Sports betting can be a lot of fun, but it can also appear daunting to those not familiar with the intricacies of all the different markets, odds, and systems. We’ve compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions about sports betting, which should help newcomers and seasoned bettors alike.
For more sports betting terms, see the glossary to help you understand your Goliaths from your reverse forecasts.
Sports betting is the simple process of predicting what you think will occur in a sporting event and winning money if you are correct. Bookies take bets on a huge range of sports, as well as other non-sporting events, such as elections or television programmes.
A betting market is any specific category within a sporting event which a customer can make a bet on. Most sporting events have multiple markets, such as markets in a football match for the result, correct score, first goalscorer, and many more.
Whether you bet online or at a bookmaker, you have to be at least 18 years old to bet on sports in the UK. In the US, the minimum age varies from state to state between 18 and 21.
The chances of a particular outcome are referred to as the odds and are also used to determine how much you will win if your prediction is correct.
Odds may be displayed in either fractional or decimal terms. Fractional odds tell you how much you can win in proportion to how much you stake - 2/1 odds, for instance, mean that you win £2 for every £1 you stake if you are correct.
Decimal odds provide the same information in a different format and also include the return of the initial stake. Fractional odds of 2/1 would be represented as 3.00 to show that if you bet £1 you would get a return of £3 (winning £2, with your £1 stake returned to you).
Odds in the U.S. are displayed with either a plus or minus sign at the start. A plus sign before a number shows how much you would win if you staked $100. A minus sign shows you much you need to bet to win $100.
Find out more about betting odds and markets in the Betting Basics section.
The more likely an outcome is considered to happen, the shorter the odds. The smaller the number or fraction, the shorter the odds. For example, if a tennis player is thought to be more likely to win their next match than to lose, the odds will be short and may be represented as 1/3 (or 1.33) or similar. To win £1, you must bet £3.
When an outcome is considered unlikely to happen, the odds are longer, meaning the number or fraction is bigger. For example, an outsider in a golf tournament may have odds of 100/1. If they win, you receive £100 for every £1 staked.
It depends on your individual taste as to whether you wish to bet or football or Formula E, horse racing or hockey. Take a look at the Sports section to find out more about the latest opportunities to bet on your favourite events.
Whether you bet at your local bookie or place a wager online is entirely down to personal preference. Betting shops remain very popular in the UK and tend to bring punters together, whereas online sportsbooks provide speed, convenience and an increased range of markets. Read more about online betting vs local betting.
To place a bet online, you need to join a site. When you go to an online sportsbook, you will see a link marked ‘register’, ‘sign up’ or ‘join now’. When you select this button, you will be required to enter a few details such as name, address, date of birth and email address, and you can then deposit your funds (each betting site will have a minimum deposit).
As long as you are signed in, you can place a bet. Find the sport of your choice and then the event. Select the market you want to bet on, and then finally choose your selection. An online betslip will appear, allowing you to enter the stake you wish to wager. Once you have confirmed your bet, you can wait until the event has taken place to see if you are a winner. The funds will be paid straight back into your betting account if you win and you can then withdraw the money or use it to place more bets.
An outright bet is a bet on the overall winner of a competition or event rather than a single match within that tournament. Outright markets are usually available before any other bets and stay open for the duration of the event. Every competitor will be given odds and your selection has to win the competition for you to receive a return. Bets will only be settled when the event is over. Outright markets can also be referred to as ‘Winner’ markets.
An open bet is any bet that has yet to be settled. Bets are only settled when an event has come to an end and the sportsbook decides to close that particular market. For example, a bet on the first goalscorer in a football match will remain open until a goal has been officially awarded (or the game finishes) and the market has been closed. When a market has been closed, all bets can be settled and winners can be paid out.
You cannot cancel a bet once it has been placed. It is up to you to make sure that you have made your selection accurately before you confirm your wager. Once it has been placed, you cannot change your mind. If you have made a mistake, you may wish to bet on another possible outcome for the same event to cover some of your losses, depending on the nature of your wager. While you cannot cancel your bet, there is a chance that it could be voided.
A void bet is any bet you place which, for any reason, is later declared to be neither a winning bet nor a losing bet. The stake that you wagered will be refunded. A bet may be voided for many reasons according to the bookmaker’s individual policies, but usually occurs when your bet has no chance to either win or lose through no fault of your own. For example, if you back a horse and then it does not start the race, the bet may be declared void.
Odds change to reflect betting activity. If punters are heavily backing one particular outcome, the price will be adjusted to make that selection less attractive. If there is an outcome that is not being backed, the odds will drift to give bettors potentially greater rewards. Bookmakers will also adjust odds at their own discretion as more information becomes available about the relevant event, such as the availability of key players in a football match or the going at a horse race.
No, you will be paid out according to the odds given at the point you made your bet. It doesn’t matter how much the odds change after that; you will be paid out as per the odds on your betslip.
For example, if you place a bet at 3/1 odds and the same bookmaker then shortens the odds of that bet to 2/1, you will still be paid out at 3/1 odds.
Bookmakers will close markets at their own discretion. A market will generally remain open until the outcome has been decided, although it will move into the in-play area once the event has started. Markets may be suspended temporarily at any time while odds are adjusted and then reopen again later. For example an outright market for a tennis tournament may be suspended during a day’s play and then reopen again at the end of that particular round of matches.
In-play betting takes place when an event is actually happening. You can watch or monitor what is unfolding and it may give you more information or confidence when you are considering what might occur next. In-play markets and odds change quickly as bookies also react to what is happening. In-play betting can also be known as in-game or live betting.
When you bet each-way, you are putting a wager on your selection to win outright and also a wager on your selection to place (for example to place in the top three in a horse race, the top five in a golf tournament or to reach a football final). As you are putting on two bets, your stake will be doubled (a £10 each-way bet has a £20 total stake).
If your selection wins, you win both parts of your bet. However, if your selection places well enough to satisfy the second part of your bet without winning outright (for example finishing second in a horse race), you only see a return from the second part of the bet. The odds to place will not be as favourable as the odds to win and will be displayed next to the betting market. For example, each-way odds of 1/2 on places 1, 2 mean that you will win half as much if your selection finishes in first or second place as a straight bet on the winner.
A ‘draw no bet’ is a type of market which reduces the number of possible outcomes from three down to two. It is commonly found on any sport where draws happen regularly, such as football or cricket. You can bet on either team to win but there is not an option to bet on a draw. If your team wins, you see a return on your wager. If your team loses, the wager is lost. If the match is a draw, your stake is returned to you in full.
Betting handicaps are used to even up a market where a straight bet on the winner is unlikely to gain much interest. The competitor that is less favoured to win might be given a points head-start by the bookmaker, for instance, or the favourite might start with a similar disadvantage (a handicap). You can then decide whether the favourite would still win with the handicap in place, or whether the underdog would now win.
Plus and minus signs are used in handicap markets to illustrate the expected difference between the competitors. For example, if one team in a rugby match is backed to win with a handicap of -15.5, it means that for the purposes of this market they will start with a deficit of 15.5 points. They must win by 16 points or more for you to see a return. If you bet on a team with a handicap of +15.5, you will see a return if they win or draw or if the margin of defeat is 15 points or fewer.
In an accumulator, or a parlay, you are placing a single bet on the outcomes of multiple markets. Each individual element of the wager must win for you to see a return. For example, you could place an accumulator on the winner of six different horse races and you would need all six of them to be right for the bet to win. If just one of them fails to win, the bet is lost. Accumulators have long odds but they are attractive to punters because you can potentially win big rewards from small stakes. Go to the page on accumulators for more information.
An arbitrage bet, also known as a sure bet, is a type of wager where you bet on all the possible outcomes in a market and you are guaranteed a profit, regardless of what happens. You need to place your bets with different sportsbooks which offer different odds on the outcome of the event, and calculate the stake needed to ensure a profit. For example, in a tennis match, if one player is the favourite with one bookmaker and their opponent is the favourite with another bookmaker, placing bets on the underdog with each sportsbook could guarantee a profit if the odds are favourable enough. Learn more about how Sure Bets work.
The legality of sports betting is determined at a state level, and an increasing number of jurisdictions have begun to introduce legislation since a 2018 ruling from the Supreme Court which lifted a federal ban on sports betting outside of Nevada. Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island became the first states to offer legalised sports betting, with numerous other states set to follow suit.
Sports.net’s team of experts covers all the top events in depth so you can find out about the latest form of the main competitors, how the bookies see it going and which odds might provide the best value. Read the latest betting tips for some engaging previews of upcoming matches or competitions across a wide range of sports, and then it’s up to you whether you want to take their top tips on board.