How Does Online Sports Betting Work?

2 min

Sports betting has emerged from the shadows into a mainstream form of gambling. The American culture, which once held a strong anti-gambling stigma, opened the door to multi-million-dollar sportsbook operations. Sports betting is now legal in many states, and a ton of sports fans are looking for ways to get into the betting market. If you’re unfamiliar with the world of sports betting, where do you start? There are a few basics to know before placing a bet.

Where to Place a Bet

The first step to placing an online sports bet is deciding on a sportsbook. There are several ways to choose a site, but many beginners will do so based on the quality of promotions and a guarantee that their bets are safe. Most sportsbooks offer some sort of bonus code for new user sign-ups. DraftKings and FanDuel offer risk-free betting for your first wager, allowing you to get your money back if you lose. Many online sportsbooks also offer state-specific codes. For example, Caesar’s sportsbook New York promo code gets you $300 of free bets and deposit matching. A quick google search of top sportsbooks available in your state will give you the information you need to get started.

How to Bet on Sports

Favorites and Underdogs

Oddsmakers at each sportsbook release betting lines on games before the matchup. They first decide which team is the favorite and which is the underdog. As the terminology implies, the favorite is the expected winner and gets a minus sign before their odds rating. The underdog is expected to lose and gets a plus sign. If you’re an NCAA fan and you’re just getting started on your betting journey, you might feel overwhelmed and confused – perhaps you have no clue where to get started. There’s no need to worry, though. You can check out Doc’s basketball predictions in order to make informed bets and start making money.

Point Spreads

There are two primary ways to place bets on the favorite or the underdog. One is the point spread; the other is the margin of victory. Let’s say you’re betting on an NBA game between the New York Knicks and the Chicago Bulls, and the Knicks are listed as 6-point favorites. If you bet on the Knicks, they have to win the game by 7 points or more for your bet to win. In betting terms, this is “covering” the spread. If the Knicks win by exactly 6 points, you “push” and get your money back. If the Knicks win by less than 6 points or lose, you lose your bet.

If you choose to bet on the Chicago Bulls in this particular game and bet “plus the points,” the Bulls need to either win the game or lose by 5 points or less for you to cover your bet.

Oddsmakers use point spreads in all sports, but you will see them most often in high-scoring sports like basketball or football.


The moneyline is the second way to bet on a favorite or underdog. A bet on the moneyline is a bet on the winning or losing team, with the payout calculated by the American odds. There is more risk in betting on the favorite because they are expected to win. You need to have a penchant for high-risk activities to place a moneyline bet on a favorite.

Moneylines are often used in lower-scoring sports like hockey, baseball, and soccer.


Sportsbooks post totals for the number of points scored within a game. Over/under bets wager on whether the game will go over or under this total.


Knowing the basics of how online sports betting works will help you learn how and where to place bets on live sports. Most sportsbooks have how-to guides and instructions for beginners, so you can improve your betting skills. Like most things, practice makes perfect, so it might take a few times to perfect your system. The signup bonus offers and risk-free bets from many online sportsbooks can help you do this.

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