How Does Betting Work?

Published: 11th May 2018
Author: Joe Kizlauskas
Last Updated: 24th February 2021
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How Does Betting Work? – A Guide to Betting 2024

Have you liked the idea of making a bet but then started wondering how betting actually works? Well, look no further. This guide aims to equip future players with everything they need to know to bet on sports successfully.

Why Use a Sports Betting Guide?

Gambling used to be a big taboo, but it is becoming more mainstream recently. One result of this increasing acceptance has been the proliferation of the multi-billion pound sports betting industry.  However, navigating how to place bets online can be a tricky business because there are so many variables to consider. 

How to Place Sports Bets

Once you’ve mastered the essential factors of how to place sports bets found in this guide, you can start playing. 

The first thing you need to do is to select your sport and decide how much you’d like to stake. Next, you’ll want to choose how to place your bet: by phone, internet, or the brick-and-mortar bookies? 

Betting through a top online bookmaker is an increasingly popular choice these days thanks to its accessibility. You’ll be able to wager once you’ve registered an account and deposited some funds – you might also be eligible to get your hands on a free bet or promo. The best sites offer a massive range of sports which can be accompanied by fantastic free bets

Our Top Betting Sites

Online gambling has rapidly become a massive international industry, and entrepreneurs have certainly taken note. Although there’s an abundance of online casinos and bookies, you should shop around to find ones that suit your needs. Here are some of our favourite betting sites.

Unibet – £40 Free Bet + £10 Casino

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Unibet is licensed in the UK and offers fast withdrawals. The £40 welcome offer doesn’t hurt either. To receive your bonus, you’ll have to make a minimum deposit of £10 and place a £20 bet at minimum odds of 1.40.

New customers only | 18+, | Min deposit £10 | Money back as bonus | Wagering requirements: Sportsbook 3x at min. odds of 1.40 (2/5), Casino 25x | Only one bonus can be used at a time, Sportsbook bonus must be wagered before using the Casino, unless the bonus has been forfeited | Bonus will expire after 7 days of opt-in | Further T&C’s apply.T&Cs Apply

888Sport – Bet £10 get £40 in free bets

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888sport is another also stands out from the crowd. It offers a £30 free bet welcome offer. You’ll have to make a deposit and place a £10 qualifying bet to secure it, though. It also provides fast and secure payment methods.

A min deposit of £/€10 with promo code is required • You must bet a min of £/€10 at odds of 1/2 (1.50) or greater on a sports market that will be settled before December 26th at 23:59:00 GMT • Free Bets valid for 7 days • Deposit balance is available for withdrawal at any time • General withdrawal restrictions & full T&Cs apply • 18+, BeGambleAwareT&Cs Apply

Hopa – Bet £10 Get £10

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It won’t be too long before it becomes a household name in the UK. Hopa offers a user-friendly experience with a sleek design. This bookie offers a £10 free bet welcome bonus, similar to many others on the market. You’ll have to deposit at least £10, after which you’ll receive your free bets of £10 to bet on any sport.

How Do Betting Odds Work?

The odds tell you the amount you stand to make if your bet wins. It correlates to your stake. Betting odds are an essential aspect of all sports wagers and will help you decide if it’s worth trying your luck. Using a combination of your stake and the relevant odds help you calculate the possible payout. 

Odds don’t only impact your possible payout; they also show the likelihood of a particular outcome taking place. A key feature of figuring out how betting odds work is that they are lower when the result is more likely. Consider a boxing match where the best fighter in the world is up against the 120th ranked boxer. You expect the best boxer in the world to win. Therefore, betting on him would return lower odds in comparison to the higher odds for his opponent. 

Your payout and the overall chances of winning: Have we answered your question of “how do betting odds work”? Not so fast! There are three subdivisions of odds you’ll encounter in sports betting. Let’s take a look, shall we? 

MoneylineMoneyline Odds

This format is favoured in the United States and is also sometimes referred to as ‘American Odds’. It’s displayed as a positive or negative number. The positive shows how much you would make on a winning wager of £100, whereas a negative shows how much you need to wager to win £100. Let’s look at an example. 

If the odds are +190, your return on a correct wager would be £190 as well as your initial stake. If the odds were -190, you would have to wager £190 to win £100 on top of your initial stake. 

FractionalFractional Odds

This format is commonly used in the UK, although decimals are becoming increasingly popular in online betting. Every fraction displays how much you stand to make if your bet wins. It could show as, for example, 7/1; this means for every £1 that you wager your stake return will be £7. The denominator won’t always be one, but the rule stays the same. These terms should help you calculate the total payout. 

DecimalDecimal Odds

As mentioned above, decimal odds are most common in online betting. Players prefer its simplicity compared to the other two formats. The decimal, using two decimal places, shows precisely how much your bet stands to return. It works by simply multiplying the decimal odds with the wager to find your potential return. Therefore if the decimal odds are 3.50 and your wager is £20, then your winnings will be £70.

Converting both of these is quite easy, you can look through multiple guides on how to convert odds, which tends to be very helpful to most punters.

Understanding Probability

Although odds and probability are linked, it’s not the same thing at all. Recognising the difference could help you make profitable wagers. Many factors affect the odds, and some of them don’t reflect the outcomes. For example, if someone places a very large bet on a horse, this may drop the odds lower as the bookmaker hedges their bets. However, this has no impact on the horse’s chance to win. 

On the other hand, probability is straight forward. Probability usually varies by about five to ten per cent. To place a successful sports bet, you’ll want to figure out what the probability of a specific outcome is and calculate whether the odds would be profitable. 

Betting Formats

With such a massive variety of sports to bet on, it stands to reason that there’d be various types of bets too. To successfully wager on sports, you must have a working knowledge of the terminology and how it works. 

question markHow Does Each Way Betting Work?

This type of betting is commonly used in horse racing. If you enjoy spending time at the tracks but have been too embarrassed to ask “how does horse betting work?”, we hope the rules of odds we presented above has enlightened you. However, when punters are discussing this more complex betting system, and you’ve wanted to ask “how does each way betting work?”, we’ll answer that for you now. 

With this wager, you’ll be placing two separate bets. Your first bet is on your pick to win; the second one is in a place. Placing means coming first, second or third. Bookmakers may offer a wide range of each-way bets with varying odds and could offer places outside the top three.

question markHow Does Matched Betting Work?

Matched betting uses a combination of back and lay betting formats to utilize free bets. Most online bookies and casinos offer welcome bonuses these days, but it’s not always easy to turn that into real money. That’s where this type of wager comes in. 

Simply put, you’ll place the back bet and place an equal bet against the same outcome, known as the lay bet. No matter what the results are, you’ll win. By making use of this back and lay betting approach, you stand to make a profit using free bets. You could stand to make up to 80% of the free bet. 

The math behind matched betting can be pretty complicated, so even though doing it yourself is possible, it’s usually better to use match betting software.

question markHow Does Spread Betting Work?

Some sports, like football and basketball, allow point spread usage for betting. So, we can hear you asking, how does spread betting work? The point spread helps to level the playing field for the weaker side. In money line betting, you select an outright winner. 

Assign points or goals to the weaker team. Say, for example, you have a Premier League Team playing a team from League One, and you think the League One team will only lose by two goals. Now, the top team would have to win by three or more goals to lose your bet.

question markHow Does Lay Betting Work?

Lay betting is a fun option if you’ve ever wanted to play the bookmaker. Instead of backing a bet, you’ll be offering odds to sell. The player can guarantee a win by backing and selling bets on a game. So essentially, a lay bet means you’re betting on something not to happen.

For example, let’s say you believe that Arsenal has no chance of winning the Premier League, but you don’t know who will. In this case, you’d place a lay bet. You’ll be betting on the fact that Arsenal loses the league. This means if any team other than Arsenal wins, your wager wins as well.  

question markHow Does Handicap Betting Work?

Handicap bets are very similar to point spread bets. This betting type works by giving a handicap to the team with the advantage to level the playing field. Players will find that there are different types of handicaps, namely single, level or split handicap. Read on to solve the mystery of how handicap betting works.

  • Single Handicap – This happens when there’s an obvious difference in ability between the two selections. Place the handicap on the favourite, or you could say you give a handicap advantage to the inferior team. This could be +0.5, +1.0 or +1.5 goals.
  • Level Handicap – This refers to a match where the competitors are evenly matched pre-game. The player will only need to select their favoured team, and if the selection wins the bet is successful.
  • Split Handicap – Your stake can be split when the difference between the teams is minor.

question markHow Does Placepot Betting Work?

This bet is for horse racing. Your stake goes into a pool which is divided among the winners. Win this bet by selecting a placed horse in the one to six races on a specific race card. 

Live and In-Play Betting

In-Play betting, also referred to as betting in the running, allows players to place live bets once game has started. These are sometimes allowed at every stage of play. Patrons can wager on a load of different outcomes and factors while the game is taking place, making it a perfect choice for thrill-seekers. 

The website where you play has a big effect on the types of wagers you can place. You will usually find this at online casinos and bookies where technological advancements can handle the requirements of in-play betting.

Bankroll Management

Now that you know what sports betting is all about and how to find value in odds, it’s time to talk about financial strategies. Although people seldomly talk about this, it’s one of the most important factors when choosing to gamble. Right decisions should always take precedence over how much you stand to win, whether you’re a frugal gambler or a high roller. 

By setting a budget, you’ll know exactly how much you have to spend. It also makes it easier to spot any possible gambling problems.

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About Joe Kizlauskas

Joe is a seasoned iGaming copywriter and speaker who has been in the business since 2015. He's written more words on all elements of iGaming than he likes to remember, and he's contributed material to a number of well-known brands. Joe may be seen playing 5 a side, at the gym or playing games on his Playstation when he is not writing.