Sports betting 101: Everything to know about placing a legal online wager

Sports Betting 101
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Gearing up to get started with legal sports betting is an exciting prospect, as there is so much for the new user to learn and explore. For instance, there are various bet types to learn about, a host of different sports and leagues to bet on, as well as the step-by-step process of placing a bet.

Of course, first-time users will also need to follow the step-by-step process to register for an account and deposit/withdraw funds with which to wager.

Below, we will explore everything from an entry to sports betting perspective for both new and returning players located in legal sports betting states.

A legal sports betting overview

The journey of legal sports betting has been interesting to follow, with the industry in the midst of major expansion. Between 1992 and 2018, sports betting was prohibited in the United States as per the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. This federal law was challenged multiple times throughout its life cycle and was eventually deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in May of 2018.

As a result of the reversal, the right to rule on commercial sports betting was handed back to each individual state. Soon after the decision, multiple states moved to legalize the sports betting industry, with more joining the ranks in the following years. And while retail and online sportsbooks have not yet been launched in all 50 states, the list of available locations to place legal wagers is increasing seemingly by the day.

Different sports wager types to know

When jumping into online or retail sports betting, it's important to know there are a multitude of ways to wager. Some bet types are very straightforward and simple to understand, others can be a bit more complex. But, providing a plethora of bet types allows each and every user to play the board how they please and increases the number of ways to win.

Moneyline bets

Placing a moneyline wager is perhaps the most simple bet to make when getting started with sports betting. A moneyline bet simply represents the winner of a game, outright. The odds for moneyline bets are also very easy to understand: Favored teams will be marked with (-) odds, underdog teams will be marked with (+) odds.

These odds are used to represent the probability of each team to win the game and are used to calculate return (winnings) on bets.

To give an example of a moneyline, users might see the Minnesota Vikings marked at (+150) odds to win their next game. With these odds, a $100 bet would return a $150 profit in the event of a Vikings win. If the Vikings are listed at (-150) odds to win their next game, a user would need to place a $150 bet to return a $100 profit (in the event of a Vikings win).

Point spread wagers

Another very easy and popular way to bet on a game is by placing a point spread wager. A point spread represents the handicap set between the two teams playing in a game. These are also very easy odds to understand: Favored teams will be laying (-) points, while underdog teams will be tagged with (+) points.

For an example, bettors might see the Minnesota Timberwolves (-5) in their upcoming game. If a user is to bet on this line, they would need the Timberwolves to win the game by at least six points in order to cover the spread. On the flip side, if a user bet the 'Wolves when they are listed at (+5), then they would need Minnesota to either win the game outright or to lose by no more than four points. Point spread bets that end in a tie are considered a push and the user is refunded.

Over-under total

Over-under totals are some of the popular ways to wager when users have less of a rooting interest in either team playing in a game. That's because over-under total bets combine the score of both teams playing in a game to see whether the number falls over or under the pre-game total. Odds for over-under total bets are typically at -110 each (or close to that). It's important to note that over-under total bets that end in a tie are considered a push and the user is refunded.

Player props

If users prefer to bet on individual players, they can do just that with player props. This type of prop betting is dependent only on the individual statistics of a specific player and does not take team win/loss outcomes into account. Examples of player prop betting include: Justin Jefferson over-under 84.5 receiving yards, Karl-Anthony Towns over-under 29.5 points, etc. It's very common for player prop bets to be parlayed together for multiplied odds and larger potential payouts.


Users can combine together multiple betting lines from various games onto the same ticket for multiplied odds, this is called a parlay. The more legs and longer the odds added to the ticket, the higher the potential payout. However, it's important to understand even though parlays can be potentially more lucrative, they also carry a heightened chance of a chance to lose.

With parlay bets, each individual leg of the wager must win for the ticket to be cashed. If any of the individual leg(s) loses, the entire bet is lost. If any of the leg(s) on a parlay end in a tie, they are considered a push and typically voided from the ticket.

Same-game parlays

In addition to traditional parlays, many sports betting apps also allow users to place same-game parlays. Rather than selecting various betting lines from different games, with same-game parlays, users can keep it all under one roof. Simply browse through the available lines and select multiple bets from the same game to combine together onto the parlay ticket for multiplied odds.

With same-game parlays, each individual leg of the bet must win for the ticket to be cashed. If any of the individual leg(s) loses, the entire bet is lost. If any of the leg(s) on a same-game parlay end in a tie, they are considered a push and typically voided from the ticket.

Teaser wagers

Very similar to traditional parlays, bettors often have the option to combine multiple lines and place a teaser. These are very similar to parlay bets but carry reduced odds with a higher margin for the user to win. It could also be described as the user buying points from the oddsmakers in exchange for lowered odds. For example, if the Minnesota twins are (+1.5) on the run line at (-150) odds, users might see a teaser line displayed at (+3.5) on the run line with (-300) odds.

Live betting options

Bettors shouldn't worry if they miss the start of the game, as they will often have the opportunity to jump into the action at any point with live betting. This is a simple convenience for some bettors, and a strategic play for others, as live betting odds are updated from moment to moment to reflect the status of the ongoing game being played.

With live odds moving in accordance with the game, users can lock in bets at major points of value thanks to swings in momentum. To give an example, users might see the Minnesota Vikings as (-3) point favorites at kickoff. But if the Vikings come out of the gates slow and fall behind 10-0 early, the live odds will massively shift and users will likely be able to bet Minnesota at around (+7).

Instant betting

In addition to live betting, some sportsbooks provide even more instantaneous wagering capabilities. Often referred to as flash betting or instant betting, this style of wagering allows users to bet from play to play within a given game. To give an example of instant betting, users could wager within a Minnesota Twins game. As a new batter comes up to the plate, they might see the option to wager on the outcome of that at-bat, whether it be a hit, a strikeout, a home run, a line-out, etc.

Futures markets

Certainly worth mentioning, sports bettors have the ability to call their shot long in advance with futures lines. Futures bets are very self-explanatory, users are placing a bet on a future outcome to occur. Typically, the most popular time to place a futures bet would be before a season starts, as the odds are often the longest at this point. However, futures betting lines are updated by the day/week to reflect the current status of the playing field. Examples of futures bets would be the Minnesota Vikings to win the Super Bowl, make the Playoffs, win the NFC North, and more.

Sports available for betting

One of the most attractive aspects of getting started with sports betting is the wide variety of different sports to wager on. Most major sportsbooks offer odds for games both domestic and international, collegiate, and professional.

While not completely uniform across all major sportsbooks, there is still a core group of sports that are typically available to bet on. Those include all of the following:

  • Australian Rules Football
  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Boxing
  • Cricket
  • Cycling
  • Darts
  • Football
  • Golf
  • Hockey
  • Lacrosse
  • MMA
  • Motorsports
  • Rugby
  • Snooker
  • Soccer
  • Tennis

Do note there are multiple sub-sections within each of these sports for various leagues/levels of competition.

How to make a wager on sports

Now that the available bet types and sports to bet on have been covered, it's time to learn about how to place a bet. This is a very straightforward process, as most major sportsbook operators have set up their sports betting app in a very user-friendly manner.

Follow these steps to make a sports bet on your game/platform of choice:

  • Browse through the list of available sports/games and select a line to bet on
  • Click on that betting line to add it to the betslip
  • Go to the betslip and place an amount ($) on the selected betting line
  • Confirm the wager and place the bet
  • Sit tight and watch the outcome of your bet play out

It should be noted that if users add multiple betting lines to the bet slip, they will be given the option to parlay the bets in addition to the ability to stake each betting line individually.

How to register with a legal online sportsbook

Before users are able to lock in their bets, they must first register for an account with the sportsbook operator. This is very easy to do on various sports betting platforms and can be completed on in a matter of minutes by following the steps listed below.

How to sign-up for a sports betting account:

  • Select your sports betting operator of choice
  • Download the app or log onto the sportsbook website
  • Select the option to sign-up or register
  • Enter the required personal information: Full legal name Date of birth (must be at least 21 years old) Email address Phone number Last four digits of Social Security
  • Agree to the terms and conditions of the sportsbook operator
  • Complete the sign-up process and deposit funds

It's worth pointing out that in addition to the listed information, users will be required to enable the location services on their access devices. This is so that the sportsbook app can verify the user is within legal state sports betting boundaries.

Available deposit options

Before users can place a bet, they will likely need to deposit funds into their account. While not all methods are the same across major sportsbooks, some of the typically available deposit methods include the following:

  • Credit/debit card
  • Online banking
  • PayPal
  • VIP ACH eCheck
  • Wire transfer
  • Operator gift card
  • Play+ prepaid card

How to transfer funds from an online sportsbook

After winning bets, users also have the option to receive payouts. Withdrawal options on major sports betting platforms usually include the following:

  • Online banking
  • PayPal
  • VIP preferred eCheck
  • Wire transfer
  • Check by mail

It should be noted that certain payout methods can carry a processing time while others might be instantaneous.

Legal sports betting states

Sports betting has not yet been legalized nationwide, however, there are a myriad of states that have already legalized and launched sports betting in either an online and/or retail setting.

The list of available sports betting states includes the following:

  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • North Carolina
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

Expect to see this list continue to expand as the legal sports betting industry booms throughout the country.

Sports betting 101 FAQ

Some of the frequently asked questions relating to the topic of sports betting 101.

Is sports betting legal?

Yes, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 was deemed unconstitutional in 2018 by the Supreme Court: The move gave the ability back to each individual state to delegate on the topic of sports betting.

Which states have legal sports betting?

AZ, CO, CT, IL, IA, KS, KY, LA, MD, MA, MI, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OR, PA, TN, VA, WV, WY: This list continues to expand year over year as more and more states are joining the ranks of legal sports betting.

How do I place a bet?

Select your betting line of choice, add it to the betslip, add a stake ($) to the wager, and confirm the bet: Then watch the game to see if your bet wins or loses.

What is the minimum age for legal sports betting?

In most states the legal betting age is 21 years old, however, multiple states allow users 18 years or older to register and place legal bets: This is a state-by-state decision.

Can I still make a bet if I miss the start of the game?

Yes, many sports betting platforms provide live betting services, allowing users to jump in and wager on the action at nearly any point during the game: Live betting odds are updated from moment to moment as to reflect the ongoing status of the game being played.

— Bob Wankel is a Director at XL Media where he covers breaking news and sports betting.

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