How To Bet On Sports

Online Sports Betting 101

If you’ve considered sports betting in the past, but shied away due to how seemingly complicated it was, then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, Sports Betting 101, we cover point spreads, totals, vig and the moneyline in easy to understand layman terms ideal for someone brand new to betting on sports. 

After reading this you’ll have enough knowledge about “how to bet on sports” to get started at an online bookmaker, such as, and also enough to understand and to follow along with the more advanced betting strategies we cover on other pages of this website.

A good follow-on to this article is why most sports bettors lose. But for now, here are the main sections to this how to bet on sports online guide:

  1. Straight wagers
  2. Total betting
  3. Vig / Juice
  4. Moneyline bets

We’ll go ahead and get started with the most common form of betting “straight wagers”.

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1) Straight wagers.

While it’s possible in most sports to bet only on who will win the game with no point spread involved, this is not the most common way sports are bet due to the steep odds involved.

In order to create a true 50/50 wager, or close to it at least, most sports such as football and basketball are bet on with a point spread. 

Straight wager example.

If you bet the Patriots -7 over the Jets, they are the favorite laying seven points. Once the game has been decided, subtract 7 points from the Patriots score and see if they have more points than the Jets. If they do your bet is a win, if not it is a loss, unless the scores are the same in which case it is a tie.

The same concept applies to betting the other side but reversed. If you bet on Jets +7 at the end of game add 7 points to the Jet score and determine if your bet is a win, loss or a tie. This method of betting is known as a straight bet, or straight wager.

Term to understand: Against the Spread (ATS)

If you find yourself in a bar and someone is saying this team is great against the spread, he’s saying the team does well for bettors.

For example, in 2009 despite the Cleveland Browns only having five wins that season, against the spread they had an impressive 10 win season, so fans betting on them did quite well. Also, its common that writers and forum posters will abbreviate this using “ATS” as short for “against the spread”.

2) Total betting.

A very common bet in all major sports, be it football, basketball, baseball, hockey or soccer, is total betting. A bookmaker will generally post odds for a game like this:

  • Pats -7 (41)
  • Jets +7

The number you see next to the Pats, in this case 41, is the posted total. You're betting options on the total are simply “over the posted total” or “under the posted total”.

Term to understand: Hook (half point)

Many times in sports betting, point spreads and posted totals use half points, which are often referred to as a hook.  Obviously, half points can't be scored in any sports event; these are simply used so the underdog wins in games that would otherwise be a push (tie).

For example, Jets +7.5 is significantly better than Jets +7, as 7 is a common margin of victory in NFL and here if the game ends at 7 rather than being a push, because you had the hook it is a win.

3) Vig / Juice.

Because point spread, and total bets, are generally 50/50 propositions most bookmakers, whether that’s an online betting site, a Las Vegas sportsbook, or a local bookie, will charge bettors a vig, also referred to as juice.

The "juice" is their fee for offering their service that lets you bet on either side. Unless otherwise expressed, all games are bet at -110 pricing. This means for ever $1.00 you’re attempting to win you’ll need to risk $1.10.

Term to understand: Shaded line

As we mentioned above, unless otherwise stated the point spread and total bets are made at -110 pricing. In some cases though a bet is not quite a 50/50 proposition on a given spread, and in that case you might see something like Jets +7 -105, Patriots -7 -115.

The vig on this bet is still the same; what’s happened though is the sports betting line has been shaded. Jets bettors will need to risk $1.05 for each dollar they want to win, and Patriot bettors will need to risk $1.15 for each $1.00 they are attempting to win.

4) Moneyline bets.

The final way to bet on sports is a straight up wager on who will win which is called a moneyline bet. While hockey and baseball do offer alternate run lines and puck lines, for the most part moneyline wagers are the standard way those two sports are bet.

In football betting and basketball betting, moneyline bets are  an alternative option to the more popular point spread bet. Once again these wagers are simply on who will win the game straight up, with no point spread involved.

Odds on the money line will look something like this: Patriots -240 / Jets +210

Betting favorites on the moneyline.

Favorites are listed with a price in the minus (-) format, which represents the exact amount a player would need to risk to win $100. For example the Patriots -240 a bettor would need to risk $240 to win $100. This is fairly easy when betting with the $100 base, but for betting with different amounts, you'll need to know the basic math involved.

The first step is to add a decimal after the first digit of the bets price: meaning -240 becomes 2.40. To see how much you’d be paid on a certain amount risked, divide that number by the decimal spread.

For example risking $100 on Patriots -240 the math would be 100/2.4 which equals risk $100 to win $41.66.

Betting underdogs on the moneyline.

Underdogs are listed at a plus (+) price, which represents the exact amount a player would win if they risked $100. For example, with Jets +210 a bettor risking $100 would win $210.00 if the Jets win. When betting another amount, once again change the bets price to a decimal (+210 becomes 2.10).

To see what the payout would be on any stake, multiple the stake by the decimal number. For example you risk $25 on the Jets +210, the math would be 25x2.10 which equals risk $25 to win $52.50.

Betting on sports online.

Now that you know how to bet on sports, you're probably ready to get started. My recommended online betting site for doing so is When you join using the bonus code for FRESH you'll be welcomed with a 15% initial deposit bonus of up to $500 free.

Also, the good news is Bookmaker's website with its advanced interface well suits new bettors, as after entering a bet you'll be taken to a confirmation screen that details exactly what you are risking and what your payout will be if you win.

If the screen looks as you expected, you can click the confirm button; if something isn't as you expected, simply click the cancel button and return here to this “how to bet on sports” guide to see if you can source what went wrong.

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