on the winner of a particular race. These bets are called a show, place, or win bet and are estimated on the morning of a race. The odds are constantly recalculated by computer during the prerace betting period. They are displayed on a large screen known as the tote board and on television screens throughout the betting area.