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
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
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.
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
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
To recap, the higher the odds, the more you win if you
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
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
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
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
- 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
In horseracing these might include:
* Form - the past history of all the runners
* Going - a description of how the weather has affected
* 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
* Line-up and management
* Injuries/fitness of players
* Which team has the home advantage
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
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
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
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 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.
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
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
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
What 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
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.
By 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
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.
Combo 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
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
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
Alternatively 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.
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.
Parlay 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
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.