11-Step Beginner’s Guide To Sports Betting

The continued spread of legal sports betting across the United States is leading to plenty of new sports bettors. Whenever a new state allows sports betting, as Arizona has, many new users register for accounts but may not know exactly where to start. The same may be true for those who have dabbled in sports betting previously, whether that occurred during a trip to Las Vegas or by using unregulated markets like through a bookie or offshore site, which can be dangerous.

Even bettors with some experience who think they understand everything there is to know about sports betting often miscalculate and make mistakes they could avoid by doing additional research to understand the industry.

Online sportsbooks are a much more convenient way to bet on sports than showing up to a physical location. They may even offer online wagers that would not be available at a retail sportsbook.

We will tackle the basics from how to read lines to the different bets you can place and more.

1. Sign up at a sportsbook

To register, you must be 21 or older to legally wager on sports in Arizona. Some common details that sportsbooks will ask for during the sign-up process are your date of birth, email address, legal name, mailing address, and the last four digits of your Social Security number. After signing up, you may deposit money through a variety of methods and start betting shortly thereafter.

One thing to do before signing up is to search for and identify the sportsbooks with the best welcome offers for your purposes. Some sportsbooks will offer a risk-free first bet. Another bonus might be the sportsbook matching your first deposit up to a certain amount.

2. Pick the sport you want to bet on

One key piece of advice to a new sports bettor is to start with what you know. If you are getting into sports betting, you likely have a certain sport or individual league you follow more than the rest. That’s where your betting career should start until you think you have the hang of things and want to branch out to other areas.

If you want to get really specific and give yourself a solid head start, you can narrow your wagering choices to a small group of teams. For example, you could try to learn everything about the NFL’s NFC West Division. Then, to start out, you bet only for or against teams in that division. Because the rest of the betting public might be broadly focused on all 32 NFL teams, you can give yourself an edge by knowing all the details about four teams.

As you start to understand sports betting more, feel free to take a look at other sports and identify where you think the best value is. Usually, the sport or sports you follow are going to be a solid starting point.

3. Read the lines

Trying to figure out what the numbers mean can be a bit intimidating for first-timers. You have likely seen these before as sports betting has become more mainstream, but here’s a look at what the NFL betting lines on the BetMGM Arizona app might show for an upcoming game between the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks.

 SpreadMoneylineTotal
Seattle Seahawks-6 (-110)-275Over 53 (-110)
Arizona Cardinals+6 (-110)+225Under 53 (-110)

Based on this information, you have the key information for three main bets: the point spread, moneyline, and point total. We will dive into each of them in more detail in the next section, but here’s what you need to know.

The first column of numbers is the point spread. The plus symbol shows who is the underdog, while the minus sign indicates the favorite. This means the Seahawks are six-point favorites over the Cardinals, and both are getting -110 odds to cover the spread. The second column of numbers is the moneyline, which is a straight wager on which team will win the game. Again, the plus sign shows the Cardinals as the underdog at +225. The Seahawks are the favorites at -275. The third column shows the point total, so the over/under for the combined number of points for this game is 53 with -110 odds on each side.

4. Choose a bet

As mentioned in the previous section, the three main bets are the point spread, moneyline, and point total. These are important terms to understand:

  • Point spread: This is essentially oddsmakers’ way of evening the playing field because we know as sports fans that some teams are better than others. In the above example, the Cardinals were at +6, which means they would either need to win the game outright or lose by less than six points to cover the spread. Conversely, the Seahawks at -6 would need to win by more than six points to cover the spread. A point spread will usually pay out the same whether you bet the underdog or the favorite.
  • Moneyline: The moneyline refers to the team that wins the game. If you bet on the Cardinals moneyline, you need them to win for your bet to be a winner. If you bet the Seahawks moneyline, your bet is a winner if they win. However, since the Cardinals are the underdogs, there would be a higher payout with a winning bet than there would be if you correctly bet on the Seahawks to win.
  • Point total: The point total is also referred to as the over/under, and this refers to how many total points are scored between the two teams combined. With the number at 53, take the over if you believe more than 53 points will be scored, and you would take the under if you thought the opposite. Like the point spread, the payouts are usually going to be about the same with a winning bet, whether you choose the over or under.

5. Futures betting

Another popular option is placing a futures bet. These are wagers on season-long outcomes, and some of the biggest events will have odds available all season long. Winning a futures bet can lead to a high payout. This is because many futures have an array of potential outcomes, and there is a lot that can happen from now until someone wins. Below are some of the top options for futures betting in various sports:

Additionally, you can place more narrow futures bets with a higher chance of winning. These include wagering on division and conference winners for a particular league or betting whether a specific team will win over or under a set number of games. In addition to providing additional entertainment over the course of a season, betting on the futures market can help you see what a sportsbook thinks about an upcoming season.

6. Possible prop bets

Placing prop bets can also be entertaining, and there are a ton of possibilities with these. A prop bet is a bit of a side wager where the final score usually does not factor in whether your wager wins or loses.

Sportsbooks and oddsmakers get creative for some of the biggest games on the calendar. The Super Bowl is king when it comes to prop bets, with bettors seemingly able to wager on just about anything during the game. Below are some of the prop bets that could be available for various sports.

  • What color Gatorade will be poured on the Super Bowl winning coach? Orange, red, yellow, clear, blue, or purple.
  • How many points will Devin Booker score in his next game? Over/under 23.5 points.
  • Who will have more receiving yards in their next game? Larry Fitzgerald or Davante Adams.

A full list of prop bets is easily available through the sportsbook app by locating the game the prop bet would fall under. As you saw with the examples, some options will have just two outcomes, while some will offer quite a few possibilities.

7. Betting on live games

One of the most exciting, newer features to the online sports betting industry is live betting. This increasingly popular option allows you to wager on an event as it is taking place. Before live betting, you had to get all your bets in prior to the start of the game. To get started, having a sportsbook app on your phone is generally a good idea. You can pull out your phone and place a bet while watching the game on TV.

Live betting will usually feature point spreads, moneylines, and point totals throughout the game, and it also may offer additional props for users to take a look at. Below are some of the potential props available at sites like DraftKings Arizona to bettors during games.

  • Which team will score five runs first? Arizona Diamondbacks or Seattle Mariners.
  • What will be the result of this power play? Goal or kill.
  • How many passing yards will Kyler Murray throw for before halftime? Over/under 182.5.

Bettors can implement their own strategies for in-game betting, whether that would be betting for or against a particular team at halftime based on what you’ve seen from their halftime adjustments in previous games or other tactics.

If you placed a wager on the game before it started, you can then hedge your initial wager by betting against it or doubling down on your side if your confidence increases as the game progresses.

8. Watch the line movement

Understanding line movement is a crucial component, especially if you are just getting started. Sportsbooks will release their opening odds for a particular game, and it is highly likely the numbers will change by the time the game actually starts. There are several reasons for this.

Odds may move because of new information that oddsmakers did not account for such as an injury, weather, roster movement because of a trade, etc. When oddsmakers have that info, they are likely to adjust their numbers to reflect the latest news for the teams involved.

Another key reason for line movement is where the betting money is going. For bets like the point spread or total, sportsbooks would ideally have about half of the bets on each side. So if the over is getting 90% of the bets initially, the oddsmakers might adjust their numbers to entice more bettors to go toward the under in order to minimize risk if the over hits.

9. Calculate your odds and payouts

There are a number of ways sportsbooks will display odds, including American odds, fractional odds, and decimal odds. In the US, you are likely to see American odds most often. Here is a breakdown of how to calculate odds and determine payouts.

As you may have noticed in some of the examples above, we used odds of -110 on all sides of the point spreads and totals. This represents the vig or the juice, and -110 is the standard number you will see spreads and totals start at. The easiest way to explain how to calculate your potential payout is by using $100. With -110 odds, that means a $110 wager would return a $100 profit. For -115 odds, a $115 wager would net a $100 profit, -105 odds would require a $105 bet for a $100 profit, and so on.

The calculation will differ when you have odds with positive value. In our earlier example with the Cardinals against the Seahawks, Arizona had +225 odds to win the game on the moneyline as the underdog. By taking the Cardinals with +225 odds, that means a $100 wager would result in a $225 profit.

When you select your wager and enter in the dollar amount you’d like to bet, the sportsbook app will usually show what the payout would be if you win, but it’s still important to understand the basics.

10. Know what bets to avoid

One mistake many recreational bettors make, especially when they just get started, is placing too many parlay bets.

A parlay is an all-or-nothing style of wagering where you will need multiple outcomes to happen in order to win the wager. Parlays are appealing because they can offer high payouts if you predict them correctly. However, they are difficult to win consistently, and many bettors view them as sucker bets.

Some of the best sports bettors correctly predict wagers at a 60% rate, which shows how difficult it is to turn a profit in this industry. With that information, you could only imagine how hard it would be to correctly predict multiple outcomes on a consistent basis.

Sportsbooks make a killing off parlays, which is why they will continue to offer them. Parlays can be fun, but many bettors will avoid them completely.

Other bets that might make sense to avoid are those that offer several outcomes. Just like a parlay bet, it is difficult to win futures bets that feature tons of possibilities. At the start of the NFL season, 32 teams can potentially win the Super Bowl. Add in everything that can happen during the season, and it may be best to avoid futures like that.

It also makes sense to avoid betting on heavy underdogs to win outright. If you correctly predict the No. 16 seed over the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament as 25.5-point underdogs, the payout would be huge. However, that is incredibly unlikely to happen, and making those types of wagers are essentially throwing your money away.

11. Have accounts with multiple sportsbooks

Signing up for multiple sportsbooks is one of the least-talked-about strategies for new bettors. This will help you shop for best possible numbers and payouts. While each sportsbook is likely going to be very similar with where it sets its lines, oddsmakers could slightly differ from book to book. When you identify a bet you like, it makes a lot of sense to check and see which sportsbook is offering the best number for your side and the best payout before placing your bet.

Another reason to add multiple sportsbooks is so you can benefit from the bonuses and promotions each of the sites offers. Sportsbooks are doing everything they can to accumulate users right now, as they compete against one another, and that is good news for the sports bettors. One site might be offering a free bet to existing users, and another might have boosted odds on a game you like. It is important to take advantage of opportunities like that as often as you can.

Lastly, it is important to make sure the sportsbooks you are registering with are legal operations. There are plenty of illegal sites that are unregulated. Such sports betting sites could potentially delay paying out winnings or even never pay. Now that sports betting is legal in Arizona, you can take advantage of it with a regulated sports betting system.