How Sports Betting Works, Basics, Odds & Payouts

How Sports Betting Works - Basics, Odds & Payouts

If you have ever wondered how sports betting works, then you’re in the right place. 

We’ll show you everything you need to know about sports betting basics, odds, and even payouts.

Placing wagers might just have started from the first civilization.

Back then, it was called casting lots, and it was more or less a form of gambling.

Who started sports betting? 

No one knows.

But you can rest assured that from the very first sporting event, people have been casting lots and placing bets for a long time.

So if you’re curious about it and would like to know how sports betting works, then keep reading.

How Sports Betting Works

Sports Betting Basics

Sports Betting Basics: What Is Sports Betting?

If you’re at least in your early teens, then chances are you already know what a bet is, and it is very likely that you’ve already won a few stakes yourself, with the loser doing a few of your chores as a result of you being right.

It’s also very likely that you’ve also had to do a few chores too for getting it wrong yourself.

Now that you have a perfect example of what betting is, it’s time to relate those childhood games you used to play to the big multi-billion dollar business that is sports betting. 

In Sports Betting, you place a bet on an event, say the Steelers beating the Ravens (this is just an example you can place bets on different sports), and the Steelers actually wins, then you’ve won some money. 

But if the Ravens are victorious, then you lose your bet. 

For some, sports betting is a way to make money, and others do it for its fun.

It gives them an added reason to enjoy a particular game.

It gets them more involved in a contest in ways they wouldn’t have if they didn’t have some money riding on the outcome of that particular contest.

The Plus (+) & Minus (-) Signs

In sports betting, especially in America, the plus (+) sign denotes how much a $100 bet will payout.

The minus (-) sign denotes how much you have to use to place a bet to get a payout of $100.

However, the plus and minus signs are also used for more exciting kinds of bets like the point spreads.

The point spreads (Europeans call it Handicap) are one of the most common types of wagers, with the lines of such wagers being displayed with the plus and minus signs.

For most games, there’s usually a favorite and an underdog. 

The favorite gives points to the underdog and is displayed with the minus sign, while the rest/underdog who takes points from the favorite is displayed with the plus sign.

Let’s take a look at the example below.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens

Point Spread: Steelers (+3) -110; Ravens (-3) -110. 

This is an example of a point spread. 

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a game at Baltimore against the Ravens (the home team is displayed second). 

The Baltimore Ravens, who are favorites, are down 3 points, and placing a wager on the Ravens means they have to win with at least four points to get a payout.

Placing a wager on the Steelers, who have a 3 point advantage, means you get a payout when the Steelers win the game or lose by 1 or 2 points or if the match ends in a tie. 

The -110 means you get $100 in profit when you wager $110. 

The point spread lines could also come in fractions like the example below.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens

Point Spread: Steelers (+4.5) -110; Ravens (-4.5) -110.

If you placed a wager on the Steelers, you’d need an outright win or a loss by four points or less, while the Ravens have to win by at least 5 points to get a payout when you place a wager on the team.

The Money Lines

With money line bets, you don’t have to worry about points or runs. 

You just place your wagers on who you think would win.

It doesn’t matter how many points or runs a team is able to get. 

As long as they win, you get a payout. 

Money line wagers are also displayed with plus and minus signs, which just signifies the odds.

Odds just tells you how much you can win with a particular wager or how much you need to bet to win the desired amount.

As usual, the favorites are displayed with the minus sign attached to the number, while the underdog has the plus sign attached to its number.

As a newbie, you might find the money lines market a little confusing, but it gets easier once you get the hang of it.

Let’s take a look at this example.

Baltimore Ravens (-200)

The Baltimore Ravens are clearly the favorites with the minus sign. It also means that you would have to wager $200 for a chance to win $100.

Pittsburgh Steelers (+180)

With Pittsburgh Steelers being the underdogs, they have a much larger payout than the Ravens. 

The +180 means with a $100 wager, you walk away with an extra $180 in the event that the Steelers beat the Ravens.

Totals or Over & Under Betting

The Totals market deals with the number of points scored in a contest. 

There are usually options for both teams as well as each team. 

Here’s an example.

Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Over 46.5 points -110; Under 46.5 points -110

In this example, you place wagers on whether the total score would be over 46.5 or under 46.5.

If you believe the total score would be more than 46.5, then you should place your wager on the Over 46.5.

But if you strongly believe that the total score would be less than 46.5, then that’s the option you should bet on.

Baltimore Ravens

Over 25.5 points -110; Under 25.5 points -110

While the previous example shows lines for the total points scored by both teams, this example shows lines of the number of points scored by the Ravens in a match against the Steelers.

The same rules still apply; the only difference is the opposing team’s points, which in this case, the Steelers will not be included.

The Total or Over / Under market is an excellent option for a rookie who wants to start sports betting.

But the bookies who determine these betting lines are really smart, and as you go further, you come to realize how much more challenging these lines can be.

The Over and Under betting can be found in Football, Baseball, Basketball, Tennis, Soccer, and several other Sports.

Where to Place Bets

When it comes to where to place bets, there are two main places to place your bets. The physical or land-based sports bookies and the online sports betting websites.

The land-based sports bookies are found in casinos and several other places. 

While on the online sports betting websites, all you have to do is create an account, fund it and start placing bets on your favorite sports.

For more convenience, betting online is the best option for many.


With this guide on how sports betting works and sports betting basics, you’re sure to take your bets from total novice to a pro.

Let us know your thoughts in our comments section below.

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