How to bet on sports: The most popular bet types

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There are a number of popular ways to bet on sports. The most widely-used betting markets are known as:

  • Point Spread
  • Moneyline Bets
  • Over-Under

For extra variety (though these bets are much harder to win) you can bet with parlay betting. That is taking two or more of the previous bet types and combining them into one bet slip.

Spread Or Point Spread Betting

Point spread betting (also known as the betting line) is the most popular bet type in American sports.

What is point spread betting?  Point spread betting is essentially handicap betting. One team gives a points handicap while the opponent takes a point handicap. Let’s consider an example.

Let’s say the New York Jets are meeting the Cleveland Browns in an upcoming NFL game. The bookmakers list the point spread market in the following manner:

  • New York Jets -4.5
  • Cleveland Browns +4.5

What does this mean? In this example, the Jets are listed as 4.5 point favorites while the Browns are listed as 4.5 point underdogs.

The bookmakers believe there is a 50% chance that the game will end with the Jets winning by over 4.5 points (i.e 5 points or more) and a 50% chance the game will end with either the Browns winning or the Jets winning by fewer than 4.5 points (4 points or fewer).

If we bet on the Jets -4.5 points, the Jets must win by over 4.5 points. If they do, our bet is a winner.

If we bet on the Browns +4.5 points, the Browns must win the game or the Jets win by under 4.5 points. If either of these happens, our bet is a winner.

A simple way to calculate whether our point spread bet was a winner is to subtract the handicap if the team we bet on were the favorites, or add the handicap if the team we bet on were the underdogs.

For example, let’s say we bet on the Jets -4.5 points. And let’s say the final score is:

  • New York Jets 24
  • Cleveland Browns 17

In this scenario, is our bet on the Jets -4.5 points a winner? Simply subtract the handicap of 4.5 points from the Jets score. In this scenario, the adjusted score would be:

  • New York Jets 19.5
  • Cleveland Browns 17

After subtracting the 4.5 point spread handicap from the Jets score, they still “win” the game. In this scenario, our bet on the Jets -4.5 points is a winner.

Let’s say we bet on the Browns +4.5 points. And let’s say the final score is:

  • New York Jets 17
  • Cleveland Browns 14

In this scenario, is our bet on the Browns +4.5 points a winner? Simply add the handicap of 4.5 points to the Browns score. In this scenario, the adjusted scored would be:

  • New York Jets 17
  • Cleveland 18.5

After adding the 4.5 point spread to the Browns score, they “win” the game. In this scenario, our bet on the Browns +4.5 points is a winner.

Please note that spread bets include overtime for NFL, NBA, and NHL games and extra innings for MLB games.

Also note that if you bet on a round number, for example, +3 points, and the final margin lands on 3 points, this is known as a “push” and your bet stake will be refunded.

best types of sports bets

Moneyline Bets

Moneyline bets are the most traditional and the most straightforward of all bet types. A moneyline bet is betting on who will win the game. It’s that simple.

Let’s say the Philadelphia 76ers are facing the Chicago Bulls in an upcoming NBA game. The odds for the game are listed as:

  • Philadelphia 76ers -150
  • Chicago Bulls +130

If we bet on Philadelphia at odds of -150, we are betting $150 to win $100. If Philadelphia wins the game, we win our bet. If we bet on Chicago at odds of +130, we are betting $100 to win $130. If Chicago wins the game, we win our bet.

Also note that in most instances, moneyline odds include overtime for NFL, NBA and NHL and extra innings for MLB games.

Over-Under Bets

Over-Under betting is another popular bet type. Over-Under betting (also known as betting the total) is betting on whether the total points in a given game will end over or under a certain number of points.

Let’s consider an example. Let’s say the Seattle Seahawks are facing the Arizona Cardinals in an upcoming NFL game. The points total is listed as:

  • Over 45.5 points
  • Under 45.5 points

If we bet on the Over, the game must end with over 45.5 points (46 points or more). If we bet on the Under, the game must end with under 45.5 points (45 points or less).

Let’s say the final score of the game is:

  • Seattle Seahawks 28
  • Arizona Cardinals 23

The total number of points scored is 51 points. If we bet over 45.5 points, our bet would be a winner. If we bet under 45.5 points, our bet is a loser.

Please note that Over-Under bets include overtime for NFL, NBA, NHL and extra innings for MLB.

Also note that if you bet on a round number without a half point, for example, 48 points, and the total ends on 48 points, this is known as a “push” and your bet stake will be refunded.

How to bet on sports: The most popular bet types
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