Betting 101: How to Master the Basics of Betting

01 / 03 / 2022 By Robert Kowalski

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What Is The Moneyline?

The term moneyline is a type of bet that simply focuses on the outright winner of a game. When you’re betting on the moneyline, your only focus is who will win the game outright with no pointspread or handicap involved.

If you’re referring to the moneyline odds, those are frequently seen across the sportsbook next to point spreads, totals and many other types of lines. In many ways, “the moneyline” is just a synonym for the word “odds”.

Where Moneylines Bets Are The Primary Options

Moneylines are the primary betting option in a number of sports. In sports like baseball and hockey, that’s the main way the betting goes as players simply decide which team will win the game. There is spread betting with runlines and pucklines, but that is a distant second behind moneylines.

In fight sports, moneylines are the main way of wagering. You’ll see two fighters with moneylines next to their name. The same goes for tennis. 

Where Moneylines Bets Are The Secondary Options

In sports like football and basketball, the moneyline is considered as the secondary option next to point spreads. Points spreads are the way that most people get their action in on basketball betting and football betting because the payouts are near doubling your money and it’s a fun way to handicap the game. Betting the moneyline in those sports is less popular because you might have some big mismatches and then it becomes too challenging to have faith in the underdog winning outright or too costly to bet the favorite.

Point Spread Betting

What is Spread Betting?

The point spread is meant to make things a little more equal, in the sense that you assign a certain number of points to a team/side that isn’t as strong as the one they’re playing. In moneyline betting, all you have to do is pick a winner. However, in some sports where there is a clear mismatch – let’s say a big, established college football program versus a small university– the outright outcome is very obvious. That’s where the point spread comes in. If the perceived better team has to win by, say, 20 points, that makes the decision much more challenging and the matchup on the field much more fair.

Point Spreads In Football/Basketball

These are the sports in which point spreads are more relevant. The best way to show you what a point spread is with an example, so let’s take one from the NFL. The Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers might play a lower caliber team like the Detroit Lions, but the spread might favor the Broncos by seven points because they’re better. That would read as the Buccaneers -7 while the Lions would be +7. This means the Buccaneers have to beat the Lions by more than seven points, while the Lions need to win outright or lose by less than seven in order to win. If the outcome lands exactly on seven points, that’s known as a push and the game is a tie (you get your money back). It works the exact same way in basketball.

Point Spreads In Hockey/Baseball

Point spreads aren’t as popular in these sports, but it’s still possible to make a wager. Puck lines are for betting hockey and run lines are for betting baseball, but there is a standard line for both: 1.5. You’ll see one team is either -1.5 as the favorite, or +1.5 as the underdog. What this means is, for the favorite, they have to win by more than 1.5 goals (by two), and the underdog has to lose by less than 1.5 goals or win outright. So they could lose by one and you would win. It is the same for run lines in baseball, and again, the line is usually 1.5 either way.

Point Spreads In Soccer

Point spreads are similar to football and basketball but much smaller handicap wise. Teams that are favored usually will be -.5, -1, -1.5, or -2 or more depending how big of a favorite they are.  This means the favorite would have to win by more than the spread and the underdog would have to lose by less than the spread or win outright.

Point Spread In Tennis

Finally, the point spread in tennis is all about how many games a player will win. So let’s go with Serena Williams as the favorite over Maria Sharapova. Williams might be at -3.5 for this match, which means she has to win more games overall. If she wins something like, 6-4, 6-4, that means she wins 12 games to eight for Sharapova; the difference is four, so that means she wins. You don’t see a lot of point-spread betting in tennis, but it spices things up a little bit when the moneyline odds get very large.


Over/Under Betting (Totals)

What is Over Under?

There are two main options when you’re betting on sports: betting the point spread or betting the Over Under – also known as “totals”. When you bet the Over Under, you don’t care who wins the game, all you are focusing on is the combined score of the two teams at the end of the game. Here is a quick guide to over under betting in different sports.

Over Under in Baseball

When you’re betting on totals in baseball, you’ll likely see numbers anywhere from 6.5-12 for the most part. If the number is around seven runs, that means you’re looking at a pitcher’s duel. A number like 12 usually means it’s two bad pitchers on the mound and two potent offenses.

One thing to remember with baseball totals is that the home team does not bat in the ninth inning if they’re holding a lead and the game ends after 8.5 innings. That becomes a factor in many cases as an under bettor might be happy for the home team to stay in the lead and not show up in the ninth whereas an over bettor might hope that the road team can tie it and force the home team to come to bat, so that they can get some extra runs on the board.

Over Under in Basketball

When you’re betting on totals in the NBA, expect to see numbers in the neighborhood of 210. A game that’s projected to be low-scoring might see a total of 190 whereas a high-scoring game could see a total of 230. In college, the numbers are much lower. You might see totals from 120-150, roughly speaking. Remember that they have a longer shot clock and the games are shorter, so there is less scoring. 

Over Under in Football

Totals in football focus on the combined score of the two teams. Usually, an NFL game that’s deemed to be low-scoring will see a total in the range of 40-45 points. A game that’s deemed to be a shootout will have a total in the range of 50-55 points. In some cases, the numbers could be higher. For example, in college football, the total for a high-scoring game would be somewhere in the 70’s or even 80’s.

There are a number of factors to consider when betting the total: venue, weather and style of play. If it’s snowing and windy, you’d probably want to consider the under. If it’s a team that runs the hurry-up offense and is playing indoors on turf, then you might want to consider the over. Other factors to consider are injuries, what is on the line for the teams and rest.

Over Under in Combat Sports

Totals in UFC and boxing are a little bit different than other sports because they hone in on the length of the fight. You’re still betting an over/under, but it’s not the combined score of the two sides. Here you’ll see a round set by the odds makers and you have to decide whether the fight will go over – or longer – than that set round or whether it will go under – or shorter – the set round. If you feel the fight will end quickly via a knockout, you’d bet the under. If you think it will go to the judge’s scorecards, you would bet the over.

Over Under in Hockey

If you’re examining totals in hockey, you’ll likely see the numbers 5 or 5.5. There are times when there’s a 4.5 or a 6, but those are rare instances. A line of five indicates that the game is expected to be low-scoring whereas 5.5 is the typical line.

In hockey, remember that if the game goes to overtime, you’re going to have one goal added to the total. Either a team will score in overtime or someone will win in the shootout, which means one goal will be given to the winning side. Each individual goal in the shootout does not count towards the total.


Remember that overtime is included when it comes to totals. That can often throw things for a loop. For example, let’s say you handicapped an NBA game to go under. The set total was 200 and after four quarters, the two teams have only combined for 188 points, so you’re a winner, right? Not necessarily. If the score is 94-94, then the two teams will go to overtime to decide the game and whatever is scored in the extra frame or frames will be added to the total. 

Parlay Betting

The vast majority of the time, sports betting is about one outcome: you either pick one side to win or the other. If your team wins, you win your bet. If they lose, you lose. However, there’s a type of bet that’s called a parlay that relies on two or more outcomes.

What is a parlay?

A parlay is when you tie multiple selections into one bet. Of course, you could be on just one outcome at a time but with a parlay, you need to win all of your outcomes to cash your bet. Let’s say you decided to play a four-game parlay with the following teams:

  1. Dallas Cowboys -4.5
  2. Chicago Bears -2.5
  3. Cleveland Browns +10
  4. Seattle Seahawks PK

With this four game parlay, every single selection that you added to it has to win for you to win your parlay. If any of these games lost, then you lose your entire parlay.

Benefit Of Parlay Betting?

The benefit of a parlay is the payout. Parlays are popular because you can bet a small amount and win a big one. Going back to our example above, if you bet any one of those games at -110 or 1.91, then you’d win less than double your money. For $100, that’s $191 (roughly speaking). However, if you played a four-game parlay and won it, then your $100 would pay out $1330. That’s a much bigger win.

Risks Of Parlay Betting?

The risks with parlays are quite obvious: they lose most of the time. In sports betting, it’s tough enough to pick winners on a consistent basis. At -110, a winning percentage of 55% or 56% makes you a winner in the long run. However, if that’s success in sports betting, then it makes it really hard to hit a four-game parlay. If your odds are 50/50 to hit the first bet, then they’re cut to 25% once you play a two-game parlay, 12.5% once you play a three-gamer and 6.75% once you play a fourth. That’s a miniscule chance of winning. There are times when parlays can be a shrewd strategy but for the most part, it’s not.


Teaser Bet

Sometimes it’s hard to make a decision when you’re handicapping a football or basketball game. The odds makers make a tough line and it’s challenging to pick a side. However, you can move those lines via a teaser bet. Although they’re not available in hockey or baseball, teasers give you the opportunity to shift the betting odds so that you can get a better number to your liking.


What Is A Teaser Bet?

A teaser is a type of bet that allows you to shift a point spread in your favor. As a result, you have to give back a portion of your payout. You also have to tease at least two games together, making it into a parlay. Here’s an example:

  1. Dallas Cowboys +3
  2. New York Giants -3
  3. Chicago Bears +6.5
  4. Green Bay Packers -6.5

If you wanted to bet on one of these games, then it’s simple: just pick a side. However, if you want to play a teaser, you are forced to play a parlay but you get to shift the line by a certain amount for both bets. Some teasers are as small as six points and can go as high as 14 or even 20 (in rare instances). Let’s say you liked Green Bay and Dallas from the above two games, if you played a six-point teaser, you would move both lines in your favor and create a two-game parlay out of them. That means you’d have Dallas +9 instead of +3 AND Green Bay -0.5 in a two-game teaser. Both would have to cover their new spreads for you to win. When you start getting into 10 point teasers, you’ll usually need to parlay at least three games together. 

In terms of your payout structure, that completely changes. Again, remember that you’re getting a benefit by receiving points. As a result, since your chances of winning increase, you’ll have to take on risk elsewhere (smaller payout, playing a parlay).

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