10 Types of Sports Bets Explained
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The thrill of sports betting is unmatched. Emotions rise and fall along with those of the athletes on the field. Adrenalin pumps, optimism surges and triumph is sweet — as well as lucrative. No wonder wagering on sports has ballooned in popularity as more and more states have legalized the practice.
For those new to sports betting, the concepts of winning and losing are easy to understand. However, the many types of bets can be more intimidating. Knowing all the different varieties of bets doesn’t just give you more wagering options, it also enhances your chances of winning, because you know which bet to make when.
There’s a type of sports bet for every bettor and any situation at sports betting sites. Let’s go over the most popular, so you’re fully prepared the next time you’re ready to wager.
Also known as a straight bet, moneyline betting is the most elementary of sports wagers: You’re betting on one side to win a contest. The key is understanding the plus/minus format, which conveys how much you can win on the underdog with a $100 bet and how much you need to wager on the favorite to win $100.
Let’s use some college football odds as an example. Say Alabama is playing Missouri, and favored Alabama carries a moneyline of -500. That means a bettor must bet $500 to win $100 if the Tide prevails. Now let’s say Missouri is the underdog at +350. That means a bettor collects $350 for every $100 wagered. In any moneyline bet, the minus sign is how much it will cost you to win $100, and the plus is how much you win with a $100 wager.
Of course, you don’t have to bet $100; that’s just the standard used to set the numbers. Moneylines are easy bets to make once you know how to read betting odds, and they’re best used when a bettor has a strong feeling about an underdog to pull the upset.
WANT TO KNOW MORE? Check Out Our Complete Guide To Moneyline Betting
Point Spread or Handicap
Point spread betting odds are a bedrock wager of sportsbooks, but to novices they can take a little time to understand. Like moneylines, they’re expressed in a plus/minus format, but instead of the numbers representing dollars, they stand for how many points one team is favored to win by.
An example drawn from NFL odds: Packers -7.5 Bears means the Green Bay is favored to beat Chicago by 7.5 points. Since teams can’t score half points, the Packers would have to win by eight or more in order for a bet to collect. A bettor who backs the Beats wins if Chicago loses by seven or less or wins outright. The same wager can be expressed as Bears +7.5.
Point spread bets are sometimes known as handicap bets because the favorite faces a point handicap it must overcome. Unlike moneyline betting, just winning the game isn’t enough for a bettor to collect — the final score also has to beat the spread. The amount the bettor collects is different from the spread, given that these bets typically pay out in moneyline format of around -110.
Point spread bets can be thrilling, especially in contests where the score goes back-and-forth. They also can keep you interested in a blowout because a 24-point underdog that loses 42-21 is still a winner to the person who backed them.
WANT TO KNOW MORE? Check Out Our Complete Guide To Spread Betting
Also known as a totals bet, this is a wager typically made on the combined score of the two teams playing in the game. Bettors wager against a total set by the sportsbook, and whether that combined score will fall over or under that number.
Say you are looking NBA odds at your favorite sportsbook and you see the Boston Celtics are playing the Los Angeles Lakers and the over/under is 214. You think the game will become a shootout, and wager on the over. If you win, you collect. Over/unders are usually set at around -110, unless the total is extremely high or low. That means betting $110 on the over would earn $100 should the wager turn out to win.
The over/under is another easy wager to make, whether you are betting on the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB or college sports. You will even find over/unders set for halftime or period scoring.
WANT TO KNOW MORE? Check Out Our Complete Guide To Over/Under Betting
A futures bet is just that: A wager on something coming up in the future. They’re usually offered on season-long championships in major sports, big individual awards like the Heisman Trophy or prominent standalone events like the Masters or Daytona 500.
Futures are all moneyline bets. If you like the Astros to win next season’s World Series at +500, then a $100 wager will net you $500 if Houston claims the title. But there’s a risk/reward component: By betting in advance, you’re getting more favorable odds than you would closer to the event. But any injuries or other unforeseen issues can scuttle your team’s hopes of winning — and yours of collecting.
Futures are fun, easy bets to make, and are typically available everywhere. They’re most effective when you can find very favorable odds on a team or athlete capable of bucking the odds to become champion. Imagine if you had made a $100 futures bet on the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals, who were 1,000-to-1 longshots before that season began.
Prop bets are fun wagers that don’t always require real knowledge of the game and don’t rely on the final outcome of the game. In some cases, an informed bettor has an advantage, such as a prop bet on who will be the first player to score a touchdown in an NFL game. If you know a team’s tendencies, you might be able to find value.
Other prop bets straddle the line. Will someone make a hole-in-one? Will a winning driver have a car number higher or lower than 10?
Then there are the ones that are just fun and require no knowledge, including Super Bowl betting props such as who will win the coin toss, will it be heads or tails and what color Gatorade will be dumped on the winning coach.
Prop bets offer an easy way for a novice bettors to dip a toe into the wagering pool. They pay out in moneyline format — more likely occurrences are expressed in minus numbers, less likely in positive numbers. Just keep in mind that you’re unlikely to make a killing on props, given how heavily they rely on chance, and sportsbooks often cap prop bets to limit their total payout liability of a longshot comes through.
WANT TO KNOW MORE? Check Out Our Complete Guide To Making A Prop Bet
You’re now familiar with other bet types. Now comes the really fun part: combining them all into one big wager called a parlay bet (or accumulator bet in Europe). The more bets in a parlay, the more money you can collect. The kicker: If one of those bets loses, they all lose.
RELATED: Calculate Your Potential Total Payout With Our Parlay Calculator
Parlays can be tremendous fun, especially on an NFL Sunday or during the NCAA tournament. Parlays can be comprised of as few as two and as many as a dozen bets (depending on sportsbook policies), with the potential payout increased with each wager. A four-team parlay will pay out around 13-to-1, a 10-team parlay around 640-to-1.
Parlays most typically mix spread, moneyline and over/under bets. Amateur bettors love them because they hold the allure of a huge possible payout. But far more often, even for the best sports bettors, they prove very, very hard to win, which is why smart bettors make them a small part of their overall betting strategy.
A subset of parlay wagering is the round robin bet, which are typically two-team parlays with anywhere from 3 to 10 teams involved. With more bets in a round robin, the larger the component parlays can be. Utilizing the wagers, you construct parlays. If one of your teams doesn’t hit, each parlay the team is involved in is a loss. The payouts are smaller than a jumbo parlay but you have more mini-parlays you could win. Learn more about round robins here.
WANT TO KNOW MORE? Check Out Our Complete Guide To Parlay Betting
A teaser bet is another very popular type of parlay where the lines are shifted slightly in the bettor’s favor, reducing both the amount of risk and the amount of the prospective payout. Teasers are usually offered only on football and basketball. The amount a bettor can tease varies by sportsbook, typically between six and seven points maximum for football and four and seven points for basketball.
The entire line for each game in the parlay is moved depending on the total tease you have chosen – the bigger the tease the bigger the reduction in payout. For example, here’s an NFL three-team parlay teaser bet:
- Original lines: Packers (-3) over Bears, Vikings (+4) over Lions, Patriots (+6) over Ravens
- 7-point teaser: Packers (+4) over Bears, Vikings (+11) over Lions, Patriots (+13) over Ravens
As you can see, all lines were adjusted by the same amount in the same direction. Teasers may seem easier to win because of the more favorable lines, but just like standard parlays, one lost bet scuttles the whole ticket.
WANT TO KNOW MORE? Check Out Our Complete Guide To Teasers
Ifs & Reverses
Reverse and “if” bets can also get complicated, so they aren’t very popular among rank-and-file bettors. “If” bets string wagers in succession: If I win this game, then I bet on this game. It’s a way to use a modest bankroll and your winnings to bet more often, as long as your luck holds out. Every successive “if” bet wagers the total amount of winnings from the bets before, so you don’t collect until you stop.
Similarly, there’s the reverse bet, which is a type of “if” bet that covers you against two potential outcomes. If your original “if” bet is the Cowboys win then the Eagles win, your reverse is the Eagles win then the Cowboys, raising your odds of at least a payout (though you won’t get back the amount of your initial wager). There’s a reason these are known as “exotic” bets.
CHECK OUT: Curious About Horse Racing Bets? Want To Know The Difference Between An Exacta And A Trifecta? Our Horse Racing Betting Guide Has The Answers
Full covers are package bets that cover all multiple wagering options within a given number of betting selections. More popular in the United Kingdom, these wagers have specific names given the number of total bets involved: such as a Trixie (four bets), a Super Yankee (26 bets) and the Goliath (247 bets).
Like American parlays, both the risk and the potential payout multiply with the more bets you add. Unlike parlays, you don’t have to sweep all your bets to collect. In most cases, winning just two of the bets is enough to merit something a return.
An outright bet is a European version of the futures wager in which you’re betting on the winner of an upcoming tournament or a season-long competition, such as the British Open or English Premier League. Like futures, you get more favorable odds by betting early, which also increases the element of risk.
For some events such as tennis, bettors can place “each way” outrights that pay off even if their backed player reaches the final, although the amount collected will be less. Outrights in Europe are usually expressed in a fractional odds percentage, such as 100/1, with the first number being how much you can win from each dollar wagered. But you can easily convert those odds to American odds with an odds calculator.