Different Types Of Sports Bets Explained
While many sports bettors stay in their preferred lane, the betting menu is vast and filled with choices on a daily basis. There’s a plethora of sports to choose from on any given day, as well as a whole host of bet types to decide on for each of them.
Sorting through all of the different bet types takes some time, but it can be well worth the effort. There are plenty of lucrative opportunities to consider each and every day, and they can’t always be found by just sticking with what you know.
Some folks resist expanding their horizons out of fear of the unknown. Relax, we’ve got you covered. We’re going to take a look at all of the main bet types in detail right here, as well as a number of others that you should consider adding to your repertoire.
How to bet the moneyline
The moneyline bet is perhaps the simplest bet on the board to understand. You’re simply picking the winner of a contest and choosing from the favorite and the underdog.
Both sides will have odds attached — negative for favorites and positive for underdogs. Here’s what an example looks like if we were betting on an MLB game.
- Milwaukee Brewers +120
- Chicago Cubs -140
As the negative odds indicate, the Cubs are favored for this contest. A $100 bet at odds of -140 would result in a return of $171.40 if the Cubs win: the initial stake plus a profit of $71.40.
If you place a $100 bet on the Brewers and they go on to win the game, you’re looking at $220 coming back: your original wager plus a profit of $120.
Moneyline bets are straightforward and easy to understand. They make for a great starting point for those new to sports betting.
How to bet the spread
Point spread betting can take a little getting used to. While you’re still dealing with favorites and underdogs, you also have to deal with a new wrinkle added to the equation in the form of a spread.
A point spread is a number installed by oddsmakers in a bid to level the playing field. It helps to think of it as an estimated margin of victory. You can choose the favorite minus the points or the underdog plus the points.
In order to “cover” the spread, the favorite needs to win by an amount greater than the number. Underdogs can cover by keeping the margin closer than that or winning the game outright.
Let’s consider this example using the odds on an NFL game.
- Las Vegas Raiders +2.5 (-110)
- Indianapolis Colts -2.5 (-110)
The Colts are 2.5-point favorites for this contest, while the -110 in parentheses represents the odds for the bet. Point spread bets are typically set at odds of -110 upon release, but they may move from there based on market action.
To cover the spread, the Colts need to win the game by more than 2.5 points. A final score of 27-24 in their favor does the trick, but an Indianapolis win by a score of 21-19 does not.
On the Raiders side, they need to keep the final score closer than that. If they lose by a score of 31-28, they have failed to cover, but if the margin is 35-34, bettors on that side are golden.
For a standard point spread bet at odds of -110, a $100 winning bet returns $190.90: the bet amount plus winnings of $90.90.
How to bet totals
You can also place your bets on the total number of points scored in a game. Oddsmakers set the bar with a projected total, and bettors then get to decide if they expect the number to go over or under that amount.
For an example, let’s use a random NBA game between the Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers. As the oddsmakers see it, this contest may be a little on the low-scoring side.
- Over 194.5 (-110)
- Under 194.5 (-110)
The typical standard for totals bets is also odds of -110, but this may fluctuate based on market action.
For over bettors to have winning tickets, the teams must combine for an amount greater than 194.5 points. A 100-95 win for the Pacers will do it, but a 95-94 win for the Celtics wouldn’t.
On the under side, you’re hoping that the score will be less than that. A 96-95 win for the Pacers is good, but a 102-100 victory for the Celtics doesn’t get it done.
What are prop bets?
In a nutshell, prop bets are side wagers on something that may happen during the course of a game. You’ll find props offered for different events from the perspective of an individual player, the entire team, or on the game as a whole.
On the player side, here are some examples you might come across:
- How many passing TDs will Tom Brady have — over/under 2.5?
- Will Zion Williamson score over/under 23.5 points?
For team-based props, you might see opportunities for just a portion of a contest or for the entire game.
- Will the Capitals score a power play goal during the second period — yes/no?
- How many total runs will the Mets score — over/under 4.5?
Props that revolve around the game as a whole can range from random events to estimated margins of victory and all points in between.
- Will there be a defensive TD scored in the game?
- How many points will the Pacers win by — over/under 3.5?
For each choice listed, you’ll find corresponding odds, and your total return will be based off of that. Prop bets open up different prop opportunities for each game, and also allow you to dive a little deeper in your research.
How to place a parlay bet
A parlay is a bet in which you are placing multiple wagers on a single betting slip. They’re quite popular as they offer up the potential for outstanding returns.
However, parlays become more difficult to hit with each selection that’s added to the ticket. As such, the risk to reward relationship rises in inverse fashion.
For each selection that’s added to the slip, the odds of actually hitting the parlay increase. The potential reward rises as well, as the more choices you add, the greater the possible earnings become.
Let’s consider an example in which you examine a slate of NHL games and decide that there are three contests you feel really confident about. As a result, you decide to put all three of your choices on a single slip.
- New York Rangers -167
- Montreal Canadiens +170
- Dallas Stars -139
When you add all three selections to the slip, you’re presented with total parlay odds of +643. Here’s what the math looks like for a winning $20 bet at those odds.
- Winning a $20 bet at odds of +643 results in a total return of $148.61 — the initial $20 bet plus a profit of $128.61.
As you can see, the returns on parlay wagers can be fantastic. However, it’s important to have a full understanding of the risk to reward relationships when placing these bets.
What are teaser bets?
A teaser bet is a combination of a point spread wager and a parlay. Bettors are placing a wager on two or more contests — just like on a parlay — but with a twist.
By using a teaser, bettors have the flexibility to move the lines to a level they’re more comfortable with. The bets are most commonly used with football and basketball, the two most popular sports for point spread betting purposes.
Generally, the bettor can “tease” the spread around key numbers. For basketball, it’s usually 4, 4.5 or 5 points. Football teasers generally revolve around the numbers 6, 6.5 or 7.
When using the teaser, the spread is moved by the same amount of points for each of the bets on a ticket. For a simple example, consider the following two NFL games and spreads.
- New England Patriots -7.5 over New York Jets
- Philadelphia Eagles -8.5 over Washington Redskins
You expect the favorites to win both games, but you’re intrigued by the underdogs to cover. However, you’d feel a lot better if the lines weren’t so hefty. You decide to add a six-point teaser, so you’re now looking at the following spreads.
- New England Patriots -1.5 over New York Jets
- Philadelphia Eagles -2.5 over Washington Redskins
Just like that, you have moved the line for this two-team wager more to your liking. Naturally, the odds for the bet will move accordingly.
In short, the payout for a teaser will be reflective of the number of teams on the bet, as well as the number of points teased.
For our example bet of a two-team bet with a six-point teaser, the odds are generally -110. A three-team six-point teaser would pay out at +180, four teams with the same tease would pay out at +300, and so on.
What’s a round robin sports bet?
A round robin is similar to a parlay wager. These are typically multi-team bets in which you select a minimum of three and up to 10 teams, and then use those selections to create multiple parlays on the same slip.
For example, let’s say you have three games that you like. Instead of just doing a straight parlay, you decide to do a round robin to cover more bases. As opposed to taking a chance on hitting one three-team ticket, you split it up into three bets with two choices each.
The total cost of the bet will be the same as what you would spend on a trio of two-game parlays. If your base wager is $10, then a round robin within these parameters would cost $30.
The return for correct bets is based on what the odds are for each of the legs of the wager. If you hit all three, then you’ve had an awesome day. You can still profit by hitting only one or two of the bets, but this will naturally depend on the cost of the wager and the odds involved.
Round robins are a bet type that flies under the radar for the most part, but they can be quite fruitful when employed correctly.
Sports betting futures markets
The futures market for sports betting is both interesting and active. It allows you to make your predictions on events that will happen in the future, and potentially earn a handsome profit for your efforts.
Futures markets are available for all of the major sports and events. For team-based sports, you can bet on things like the winner of the next Super Bowl or World Series. When it comes to big individual sports, you can bet on events such as the winner of the Masters or Wimbledon.
Let’s walk through an example using golf’s US Open. In the futures market, there will be odds listed for all players scheduled to compete. Here are some of the favorites.
- Brooks Koepka +800
- Dustin Johnson +900
- Rory McIlroy +900
- Tiger Woods +1200
As you go further down the odds board, you’ll find golfers in the top tier, plenty in the middle, and all the way on down to long shots.
The idea is to pick the winner, and also to find value while doing so. For an example, if you placed a $100 bet on Woods to win, and he turned the trick, you’re looking at a profit of $1,200 plus your $100 wager back.
The futures market can be quite lucrative if all goes well, but keep in mind that these bets require a long-term perspective.
Live betting on sports
In years past, sports bettors had to have all of their bets in before a game got underway. That’s no longer the case. Live betting has emerged as one of the top features at legal and regulated online and mobile sportsbooks.
As the name implies, these are bets you can place in real time. They allow you to react to what’s actually happening on the field of play, and to take advantage of any new developments that may emerge.
For an example, consider a game in which you’re confident of the outcome going in, such as the Chicago White Sox taking care of business versus the Cleveland Indians.
The game gets underway, and it goes in the opposite direction as the Indians get out to a big lead. Thanks to live betting, you now have the opportunity to explore other opportunities.
You can hedge your initial bet, look to mitigate the damage or bank on a comeback for your original choice.
Live betting markets move fast, so odds and opportunities can disappear in a hurry. Sticking with the MLB theme, here are some of the different opportunities you might come across.
- Which team will score three runs first — Indians or White Sox?
- What will be the outcome of Jose Abreu’s next at-bat?
- How many pitches will Indians hurlers throw in the third inning?
This is an exciting market that provides additional opportunities, but be sure to exercise good bankroll management and only wager on the opportunities you are most comfortable with.
The bottom line on bet types
Here’s a quick recap of what you need to know for each of the bet types we’ve covered.
- Moneyline: Simple bet in which you choose the winner.
- Point spread: An estimated margin of victory that must be accounted for when picking sides.
- Totals: A bet on the over or under for a benchmark number of points scored in a game.
- Props: Side bets on things that may or may not happen during the course of a contest.
- Parlays: A wager in which you place multiple outcomes on the same betting slip.
- Teasers: Bettors can move the point spread more to their liking for a series of bets.
- Round robin: Similar to a parlay, but with multiple parlays built in on the same slip.
- Futures: A bet on something that will happen in the future.
- Live betting: Wagers you can place after the action has already started.