Sports betting is a fun and simple way to enhance the enjoyment of a sporting event by predicting what will happen and winning money if you are correct. Bookmakers will accept wagers on a huge range of different sports, as well as events in other sectors such as politics and entertainment, and bets can be far more specific than simply backing the winner.
A betting market is a category within a sporting event in which a bookmaker has decided to take bets. Major events will have dozens of different markets, perhaps even over 100 with some online sportsbooks. For example, one market for a Premier League football match between Arsenal and Chelsea would be on the full-time result, and there would be a choice of three selections to cover all the different possible outcomes - an Arsenal win, a Chelsea win and a draw. The next market might be for predicting the correct score, and there would be considerably more options to cover all the outcomes which the bookie feels are possible. Other markets would offer bets on which players would score goals, the total number of goals, the margin of victory and many more.
Even if an outcome is considered highly unlikely, a bookie may accept wagers if there is sufficient interest. Some bookmakers, for example, have markets on when alien life will be proven, which will be settled on the President of the US making a statement to ‘confirm without doubt the existence of alternative, intelligent life beings from another planet’.
Betting odds refer to the chances of an event occurring and are used to determine how much money would be paid back to a punter if their wager was successful. Also known as the price, odds can be displayed as either fractional, decimal or in an American moneyline format.
Every possible selection in a market will be accompanied by odds, starting with the favourite and running through to the underdog. The favourite is the outcome considered most likely by the bookmaker and will have the shortest odds, so it might be that Novak Djokovic is rated as the 2/1 frontrunner at the start of Wimbledon to go on and win the tournament. At this price, you would win £2 for every £1 you bet, so if you put down £10 and Djokovic won, you would receive £30 (£20 as winnings, plus your £10 stake). As the tournament develops, Djokovic’s odds may continue to shorten and at some point they might drop below evens (1/1). Anything lower than evens is known as odds-on, where you can’t win as much as you stake. At odds of 5/6, for instance, you need to stake £6 to win £5 and subsequently get a return of £11.
It is also worth bearing in mind that once you have made your selection and submitted your bet, the price is locked in. Even if the odds change after you have made your wager, you will be paid out at the price set when you chose to make your bet.
Odds become longer for those selections which are considered less likely to happen, and the underdog is the competitor with the least chance of winning. An inexperienced horse with a young jockey at the Grand National may therefore have long odds of 100/1 to finish first because it is an improbable outcome, but the potential payout might attract some punters.
Betting odds can change quickly as bookies react to any changes which affect the chances of an event occurring. This is particularly true for live betting, which allows punters to place wagers on sporting events as they are happening. Advances in technology have made this style of betting incredibly popular as online customers can assess an event whilst watching on TV or following it live before making an informed decision on what might happen.
Sports betting is very straightforward and can be done online or at a local bookmaker. When betting online, either via desktop or mobile, all you have to do is find the event you wish to wager on, select the relevant market and who you are backing, enter your desired stake and submit the order. All operators vary slightly, but you will need to register an account and make a minimum deposit before starting to bet. Winnings will be paid automatically, and then you can decide when to withdraw the funds as you see fit.
When betting with a local bookmaker, you just have to fill out a betting slip, hand over your stake and you will be given a receipt. If you win, you will have to go back to the shop with your receipt and the retailer will pay you your winnings.
The most common type of bet is a single wager on one outcome, perhaps Manchester United beating Manchester City in a football match, but there are lots of different ways to bet.
One of the most popular types of bet is the accumulator, where you combine several selections together. You need every single one of them to win to be successful so it can be difficult, but accumulators are attractive because they offer the possibility of great rewards for little risk.
Spread betting and lay betting are other forms of betting which can provide an exciting alternative to traditional sports betting, while Totepool betting is available at most racecourses, letting winning punters share a prize pot instead of receiving a payout based on what they staked at fixed odds. Take a look at the how to bet page to find out more about the various options.
A number of techniques have been proposed to try and help bettors earn money, and there are sometimes ways to find a sure bet and guarantee that you will be successful by backing all the possible selections across different bookmakers who have set different odds.
Other strategies such as matched betting, dutching and the Martingale system also have their supporters, but for beginners it is best not to overcomplicate things at the start and stick to a few sensible guidelines.
It is a good idea to start by betting on the sports you are most knowledgeable about, so you can make smarter choices about who or what to back. You should also remember not to let your heart rule your head, which can be easier said than done, but a big bet on your favourite team or player is not the best way to show your loyalty, especially if they have not been performing well recently.
As your familiarity with sports betting increases, you may feel you want to branch out and try some of the more complex bets or strategies. While there are many exciting aspects of betting to explore, especially as you keep wagering over time, you should remember to bet responsibly so that you can continue to have fun.