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Sports Betting Newbie Guide

Betting is a fun way to make an exciting sports event even more exciting and it can also be an entertaining way to make money. If you are new to online sports betting, you may find the many competing online bookmakers and the specialist language of odds off-putting.

How A Simple Bet Works

The most common type of bet concerns the outcome of a single game or contest. Put simply, you guess the result and find another person who is prepared to take the opposite view.

Each party puts down some money - known as their stake. You agree to lose your stake if you guess incorrectly. But you will get your stake back AND win the other stake if you get it right!

What A Bookmaker Does
To bet, you need to find someone to oppose you. A bookmaker (also known as a bookie) is someone who makes a business from taking bets. Whatever sporting event you are interested in, there will typically be one or more bookmakers taking bets on it (making a book).

In betting with a bookmaker you are said to place a bet and the bookmaker is said to take a bet - but the essence is exactly the same as betting with a friend! You put down some money (by depositing it with the bookmaker) and if you lose, they keep it. If you win, however, you get your stake back PLUS your winnings. The winnings can be seen as the stake put down by the bookmaker - but since the bookmaker holds both stakes, you never see his unless you win.

A person who places a bet with a bookmaker is often referred to as a punter.

What Odds Are
When you bet with a friend, you both usually put down the same amount of money. With a bookmaker you don't always bet with equal stakes. For each possible outcome of an event, a bookmaker will offer a ratio of his stake to yours. These are the odds.

The odds are set at the time you place your bet (with a few exceptions - see Starting Price, the Tote, and Spread Betting, below).

For example, if you back a horse at 3 - 1, you will give the bookmaker one unit - say, a pound. If the horse wins, you will get your one pound back - and the three pounds winnings.

When the amount of money you can win (in our example, three pounds) is greater than the amount you stake (your original pound), this is known as Odds Against.

When the amount of money you can win is less than your stake it is known as Odds On. Of course, you do still win, since you get your stake back. For example, if you back a horse at 1-2 (usually described as 2-1 on), putting the same £1 down, and you win, you will get your original £1 back plus 50p. (To gain a whole £1 you would have had to stake £2).

At 1-1 (Evens) you get your stake back and the exact amount again, e.g. a £1 bet at Evens will get you your £1 back and another £1 in winnings, making £2 all together.

To recap, the higher the odds, the more you win if you are successful.

What Odds Represent
In theory, the odds represent the probability of the outcome, i.e. how often it would occur, if the event were repeated again and again. For example, if you keep rolling a pair of dice for long enough, two sixes will come up together 1 time in 36. Odds based on the statistical probability are known as the true odds. In this case, the true odds are 35-1, because you will lose 35 times for each time you win.

Because sporting events are never rerun under exactly the same conditions, the true odds are always a matter of opinion.

Not only that, when you bet with a bookmaker the odds don't just represent the likelihood of the result. They also reflect the bookmakers need to make profit and different amounts of money taken on the possible outcomes.

The art of betting is in trying to find odds that are out of line with the true probability. We'll return to this theme later.

Odds offer the possibility of winning more money (by backing an unlikely outcome), or taking less risk (by backing a likely one).

How Odds Are Expressed
Odds can be described in a number of ways. Traditional odds (as above) are shown as a ratio e.g. 4 -1, 8/13 (13-8 on) etc. Odds can also be expressed as a percentage or as a decimal number e.g. 5.0 or 1.62. In decimal format the number represents your total return (including your stake). If you want to compare the odds offered by two bookmakers you have to convert them to the same format.

Occasionally, you might see the words SP appear in an table for a horserace, instead of numbers representing odds. SP stands for Starting Price and is an exception to the general rule of fixed odds. Starting Price is calculated after the start of the race and is an average price for that horse determined by racecourse officials using the prices shown by on-course bookmakers. This means the bookmaker cannot yet tell you what the exact odds are going to be. When you back a horse using a starting price, the price can change based on market conditions, and you are agreeing to whatever the odds will be at the start of the race. Some internet bookmakers only show exact odds for bigger races and for smaller races show SP up until an hour or so before the beginning of the race.

Why Odds Can Differ
The bookmakers who feature on our site all operate independently of each other. For the punter the important thing to understand is that odds are set independently by each individual bookmaker and therefore can vary dramatically.

It is a common belief that the odds offered by the bookmakers on a particular outcome reflect the true probability of that outcome occurring. This is a misapprehension.

For the bookmaker, the process of deciding how high or low to set the odds actually has two parts:

- The Probability. Good bookmakers do indeed employ odds compilers with specialist sporting knowledge who calculate the likelihood of the various possible outcomes and then draw up the odds. This thinking is reflected in their early prices (also known as Tissue Prices).

- The Market. Once the bookmaker has started taking bets from punters (once the market has opened) the odds will be changed in response to where the money is going i.e. how people are betting.

Some bookmakers are driven almost exclusively by the market. They will tend to post prices late, once they have seen the other bookies' odds. Others will post early but at very short prices on which they feel they can't lose, then see how the market takes them.

Which Factors Affect The Odds?
Whether it is you or the bookmaker, there are certain factors to consider and weigh up many different factors while attempting to determine the probability of a particular outcome.

In horseracing these might include:

* Form - the past history of all the runners
* Going - a description of how the weather has affected the   track
* The riders, trainers and owners
* The pedigree of the horses
* The draw


In other sports the factors might include

* Form - the past results of the teams and players involved
* Line-up and management
* Injuries/fitness of players
* Which team has the home advantage
* Weather

All the above are useful indicators as to the outcome of any sporting event. How much weight you attach to each of the particular factors is the subject of much argument.

Nowadays a lot of this information is available somewhere on the Internet. Considering these factors will help you to form an opinion as to the probability of particular outcomes - what the experts call the True Odds. Use our Links pages to find useful sources of information.

Bear in mind that while the bookmakers must set odds (and therefore form opinions on) a whole range of sporting events, you can concentrate on one event. If, in your opinion, the bookmakers are offering odds that you believe to be longer than the true odds, you have found what experts refer to as a Value Bet. Making Value bets is the only way to beat the bookmakers in the long term.
 

How The Market Changes The Odds
Once the market has opened, and the bookmaker starts to take Bets, the bookmakers need to take into account market conditions - i.e. the money staked so far on the event. A bookmaker is a professional - he must make a profit. If a lot of people bet on a particular team, or horse, then the bookie stands to lose a lot of money if it wins. In this situation, bookmakers will make the odds on that team or horse worse (lower) to discourage people from backing it. They may also improve (raise) the odds on the other teams or horses to motivate punters to put money on those participants.

Consequently the odds they offer may very well cease to represent a considered view of the outcome of any particular event - they are just as likely to become a reflection of what other people are betting on. For example, football fans often back their team, regardless of their real chances, out of loyalty. As a result the odds may reflect the popularity of the team as much as, or more than, its likelihood of winning.

How Good Are The Odds On Offer?
For the bookie, the important thing is to pay out less in winnings than he retains in stakes. Typically, he will try to ensure that he makes a profit on each event on which he makes a book. This is done by setting an Overround. It sounds complicated but it isn't really. To calculate an Overround, convert the odds of all participants in the event to percentages, then add them together. Remember that in order to convert to the probability you need to add in the stake, for example 2/1 represents a probability of 1 in 3.

While mathematically the total probabilities of all participants in an event must be 100% (one participant- and only one- can win) the bookmaker's Overround will add up to more than 100%. It's the amount over 100% that represents the bookmaker's profit. Just like in shopping, the higher the profit, the less good value that will represent.

You probably won't be bothered to sit and work out overrounds. Many sites out there that will do this for you.

You can use the Best Book to identify a race where the prices are likely to represent good value. The closer to 100% the better the value of the odds. Bear in mind that a good book doesn't mean that all the odds represent good value. You still have to identify which outcomes are at good prices.

What Other Kinds Of Bets Are There?
The kind of bet we have been discussing is called a Single (because there is only one outcome being considered) and a Win Bet (because the outcome has only two possibilities win or lose). This is the most common type of bet, but there are many other kinds. Some you might come across are:

* accumulators (such as doubles or triples) - a bet in which a single stake is used to generate two or more bets in succession. There are many complex types of accumulator such as a Yankee, a Heinz, a Trixie etc. There more complex types are novelty bets - they are not used by punters who are seriously trying to make money.

* each way effectively two bets in which equal stakes are laid 1) on the selection coming first, and 2) the selection being placed.

The individual bookmakers' sites give details of all the bet types they are prepared to take.

What Other Kinds Of Betting Are There?
There are three further common kinds of betting.

1. The Tote. The Tote offers a very similar set of options to a bookmaker, including Win Bets and various Accumulators. The difference is that the Tote is a pool or "pot" based system. All bets are pooled and following the race the pool (less deductions- the Tote's profit) is shared out among those who won. This means that your bet isn't made at fixed odds as the amount you stand to win is affected by all those who bet after you. Tote prices- they call them "will pays" (an indication of what you would win if there were no bets after yours) are shown at racecourses and on the Tote's web site. In practice although there are usually some small differences between the Tote's prices and bookmaker's prices they end up pretty even. Some punters have famous stories about big differences on outsiders.

2. Spread Betting. A form of betting derived from financial markets where the punter bets on a 'spread' of numbers relating to the particular event - for example, runs scored in cricket, points in Rugby Union, or the number of lengths between named horses at the end of the race. The bookmaker quotes the spread: say, regarding the number of points to be scored by one side in a Rugby game, 28-30. If you think the side will score more than 30, you 'buy' at 30; if fewer, you 'sell' at 28, and stipulate your stake per point. If you buy the spread at £1 and the team scores only 25, you lose £5 - 30 minus 25 leaves 5, which multiplied by your stake is £5; if that team scores 35, you win £5. The attraction of spread betting is that the more right you are, the more you will win - and by the same token the more wrong you are, the more you will lose.

Note: you cannot have a spread bet unless you have an account with the bookie concerned, since you cannot stake the bet in advance as you do not know how much you might lose.

3. One-To-One Betting. This essentially refers to betting without a bookmaker, as you would with a friend, for example. There are now a number of One-To-One betting sites on the Internet that allow strangers to bet against each other. On these sites you can offer to either lay or place a bet. If you lay a bet, you yourself offer the odds and the stake, and then wait to see whether another user will take you up on it.


Odds Formats
American Odds (Money Line)

By selecting American Odds - money line format, you will see all of the quotes offered in a money line format. This will then display the quotes as follows. You can have a negative and a plus side. For instance,

Green Bay -125
Dallas +115

What this means is that for every $125 you bet on Green Bay, you win $100 if they win. For every $100 you bet on Dallas, you win $115 if they win.

European Odds (Decimal)

By selecting European odds - decimal format you will see all of the quotes offered in decimal odds. This will then display the quotes as follows.

Green Bay 1.8
Dallas 2.15

To calculate a decimal quote all you need to do is multiply your stake amount by the quote. For instance if you bet $100 on Dallas your winning return will be 2.15 x $100 = $215 ($115 win plus your $100 stake back).

UK Odds (Fraction)

By selecting UK odds - fraction format you will see all of the quotes offered in fractions. This will then display the quotes as follows.

Green Bay 4/5
Dallas 23/20

W
hat this means is that for every $5 you bet on Green Bay, you win $4 if they win. For every $20 you bet on Dallas, you win $23 if they win.


Differences Between Sports
EUROPEAN SOCCER

Single match bet
If you place a bet on a single match you can bet on a home win (Tip 1), a draw (Tip 0) or an away win (Tip 2). Your selection must be correct for your bet to win.

B
y selecting a single bet on soccer there will also be various match options that you can choose on the listed games to predict the correct score after 90 minutes play, who will be the first goal scorer, what will be the result at half time, the time of the first goal scored etc.

Combination bet
A combo bet is a combination of 2 or more single bets on soccer. You can bet on 2 or more games, but you must get all of your selections correct for your combo to win. The odds and payout increase with the number of games bet in your combo.

C
ombo winnings are calculated by multiplying the odds of each of your selections by each other, and then by multiplying that amount by the amount bet in the combo column.

AMERICAN FOOTBALL

Straight Up
This is a straight bet on the outcome of the match. Simply select which team you think will win. All your team has to do is to win the game regardless of the point spread

Spread betting
Each team has been awarded a starting line. Your team will either be leading by + points/runs/goals or trailing by - points/runs/goals at the start. The team with the highest number of points/runs/goals at the end will be the winner.

For example if Green Bay is playing Dallas in an NFL match up and Green Bay is favoured to beat Dallas by 4.5 points, you can bet on either Green Bay minus 4.5 points, or Dallas plus 4.5 points. Therefore if you bet on Green Bay minus 4.5 points - for betting purposes they must win the game by 5 points or more for your bet to win.

A
lternatively if you bet on Dallas plus 4.5 points - for betting purposes they must either win the game or lose by less than four points for your bet to win.

Total Over / Under
You can bet on whether you think the combined total points/runs/goals scored by both teams in the game will be over or under the total given.

Parlays
A parlay bet is a combination of 2 or more single bets on 1 or more games. For example, you can bet on 2 or more football games, but must get all of your selections correct for your parlay to win. The odds and payout increase with the number of games bet in your parlay.

P
arlay winnings are calculated by multiplying the odds of each of your selections by each other, and then by multiplying that amount by the amount wagered in the parlay column.

Teasers
A teaser bet is a combination of 2 or more single bets on 1 or more games where you can adjust the point spread in your favour for a greater chance of winning.

For example, you can bet on 2 or more football games, but must get all of your selections correct for your teaser to win. The odds and payout increase with the number of games bet in your teaser.

 
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