A Guide to Online Sports Betting
– A Brief History of Sports Betting
– How are Online and Offline Sports Betting Different?
– What Sports Markets are Available Online?
– How are Odds Calculated?
– Different Types of Bets
– Online Sports Betting Strategies
– The Future of Online Sports Betting
Betting on sports is now faster, easier, and more accessible than ever in the world of online casinos. Countless online bookmakers allow adults across the globe to place wagers on the outcome of any sporting event 24/7. Though land-based betting establishments remain popular in many countries, particularly the UK, their online counterparts provide fans with a much more convenient way to bet. This market is only expected to grow and grow in the future, and as technology evolves, the experience of betting online will continue to become more immersive. If you’re interested in trying sports betting, the sheer number of online bookmakers, offers, rules, odds, and other details can all be pretty overwhelming. You might feel intimidated – perhaps even too much to go through with in the first place. This guide to online sports betting is designed to give you the information you need before you start. In the following pages, you’ll learn about the different sports markets available, how odds work, various sports-betting strategies, and more!
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A Brief History of Sports Betting
Betting on sports has been with us for thousands of years. Though it’s impossible to mark the exact point in history at which it began, sports betting is known to date as far back as Ancient Greece, with the Olympic Games; it’s fair to assume it started far, far earlier than this, though. Boxing, wrestling, running, discus-throwing, and many other classic activities were involved, and Greeks were able to bet on the results. This took a slightly different form, with estates were often used as collateral amongst the wealthier participants, though money was used by others. The core principle was the same, though: try to pick a winner and lose as little money as possible!
Romans were passionate about betting too. We all know about battles being fought between gladiators for spectators’ amusement, and wagering on arena games was incredibly popular. Despite the grisly nature of these events, they drew great attention from bettors across all social classes. Over the centuries, betting continued to evolve further and further, with horse racing, football, rugby, and other sports gaining popularity. Other sports around the world that became popular for betting upon include baseball, basketball, darts, and others, though the legality of betting in certain countries is somewhat complicated. Online betting has slightly different regulations, though, and enables people to bet from their own home.
The first online bookmakers were launched in the late 1990s, as the internet expanded to become more accessible to people with a home computer. The first examples were somewhat basic, lacking the visual flair or immersive qualities of today’s best online bookmakers, but they provided bettors with a revolutionary way to place wagers. There was no need to leave the house to visit a betting shop. Over the past 20 years or so, online sports betting has changed almost beyond recognition. Websites now have much more tools at their disposal to build an engaging, exciting betting experience.
Betting fans have dozens upon dozens of high-quality new online casinos to choose from, regardless of the sports they prefer to bet on. It’s much more secure, straightforward, and convenient than sports betting has been in the past, and will only continue to get more so in the years ahead. Advances in mobile technology keeps customers connected to their favourite online bookmakers all day, all night. There are websites-optimised for mobile devices, providing all the same features as the desktop versions, with high-quality performance on various smartphones.
Being able to simply go online and place a wager on a horse race, a football match, or a game of ice hockey is a luxury previous generations could only dream of. The leading online gaming websites offer stunning designs and accessible user interfaces, giving you complete control with a tap of the screen. Mobile apps provide much the same experience as mobile websites, but eliminate the need to play through browsers. These can be faster and smoother, though not every online bookmaker offers these.
How are Online and Offline Sports Betting Different?
Online and offline sports betting is different – that’s obvious enough. There are some similarities, of course, but overall the two options offer completely different experiences. Online sports betting takes place in the home. That’s the first major difference. There’s no need to take a walk along the high street to your betting shop of choice, no need to wait in line while other people make their wagers, and no need to drive or catch a bus either. It’s a far simpler, far more cost-effective option.
Your online sports betting brings more choice, too. At a brick-and-mortar bookmaker, you only have the sports and odds they offer – if you want to try something different, you’ll need to find another bookmaker (which may be easier said than done). Online bookmakers tend to offer better odds than offline establishments, though, and you can shop around at your leisure. With online sports betting, you’re free to place wagers as and when you like. If you want to put a bet on a soccer game, for example, you can get up in the middle of the night and wager on a match unfolding on the other side of the world without having to wait.
Online sports betting being available 24/7 is ideal now that we have such advanced mobile options. You can pick up your smartphone and make a wager at any time, day or night, wherever you are. The best online bookmakers have mobile-optimised websites that work beautifully on the smaller screen, as well as apps you can download; apps tend to have plenty of features, and give you all the ones you’d expect to find at desktop websites. Online sites may include such options as live streaming, which enable you to watch events as they unfold in real-time, right on your smartphone, tablet, or laptop. This saves you needing to switch your TV or radio on, giving you an all-in-one betting and viewing experience.
With online betting, you also have a wealth of information at your fingertips. The best online bookmakers typically provide you with statistical data on individual players, teams, and more; this helps you to make a more informed choice. You can also open another tab and check other websites for details too, with an entire world of knowledge available.
This is missing from offline bookmakers, and while it might be no problem for seasoned bettors, but for newcomers, this lack of resources can be a challenge. You need to rely on odds, personal experience, or other people’s advice. Offline bookmakers are somewhat more social than their online counterparts, though. You might enjoy the conversation and buzz of excitement as people gather to watch events unfold in a high street venue, and can benefit from more seasoned fans’ knowledge.
Placing bets is completely different too. Online, you can just click on any wagers that appeal to you and add them to your betslip with a minimum of fuss. At brick-and-mortar establishments, you’re required to fill in a paper betslip before taking it to a cashier – on busy days (such as the Grand National or a major Premiership Football game) long waits may be in order. Online betting is an ideal option for people with mobility issues: people who are unable to walk or find it incredibly straining will find betting at home a revolutionary benefit.
Ultimately, online sports betting ensures more convenience, freedom of choice, and simplicity, while offline betting is a more social affair. You might prefer one or the other, or you may like both equally. Online sports betting can be used alongside offline wagering, giving you a terrific solution for those times when your local bookmaker is closed (or if you can’t get there for one reason or another).
What Sports Markets are Available Online?
One of the first things you’ll notice when you visit an online bookmaker? The sheer amount of different sports markets available. The most high-quality websites will offer a choice of mainstream options alongside more niche ones too. This ensures the brand appeals to the broadest array of customers as possible, rather than forcing them to look elsewhere. Within each sports market, you can typically find a number of leagues or tournaments with hundreds (if not thousands) of events open to you. For example, clicking on a basketball tab may give you a choice of American, European, Japanese, and other leagues to try.
Sports – The most common sports markets you’ll find at online bookmakers are soccer, American football, baseball, tennis, cricket, darts, horse racing, gold, ice hockey, rugby league, and others. You’ll usually have access to fixtures from across the globe in each, presented in an easy-to-follow format. Perhaps you’ll only have an interest in one particular sport, such as greyhound racing, or you’d prefer to try your luck on as many as possible. There are no limitations, and you can experiment with as many as you’d like. Sports markets tend to listed at the right of a site’s homepage, allowing you to browse quickly and easily.
eSports – It is one of the newest areas of online betting, and for fans of video games, it’s incredibly exciting. How many of gamers have wished they could make money from their favourite hobby? Millions, no doubt. With eSports, the very best players turn professional, forming teams with like-minded gamers to compete in contests. Some of these offer prizes big enough to change players’ lives, with the winning teams bringing in serious revenue.
eSports tournaments include The International, Major League Gaming, Halo Championship Series, Intel Extreme Masters, and many others. Games at the contests’ core are Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Dota 2, StarCraft II, Halo, League of Legends, and Overwatch. The market for these is massive, and if you’re a gaming fan, betting on eSports is a natural entry point into the world of online bookmakers. Not every site features an eSports section, but some of the most reputable do. Placing bets on these works in much the same way as betting on ‘standard’ sports – just check the odds, pick one that captures your imagination, and add it to your betslip.
Fantasy Sports – This date back decades. Traditionally, fans get together, create teams of their favourite players, and winners are picked based on the statistical performance of said teams / players in the real world. Numerous high-profile websites (such as FanDuel or DraftKings) are dedicated to fantasy sports. This can be a much faster, simpler process than taking part in offline fantasy leagues, in which people usually gather together. Take a look around different online sports betting sites and don’t be afraid to try something new. Not only is there real potential to win big prizes, but you can also discover new passions.
Live Betting – A terrific feature at online bookmakers. Live sports betting allows you to place wagers on a game, race, or other event that’s currently underway – no matter how far through it is, no matter what the score, you’ll be able to put a bet on. This is an exceptional option if you want to put a bet on a specific event but missed the start. Rather than simply having to accept that you may have lost the chance to wager, you can instead still stand to make a profit.
Live betting gives you the freedom to place fresh wagers if you feel your original one is unlikely to secure a win. You may change your mind depending on your team’s performance, on an individual player’s behaviour, or just have a gut feeling that you made a mistake. Whatever the cause, live betting gives you an impressive amount of flexibility to put bets on at any point during an event in-action. Most online bookmakers display a selection of events in-progress on their homepage, usually with the most popular ones at the top. You’ll be able to see all in-progress games by clicking on their ‘in-play’ or ‘live betting’ tab, and have access to options all over the world.
Virtual Sports – It provide a faster, simpler alternative to real-sports betting. With the likes of football, baseball, ice hockey, and horse racing, you’re subject to certain restrictions. For a start, you can only choose from those games, races, and matches available – let’s say you want to put a wager on a greyound race, but none are set to take place for the rest of the day?
Virtual sports are the solution to these limitations. Most reputable online bookmakers offer virtual sports, with a selection of different ones available – usually greyound racing, horse racing, football, motor racing, and speedway. You can actually watch the races unfold as high-quality animations. The entire event isn’t presented, though – that might defeat the point of virtual sports (or, at least, take away some of its convenience). You’ll be given around 30 seconds of animation, which feature highly-realistic visuals and immersive sound effects (with commentary). All of this helps to make the virtual event feel just as engaging and exciting as the real thing, but in a fraction of the time. This equates to less time spent waiting for the results to come in.
Betting on virtual sports tends to be the same, with odds and player names. However, these are original creations, so you don’t need to worry about players’ or runners’ historic performance – just the odds presented. A Random Number Generator (RNG) keeps virtual events fair and balanced. Virtual sports take place every few minutes, so you can still take part in betting on a horse race or football match at any time of day or night.
How are Odds Calculated?
Odds can be one of the most confusing, and frankly intimidating, aspects of online sports betting. When you visit any online bookmaker for the first time, you’ll see countless odds presented in one of multiple formats (though fractional is the most common) – they’ll likely look like nothing more than random numbers to total newcomers. Odds are basically a representation of probability, giving you the information you need to judge your bets. Different bookmakers provide different odds, and some are fairer than others; one website’s odds will likely offer you a better return than the rest should your wager be a successful one.
Sports betting is all about examining the probability of a specific outcome occurring. You might sit down to watch a football match between Liverpool FC and Manchester United with a fair idea which has the better players, stronger formation, and more impressive history of performances – in this case, you’d say that team has the better probability of winning.
Odds can be presented in three different formats: American, Fractional/UK, and Decimal/European. Let’s look at each of these in turn:
American – If you’re using an American sportsbook, you’ll see that their odds are displayed in a completely different way to the UK format you may be used to. The American system of betting on a favourite revolves showing how much money you would need to wager, based around £100.
So, if you go to place a bet on a game where the odds of a specific outcome are -150, this means you would have to wager £150 in order to actually win £100 (plus your original £150 back). If you’re looking to bet on an underdog in the American style, this involves putting a ‘+’ ahead of the odds. For instant, betting on a horse with +300 means you need to bet £100 to receive £240 winnings, as well as your stake. If it sounds complicated at first, don’t worry – you’re not alone. However, the more time you spend using this system, the more you’ll get used to it.
Fractional / UK – Otherwise known as British odds or UK odds, tend to be incredibly popular with online and offline bookmakers based in Great Britain. If you’ve spent any time at all looking at bets in a newspaper, online, or when passing a brick-and-mortar bookmaker, you may be familiar with the format of this system. Fractional odds are usually presented with a slash or hyphen, such as 5/1 or 5-1, verbalised as ‘five-to-one’. Many of the world’s biggest online bookmakers will either use this format, or allow you to choose it on the main menu; having a choice of multiple odds systems available is yet another benefit of online bookmakers, letting you make wagers your own way rather than having to play by ‘house rules’ (for want of a better term).
To continue with our 5/1 or 5-1 wager, this would mean you receive a £5 prize for every £1 you place upon a specific outcome (as well as that £1 stake). This is a fairly simple system – basically, the fractional odds format applies to the ratio of profit you stand to make. So, if you see an event with odds of 7/1, you know you’ll receive £7 for every single £1 you wager, or £80 for a bet of £10. This is a very simple system, and is ideal for newcomers thanks to it’s essentially telling you exactly what to expect. Its format can vary, too: if you see an option of 4/2, this would bring you £4 for every £2 you make, as well as that stake back, resulting in £6. The numbers on either side of that slash or hyphen can change based on the event set to take place, which can be confusing at first glance. Just keep referring back to the simple definition of this system and you’ll be fine.
Decimal / European – It tend to be more popular in such places as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Europe (hence the alternative name). Many betting fans find decimal odds one of the easiest formats to follow, and allow for fairly simply spotting an event’s favourites and underdogs.
Basically, the decimal odd figure relates to the winnings you can expect to get for every £1 you bet – the number covers your entire potential return, instead of just the profit. So, your stake is factored into the decimal number, without any need to add your wager back into the overall amount. For example, if you were to place a wager of £1 on a team or player with odds of 2.20, you’d win £2.20 back overall. If you wagered £100 on the same odds, this would be £220 in total. If you were to bet on a higher number, your return would be higher. A 5.00 odds would bring in 5.00 for a £5, and £500 for a £100 bet. The lower the number is, the higher the player or team’s chances of winning. If another team or player has a higher number, they’re less expected to win, which brings in the chances of a higher return (though it’s also a bigger gamble).
Whichever system you prefer to use, it’s key to bear in mind that odds are a guideline only and not a guarantee of a specific outcome: no matter how reliable or experienced a bookmaker is, they cannot predict the future with 100% accuracy. In the end, even a horse or team which has never (or rarely) lost an event might still lose – costing countless backers their stakes. Remember this when studying odds, and let them guide you rather than making the decision for you. Having said that, when starting out in online sports betting, you might find odds incredibly helpful in leading you towards bets, so do follow them. The important thing is, keep your wagers low: if you do lose on a favourite it’ll make less impact on your finances.
Different Types of Bets
During your first forays into online sports betting, you might find yourself considering all wagers as identical, believing you’re always betting on a straight win. No fuss. Simple. However, as you’ll soon discover, there are a number of betting types across the thousands upon thousands of events out there. Let’s take a look at each one in turn:
Win / Moneyline Bet – This is the simplest sports bet out there. The win or moneyline bet is a straight bet, and is one of the most popular given its simplicity: this is so simple to understand and is regarded as a traditional option. The win / moneyline bet applies to almost every sport available at online bookmakers, and only requires you to back the team or player you believe capable of winning. That’s it.
Point Spreads – Point spreads tend to be big in the USA, particularly in the world of American football. You might also see them used for basketball, though they’re by no means limited to this – you can find them used in most sports. These revolve around betting on the team or player you expect to ‘cover the spread’: this spread is created by an online bookmaker making both sides taking part into the equal favourites to win.
A favourite will basically have points deducted, while an underdog will receive points – this leads to an equalizing spread, varying based on the number of points granted and taken away. Backing a favourite side on a point spread means you’re wagering on them to win by a specific margin, bigger than the spread itself. For example, if you were to wager on an underdog, you’re backing them to win or lose by a margin below the spread’s size.
Confused? If so, don’t worry – once you start betting with point spreads, the process gets simpler. For example, if a team you wanted to back were awarded 7 points against their opponents who had 7 points deducted, you would win so long as your team managed to win or lose by less than 7 points. Alternatively, if you backed the team with the 7 points deducted, you would win if they won by more than 7 points. If either team wins or loses by the exact 7 points, you would be faced with a ‘push’, and receive your stake amount back. As you can see, this is fairly simple once it’s broken down into an example.
Handicap – Handicap betting is similar to the point spread style of betting discussed above. Points are provided for one side and taken away from the other, but with a different goal: both participating parties are not made equal favourites. Instead, handicap betting is more about giving more varied wagering options, with a chance to boost your chances of a win whilst also reducing or improving the odds themselves.
This works in a fairly straightforward way. A bookmaker will give you a number of handicap options for a specific team, which may be +1, -1, or +2 (for example). In this case, if you choose the +1 option, your team would be given an extra goal for this wager: this would lead to lower odds, as they would have a better chance of winning. If you choose a -1 option, your team would be deducted a goal, leading to higher odds, while the +2 would add two extra goals. By changing the odds for each bet, you’re also altering the potential winnings you stand to receive after the event has ended.
Totals / Over-Unders – Totals and Over-Unders tend to be used interchangeably. This refers to an online bookmaker establishing a line for the overall number of points (goals, runs etc.) to be scored in any one event. You would then have the option of wagering on whether the eventual total will be above or below the bookmaker’s own line – if you bet above, you’re betting ‘over’, while betting below is betting ‘under’. Odds for over and under bets can vary greatly, as one result can be more or less likely than the other.
Prop Bets / Specials – Proposition bets, or specials, are an interchangeable term for wagers offering a fun experience rather than a serious attempt to win a big prize. These tend to revolve around guesses rather than informed decisions, yet can prove lucrative if you’re willing to chance it. Props typically are wagers with little or no direct impact on the event’s overall outcome, such as the time of the first goal, if any players in a game will score a hat trick, who will score the first goal, and so on. These are a quick, easy way to try your luck alongside other bets, or independently of them if you’re looking for a wager with a difference.
Futures (or Outrights) – Futures and Outrights cover the same type of bet: these wagers are placed upon the overall winner of a league, tournament, or competition ahead of said contest’s beginning.
Accumulators – You will see accumulators mentioned again and again at online bookmakers. These are wagers that involve picking one or more bets – such as choosing four or five teams to win their next respective games. Accumulators can be difficult to win, as you have to get each of your picks right. Any one, two, or more wrong wagers can lead you to lose, ultimately costing you your entire stake amounts as well as potential winnings. Still, the risk may be worth it given the increased returns. Backing strong teams that equate to a winning accumulator can leave you with a hefty prize, so bear that in mind.
Combination Bets – Combination bets are multiples based around placing more than one wager within a group-bet. However, every choice you make doesn’t come under one sole wager. Your wagers in a combination bet aren’t reliant on each other – if you back one outcome which turns out to be wrong yet all others are correct, you’ll still pick up your winnings on the latter. Combination bets are best left to more seasoned bettors, or those novices who want to try something a little bit different.
Online Sports Betting Strategies
Sports betting is, by and large, dependent on chance. You can’t guarantee an outcome, no matter how good a team or individual’s record is: anything can happen during an event. Favourites can lose. Underdogs can gain game-changing victories. Online sports betting strategies can help you to alter your wagering techniques and potentially boost your winnings, but they aren’t 100% sure to make you richer. Bear that in mind when reading the strategies below!
Make the Most of Bonuses – Online bookmakers rely on bonuses to attract new customers and retain existing ones. A solid welcome package can make all difference between choosing one website and a competitor: you may be offered one free bet for registering, or a 100% match on your deposit that effectively doubles your account balance. Different online bookmakers provide various bonuses, so be sure to shop around. Take your time, work out which brand will give you the most extra bets / money for your expected deposits, and go for the one that suits you best. However, just be sure to factor the overall quality and reputation of the website in too. For example, one bonus deal that gets your time with a website off to an outstanding start may not be worth going for if said online bookmaker offers few sports markets and poor odds.
Comparing Odds – Perhaps you prefer to open accounts at two, three, or more online bookmakers to diversify your betting experience. You might like the odds on horse racing at one brand’s website, but love the presentation at another. Whatever your motivation, there is another overall benefit to using multiple online bookmakers: comparing odds. Checking the differences between odds gives you more freedom to boost your potential returns. Even if these variations seem tiny, extra pennies can add up over time. You may even want to place wagers across these websites, to potentially boost your total winnings on a favourite.
Limit Your Blind Bets – Sometimes, you will get lucky when you bet at random – but it’s vital that you don’t always bet blind. Get used to putting a little bit of research into your wagers. Look into a team’s previous performance, studying their wins, their losses, and players’ recent injuries; all of these can impact the success of your bet. Simply betting on a favourite in a sport you don’t know can be a fun, easy way to wager – just don’t do this every time. Improve your chances of success with a little bit of research.
Start with What You Know – It makes sense to start making bets online with the teams or sports you know. Don’t throw money at an NBA game if you’ve never even watched a game of basketball in your life, or darts, or cricket. If you’re a dedicated football fan, start there. You might want to begin by wagering on your favourite team – but if they continue to lose you money, don’t feel guilty about betting against them in the future. Loyalty shouldn’t lead you to keep coming out at a loss if they are performing badly.
Avoid Betting ‘on Tilt’ – Going ‘on tilt’ is a fairly well-known sports-betting term. This refers to letting your emotions guide your wagering choices, rather than studying odds, performance, data etc. While trusting your gut instincts can be a smart decision in online sports betting at times, don’t rely on them where huge amounts of money are involved. Let your gut guide you on small wagers, but make informed choices where big cash is at play.
The Future of Online Sports Betting
Mobile technology’s evolution has transformed online sports betting in the past decade or so. This will only continue in years to come, as our smartphones, tablets, and smart watches all unify our online activity, keeping us connected to our favourite bookmakers 24/7.
One major shift in the industry is VR. This technology is already coming into play around the world, including that hotspot of gambling, Nevada: customers will able to watch virtual sports unfold in real-time through VR headsets, immersing them in the experience more deeply. This will also make placing wagers, studying data, and interacting with the online bookmaker far different, possibly replicating the more social atmosphere of a brick-and-mortar by uniting customers in one virtual space. As online sports betting continues to become a more popular, convenient option, innovators will embrace changing technology to maximize your experience.