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How To Bet Sports

There is often a negative correlation between simple and easy. Not so with sports betting, it is both simple and easy! The catch is just because it's easy to bet doesn't mean it's easy to win. Understanding the basics will greatly improve your odds for success.

Point Spread

Here we have a NBA game, the Denver Nuggets (DEN) at the Golden State Warriors (GSW).

The Nuggets are 8.5 point underdogs and Warriors are 8.5 point favorites. So if the final score is DEN 100 and GSW 108 that means the Warriors won the game but the Nuggets covered the point spread.

What's up with the half point? If the line were 8 instead of 8.5, an 8 point win would be a tie or formally called a push. That means you get the money back for your bet like a refund from a store. The extra half point guarantees that either you will win or lose your bet, not push.

I'm a Nuggets fan but won't let emotions affect my pick, I think the Warriors will win by 9 or more points. On I'll tap the Pick button and find this:

"10.00 to win 9.09" means if I bet $10, losing means I lose $10, but winning means I get my $10 back plus $9.09. Why would I only win $9.09 instead of $10? That extra 9% is called the vig, short for vigorish, derived from the word 'profit' in Russian. It is basically a commission fee for the house.

The key thing to know about point spreads is by picking the favorite not only do they have to win the game but also win by more than the point spread (8.5 points in this case). By picking the underdog, they only have to lose by less than the point spread and if they win the game outright, you still win your bet but don't get any extra money for the surprise win.


With a moneyline bet, it doesn't matter how much a team wins by, simply pick the correct winner and you win the bet. In the above example, the Nuggets moneyline is +320 and Warriors' is -400.

If the Nuggets beat the Warriors, a $10 bet will win $32. Much better than $9.09 point spread payout.

If the Warriors beat the Nuggets, a $10 bet will only win $2.50. Much worse than the $9.09 point spread payout.

Decisions, Decisions

Sports betting comes down to which team you think will win and how much money will you win from being right. You have four choices -

  1. Warriors win by 9 points or more and you win $9.09
  2. Nuggets win or lose by 8 points or less and you win $9.09
  3. Nuggets win and you win $32
  4. Warriors win and you win $2.50

Of course you could bet more than $10 to win more.

Because baseball and hockey are low scoring, they usually don't have a point spread, you just use the moneyline. Soccer is the same except because draws (tie score) are common, there are moneylines for win, lose, and draw.

As you can see, sports betting is pretty simple. Try practicing for free at