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Online Sportsbetting Tutorial

Sportsbetting Defined
The act of sports betting is exactly what it sounds like: wagering on the outcome of a sporting event. In all but the most simplified cases—such as betting with a friend or in an office pool—such gambling is typically done through the use of a bookmaker, a person or organization set up to take or “book” bets, pay winners and claim their percentage from losers.

In order to provide bettors with their services, bookmakers must charge a small commission (called “vigorish” ) on all losing wagers. That commission ranges from a typical 10% to as low as 5% in some situations. Following the posted event, the bookmaker pays out the winners according to predetermined values, or odds.

While there are a variety of betting options sportsbettors can avail themselves of, there are two general wagering formats available with regard to the winner of a sporting event. They are: point spread and moneyline.

A point spread wager is a simple betting format whereby the bettor is required to risk more money then they can potentially win. For example, a bettor would need to risk $110 in order to win $100, with the extra $10 being the bookmaker’s commission. In addition, bettors who back the favorite—the team expected to win—collect only if their team wins by a predetermined margin, while underdog bettors—the team considered to be at a disadvantage—collect as long as their team covers the point spread, even if they lose.

In events such as boxing where the nature of the sport makes point spreads impractical, the moneyline system is used. These are straight up odds bets based on the amount of risk required to win $100 when betting on the favorite, or the amount paid for a $100 bet on the underdog. For example, suppose that you wanted to place a bet on a game between two opponents, X and Y. The moneyline might have team X (the favorite) at -200 and team Y, the underdog, at +180. If you wanted to take team X, you’d need to risk $200 for every $100 that you’d like to win. On the contrary, if you had opted to bet on team Y, you’d win $180 for every $100 wagered.

For this type of betting structure, bookmakers typically use what’s known as a “dime line” to calculate the vigorish. For favorites of -120 to -150 the difference between the opponents is 10 cents, with prices increasing for -160 and above. In addition, unlike with the point spread system mentioned previously, moneyline wagers require that the team wagered on wins.

Other Types of Wagers
Beyond the moneylines and point spreads, sports books offer a range of alternative bets designed to cover many possibilities. These include over/unders, parlays, proposition bets, futures, run line and goal line bets.

Over/Unders: When betting the over/under, punters (bettors) are basically predicting the combined total score between the competitors and betting on whether that score will be higher than or lower than a specified number. For example, let’s say that a football game has a total set at 50. If the score at the end of that game was 24 to 35—totaling 59 points—the over bettor would win. Had the score totaled 21, on the other hand, the under bettor would collect. To compensate for the possibility of a tie or “push,” bookmakers frequently set their totals at intervals that include half points, such as 50.5.

Parlays: A parlay is a difficult, yet potentially lucrative, wager where the bettor must select the winners of two or more independent events. For example in a five-team parlay, the bettor is essentially making five distinct bets on five specific teams. If any of those teams fail to cover, the bettor loses.

Proposition bets: Proposition bets are wagers made on very specific aspects of an event, such as a wide receiver’s total yardage for the game.

Futures: A wager made (or lines/odds posted) on the future outcome of an event, such as betting on the SuperBowl champion for the upcoming season. The odds for this type of bet are usually high, and given as the ratio of units paid to units wagered, such as 50-1.

Run line/goal line bet: These are fixed point-spread bets offered as an alternative to moneyline bets and feature higher payouts for the favorite and lower payouts for the underdog.

A Word about Bookmakers
Whether they deal with online or traditional betters, bookmakers devise and publish the odds that will, from their perspective, accomplish two goals: accurately predict the most likely outcome of the event and balance the value of incoming wagers for both sides. In other words, since a bookmaker’s money is earned by the vigorish and not on risking their own capital through gambling they want the sum of all wagers made on both sides of the event to be as close as possible thereby earning them their commission and a profit. To do this they make minor adjustments to the moneyline or point spread as bets come in.

For example, in the case of an American football game where the point spread is 23, if they notice an inordinate number of wagers coming on one side they would shift the spread to either 23.5 or 22.5—whichever direction would encourage more wagers on the team receiving less action. The same action of shifting the line is also taken for moneylines, again with the purpose being to ensure profitability on the part of the book.

Bricks-and-Mortar vs. Clicks-and-Mortar
If you’re lucky enough to reside in a jurisdiction that allows sports betting—and in the U.S., at least, that’s a very limited area—the thought of wagering online might never cross your mind. After all land-based books offer the same action without the risk of wagering through what could be a fledgling company based in a foreign country. So why take the chance of betting online at all?

One of the biggest differences between traditional books and the online variety is the lack of face-to-face transactions—a feature that can greatly benefit the punter. With no limitations of the number of transactions possible, online sports books can take thousands of bets simultaneously where a traditional book could only take a few dozen at the same time. This results in dramatically lower costs that can be passed on to the client in the form of deposit bonuses, reduced vigorish, and special wagering options that may not be profitable for traditional books—an therefore not offered. This is especially true in terms of comps, since the low profit margin of traditional casino books often precludes them from offering such incentives for sports play.

In addition, online sportsbetting grants punters greater accessibility to informative resources, wagering opportunities that are not dependent on location, and the ability to bet on multiple events from any computer with web access. Internet savvy gamblers can use the ‘Net to research teams, find the best odds, register at a sports book and place a wager all in a fraction of the time.

And finally, let’s not forget one of the most basic differences between the two formats: convenience. It can be very time consuming to drive to the sports book, park your car, make your way through the maze of slot machines to the sports book to place your bets. Instead, you simply turn on the computer and choose your action.

Online Sportsbooks: A Few Key Ingredients
Everyone has his or her own idea as to what makes something “good” and an online sports book is no exception. To some, it’s the number of sports covered. Others prefer a site with lavish comps, a low vigorish and monthly incentive plans. Still others demand that there be a casino or poker room built into the site to allow for expanded betting opportunities when no suitable events are available.

But just as a single ingredient doesn’t create a culinary masterpiece, neither does any one feature result in a good sports book. After all, it doesn’t matter that you get a few bucks for free if the site is lacking in certain crucial elements such as diverse event coverage and competitive odds. And while there is a lot of personal preference involved in selecting a site that fits you the best, there are also key elements universal to quality sports books, elements that you should refuse to live without. These include:

  • Wide range of events and betting opportunities. Premium sports books almost always cover a large selection of events with a range of betting opportunities as needed. A basic sample of popular betting options to look for include: reverse bets, round robins, futures, propositions, straight wagers, parlays, teasers, if-bets.
  • Competitive odds. Always remember that odds vary with the site. Make sure you get the best possible price each time you place a bet.
  • Player incentives. It behooves a gambler to select a site that offers at least a moderate supply of incentives. These can take many forms, including sign-up bonuses, VIP points, 5% juice, referral bonuses and re-load bonuses. Ideally, the chosen site will feature a combination of recurring incentives (such as monthly deposit bonuses) so gamblers can perpetually augment their bankroll.
  • Special options. Look for sites that go the “extra mile” and offer special options like in-running betting (allows the customer to bet while the action takes place) and person-to-person (P2P) wagering (allows bettors to browse and accept betting propositions posted by other site members, or propose desired bets of their own.)
  • Quality customer service. Verify that the site provides knowledgeable customer service agents who can deal with questions in an efficient and polite manner.
  • Betting resources. Seek out sites that provide informative resources to their players. Sports betting often involves a lot of research and the best sites want to assist their patron wherever possible. Look for free newsletter offers, links to sports-related portals, free picks and other services.
  • Multiple banking options. Sites should always offer numerous and convenient banking options. These include NETeller, FirePay, credit card, Western Union, bank wire, Moneybookers, Federal Express and check.
  • Quality design. Always be wary of a site that looks like it was hastily thrown together. That could signal a struggling organization, the last place you want to send money.

Do you see how each of these “ingredients” add up to a site that’s not only a functional sports book, but one that borders on the ideal, offering all of the major features and minor nuances discriminating bettors demand from a gaming site?

It’s not always easy tracking such a site down, especially if your own criteria contains each of these features and more. But they’re out there, and with a little bit of effort, determination and online finesse you’ll never have to settle for a second—or third—rate site again.

Step by Step: Choosing the Best Sites
Although online sportsbetting has its advantages, diligence is always called for when doing anything online—especially gambling. Having decided to give web-based books a shot, it’s time to begin the arduous task of selecting a site. Below is a step-by-step guide to selecting a site and making your first online wager.

Step 1: Research the site. As always, it’s important for issues of both safety and satisfaction that you find out everything you can about any site that you’re considering, even if it offers of the “key ingredients” we discussed. Read reviews in magazines, visit gambling forums to see what other bettors are saying, and try to determine its overall reputation in the industry. Also, visit the Off Shore Gaming Association’s web site at and try to verify how long the site has been in business. If an online sports book hasn’t been around for very long, you run the risk that they may not have the resources to survive a tough week, month or even season.

Step 2: Does it suit your needs? After narrowing down your list of potential sports books, visit each site and verify that they offer what you’re looking for. If you want to bet on harness racing, or baseball reverse runlines, for example, realize that not all sites offer such wagering options.

Step 3: Test the service. Once you’ve locked on to a few sites that seem promising, test their services to see what kind of a response you get from their representatives. Send them an e-mail, or call them and ask a few basic questions. The type of help you receive here is likely the response you’ll get down the road.

Step 4: Open several accounts. Now that you’ve gone though all of the trouble of researching sites and identifying the ones that best suit your goals and wagering lifestyle it’s time to open your accounts—several of them. By joining several sites, you increase the likelihood of getting the best odds for any wager. And since online sports betting generally doesn’t require the installation of gaming software, you don’t have to sit through hours of tedious downloads. You need only become a member—simply fill out some online forms—and deposit funds into your account.

Betting Exchanges: A New Era in Sports Betting
Have you ever thought how great it would be to be on the book’s side of the betting tables, setting the odds, taking the bets and earning off the poor intuitions of other gamblers? Or better yet, how about betting on your favorite team at odds that no bookmaker in their right mind would offer? If either of these options sounds like your ultimate sports betting fantasy, then you need to forego your typical sports book and enter the world of the betting exchange.

The latest development in Internet sports betting, betting exchanges take sports wagering to previously unthinkable territory—allowing gamblers to make wagers over the ‘Net on any event of their choosing, at better odds than are offered in a sports book.

So what exactly is a betting exchange? Simply put, a betting exchange is an Internet site that facilitates wagers between gamblers in a person-to-person format. In other words, betting exchanges allow bettors to either act as the sports book themselves—setting things up to earn a profit through others—or to search for the best odds courtesy of another bettor. The bettors are involved only with each other, with the exchange taking no direct interest in any wagers. Instead they simply take a small commission—typically 5%—from winning wagers.

But if there is a commission, you ask, then why should you use a betting exchange instead of a typical sports book? Because even after the commission is paid, bettors find that they can routinely get a better deal than what they’re likely to get from online and land-based books. Think about it. Haven’t you ever placed a simple even money bet with a friend on a sporting event where you knew that a traditional sports book wouldn’t give you anywhere near as good a deal? With a betting exchange, you can do the same thing—except instead of one friend it’s a hundred or a thousand “friends” ready to give you action. No cold, calculating bookmaker cranking out accurate predictions, just a group of often-wild (and inaccurate) sports fans coming together to do what they love: bet on sports.

Tips for Successful Sports Betting
Despite being the gambling venue with the highest potential for consistent profit, sportsbetting is anything but easy. If you’re looking to break away from casino gambling, poker, or other games and venture into the sports wagering arena, here are a few basic tips hat will get you started down the path to success.

Don’t rely on luck. While luck may turn you a small profit from time to time, successful sports betting is all about skill. Being a consistent winner is about preparation and dedication. If you’re prepared to invest the time and resources to be thoroughly schooled in whatever sport or event you want to wager on, you’ll greatly increase your chances of winning. Remember the challenge of sports betting is to gather information, objectively analyze the facts, weigh the probabilities and make an informed decision about every wager. Sure you will lose from time to time regardless of how prepared you are, but that’s gambling. In the long run, though, you’ll come out a winner.

Seek out the best odds. As previously discussed, not all online sports books offer the same odds. Always shop around either yourself or through an odds comparison service to find the best price.

Don’t be a loser. There are basically two types of sports bettors: ones who lose, and losers. No matter how good you are, or how much effort you put into each wager, it’s inevitably that you’ll lose at least some percentage of the time. Get used to that. But if you’re a solid bettor, you’ll also be treated to a fair amount of victories, hopefully often enough to compensate for any losses plus turn a profit. A loser, on the other hand, has little hope of ever being successful. They’re fixated on long shots and instant riches, rather than grinding out a steady salary. Sure, from time to time they’ll hit something and earn back of few dollars, but rarely will that be enough to recoup all of the money they lost on the thousands of other losing bets.

Know your betting options. There are many ways you can wager on a sporting event, and all have there own set of advantages and disadvantages. For example, a “future” bet can be one of the most profitable wagers if you have both a considerable knowledge of the sport—including the players—and a good sense of judgement. A “straight” bet, on the other hand, is simple and manageable, not to mention one of the easiest bets around. But to be profitable you’ll need to always be selective (don’t bet on everything and anything), weigh the odds, and avoid both long shots and favorites.

Avoid “hunches.” Remember, sportsbetting is more akin to an art form than it is gambling—it takes practice, skill, determination, and a willingness to work hard to achieve success. Don’t fall prey to hunches, or quasi-mystical “feelings” about who is going to win or who is going to lose.

Trust your resources. As you go about the process of gathering and analyzing data, be sure that you trust the source. A friend or colleague’s “hot tip” isn’t strong enough evidence to make any decisions—unless, of course, that friend happens to be an expert in the field. And even then, you should still take the time to research everything yourself.

Know your limits. Money management is just as crucial in sports betting as it is in other forms of gambling. And the first law of money management is to know your limits and never risk more than you can afford to lose. Second, it’s critical that you work with only a small portion of your total bankroll for any one bet. Don’t go risking everything you’ve got on one supposed surefire winner. No matter how positive you are, it’s still gambling, and things can and do go wrong all of the time.

Whether you’re a daily bettor or just a recreational gambler looking to pick up a few bucks every couple of months, the bottom line in successful sports betting is simple and straightforward: think long term. Individual wins can be monumental, just as losses can be heartbreaking. But the wise gambler knows that it’s not how well you do today or tomorrow, but how well you do over time that counts.

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