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How to Bet on Sports

Our website includes many articles dedicated to sports betting strategy; however, if you’re brand new to the hobby, as in don’t understand how it works, this article is for you. Here we’ll cover the three most popular forms of betting: straight wagering, total betting and money lines, while also introducing you to terms such as vig, juice, hooks, chalk and more. After reading this article you should be comfortable enough to venture over to an online betting site such as, and have enough understanding of the basic terms and betting offers to follow strategy articles contained elsewhere on this website.

Wagering Option #1 Straight Betting

A straight bet is not what a novice gambler might think it is. Here, rather than betting a team straight up, meaning who will win outright, you’re betting on which team will win against a point spread. For example, if you see a bet listed as Jets +7 / Pats -7 this means the Pats are favored. If you bet the Pats, you’ll need them to win by 7.5 points or more. If you bet on the Jets, you’ll need them to either win the game or to not lose by more than six. If the Pats win by 7 points exactly, both bets on the Jets and bets on the Pats are void, it is a tie (also referred to as a push) for betting purposes, and all stakes are refunded.

A couple things to understand: unless otherwise specified, bets are offered at -110 pricing, which is 1.91 in European odds format. No matter if you chose the Pats -7 / or the Jets +7 you’ll need to risk $1.10 for each $1.00 you want to win. As a point spread bet is designed to be a 50/50 wager, half the time you’re getting paid ten cents less than you would had 1.1 paid the true 1.1 on wins. Take the average .05 and divide into 1.1 and you’ll see the bookmaker has a 4.55% advantage on each bet he takes. This advantage is called vig or juice, and is what the bookmaker charges for offering his services.

A few additional terms:

Half Point (also called a “Hook”): Often times a point spread is set with a half point involved. Of course teams can’t possibly ever score a half point, so this is just used to ensure that there is no push. If the spread was Pats -7.5 and Jets +7.5 and the final score was Pats by 7, the Pats bettors lose and Jets bettors win. Half points are often referred to as a hook, and sometimes on betting boards or when reading strategy, they will be written as 7’ instead of 7.5 of 7½.

Reduced Juice: Some sports betting sites offer reduced juice, or have special promos such as reduced juice Fridays where straight bets are priced lower, such as -105 as opposed to -110. We mention it here so it is not confused with the next term we mention (shaded lines).

Shaded Point Spread: As we noted earlier, unless otherwise specified a straight bet is offered at -110 pricing. There are other times where you might see a line such as Pats -7 -115 / Jets +7 -105. This means Pats bettors need to risk 1.15 to win 1, and Jets bettors 1.05 to win 1. The bookmakers edge here is still 4.55% per bet, what’s happened is the odds maker viewed the Pats odds of covering -7 greater than the Jets odds of covering +7, but that greater chance wasn’t enough to move the line to -7.5.

Wagering Option #2 Total Betting

A total bet is a wager on whether or not both teams combined scores will be over or under the posted total. If you see a betting line such as Patriots vs. Jets (42.5) this means the posted total is 42.5. If you feel the total of both teams scores will be 42 or less, you would bet on the under; if you feel they will be 43 or more, you bet the over. As in point spread betting, unless otherwise specific, total wagering is done at -110 pricing.

Wagering Option #3 Moneylines (Straight up)

A moneyline bet is a bet made simply on which team will win the game with no point spread involved. In cases where teams are equally matched, the risk to win amounts are closer than it is in cases where there is a big favorite involved. To go back to the example used earlier of Pats -7 / Jets +7 the moneyline option might look something like Pats -280 Jets +230. What this means is that for every dollar you wish to win on the Pats, you’d need to risk 2.8 and for every dollar risked on the Jets, you’d be paid 2.3.

There are several other types of bets sportsbooks offer such as parlays, teasers, pleasers and additional forms of exotic combo plays. While there is some advanced strategy involved that makes these playable on occasion, for the most part these are all sucker bets. If you’re new to betting on sports, the best thing to do is stick to the three types of wagers we’ve covered in this article: straight bets, total bets, and moneylines.

If you’re ready to get started betting online you can claim a special bonus offer at one of our top recommended sites When you get started betting, we wish you the best of luck and encourage you to navigate other pages of our site now that you’re better equipped with knowledge that will help you understand our strategy articles better.

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