How does sports betting work?  – Forbes Betting

How does sports betting work? – Forbes Betting

Money line

A straight bet is the most common type of sports betting. It is simply betting on the outcome of a single outcome.

  • Example 1: The Toronto Raptors are playing the Boston Celtics in an NBA game. You think the Raptors will beat Boston, so you place a straight bet on Toronto.
  • Example 2: UFC heavyweight Francis Ngannou is fighting challenger Cyril Gane. You believe that Ngannou will win the fight, so you place a straight bet on him.


Spread bets relate to the margin of victory. A spread bet involves either “giving” or “taking” a certain number of runs, goals, runs, etc. This number is determined by the sportsbook and reflects the expected margin of victory.

Bettors choose whether to “take” the spread (meaning bet on the loser) or “give” the spread (betting the favorite).

  • Example: Dallas Cowboys (-5.5) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (+5.5). If you think the Cowboys will win by at least six points, you will give (or “lay”) 5.5 points. If you like Jalen Hurts and the Eagles odds to win the game or lose by five points or less, you will get 5.5 points.

Point spread lines have odds attached to them, and more often than not, those odds are -110 for both teams. The price includes vig.

As explained above, this means if you want to bet on either the Cowboys -5.5 points or the Eagles +5.5 points, you’ll have to bet $110 for a chance to win $100 ( or $11 to earn $10).


Also referred to as Over/Under betting, total bets focus on the final outcome of a game rather than who wins.

When you bet a total, you predict whether the two sides will combine for more (Over) or fewer (Under) runs, goals, runs and so on than the total posted by the odds.

  • Example: A Los Angeles Rams-Seattle Seahawks game has a total of 42.5. If you think the Rams and Seahawks will combine for at least 43 points by the end of the game, you’ll be betting Over. If you expect a defensive slugfest that ends with a combined 42 points or less, you’ll bet the Under.

If you’re interested in diving into Over/Under betting, remember this popular saying related to total betting: “It’s never down until it’s over.” As long as a game is in progress, it is always possible to win your Over bet (or lose your Under bet). As most people know, sports can be unpredictable.

Conversely, if you bet Seahawks-Rams over 42.5 points and the score is 24-21 at halftime, you have a winner and don’t have to sweat the second half.


Rather than placing bets on a game that takes place today or this week, futures bets are just that: bets that will be placed in the future.

Examples include betting on a team to win the World Series; a place to win the soccer World Cup; a golfer to win the following year’s Masters golf tournament; a player to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Futures bets tend to offer higher odds – and thus larger potential payouts – than outright bets. For example, it is generally less likely to predict the winner of the Stanley Cup at the start of an NHL campaign than it is to predict which team will win a random regular season game.

One important thing to remember about futures betting: Odds change. For example, just because the Los Angeles Lakers have +1500 odds to win the NBA title on the first day of a season, doesn’t mean those odds will hold up for the next seven months. In fact, they probably won’t.

Damages, trades, and performance below (or above) expectations will affect how a futures market unfolds.

The odds you get when you place a bet will never change – in other words, if you bet the Lakers at +1500, those are your odds for the entire season.

If the betting market drops the Lakers to +400 because they’re playing well, you’ve made a good bet, at least for now. But if the Lakers struggle and their odds drop to +5000, well … your bet has lost value.

It is important to research a team or player before putting your money down. Bargaining is also recommended. Why would you bet the Lakers at +1500 at one sportsbook when another is offering +1800 odds?


While other markets focus on the final outcome of a game or event, prop bets relate to the performance of an individual athlete – or even something that doesn’t appear on the box score.

An example of a player prop would be betting on Joe Burrow’s total passing yards in a game (over or under 1.5 TD passes).

An example of a prop bet that has nothing to do with the actual action on the field or field would be a bet on the color of Gatorade that the coach of the winning Super Bowl team wets.

Here are some of the more popular forms of prop betting:

  • Player support: Related to the performance of a single player, such as the total number of points scored in a basketball game, goals in a hockey game, or rushing yards in a football game
  • Game support: Related to a single game, such as picking which player will hit the first home run in an MLB game or which team will finish with the most walks in a football game
  • Innovation proposal: Usually reserved for big events — namely, the Super Bowl — the new props can range from the aforementioned Gatorade shower after the game to the coin toss before it.


A parlay combines two or more straight bets into one bet. Permits are popular because they open the door to earning bigger payouts while risking less money. Think of it as the sports betting version of a lottery ticket.

The number of legs (bets) in a spread and the odds attached to each of those legs determine how much a bettor can win. The bigger the warning – and the bigger the bet – the bigger the potential profit.

However, it’s important to note that paralays are difficult to hit – and the more legs you add, the degree of difficulty can increase exponentially. All it takes is one leg to lose and your warning is lost. For example, if you go 6-1 in a seven-team game, you might have gone 0-7.

Here are the two main types of parlays:

  • Same game: A parlay constructed of multiple bets from a game or race.
  • Multi-game: A parlay built with bets from multiple games or races.

The legs of a multi-game appearance need not be from the same sport.

A third type of parlay is called a teaser bet, which is the most popular in football (especially the NFL).

Like a layout, a teaser is built with two or more teams. Key Differences: Only point spread bets can be included in upsets, and bettors can shift the point spread by a certain number of points in either direction.

Here’s an example of a four-team, six-point NFL mock:

  • Pittsburgh Steelers (-4.5) vs. Cleveland Browns
  • Miami Dolphins (-2.5) vs New York Jets
  • Arizona Cardinals (+7.5) vs. Los Angeles Rams
  • Las Vegas Raiders (+3.5) vs. Denver Broncos

If you put the Steelers, Dolphins, Cardinals and Raiders in your teaser, you’ll be able to move the score six points in your favor.

So the exciting point spreads would be:

  • Pittsburgh Steelers (+2.5) vs. Cleveland Browns
  • Miami Dolphins (+3.5) vs New York Jets
  • Arizona Cardinals (+13.5) vs. Los Angeles Rams
  • Las Vegas Raiders (+10.5) vs. Denver Broncos

Because bettors can move the point spreads, the payouts in teasers are lower than in advance.

Tip: When running football teaser bets, it is important to remember two things. Never bully from zero and do your best to bully the top numbers in the NFL, like three, six, seven and 10.

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