Sports Betting Explained

How Does Sports Betting Work? Sports Betting Basics

Sports betting is one of the earliest and most popular pastimes for people worldwide. People have gambled over everything for centuries. Whether it was a bet between friends or a wager on the races, it’s a well-known fact that we can’t refuse to gamble. Bookies have emerged in the XX century and have been quite popular for decades until the sports betting industry moved online.

Have you ever wondered how sports betting works? What’s a moneyline, a round-robin bet or a betting line? Why do odds appear in different formats? What are favourites and underdogs? We have the answers to these questions and many more in the guide below.

What Is Sports Betting?

The simplest way we can explain sports betting to novices is an activity that lets you predict sports results by wagering on one outcome or another. That’s the most accessible sports betting definition, and we believe it’s on point.

However, there’s more to sports betting than meets the eye. In the old days, there were only a few bet types. Sports wagering has taken on a new shape, with the industry reorganizing over the past century and moving online in the last few decades.

Betting on sports events has been fun and popular for a long time. This activity is typically regulated and open to the public around the world, although there are still many countries that are against it.

If you’ve always wanted to learn more about how sports betting works but didn’t know where to start, you’re at the right place.

Favorites & Underdogs

Let’s start with a few critical concepts without which sports betting wouldn’t work. There’s a favourite and an underdog in every match between 2 players or teams. The terminology is simple and clarifies which side has the upper hand. Favourites will always have shorter odds than underdogs, returning almost no value.

Of course, your chances of getting an underdog win right aren’t great. It is a risky investment, but it sometimes passes. Underdogs offer much better odds, especially at giant bookies such as William Hill and Ladbrokes.

These 2 terms are sports betting basics you must understand. Luckily, they’re also the simplest, so choosing one or the other is a crucial idea regardless of whether you’re betting on soccer, tennis, American football, or basketball.

What Types of Bets Are There?

Now that we’ve explained favourites and underdogs, it’s time to give you the lowdown on the different types of bets. The sports betting industry has a line on more than just winner picks. You can wager in innovative markets invented recently and fan-favourites that have brought many bettors joy over the years.

Aside from 1×2 wagering, our sports betting tutorial will explain all the other essential markets you should know about.


Moneyline is a type of odds that is widely accepted as a bet. American odds show the favourite and underdog with a minus (-) and plus (+) sign, respectively. These show the money you need to risk or the potential $100 win. Let’s put that into perspective with an NBA bet:

  • Lakers: -500
  • Pistons: +700

In this case, the Lakers are an obvious favourite. You need to bet $500 to win $100 in return if you wager on the Lakers, who have a much higher winning probability in this moneyline. On the other hand, punters will need to risk $100 to win $700 by betting on the Pistons potentially.

Point Spreads

Points spreads are special bets that allow you to wager on the margin of victory. Unlike moneyline, this bet doesn’t pick a winner. Instead, you’re betting on a favourite winning by a certain margin or the underdog to win by surprise or not lose by a set number of points.

This bet is highly popular in the USA, especially in NBA, NFL, and NHL matches.


You don’t have to be an expert in how betting works to understand that futures are a wager on a future event. The result of this bet will be provided sometimes in the future, unlike moneyline bets placed today.

Futures are just as popular as any other bet type as they tend to have high odds. Also known as outrights, they give you a chance to wager on (for example) who wins the NBA league this season.

Over/Under (Totals)

Once you learn the sports betting basics, you will never stick to moneyline wagers only. Totals are a great market that’s fun to try, allowing you to bet on the total amount of points both teams will combine to score in a game.

Just like point spreads, it doesn’t rely on a winner. Instead, you’ll be putting your money over or under a totals score set by the bookie. If you’ve never tried totals betting before, it is available in many sports and can be profitable if you know your stats.


Parlays are bets placed on multiple outcomes. Usually, these wagers (usually 2 or more) are tied on a single bet slip, with their odds multiplied by your bet. Parlays can pay dreamy sums, but only if you win them all. Even if one loses on your slip, you lose the whole bet.

They are pretty adventurous and rewarding wagers, but luck plays a significant factor in winning parlays.

Props, Teasers, and Pleasers

The official definition for a prop bet is a bet that doesn’t rely on the game’s outcome but on an individual player or event. Prop bets are prevalent during significant sports events such as the Super Bowl. They can also be quite lucrative. Almost any bet, except moneyline, point spread, or totals, is sometimes considered a prop wager.

Teasers are similar to parlays, but you can adjust the lines for each of the best this time. Just like parlays, each of your selections must win for your bet to win.

Pleasers are the opposite of teasers. With this wager, the lines are moved in the bookmaker’s favour, so your slip will be harder to win. The good news is that the payouts are enormous if you manage to get everything right.

What Types of Odds Are There?

When betting online, you’ll first notice that bookies display odds differently. Of course, the value is the same. To learn more about online sports betting and how it works, you must first learn about American, decimal, and fractional odds.

American Odds

This type of odds is centred around winning or risking $100. Favourites are always displayed with a minus sign in front of the odds. They indicate the money you need to wager to win $100. For example, if the Lakers are -400 in a match, you’ll win $100 for every $400 you wager.

It’s the complete opposite with underdogs. They are represented by a plus sign and show how much you can win on a $100 bet. For example, if you bet on an underdog with odds of +700, you’ll turn a $700 profit on a wager of $100.

American odds are also known as moneyline and are most popular at US online betting sites.

Decimal Odds

Decimal odds are the most widespread odds type and for a reason. They’re the easiest to calculate profits. Read any guide on how sports betting works; most examples will be in decimal odds. Simply put, they represent the amount you win on a wager of $1. For instance, if the odds are 2.00 and you bet $10, you get $20 in return.

The decimal odds are common at European online sportsbooks and the preferred type of odds for new bettors.

Fractional Odds

Fractional odds are the most complicated odds type at first glance, although they’re easy to understand when you get the basics. They represent the amount won (profit) ratio to the stake. For example, odds of 3/1 on a football match mean you’re getting 3 units for a single unit wagered. In simpler terms, you’re getting $3 for every $1 you wager, considering the betting unit is $1.

This odds type is typical for UK bookies like William Hill or Ladbrokes. The good news is that modern bookmakers such as DraftKings or Bovada have a simple odds switcher that allows you to pick the preferred type.

Whether you’re a fan of fractional, American, or decimal odds, a simple click of a button will let you switch them at ease.

How Does Live Sports Betting Work?

Now that you know how online sports betting works, it’s time to introduce you to live betting. In the past, punters at gambling shops could only bet on fixed odds. The best could only be placed before the event begins. Once it does, every wager is off-limits until the match is finished. Well, not anymore. The online betting industry has introduced live betting, which has been a dream of millions of punters around the world.

In the simplest terms, live online sports betting gives you a chance to wager on live events, such as in a football match that’s currently underway. It has revolutionized the betting industry as we know it. You can wager on a wide range of new markets with live bets, including next corner, next team to score, player to score, or next yellow or red card. That’s precisely why it’s so exciting.

Of course, the odds differ from those you get before the match. Plus, live betting isn’t for beginners. You’re much more likely to lose your money on it, but you also stand to win substantial sums if you can predict who scores next. Those odds often go sky-high, especially when a team goes behind.

Live betting platforms are full of second-to-second stats that give punters a better idea of what might happen next in a match. Many bookmakers also include live streams in the mix, allowing you to watch the game and the pendulum swing.

On top of it all, features such as Cash Out that allow you to get a portion of your money out before you lose it make live betting even more thrilling than it already is.

Where to Bet on Sports?

Betting on sports online can be done at hundreds of excellent bookies. Our team of experts strongly recommends going with an established sportsbook that covers the sports betting basics. Bookies such as William Hill, DraftKings, Bovada, Betway, 22bet, and Ladbrokes are all perfect examples. These are among the top bookies on the Internet in 2024, packed with great markets and excellent odds in tow.

Of course, you can also go with new betting sites. We’d say go for those with the best odds on your favourite sports. For example, if you’re an NFL fan, shop to find the best American football odds. It’s the same with tennis, basketball, and any other sport.

Make sure your bookie of choice has plenty of promotions, too, and that it’s appropriately licensed and regulated.

Bet Responsibly

When betting on sports online, you have to mind to gamble responsibly. It’s easy to get carried away by a few winning slips, risking more money to win more. That’s not how sports betting works. Just because you’re in a winning row doesn’t mean luck will always smile on you. Make sure to keep your bankroll in check and get help by contacting customer support if you think you need it.

Online gambling is very dangerous if kept unchecked. Plus, it’s highly addictive, too, so it can lead you down a road where there’s no coming back. Either bet responsibly or look for help before that happens.

Final Words

Sports betting is, hands down, one of the favourite pastimes of people worldwide. Since the industry focused online, the whole concept of sports betting changed radically for the better, of course. We now have access to thousands of markets with better odds, and it’s easier than ever to bet from home or on the go.

We hope that our guide explains how sports gambling works online in 2024. If you want to join a sports betting site, read it first. It’ll clear a few misconceptions and tell you everything you need to know to become a better punter.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How does sports betting work in football?
    Football betting is one of the most common types of betting online. The most typical wagers placed on football matches are moneyline or 1×2. With these bets, you can predict the winner of a game. However, football betting goes deeper than that, allowing you to bet on numerous aspects of the game, including live betting markets.
  • What does +4.5 mean in sports betting?
    +4.5 is a point spread that can be applied to nearly any event. By gambling on a point spread of +4.5, your selection should either win the game or not lose by more than 4.5 points.
  • What does +110 mean in betting?
    It is an example of moneyline betting. The +110 indicates that you will win $110 by wagering $100, equaling a total of $210.
  • How to cancel a bet?
    While the steps for canceling a bet differ based on the bookmaker, some steps common across bookies include: 1) Log in to your account on the bookmaker’s website or app. 2) Locate the bet you want to cancel in your bet slip or history. 3) Look for an option to cancel the bet, represented by an “X” symbol or a “Cancel” button. 4) Confirm the cancellation by following any prompts or instructions provided by the bookmaker. 5) Alternatively, contact the bookmaker’s customer care and inform them of your desire to cancel a bet while providing the bet’s details, like the betting code.
  • Still have questions?
    Ask our experts
Sergio E
CEO & Founder

Sergio is our CEO and betting expert. He is a big football fan. Sergio is the guy that runs it all and the one who got the BetZillion idea. Sergio’s favourite sports include football, handball, futsal, American football, and boxing.

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