How to Bet on Sports – Different Types of Bets
There are lots of questions we hear time and time again from people who are new to sports betting. There are also some that we hear regularly from those with a lot of betting experience. Some of the questions we even hear from beginners and experienced bettors. One of the most common is “What is the best bet type to place?”
This is not an easy question for us to answer. In fact, that’s impossible. In a broad sense, no bet type is definitively “better” than another. It depends on the individual placing the bet, the sport they are betting on, and the circumstances. Each bet type has its benefits in the right circumstances.
Experienced bettors should know this, but beginners definitely don’t. In fact, most beginners often find the variety of bets they place quite confusing. This is understandable, but we recommend that beginners learn all about the different types of bets as quickly as they can. Although some types of bets are more complex than others, none of them are really that difficult to understand. Not when they are properly explained which is what we have done on this page.
Below, we’ve provided easy-to-understand explanations for each of the main types of bets, along with a few examples. We highly recommend that you take the time to read this entire page, as you really need to know how to use each of the different types. You may want to stick to the simpler bet types to start with, but there may be times when you want to go for the more advanced ones. You don’t want to miss a potentially lucrative opportunity just because you don’t know how certain bets work.
Before we start, please note that some bookmakers are referred to differently in different parts of the world. To complicate matters further, in some cases the same terminology can mean different things depending on where you live. Some types of betting also work a little differently from region to region and from one sport to the next.
We’ve tried to make things as clear as possible in this article, but there’s the potential for a little confusion. Please make sure that you NEVER place a bet unless you are absolutely sure of how it works. Most bookmakers or sports betting sites will explain things to you if you need clarification, so don’t be afraid to ask.
Here’s a list of all the bet types covered on this page. If you want to jump straight to a particular type, just click on the relevant link.
Winning Bets / Moneyline Bets
Sports betting doesn’t come any simpler than winning bets, or money line bets. These two terms refer to the exact same bet types. Winning bets are used almost universally, while money line bets are used in the United States and some other regions. The term “live betting” is also used in some regions for this bet type, but in the US, live betting refers to a point spread bet (which we’ll cover in a moment).
The winning bet is one of the most popular bets you can place, partly because it is so easy to understand and partly because it is considered the “traditional” way to bet on several sports. This bet can be used in almost any sport we can bet on, and it simply involves choosing who will win the match, match or other event.
Points spread betting is very popular in the United States, especially for soccer. They are also commonly placed in the game of basketball, and they can also be used for a wide variety of other sports. As we stated earlier, point spread betting can be referred to as live betting in the US. Point spreads are also used outside of the US, as they are essentially universal bets.
The concept here is different from a winning bet, in that you are not betting directly on which participant will win the game or match. Instead, you are betting on which participant will “cover the spread”. The spread is created by a bet that makes participants the same favorite for betting purposes. Favorites are effectively “deducted” points, and underdogs are effectively “awarded” points. The spread size determines how many points are awarded and deducted.
When you back favorites on the point spread, you support them to win by a margin greater than the size of the spread. When you support the underdog, you support them to win or lose by a margin that is less than the size of the spread.
The spread here is eight points. We can distinguish this from +8 and -8 next to the two teams. The +8 for the Ravens means that they are given eight points for betting purposes, so they are an underdog team. The Broncos are the favorites, and have deducted eight points.
-110 next to each team are the odds, in American format. The decimal equivalent of -110 is 1.9091. You will notice that the odds for both teams are exactly the same, which is often the case with point spreads. Remember, the whole point spread idea basically makes both teams equally favorites from a betting perspective. In theory, each team should have roughly equal chances of covering up the spread.
If you back the Ravens here you will win your bet if the Ravens win outright or lose by LESS than eight points. You will lose your bet if the Ravens lose by more than eight points. If the Ravens lose exactly eight points your bet will be a push. This means that you will get your shares back.
If you back the Broncos, you will win your bet if the Broncos win by MORE than eight points. You will lose your bet if the Broncos lose the game, or win by less than eight points. Again, a win of exactly eight points will result in a boost.
There are several points to note here. First, the spread covers half the points at 5.5. This is fairly common with point spreads, as it eliminates the possibility of a push.
Obviously, the team can’t win by exactly five and a half points, so the bet here will always either win or lose. The giants must lose less than six points to cover, and the Packers must win by at least six points to cover.
Another thing to note is that the odds are NOT the same in this example. This is also quite common. There’s no big difference, but the odds in the Packers are slightly lower than the odds at the Giants.
This suggests that the Packers are considered to be slightly more likely to cover the deployment than the Giants.
Handicap betting is used in many parts of the world, and for several sports. This is very similar to the point spread bet. Points (or goals) are still awarded and deducted from the team for betting purposes, but the aim is not specifically to make participants equal favorites. Rather, it’s really just about presenting different options. Handicap betting effectively gives you the chance to increase your chances of winning, but reduces the odds or increases the odds, but reduces your chances of winning.
Let’s take a look at the upcoming football match to illustrate exactly how handicap betting works. This match is between Burnley and Southampton, and the standard win-draw-win markets are as follows:BURNLEY VS SOUTHHAMPTON
Bets offering this market offer the following handicaps for Southampton.
- Southampton +1: 1.30
- Southampton -1: 4.33
- Southampton -2: 11.00
Supporting Southampton +1 means Southampton will get an extra goal for betting purposes. The odds are definitely lower than backing Southampton in a standard market to win a draw, as there is a better chance of them to win with these “extra goals”.
Supporting Southampton -1 means they will be deducted by one goal, and supporting Southampton -2 means they will be deducted by two goals. The odds for both of these bets are higher than backing Southampton in standard markets to win a draw, as there is a smaller chance of winning on reduced goals.
The bookmaker also offers a similar market for the draw and for Burnley. They are as follows:
- Burnley -1: 8.50
- Burnley +1: 1.67
- Burnley +2: 1.18
- Figure -1: 4.80
- Figure +1: 3.75
- Figure +2: 6.00
The same principle applies to all of these options. Favoring Burnley -1 means that Burnley’s goals will be deducted for betting purposes. Supporting Burnley +1 means they’ll be deducted by one goal, and so on.
Total / Over-Under
Total and over-under are two different terms for the same bet. Some regions only use one term rather than another, but in most parts of the world, the two terms are interchangeable. This type of bet is very popular, very straightforward, and available across a wide variety of sports.
The idea here is that the bet sets a line for the total number of points, goals or runs that will be scored in the game. They then give you the option to bet whether the actual total will be higher or lower than their set line. Betting on the higher is referred to as supporting the above, while betting on the lower is referred to as supporting the under.
For some sports, bookmakers will set a limit for their estimated total amount. These are similar to point spread bets in that they are effectively making a 50/50 proposition, so the odds of an over will usually be the same as the odds for an under. They will at least be very close, because each is theoretically as possible as the other.
For other sports, the bet will set several different lines. The odds for over and under at these are often very different, as one outcome may be much more likely than another.
Prop / Special Bet
Prop bets (short for proposition bets) and specials are again two different terms used to describe the same type of bet. This particular type of bet is generally considered a bet that is placed more for fun than anything else, and many experts suggest that serious bettors should just let it go. We don’t believe this is good advice. Many props involve a little more than expected, but some of them can provide excellent opportunities for making informed decisions about how to bet.
In general, props or special offers are bets on certain aspects of a sporting event that do not necessarily have an immediate effect on the event’s final outcome. A prime example is betting on which team will score the first goal in a game.
We’ve provided a few more examples below. Some of them are available for various sports, while some are only available for certain sports. Please note that this example only represents a VERY small choice. There is a wide variety of different props offered by betting and betting sites. Only one football game may have more than a hundred properties available.
Parlay / Accumulator
The parlay, or accumulator, is what we call a multiple. They involve making more than one choice as part of a bet. For example, if you wanted to support five soccer teams to win the next game, you would put all five teams in the accumulator or parlay.
These types of bets are difficult to win, because you have to get EVERY selection right. If only one selection is wrong the entire bet loses. The upside is that the returns can be very attractive when you win.
Payments for parlays and accumulators are calculated using one of two methods. The former is commonly used in the United States, especially for parlays that involve selection on a dot spread and a total line. Payouts are at a fixed level based on the number of choices made. The odds of each individual selection, therefore, are effectively irrelevant.
Fixed payouts vary across bookmakers and betting sites. The following table shows the payouts offered by one of our selected US sports betting sites. Payouts are stated as a multiple of the stake and DOES NOT include the original bet. It is refundable in addition to this payment.
For the second method, the odds for each individual choice are multiplied together. The total payment of each choice is effectively transferred to the next option if successful. With this method, the overall payout can be very large.
Especially if several options are included and / or one of the options has high odds.
Below is a parlay betting guide to help you better understand:
- Guide to Parlay Betting
A progressive parlay is a special kind of parlay which has a slightly lower risk. Whereas the standard parlay loses if one of the choices is wrong, the progressive parlay offers a little more flexibility. They still refund payment if only one choice is wrong. Depending on the total number of choices made, they may refund even if two or three choices are wrong.
The downside here is that the payouts are less, even if you end up getting all of your options right. If you make the wrong choice, the next payment is deducted. The table below shows progressive parlay payouts at one of our selected betting sites. Please note that a progressive parlay must include at least four selections, whereas a standard parlay only requires at least two choices.
Full Cover Bet
The full cover bet is used mainly in Great Britain. They are also known as combination bets or permutation bets. Like parlays and accumulators, they are multiples that involve making more than one selection. However, they don’t just combine all the selections into one single bet. A full cover bet is basically a series of bets covering ALL selections in EVERY MAY combination.
For example, suppose you made two choices. There are three possible bet combinations for this. They are as follows:
- Single bet on choice 1.
- Single bet on choice 2.
- Accumulator in options 1 and 2.
A full cover bet will basically place each of these three combinations at once. Each combination will still be effective as standalone bets, and not dependent on other bets. If “Option 1” proves correct but “Option 2” is wrong, your single bet on “Option 1” will still turn a profit. Your single bet is on “2nd choice” and the accumulator loses.
The number of combinations increases exponentially as the number of choices increases. With three selections, the following combinations will be included in the full cover bet:
- Single bet on choice 1
- Single bet on choice 2
- Single bet on selection 3
- Accumulator in options 1 and 2
- Accumulator in options 2 and 3
- Accumulator in options 1 and 3
- Accumulator in options 1, 2 and 3
A full cover bet that covers three selections is known as a patent. There are also special names for full cover bets that include four, five, and six selections. We’ve listed these below, along with details of the combinations they cover.Lucky 15 (includes four choices)
- Four singles
- Six accumulators, two options
- Four accumulators, three options
- One accumulator four options
Lucky 31 (includes five choices)
- Five singles
- Ten accumulators for two options
- Ten accumulators, three options
- Five accumulators, four options
- One accumulator of five options
Lucky 63 (includes six choices)
- Six singles
- Fifteen accumulators for two options
- Twenty three accumulators to choose from
- Fifteen accumulators for four options
- Six accumulators, five options
- One accumulator, six options
The bookmaker also offers full cover bets which do not cover all the relevant single bets. Again, this has a specific name. Here’s the complete list:
- Trixie (includes three choices)
- Yankee (includes four choices)
- Canadian or Super Yankee (includes five choices)
- Heinz (includes six choices)
- Super Heinz (includes seven choices)
- Goliath (eight choices)
When placing a full cover bet, each individual bet is usually placed on the same bet. So, if you do a £ 1 Lucky 15, for example, the total stake is £ 15. This is because Lucky 15 consists of fifteen individual bets. Lucky 31 at £ 1 will cost you £ 31, and so on.
Enchantment and Fun
Teasers and pleasers are bets that can be placed on soccer and basketball. This bet is popular in the US, and is widely available in the region. However, in most areas outside the US, they are almost unheard of.
Each of these bets is a parlay type. Both involve making multiple selections as part of a single bet, and all selections must be either a point spread or a total. These bets each have unique features that set them apart from traditional parlays.
- With the teaser, the spread of points or totals is transferred to OUR ADVANTAGE
- With pleasure, points spread or total are moved AGAINST OUR FAVOR
Its basic point is that teasers are easier to get right, and fun is harder to get right. Let’s look at an example of each to explain further.
Example of a Teaser
Suppose you have selected three soccer teams to include in the teaser. The distribution for each is as follows.
- Washington +3
- New England -4
- Cleveland +11
You decide to do a six-point teaser, which means the spreads will each move six points for you. For the purposes of this bet, they will now be as follows:
- Washington +9
- New England +2
- Cleveland +17
So if you previously wanted Washington to lose by less than three points, now you only have to lose less than nine points. You previously needed New England to win by more than four points, but now they can lose by one point. Cleveland can now lose up to sixteen points instead of ten.
There is obviously a big advantage in placing teasers, but this is reflected in the opportunities. The potential payout for a three-team, six-point teaser of $ 100 is usually $ 150 (plus the initial stake). An equal bet on a traditional three-team parlay will usually offer a potential win of $ 600.
Pleasers are basically the opposite of teasers. So, if you select the same three teams as above and place them in a six-point pleaser, the spread for each selection will be moved six points AGAINST you. They are now the following:
- Washington -3
- New England -10
- Cleveland +5
You will need each team to beat the original spread by a significant margin to win this fun. It’s hard to get ONE choice right with the spread against you at this level, let alone three.
But this fact is also reflected in opportunities. A $ 100 three-team, six-point pleaser will typically offer a potential payout of $ 2,500 (plus initial stake). So while the fun is really hard to get right, the rewards are definitely attractive.
- More on Flirting and Fun
If Bets and Bets Reversed
The if bet and the reverse bet are also the most commonly used bets in the United States. This bet is considered by many to be a very complicated bet, but in our opinion it is not that difficult to understand. They are basically just a slightly more advanced type of parlay.
The if bet involves taking choices in a certain order. The result of the first selection determines whether any subsequent choices are active or not. If your first choice is wrong, your bet is lost, and all bets are finished. But if your first choice is correct, then the next choice comes into effect. You are paid the winnings of your first choice, and your initial bet is placed on the second choice. This process is repeated until one selection loses or all selections are completed.
You select the following three soccer teams to cover the spread in their upcoming matches:
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- Tennessee Titans
- Oakland Raiders
To keep the math simple for this example, we’ll say the odds for each selection are +100 and you place an initial bet of $ 100.
If the Pittsburgh Steelers fail to cover, you will lose your original bet, and the bet will be over. If the Steelers cover, you’ll be paid your $ 100 winnings, and your initial bet will then be placed on the Titans. If they then fail to cover, the bet will end at this point. You will lose your original bet, but you will keep your $ 100 winnings from the Steelers’ protection. If the Titans cover, you’ll be paid another $ 100 in winnings, and your original stake will then go to the Raiders.
If the Raiders fail to cover, you’ll lose your original bet. But you’re going to make a profit because you have $ 100 in wins from the Steelers ‘cover and $ 100 in wins from the Titans’ cover. If the Raiders cover, you’ll get another $ 100 in winnings for a total of $ 300.
Please note that although you must make your selections in a specific order, this order does not necessarily correspond to the order in which the games are actually played. You can choose the order you want, and your bets will be settled accordingly when all the games are over.
The reverse bet is a bet that basically combines several if the bet covers your selections in every possible order. So, if you make a reverse bet on the same three selections as above, you will get six if the bet goes on each of the following orders:
- Steelers, then Titans, then Raiders.
- Steelers, then Raiders, then Titans.
- Titans, then Steelers, then Raiders.
- Titans, then Raiders, then Steelers.
- Raiders, then Steelers, then Titans.
- Raiders, then Titans, then Steelers.
Please note that your initial stake is multiplied by the number of possible orders. So, if you placed a $ 100 three-choice reverse bet, your total stake would be $ 600. You would basically be placing six separate bets if you bet on the order shown above.
This can obviously be an expensive way to bet, but the advantage with reverse betting is that you are guaranteed a return if one of your selections is correct. Each choice is a two-time first choice, so you’ll get $ 200 back with just one correct choice. With two correct choices, you will get $ 600 back. With three correct choices, you will get back $ 1,800 PLUS your initial $ 600.
Other Bet Types
We’ve covered the many types of bets here, and these are the ones you REALLY need to know. However, we haven’t even come close to covering every type of sports betting that exists. There are many more, most of which are devoted to one or more individual sports. It is unrealistic to cover all of them here, but here are just a few examples.
- This brilliantly named bet is a kind of parlay. This is specifically for baseball and hockey, and it involves picking over / under for the total line across all games played on a particular day.
- This baseball bet is basically a point spread. The spread is always 1.5 running, so it’s not necessarily a 50/50 proposition.
- This bet is the equivalent of an ice hockey line. Again, this is basically just a point spread which is always set at 1.5 points.
- Very popular in soccer, this bet involves predicting the exact score a game will produce. A tough bet to make right, but the potential payouts can be very attractive.
If you visit our ultimate sports betting guide, you will see that it features a number of sports-specific betting guides. Each contains information on ALL of the bet types available for the respective sport. They are worth checking out if you want to learn more about the different types of bets besides the most common ones we have outlined here.
You may also be interested in learning about in-game betting, or live betting. This betting form allows you to place bets on sporting events AFTER the action has started. This is clearly very different from traditional betting, where you can only place a bet before the event starts.
Live betting is a very popular way to bet on sports these days as it opens up a wide variety of additional betting types. You can learn more about this type of bet in our guide to live betting.