In order to become a successful sports bettor, you need to learn a lot and you need to amass tons of experience. All that learning has to start somewhere though, so this article will be dedicated to the basic concepts of sports betting. Most would-be sports bettors understand the game they plan to bet on perfectly. They're usually adept at picking the winner of just about any confrontation, and many of them are decent handicappers too. Most beginners also think that these skills are enough to make them successful at sports betting. Unfortunately, they're woefully wrong in that assumption. In addition to being a decent handicapper and understanding the game, a good sports bettor has to understand the business of sports betting, the lines and the way the money is supposed to move.
The lines represent the most important aspect of sports wagering. Lines can be displayed in two different formats in professional sports.
When one bets on the money line, he basically picks a team to win. In that respect, the money line is probably one of the simpler ways to get your money into the middle, all you need to understand is that if you pick the winner, your payout will inevitably be poorer than what you'd get on the underdog.
Money line betting is mostly used in NHL betting and MLB betting. Here's an example to make the money line easier to comprehend: team A is a -1.30 favorite over team B. That means that if you plan on getting your money in on team A, you'll be risking $1.30 for every $1 you stand to win. Before you scream that the negative EV is obvious here, please also take it into account that team A is actually more likely to win and those odds compensate the disparity of the wagered money and the likely profits. Everything tossed into the middle, the proposition is pretty much a 50-50 one and if it weren't for the bookie's vig, your EV would be exactly 0.
Unfortunately, the vig turns the whole thing into a negative EV affair and if you can't find an edge (by tracking the lines and by exploiting line movements caused by square money pressure) you will not be able to turn it around. The vig is pretty much like the rake in poker, but in poker there are rakeback deals, whilst in sports betting, the bookie will not part with his juice on his own accord (unless you sign up to an online bookie who offers you a welcome bonus of some sort).
The spread is quite probably the most popular form of displaying the lines and it is used in the most popular sports betting markets, like the NFL and NBA. The spread describes the margin of dominance one team supposedly has over the other through actual numbers: if team A is a -4 favorite over team B, it means that if you place your wager on A, in order to be paid out, you need A to win by more than 4 points. If Team A wins by 3 points, you will lose your wager. The bookie will move his lines by manipulating the spread.
If you find all the movement tracking way too daunting though, you can always turn to the good old over/under betting. The total is the simplest wager you'll find. Both teams' points will be added up at the end of the game, and thus the "total" will surface. You will be required to bet on the bookie's total, thus at the end of the game, if the actual total exceeds the bookie's total and you bet on "over", you win, otherwise you lose.