Sports Betting 101
Welcome to Sports Betting 101 from Denver Sports Betting, Colorado’s premier sports betting media outlet. This sports betting guide is designed to break down the basics of sports betting to ensure you are educated before you get some skin in the game. If you have never bet on sports before, it can appear a bit complex from the outside looking in.That said, have no fear because Denver Sports Betting is here to help. Sports betting is100% legal in Colorado and it’s time for sports fans to get in on the action.
Come learn about the betting world with our guide, then check out all of our game previews, articles and videos curated by Colorado sports fans, for Colorado sports fans.Use this information to your advantage and happy betting!
Action: Any sort of bet
Backdoor Cover: Usually occurs when an underdog is losing and not covering for the majority of the game and ends up covering at the tail end of the game.
Bad Beat: When something obscure occurs at the tail end of the game to make a bet lose. Typically, a bad beat only occurs when there was a clear winning side until the tail end of the game.
Bankroll: The funds available to gamble with.
Bookmaker: The person or people that create the lines and odds.
Bookie: Someone who accepts bets.
Buying Points: Paying additional juice to add points in the bettor’s favor.
Chalk: The public side of the bet (especially when it’s significantly backed by the public).
Closing Line: The line or spread of the game directly before it starts.
Consensus: The side of the bet the majority of the public is on.
Contrarian: The opposite side of what the public is on.
Cover: The side of the bet that wins.
Edge: A spot where there is an advantage.
Even Money: Typically when a bet is +100. When the risk amount is the same as the win amount.
Exotic: A bet besides the typical spread, Moneyline or game total bets.
Favorite: The side of the bet in which the odds are in its favor.
Futures: A bet on a future outcome, typically not one game. These bets are typically on the outcome of an entire season.
Handicapper: A professional bettor that predicts the outcome of an event.
Handle: The amount of money a sportsbook takes on a particular event or bet.
Hedge: Placing a bet on an opposite outcome from what a bettor already has money on in order to limit the risk.
Hook: A point or half-point on a point spread. It is typically bought in football in order to get below a possession or score (i.e. buying the half point to move a line from +7.5 to +7).
In-play betting: The same thing as live betting. Betting on a game that is already in-play.
Juice: Another term for “vig”, the money the sportsbook will take on a wager. Refer to understanding the juice for more explanation.
Laying points: When a bettor takes the favorite on a point spread. Sometimes referred to as giving up points.
Line: Odds or point spread.
Laying Points: Another way to say betting the favorite. Laying or “giving” points. “I’m laying seven points with the Packers -7.”
Limit: Max amount for a wager.
Lock: When you feel a bet is a sure thing. When you are willing to bet on all things good and holy that a bet will hit, it’s called a lock. Don’t be shocked when it doesn’t hit tho.
Long shot: A massive betting underdog.
Moneyline: The odds or price of betting an event straight up, without a point spread. Picking a winner straight-up. The (-) always represents the favorite and the (+) the underdog.
Oddsmaker: The person who creates and sets odds/lines for an event.
Off the Board: When a book takes an event down and is not taking action. This typically happens due to injury or some set of circumstances that requires the oddsmakers to rework their lines.
Opening Line: The first line on a game.
Over/Under: A type of bet where bettors bet over or under a fixed amount of production. Over/Under bets are most common for game totals, team totals and player prop bets.
Parlay: A process of stringing together multiple bets on one betting slip in order to generate better odds and higher payouts. These are high-risk, high-reward bets, and require perfection across the slip in order to cash.
Pick’em: When the spread is 0. The oddsmakers view these teams as even, so you pick a side to win straight up.
Point Spread: A point spread is a figure used by handicappers to essentially determine a margin of victory for people to bet on. When you are betting against the spread, the team you are betting on must “cover the spread” in order for your bet to cash. CLick here for more.
Prop Bet (or Proposition Bet): A wager made that does not have to do with the final outcome of the game. Examples: over/under receiving yards for players, over/under shots on goal for a hockey player, over/under innings pitched for a pitcher, over/under rebounds for a guard. These bets are typically fun and are similar to that of fantasy sports. In the big game, there are fun prop bets such as over/under time for the National Anthem and what the color gatorade will be poured on the winning coach.
Public: Where a majority of the money is heading on a specific wager.
Puck Line: The hockey version of a point spread, typically fixed at -1.5 and +1.5.
Push: A tie.
Run Line: Baseball’s version of the point spread.
Sharp: A professional sports bettor who knows what they are doing.
Square: A casual, noob sports bettor.
Sportsbook: The place where you place your bets. Both online and retail locations.
Straight Bet: A bet on a single event outcome.
Take the Points: Betting the underdog.
Teaser: A safer version of a parlay that allows bettors to add protection to spread bets, although odds tend to decrease dramatically.
Total: The combined number of points, runs, or goals from a sporting contest.
Underdog: The opponent to the favorite in a sporting event. It typically comes as a surprise when an underdog defeats a favorite.
Unit: The standard wagering amount used by a bettor looking to profit long term. Pro and sharp bettors bet by the unit size, meaning they bet the same amount across the board, or bet in the same increments. A unit is typically around 20% of a bettors bankroll. So if you deposit $100 into a book, you could, hypothetically, develop a unit size of $20 meaning you only bet in increments of $20. So $20 would be the equivalent of one unit. Say you REALLY like a team and you want to bet three units on them, that would mean you bet $60 on that particular wager. Everybody’s bankroll and unit size will be different. Develop your own unit size by coming up with a number that you are comfortable risking on a regular basis. By betting by the unit size, you will be able to manage your winnings, and also, minimize your losses.
Vig: Another term for the juice. Click here to read more.
Wager: A bet.
Wise Guy: Typically someone with a reputation in the sports betting world. Could be sharps. Could be oddsmakers. Wise guys are known figures in the betting world.
This is one of the most confusing parts about getting into sports gambling. Don’t worry, you are not alone. And once you get the hang of it, it becomes easy.
So you’re going to place a bet, you already have an understanding about what the spread means, but there is a number that looks like -110 right next to it. What does that mean? That is going to be the cost of your bought or what we call it, ‘the juice’. You will also sometimes hear it referred to as the ‘vig’, which is short for vigorish.
These numbers come into play every time you place a bet, whether it is a spread, Moneyline or future.
A +100 bet is even money. That means, a $100 bet will win you $100.
Anytime you see a minus (-), that means you will have to pay more to earn back your dollar. If it is -110, then you have to risk $110 to win $100. Or if you are taking a Moneyline favorite and it is -200, then you have to risk $200 to win $100. And so on.
When it is minus, you are either taking a favorite or you are giving up the commission for the sports book. That is why spreads are typically -110 (in Colorado) on both sides, because 10% is going back to the sportsbooks.
When it is plus (+), you are taking an underdog. This one is typically easier to understand. These are the odds of your bet. If it is +200 then risking $100 will win you $200. Or, as horse players know it, the bet has 2/1 odds.
+150 means a $100 bet will win you +150. And so on.
It may look complicated right now. But once you get that hang of it, it’ll be like second nature. And luckily, all of the sportsbooks do the math for you.
DO NOT CHASE
This is one of the first rules for a beginner in sports betting. We are all humans. There is something innate about getting knocked down and immediately wanting to get up again. The best piece of advice I can give to a newbie is do not chase. This is a brutal hobby, there will be moments where you feel on top of the world and moments where it will feel like it’s your lowest point. The easiest way to fall into a deeper hole, is by betting with emotion. Sometimes you have to take your lumps and bruises and find an edge in the next game. You will have the urge to continue to live bet or bet on a game where you have zero knowledge about the two teams. DON’T DO IT.
DO NOT BET BLINDLY
This goes along with the first one. If you are going to be spending your hard earned money to try and earn an extra dollar, spend it wisely. Do some research. We at Denver Sports Betting, put up articles every day trying to inform the bettor of games that are happening. There are websites all across the country that are discussing games. Find out who’s healthy, who’s not healthy and how the experts are looking at the game. If you know about the team(s) ahead of time, great, go with what you believe. But don’t be throwing your hard earned money on teams you have no idea about it.
DO SHOP THE LINES BEFOREHAND
If you are buying a new pair of shoes online, I’d imagine you might find them on one website, check the price on Zappos or Amazon, maybe check the price at one other place before buying them, right? Sports betting is no different.
Every sportsbook is different. They are taking action from different people. They might be slow to update their lines. If you know you want to take a certain bet, check the lines at different sportsbooks and see if there is a difference. There may or may not be. But do you due diligence because it just might be the difference between a winner and a loser.
DO NOT GET CARRIED AWAY WITH PARLAYS
Look, everyone does it. They see somebody hitting some crazy 8-leg parlay on Twitter for thousands of dollars and they try to create one themselves. There’s a reason why the sportsbooks are rich and most sports bettors are not. Don’t get carried away and waste your money on a bunch of 8-leg parlays. I know the payout is enticing but you also need a miracle to hit those. I’m not going to say stay away from parlays altogether, but pick your spots and be smart about them. Don’t throw your money out the window on something that has a very small chance of happening. This is sports betting, not the lottery.
DO NOT BET WITH YOUR HEART, DO BET WITH YOUR BRAIN
This is probably the most common mistake with beginners in sports betting. They see their team has 20/1 odds to win the Super Bowl and they throw some coin on it. I’m not completely against that if it’s in moderation and you just want some skin in the game. But understand that anytime you are betting on one of your favorite teams, there is always going to be an inherit bias. Sportsbooks will run promos to bet on the local teams. They want to use that bias to their advantage.
You know your team better than anything else. You’ve watched every game, you’ve heard about the practices. Remove your bias, use your brain and actually decipher whether this can be a winning bet for you.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE
There is an old adage in sports betting and it tends to ring true. Have you ever heard of a stinky or rat line? That’s usually a spread that just seems too good to be true. And most of the time it is. The sportsbooks are smarter than you, they have rhyme and reason to everything they put out there. If you’re feeling too comfortable about a line, it’s probably because you are. It’s almost better to feel uncomfortable than comfortable. This isn’t a comfortable hobby.
DO NOT BE AFRAID TO FADE YOURSELF
This is one of my favorite lines in the sports betting community. You are going to eventually go cold, even the best bettors ever have cold streaks. It’s the ones that can make them the shortest that end up winning the most money over time. Maybe for a few days, you are just not seeing the board very well. Everything you pick is a loser. It happens. Don’t be afraid to fade yourself if you are in a rut. Sometimes it’s the easiest way out.
Betting Against The Spread
Charles K. McNeil changed the sports betting game forever back in the 1940s when he convinced the point spread.
Not all sporting events are created equal. Each matchup in each sport has different elements that go into creating and setting odds for the betting public. Betting on the Moneyline is the equivalent of picking a team to win the event outright; however, the odds of a Moneyline bet shift based on a number of factors, and oftentimes there tends to be a significant betting favorite which plays a significant role in how a line is set.
A point spread is used to level the playing field for oddsmakers when creating lines across the board. For instance, the University of Alabama football program is known for dismantling their opponents weekly, winning often by 20 or 30 points. Alabama is the favorite on the Moneyline in nearly every single game they play, so to try and get more action going both ways, a point spread is introduced. The spread adds or subtracts points to a team’s final score to create a margin of victory that people are free to bet on. A line is set and the payouts are typically even on both sides. Typically the line is -110 on both sides, so you need to bet $110 to win $100. See our section juice to understand lines a little bit more.
What is a point spread?
A point spread is a figure used by handicappers to essentially determine a margin of victory for people to bet on. When you are betting against the spread, the team you are betting on must “cover the spread” in order for your bet to cash.
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples using our hometown teams. It’s important to keep in mind that the spread will be different for every single game. No one game is created equal from a betting perspective.
NFL Betting Line:
- Denver Broncos -3
- Las Vegas Raiders +3
Ok this is how most games will appear when making a pick against the spread. It’s important to take notice of the “+” and “-“ here as they determine which team is the favorite and which team is the underdog.
In sports betting, anything with a “-“ next to it, indicates that bet is the favorite. Anything with a “+” indicates it’s the underdog.
So in this instance, the Broncos are the -3 favorite against the spread. The spread for this game is 3. What this means is the Broncos are the three-point favorite in this game against the spread, so if you take action on the Broncos, Denver would need to win by MORE THAN three points in order for your bet to cash.
So if Denver wins 20-7 you win because they won by 13 points. If Denver wins 21-17, you win because Denver won by 4 points!
IF the Broncos won 24-23, your bet would lose because Denver failed to “cover the spread” of three. When betting a favorite against the spread, that team must win by more than the spread amount in order to cover.
Now let’s take a look at the spread from an NBA perspective.
Ok so the exact same thought process applies here, just to a different sport.
NBA Betting Lines:
- Los Angeles Clippers -5
- Denver Nuggets +5
Ok so in this instance the Nuggets would be the underdog. So if you bet the Clippers ATS, Los Angeles would need to win by more than 5 points for your bet to cash.
SO let’s say you take the Nuggets against the spread. Since Denver is the underdog, if the Nuggets win outright, your bet cashes. Denver can also lose by up to 4.5 points and your bet will still cash! So if the Clippers win 102-100 and you bet on the Nuggets ATS, your bet would cash since Denver covered the spread of +5!
Think of it this way when betting an underdog. The + number is essentially a threshold in which your team can lose by and you still win the bet. On the flip side, if you are betting the favorite, your team would need to exceed that threshold in order for your bet to cash.
Now what happens if a team wins/loses by the exact threshold?
For example, let’s say the Clippers beat the Nuggets, 105-100. Exactly the spread of 5.
This is called a “push” so you would receive your wager back, so if you bet $100 on the Nuggets +5, you would get your $100 back. So no harm no foul.
Betting against the spread is one of the most common forms of sports betting. While it may seem a bit intimidating at first glance, these figures and terms will become second nature once you get a few sweats in.
Ah, the court of public opinion. Oftentimes we care so much about what other people think about us in certain situations, but in sports betting, riding with the public is usually the biggest sucker bet of them all.
Have you ever been suckered into making a bet by your buddy who is a casual that ends up missing wide right? Have you ever seen the Sunday night Football crew all go in on the same team and have that team proceed to get waxed on national TV?
9/10, betting based by what you see on social media and television is going to lose you a s**t ton of money in the long run.
Let’s take UFC 257 for example. The “Notorious” Conor McGregor made his return to the octagon in a rematch against Dustin Poirer. McGregor is the most popular UFC fighter of all time with a reach that extends across the globe. McGregor was rather reserved this time around, shying away from his usual pre-fight antics; however, it made no difference as the Irishman was TKO’d in the second round once Poirer had enough time to get his timing down.
The loss for McGregor came as a shock to many, including 91% of the bet slips on the main event that had McGregor as the outright winner. The loss destroyed the betting accounts of many while the books in Vegas and Colorado were counting paper into the early hours of the morning. There was also a small percentage of sharp bettors who managed to go against the public, and profited big time because of it.
Poriter closed at +275 on the Moneyline, meaning a $100 wager on Poirer to win the fight paid out $375. Those that faded the public made out well that night, and oftentimes, can find fantastic value across the board any given day.
Now, not all favorites are created equal. Sometimes one fighter or team is a stark favorite for a reason, but anything can happen. Other times, there are teams that the public has a hard on for. These teams always generate an abundance of wagers on their side, so Vegas has to move the lines in order to compensate for popularity.
Teams like the Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs are typically beloved in the eyes of the betting public because of marketability, star power and fan base size. Oftentimes there is tremendous value betting against these teams because you are betting against the public in most instances.
If you would have bet against the Cowboys, Seahawks and Chiefs all season ATS, you would have profited with a record of 28-20 ATS.
Typically, you WILL NOT find sharp, professional bettors siding with the public frequently. The shaprs know how to pick and choose their spots by fading the public and finding value with underdog plays. Now, don’t use fading the public as a general rule of thumb when betting, but keep it in mind when you are wagering on a big sporting event. Take a look at where the action is going, and try and determine if that action is due to public perception or legitimate skill. Fade the public.