Last updated: 07/04/2024

How Betting Works: A Beginner’s Guide

Understanding of how betting works

It’s a relaxing Saturday, and you’re watching the game with your friends. They’ve got their phones out and are monitoring the odds, placing bets, and having a great time. But without your own wagers, you’re not quite as involved in the game as they are.

Have you ever caught yourself wondering, “How does betting work?” If so, we’ve got the information for you. You’ll be betting with your friend in no time. Scroll down to learn the key concepts and how to get started ASAP.

Understanding Odds: A Key Concept

The first step to answering “How does betting work?” is learning how to read the odds. 

The odds represent the probability of an event or outcome occurring. Punters use these to understand the likelihood of an event and the potential payout from the bookies if it happens. 

There are three main types of odds:

  • Fractional odds
  • Decimal odds
  • Moneyline odds

Fractional Odds

Fractional odds are popular in the UK, and you’ll often find them used for football and horse racing without GamStop. These are displayed with a slash (/). The first number (numerator) shows your potential profit, and the second number (denominator) shows how much you need to wager.

For example, if the odds are 3/1, you can win £3 for every £1 you wager. 

Decimal Odds

Decimal odds are popular in Europe, Asia, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. They’re often considered better for beginners, as you can quickly calculate the payout by multiplying your wager by the odds. 

For example, if the odds are 4.00 and you wager £1, you’d receive £4 back (including your original wager).

Moneyline Odds

Moneyline odds are usually only used in the United States. These odds use + and – symbols to show how much you can win or need to wager to win $100. They’re always based on this amount of money. 

So, odds with a + sign show a profit on a $100 stake, whereas odds with a – show how much you need to bet to earn $100.

7 Types of Bets: From Moneyline to Parlays

Once you’ve brushed up on the odds, it’s time to look at the different types of betting options you have. There are plenty of unique bets to learn, and we’ve picked out the most popular ones for punters worldwide. These can be used in various sports, so once you’ve learned them, you can transfer them to most leagues and competitions. Easy!

1. Moneylines

A moneyline bet is a wager placed on a game or league’s outcome. Unlike more complicated bets, moneylines only have a few options (e.g. which time will win or if there will be a draw). If you’re new to sports betting, these bets are a great way to get a feel for the game. 

2. Point Spreads

Point spread betting is where you wager on the margin of victory in a game or competition. This provides a more dynamic experience than moneylines, as the bookmaker’s point spread is there to even the playing field between the competing teams.

3. Totals

Totals (also known as Over/Under bets) are where you wager on whether the goals scored in a game will be over or under a pre-selected number chosen by the bookie. Goals can be swapped for goal attempts, corners, cards, and other game statistics. 

4. Prop Bets

With prop (proposition) bets, you focus on specific in-game events. For example, the total number of predicted goals, which player will score first, or which player will score last. 

5. Teasers

Teasers allow bettors to edit the point spread (also called the totals line) to be more in their favour. However, these adjustments come at the cost of potential lower payouts.

6. Futures

As the name suggests, futures betting is all about wagering on the outcome of a future event. For example, the MVP of a game, the winner of a league, or the winner of an international event. 

7. Parlays

Parlay bets combine multiple bets into one large wager, and all bets must be correct for a parlay to win. Parlays can give big payouts but come with higher risks.

Bankroll Management: Staying in Control

Your bankroll is another factor you need to study when learning how sports betting works.

Your betting bankroll is the specific budget you set to fund your wagers. To ensure successful bets and a safe experience, you must manage your bankroll and monitor your finances. Gambling without a bankroll limit can lead to problem gambling and financial harm.

Here are some expert-approved tips to help you manage your bankroll with ease.

  • Only budget an amount you can afford to lose – Examine your finances carefully and set aside an amount you can afford. There’s no guarantee that you’ll make any wins, and you should never wager more than you can spend. 
  • Use the unit strategy – Some bettors divide their bankroll into 1-3% amounts and use these to break up their bets. This stops you from spending large amounts of money in one go.
  • Regularly review your bankroll – You may need to adjust your bankroll in response to winning or losing streaks. Take time every few weeks to look at your spending and how your bets are performing.
  • Use consistent wagers – Betting consistent wager sizes can help to minimise losses and increase your winnings. This gradual approach might not seem as exciting initially, but you’ll see results over time. 
  • Understand the unpredictability of sports betting – Sports betting is unpredictable, and winning bets are never guaranteed. Accepting and understanding potential variances and losses can help you keep a cool mind when betting.
  • Taking breaks from betting – If you realise that your bankroll is disappearing faster than you want, it might be a sign you need to take a break from betting. Regular breaks help you stay focused and protect your finances.

Choosing a Sportsbook: Factors to Consider

If you’re at the start of your journey and Googling “How does sports betting work,” you should also brush up on what makes a reputable sportsbook or non-GamStop betting site

Not every website is built with your best interests in mind, but there are some foolproof factors to consider to protect yourself. Here are some tips from our experts:

  • Look for legitimate licences (e.g. Curacao betting sites or UKGC websites).
  • Find websites with 24/7 customer support.
  • Check that the sportsbook offers lots of sports and markets.
  • Look at the withdrawal times.
  • Search for websites with reputable payment methods.
  • Identify sites with high-value bonuses and promotions.

Keep these criteria in mind when finding the betting site for you. Another great way to see if the site is worth your time is to check out some sportsbook reviews. These will tell you what real people think, meaning you don’t have to rely on the website’s biased marketing

Popular Betting Strategies: Tips for Success

What is betting without a helpful strategy? Alongside the tips above, consider integrating some professional betting strategies into your practice for successful results. 

Popular betting strategies and how they work:

  • Value betting – In value betting, you focus on finding odds that are higher than the true likelihood of the event happening. You need to know the sport well to spot these oversights, so don’t skip the research. Exploring niche sports is also a good idea, as bookies tend to have less accurate odds if the sports aren’t mainstream.
  • Arbitrage betting – Arbitrage betting is all about exploiting the odds offered by different betting sites, guaranteeing a profit regardless of the outcome. Note that this requires you to place bets on all different outcomes.
  • Diversifying your wagers – A typical betting strategy is placing multiple bets to diversify your wagers. Not having all your bets on one specific category can help you avoid significant losses if the odds aren’t in your favour.

Other Tips For A Successful Sports Betting Experience 

In addition to using the well-known strategies above, you can increase your chances of a positive experience by using the following tips:

  • Always researching the team, sport, and league before wagering
  • Looking at last-minute coach decisions and player transfers
  • Taking breaks from betting when needed
  • Shopping around for odds on different betting sites and with independent bookies
  • Taking advantage of welcome bonuses and free bet promotions where possible

5 Common Mistakes: What to Avoid

When you’ve finished reading your “Sports Betting How To” guide, you’ll likely feel ready to dive in. Typical guides provide lots of helpful information, but they often forget to warn you about common errors new bettors make. 

We’re here to present you with a realistic guide – including common pitfalls you should try to avoid. Here are the top five mistakes our experts see all the time.

1. Chasing Losses

Chasing losses is one of the biggest mistakes we see but also one of the easiest to avoid. Spending more to recoup your losses can lead to large financial setbacks. Rather than upping your wagers or placing more bets to resolve a losing streak, you should stay consistent and keep to your strategy.

2. Betting Without Knowledge

Sports betting is all about analysing the sport and looking at which odds are likely to succeed. So, you’re at a major disadvantage without research or prior knowledge of the game. Take time to understand the game, team rivalries, home and away advantages, and other vital factors influencing gameplay.

3. Emotional & Impulse Betting

Positive and negative emotions can influence your decision-making and lead to your place under-researched or impulsive bets. Avoid betting when you’re in a heightened emotional state, and instead, bet when you’re feeling relaxed and in control. Some bettors like to stay sober when betting for this reason, too.

4. Following Your Own Bias

Just because you’ve followed a specific team since you were young doesn’t mean you should bet on them. Bias towards your preferred team and players can cloud your judgement, so it’s critical to drop personal biases where possible.

5. Not Staying Up-To-Date With Industry News

Finally, even after researching the game and potential outcomes, last-minute changes can change the odds and affect your wagers. For example, a late transfer or injured player can change the game’s dynamic and make your team less likely to win. So, follow sports social media pages or news outlets to ensure you get accurate information in real-time.

Responsible Gambling: Setting Limits

Responsible gambling is critical for a safe and satisfying experience. So, before you find a sportsbook and dive into the action, take five minutes to consider how you’ll protect yourself and your finances from potential problems.

As we mentioned earlier, practising proper bankroll management is vital to responsible gambling. With these sensible techniques, you protect your finances from big losses and check in routinely to ensure you’re not spending too much. 

Similarly, the unit system can help you place responsible bets. This stops you from placing significant wagers that risk depleting your funds. With this system, you divide your entire bankroll into 1-3% units and only bet a certain amount per betting session or per event. 

It’s critical for all punters to know their limits and to take breaks when needed. When betting ceases to be fun or starts to feel compulsive, it’s a sign that you need a cooling-off period. Frequent breaks help you avoid problem behaviours and allow you to refocus your mind for the next game. 

If you ever feel like your gambling is becoming a concern, professional support groups are there to help. Charities like GambleAware offer free, non-judgmental advice in an anonymous setting. You can also enter yourself into a period of self-exclusion with free services, such as GamStop. This stops you from accessing sports betting sites and casino websites for at least six months.

Conclusion: Ready to Place Your Bets?

Hopefully, this guide has helped you familiarise yourself with the basics of sports betting. From the most common bets to practising responsible gambling, make sure you arm yourself with these tips before placing your first wager. Don’t want to lose this guide? Bookmark this page now so you can come back to it later!

Or jump to more expert content. Explore the Non-GamStop Betting blog now.

Meet Our Team Of Gambling Specialists

Hello! I’m David Goldblatt, the lead author at I’m an experienced sports journalist who transitioned into making online gambling content in the mid-2010s. It’s something that fascinates me and I’ve always loved the way sports betting can make any event more exciting!

When I’m not researching the latest non-GamStop bookies, I’ll be playing football in the park or watching the local cricket club with my mates. I’m a massive advocate for responsible gambling, so feel free to message me if you need help. Other than that, I hope you enjoy my stuff and can find some trustworthy betting sites to join!