How Sports Betting Works – Explained

SPORTS BETTING Updated on: 5 September 2018

If you are reading this, you have probably just heard of sports betting, or at least thought it’s time you found out what this gambling industry is all about. And that’s what I am here for today – explaining how sports betting works. By the time you are done reading this, you should have a pretty good idea of how sports bets work, and know what to look for as a sports bettor if at all you aspire to be one.

1. How to Bet on Sports

When two teams are going against each other, you will often find yourself having the opportunity to bet on more possibilities than just the team you think will win the match. This is perfectly normal, but it tends to take many beginners by surprise. You could even find that you could bet on more than a hundred different possibilities with just a single match.

For instance, you could bet on the winner, the minimum number of scores, the actual number of scores, how the teams will fare by the end of the a given period, what players will score, how many fouls will be witnessed during the game, and so forth. So, bettors have all these options as they place their bets. But for the sake of simplicity, today we are going to focus on the three major event outcomes in sports: the first team winning (usually the home team), a draw, or even a win by the second team (typically the visiting team).

Obviously, there are sports where there are no draws because they go into overtime when a draw is achieved at the close of the regulation time. Then there are sports like tennis whose inherent design precludes the possibility of a draw.

A Typical Sports Betting Scenario

To bet on the first team, you will have to pick option “1”, a draw is represented by an “X”, while the second team is represented by a “2” on the betting ticket. These bet choices are pretty straight forward since each number is usually placed along the team it represents. Anyway, let’s say you think the first team will win the match.

To make this bet, you will only need to choose option “1” and go through a few confirmation prompts until the sportsbook tells you that you have successfully placed your bet. Still, you should see your bankroll reduce by the amount of money you have placed on that particular bet. If you win the bet, the money you used to bet, as well as the winnings, will be credited into your account.

But therein lies an important issue, doesn’t there? How much money do you get when you are right? At the risk of sounding too simplistic, I can tell you that payments are made depending on the odds the sportsbook gave you for that outcome when you were placing your bet. Other people call the odds quotas.

How are the Odds for Different Sports Teams Determined?

These odds depend on the sportsbook’s determination of who is more likely to win. Therefore, if a world-famous team is going against an obscure team with a persistent losing record, then the much stronger team will have better chances of winning. Therefore, the bookmaker’s odds will be much lower for such a team.

For instance, the stronger team could have odds of 1.4, while the other team could have been allocated odds of 5.4. This means that if you stake $10 on the first team, you would end up with $14 if you win, but if you stake the same $10 on the second team, then you would end up with $54 if you win.

As you can see, the amount of money you bet will be multiplied by the odds of the outcome you have chosen. In the above scenarios, if the bet amount was to be raised to $100, you would end up with payouts of $140 and $540 respectively.

You should also note that the less likely outcome has better potential payouts; and that’s no coincidence. The sportsbooks know that bettors need better incentive to bet on teams that are more likely to lose, which is why they will offer better odds for such teams to encourage you take that chance. But why would a betting site have a vested interest in what team you bet on? In a word, keeping its books balanced.

You see, sportsbooks don’t really care who wins or loses, they just need to balance their accounts so that at the end of the day, the inherent house edge on each of the odds they offer brings them a profit. That means that regardless of which team wins, the sport betting company expects to win.

How the Sportsbook House Edge Works

But how do the sportsbooks implement this house edge? Consider this, if you were to bet on every possibility so that you had at least one chance of winning, you would not get all your money back if you won.

Let’s use an example. We are going to assume that two teams are equally matched, and the chances of their match ending in a draw are just as good as their individual chances of winning. This is obviously a special circumstance but it happens.

Anyway, lets say the odds for the first team will be 2.85, and the odds for “X” are 2.85, and the odds for “2” are also 2.85 in this hypothetical scenario. This means the betting site has a 5% house edge. But why?

Because if you bet $100 on each possibility, and the match ends in a draw or whatever other outcome, you will lose two of your bets and win with one of the outcomes; and that will get you a payout of $285. That means that for your $300 investment, you have only managed to get back $285; which would mean you would have lost 5% of your investment (the house edge).

A Commonly Misunderstood Thing About Sports Betting Odds

Many new sports bettors immediately assume that the odds being offered are very accurate representations of the teams involved in the competition. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, at first, the bookmakers will do research on the team and gauge their winning potential before assigning them certain odds, but as the money pours in from the bettors, they will change the odds, a practice also called moving the line.

This is because, as I mentioned earlier, the sportsbooks are interested in ensuring that there is balance in the amount of money flowing into each betting possibility so that however the event is resulted, they will still finish ahead; all thanks to the inherent house edge they have put into the odds. This is why as you bet on sports, you will also need to do further research on the teams yourself.

To Sum Up…

And that’s pretty much it. That is how sports bets work, and how the odds are determined by the sportsbooks. But that is not the whole story. You will also need to know how to open an account with an online sportsbook and make your deposit before you can use the knowledge above to make your bets.

All these issues are covered in the guides I have posted here. There are some strategy guides too; and they have all the information you need to place bets more successfully. So, if you are to dip your toe in this industry, I highly recommend that you take the time to look at these articles as well. Otherwise, all the best in your betting!