Types of Sports Betting Wagers
Sports betting is the activity of predicting sports results and placing a wager on the outcome. The frequency of sports bet upon varies by culture, with the vast majority of bets being placed on association football, American football, basketball, baseball, hockey, track cycling, auto racing, mixed martial arts, and boxing at both the amateur and professional levels. Sports betting can also extend to non-athletic events, such as reality show contests and political elections, and non-human contests such as horse racing, greyhound racing, and illegal, underground cockfighting. It is not uncommon for sports betting websites to offer wagers for entertainment events such as the Grammy Awards, the Oscars, and the Emmy Awards.
Sports bettors place their wagers either legally, through a bookmaker/sportsbook, or illegally through privately run enterprises. The term “book” is a reference to the books used by wagebrokers to track wagers, payouts, and debts. Many legal sportsbooks are found online, operated over the Internet from jurisdictions separate from the clients they serve, usually to get around various gambling laws (such as the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 in the United States) in select markets, such as Las Vegas, Nevada, or on gambling cruises through self-serve kiosks. They take bets “up-front”, meaning the bettor must pay the sportsbook before placing the bet. Illegal bookies, due to the nature of their business, can operate anywhere but only require money from losing bettors and don’t require the wagered money up front, creating the possibility of debt to the bookie from the bettor. This creates a number of other criminal elements, thus furthering their illegality.
How Do Sports Betting Odds Work?
Effectively betting on sports – turning a profit – requires an understanding of the odds. You can’t win every bet you place. In fact, many great sports bettors lose around 40 percent of the games they play. They don’t have to win them all because over time, if they play the odds correctly, they’ll win.
To help you understand how betting odds work, we created a spreadsheet. The following is based on standard point spread odds. For this example, we’ll use a 2018 Week 17 game between the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings. We’re betting $110 on the Bears to cover.
Example: Understanding Point Spread Odds
||$10 per $100 wagered
In this example, we needed the Bears to win by at least seven points to win the bet. And if that happened, we turned a $100 profit. Fortunately, Chicago came through with a 24-10 victory to cover the spread.
The point spread line (-110) is in place to help the casino turn a profit. If the sportsbook offered even money on this type of wager, they wouldn’t turn a profit. Let’s say $500,000 is bet on the game, half on both sides, the casino would pay $250,000 in profits to one side and collect $250,000 from the other for a break-even game.
That’s where the juice comes into play. When the casino gives less than even-money odds, if they get even bets on both sides, they automatically come out ahead.
Understanding the Different Types of Sports Bets
We’ve already discussed the basics of betting the point spread, which is the most standard form of betting on football and basketball. When you bet the point spread, you don’t care if a team wins or loses, only that they cover the spread.
Betting Over / Under / Totals
Another common wager is the over/under. This one is also simple to understand and, like the point spread, typically has a -110 line, although occasionally you might find a more favorable line. With the over/under, also referred to as the totals, you are wagering on the combined score in the game.
If you bet the over, you need both teams to combine to score more points than the listed totals. If you bet the under, you need the teams to combine to score fewer points than the total. For example, if the over/under in the Chicago-Dallas game is 42.5 and you bet the over, if those two teams don’t combine to score at least 43 points, you lose.
The half point is often added to the over/under or point spread to prevent so many pushes. In the event the total score is a push, you get your bet back but don’t receive any profits.
Other Types of Wagers
We’ve covered a lot of different types of wagers here, and these are the ones that you REALLY need to know about. However, we haven’t even come close to covering every single type of sports wager in existence. There are a lot more, most of which are specific to one or more individual sports. It’s not remotely realistic to cover all of them here, but here are just a few examples.
- Grand Salami: This brilliantly named wager is a type of parlay. It’s specific to baseball and hockey, and it involves picking the over/under for the totals lines in all games played on any given day.
- Run Line: This baseball wager is essentially a point spread. The spread is always 1.5 runs, though, so it’s not necessarily a 50/50 proposition.
- Puck Line: This wager is ice hockey’s equivalent of the run line. Again, it’s basically just a point spread that is always set at 1.5 points.
- Proposition Bet: This is a fun type of bet, usually on something goofy or non-standard. For example, on Super Bowl Sunday, you’ll find hundreds of different bets such as which team will win the coin toss. Prop bets can also require physical demands to accomplish, such as proving to a friend you can hit a half court basketball shot.
- Money Line: When you bet on the moneyline, you’re betting on a team to win the game outright, as opposed to covering the spread. These can be profitable if you are good at predicting underdogs that can win outright. When you’re betting the moneyline on a heavy favorite, you won’t get favorable odds. You might have to risk $500 or more just to win $100. It’s usually not worth it in those cases.
- Futures Bet: Betting on futures is typically a long-term investment. This type of bet is self-explanatory. You are simply betting on a future outcome such as which team will win the league title or how many regular season games a certain team will win. If you’re good at predicting a season or series outcome, you can making a killing betting futures.
- Correct Score: Especially popular in soccer, this wager involves predicting the exact score that a game ends up with. It’s a hard wager to get right, but the potential payouts can be very attractive.
Betting on Parlays
It’s never easy to win a parlay, which is why the odds are so enticing and potentially profitable. Parlays require you to win multiple bets to receive a payout. They range from 2 to 20 teams/games, and you have to win them all to win the bet. The more teams/games you choose for your parlay, the more you can win.
Let’s take a look at a standard four-team football parlay card example, assuming 13-1 odds and a $100 bet (to payout $1,300).
- New Orleans Saints +2.5
- Atlanta Falcons -3.5
- Carolina Panthers +5.5
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers/Dallas Cowboys OVER 43.5
In this example, we bet on two underdogs and one favorite to cover the spread and one game to hit the over. If all four of those instances don’t happy, we lose. It’s as simple as that. Even the best sports bettors lose parlay bets more often than not. Each sportsbook is different, but here’s a look at the standard football parlay odds up to seven teams.
Example: Understanding Point Spread Odds
||$10 per $100 wagered
As you can see, the potential to win some serious cash is there if you bet the big parlays. A $100 bet on a seven-team parlay pays out $15,000. But there is a caveat…it’s really hard to win one of these. That’s why the sportsbooks offer such enticing odds.
Betting on Teasers
Teasers are similar to parlays except you get a few points each game you bet. They payout less than standard parlays because they are easier to win. Most sportsbooks offer 6, 6.5, and 7-point teasers. Like a parlay, you must win every bet to win the teaser. In a teaser bet, you’re moving the point spread in each game to a more favorable line.
Example: Betting on a 6.5-point Teaser
|Team and Point Spread
Betting on Pleasers
Pleasers are the reverse of a teaser and are much more difficult to win, but payout much more. Instead of getting points, you lose points, meaning if a team is a 6.5-point favorite, the line jumps to -12.5 in a six-point pleaser. See the following chart of standard odds on a six-point pleaser, assuming a $100 bet.
Example: Standard Odds on a 6-point Pleaser Bet
|Number of Teams
Reverse and “If” Bets
These bets are available at most sportsbooks but they aren’t popular because they can be a bit confusing. Still, you can make some money if you understand how to play them correctly. A reverse bet is a series of two “if” bets. You bet on two teams but only lose the full amount of the wager if both teams lose, part of the wager if one team loses, and receive a full payout if both teams win.
Full Cover Bets
A full cover bet is a wager that includes all possible multiple bets, including doubles, trebles and accumulators, for a given number of selections. There are different types of bets within a full cover bet. You don’t need every outcome to come through with you to win, but the more games you win, the higher the payout.
A handicap bet is a form of wager that tries to level the playing field, much like in golf. In handicap betting, the odds account for the difference in perceived strength of each opponent.
Now that you know the different types of bets, you’re ready to take the plunge and start winning some money!
Types of Horse/Greyhound Racing Bets and Wagers
For those that are new to betting on horse/greyhound races, the variety of bets that can be made can be confusing. For your first few bets, we recommend keeping the wagers small and simple. Once you have a grasp on the more basic betting options, then you can move onto some of the more complicated ones.
Win bets (also called Singles or Straight Bets) are the most popular and easiest bets to make on horse/greyhound racing. The punters job is to select the winning horse/dog in a race. If the horse/dog wins, you win. If it loses, you lose.
Place bets allow the punters selected horse/dog to finish in first or second place to make a winning bet. It doesn’t matter which position the dog finishes in, the payout is the same. If the selected horse/dog wins the race, the payout is lower than it is for a win bet.
In a show bet, the punters horse/dog can finish in first, second, or third place. All finishing positions pay the same. A lot of punters like to place show bets on long-shots who they think have a better chance to finish in the top 3 than the odds reflect.
A win-place bet is two wagers in one. The payout is based on the exact finish, so a win pays the win bet, and the place pays the place bet (better payouts). This bet requires two bets however, instead of one for a place bet.
Win, Place and Show Bets
A win, place and show bet (also called Across the Board) is three wagers in one. If the dog finishes in first, it pays the win bet. If it finishes second, it pays the place bet. If it finishes third, it pays the show bet. The difference between a win, place and show bet versus those individual bets is the higher payout amount. As mentioned, it also requires three bets.
Exacta bets (also called Perfectas) require the punter to select the top two in exact order. If you select #2 to win, and #6 to finish second, they must finish in that exact order. Any other finishing order results in a lost bet. For horse/greyhound racing, most betting sites have a minimum exacta bet of $2.
Quinella and Exacta Box Bets
Many punters confuse exacta boxes with quinellas (also called Reverse Forecast). They are similar in that both bets require the punter to select the top 2 horses/dogs in a race, in either order. If you selected #3 and #7, they can finish 1-2 in the race, in either order.
But, they differ in a couple of ways. First, a quinella is a single bet ($2 min. bet), whereas exacta boxes are two bets ($2 X 2 = $4 min. bet). Also, the payouts come from separate prize pools. So, even if you make a $4 quinella bet, the payouts will generally be different from a $4 exacta box.
Typically, a quinella will pay out better when the horse/dog with the lower odds wins, and the dog with greater odds takes second. The exacta box will usually pay better when the horse/dog with greater odds wins, and the horse/dog with lower odds finishes in second.
A trifecta (also called Treble or Treble Forecast) is six bets in one, making it a $6 – $12 bet at most bookmakers (depending on the minimum bet amount at the track). It is essentially the same as an exacta box, with the third place dog added to the ticket. The three dogs selected can finish in any order within the top 3 positions. So, they can finish 1-2-3, 1-3-2, 2-1-3, 2-3-1, 3-1-2, or 3-2-1. Trifectas aren’t easy to win, but they have large payouts.
In superfecta bets (also called Straight Superfectas), punters select 4+ horses/dogs to finish in exact order. With each horse/dog added to the bet, of course the odds and payouts go up. A superfecta has only one potential winning order, so it’s a single, $1 bet at most online bookmakers. While this is a very difficult bet to win, it gives punters a chance to take home a huge payday on a very small wager.
If you’ve read everything above this, then you probably know what a superfecta box is. It’s a wager where 4 horses/dogs are selected to finish in the top four spots – in any order. There are 24 possible finishing orders that could result in a win, making this 24 bets. Most betting sites accept $1 bets on superfecta boxes, giving it a total cost of $24. Some betting sites accept superfecta boxes for up to 6 horses/dogs.
Daily Double Betting
A daily double is essentially an accumulator where punters select the winners of two races in a row. Most online bookmakers offer an early daily double, which is based on the first two races of the day. Many books also offer daily doubles for the final two races of the day, and some offer them for two races in the middle of the day, or rolling daily doubles where the punter selects his own back-to-back races.
Pick 3 bets are wagers where the punter has to select the winner of three races in a row. Most betting sites offer pick 3 bets on the first 3 races of the day, and the final 3 races as well. Some bookmakers also offer pick 3 bets during the middle of the day. The odds for pick 3 bets attract a lot of betting action, but once again, they’re very difficult to win.
A pick 6 is the same as a pick 3, but for the first six races of the day. The prize pools are generally huge, giving bettors a chance to win a massive amount of money. The problem is, you may never hit one in your life, throwing away a lot of money along the way. This is especially true in horse/greyhound racing, where predictability is very low.