Sports Betting 101

Millions of Americans will tune into the Super Bowl on Sunday and, for the first time since the Supreme Court allowed states to legalize sports betting in 2018, they will have money — sometimes thousands of dollars — on the line. Many of the same people will also be placing wagers on a wide variety of “proposition” (or prop) bets. These bets, often based on a single player or event, aren’t tied to the game’s final score and can range from the number of songs Usher will perform at halftime to what color Gatorade will be dumped on the winning coach.

Whether you bet on the favorite or the underdog, understanding what odds mean is important in sports betting. Odds are calculated by the probability of an outcome occurring and are used to determine how much you can win if you place a bet. A bet with a higher probability will have a lower risk but won’t pay out as much as one with a lower probability and a bigger payout.

In addition to knowing odds, bettors should understand how to make a value bet. This requires calculating the true odds of an event happening and comparing them to the odds set by the bookmaker. Identifying positive expected value (EV) bets allows you to increase your chances of making a profit.

Sports betting can be a fun way to make money but it’s important to keep your gambling habits in check. Always bet within your budget and don’t be afraid to walk away if you are losing. Keeping track of your bets in a spreadsheet is also helpful, as it will help you spot patterns and adjust your strategy accordingly. Developing a sense of betting value takes time and effort, so it’s best to start small and work your way up.

Besides betting on individual games and teams, there are other ways to bet on sports, such as in pools and fantasy leagues. Pools involve putting money on predictions of the winner of a tournament or week’s roster of games, while fantasy leagues allow bettors to select actual athletes for a virtual team before a competition starts. The person with the best team in terms of selected statistics wins.

The simplest way to bet on a sport is to put your money on the team you think will win. This is known as a straight bet and the odds are usually close to even. Alternatively, you can bet on a team to win by a certain margin, which is called a spread. These bets open up more possibilities and can be more profitable if you are on the right side of the spread. However, even if you are on the right side of a spread, there is still no guarantee that you will win. The same applies to any sure bet, so it’s important to limit your losses by only betting what you can afford to lose. If you don’t, you may run out of cash before the season ends.