Betting Guides 101

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Betting Guides 101

Author: Devin Erickson-Sheehy | Last Updated: January 31, 2024

Betting 101: Sports Betting Terminology Explained for Beginners

Online betting sites are now in dozens of states across the country, making sports betting more available than ever before. So, some fans may need to freshen up on the sports betting basics. Betting for beginners can be complicated, and even those who are familiar with sports betting now have countless features and options that new sportsbook apps have introduced.

This is American Gambler's sports betting 101. We will discuss everything you need to know before placing wagers with a sportsbook app. You'll learn the betting types and terminology that will make you an expert in no time.

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The Most Popular Betting Types Explained

On the sportsbooks you'll find on our site, you can use multiple betting types. Below, we explain the sports betting basics by going over how each betting type works.


Betting the moneyline is very straightforward. You're simply betting on a team to win the game. The odds will be displayed in two ways. The minus lines are given to the favorites, while plus lines are for the underdogs.

Let's use an example for an NFL game. The Packers are -160 to beat the Bears (+140). Since the Packers are the favorite, you'll have to bet $160 to win $100. When betting the underdog with +140 odds, you can win $140 after a $100 bet.


For each sports game, oddsmakers create a spread. Instead of varying odds for moneyline bets, spreads will always be around -110, but the favorite has to cover the spread.

We can use betting an NBA game for example. The Warriors are favored by 11.5 points against the Lakers. If you bet on the Warriors -11.5, they need to win by at least 12 points. If the Warriors only win by 10, the bet is a loss. On the other hand, if you bet the Lakers +11.5, they don't need to win. They can simply lose by 11 or less.

Totals – Over/Under

Just like spreads, totals are also set for sports games. These are often referred to as over/unders.

We can use a hockey game for example. There will be a total set for total number of goals scored in the game, each half, as well as for each team. Common hockey totals are set around 5.5.


Props are fun bets that don't necessarily have anything to do with the game. The most popular prop bets are for the Super Bowl.

Game props have to do with events in the game, such as the coin flip and whether or not there will be an overtime. And then player props involve individual stats, so you can bet the over/under on a certain category. In the NFL, a running back will have a total for the number of rushing yards he will gain during the game.


Futures allow you to place bets before the season has even started. Then, the odds will change as the season unfolds. Think you know who is going to win it all at the end of the season?

In Formula 1 betting, there will be odds for the driver's and constructor's championship. You can place this bet anytime during the season, but the best odds will be available before the first race. After that, the most likely result will have the better odds.


A parlay is a single bet, but it includes multiple outcomes that have to be correct. Each outcome of the parlay is called a leg. So, a bet with three outcomes is called a 3-leg parlay. Odds will reflect the difficulty.

Parlays are great for betting football on Sunday. You can place a parlay on multiple games that are going on at the same time. US sportsbooks also have same-game parlays, enabling you to create a parlay with outcomes all in the same game.

Live Betting

In-game betting is an exciting way to follow along with the game. Betting apps will have bets you can make during the game, and some even include live streaming so you can watch the game from your phone.

When live betting a soccer game, you will be able to wager on who is going to win the game, or even who will score the next goal. Live betting is a great way to hedge your pregame wagers to minimize your losses. It's beneficial to have a good internet connection when you are trying to live bet a game.

Other Sports Betting Terminology to Know

When learning the sports betting basics, there are several other key terms to consider. Our betting 101 guide will touch on several of the terminologies that are regularly used.


Sportsbooks are businesses trying to make money. Just like you! So, there is services that are provided.

You'll notice many of the spread and totals will have odds around -110 for both sides of the bet. Basically, you have to bet $11 to win $10. This is the extra amount of money that the betting site acquires. Therefore, if bettors are equal between two wagers with minus odds, the sportsbook still makes money regardless of the outcome.

Betting Unit

A betting unit is how much you normally wager. So, if you place $20 bets each time you wager, that is your unit.

You may hear people discuss how many units they are wagering. If they are confident in a bet, they may say they are wagering two or three units. This helps compare bettors to see how well they are doing, rather than discussing how much money they have won.

Bonus Bets

Sportsbooks offer welcome bonuses to new customers, which we have on our site. Then, you'll find additional boosts and sportsbook promos as a customer.

Plus, many online sportsbooks have loyalty programs that allow customers to earn points and rewards based on the amount they bet.


There are several responsible gambling tools that are available through legal betting apps. You can set limits on your account to make sure you aren't spending too much money.

And just like physical casinos, you can self-exclude yourself. When doing so, you won't be able to create an account or log on to the betting app.

Betting 101 FAQs

Commons questions about sports betting online.

How do I start betting on sports?

Our site has all of the best sportsbooks that are available in the US. Sports betting for beginners is made easy through all of our reviews and information about betting apps.

How can I be smart in betting?

Use responsible gambling tools and only wager what you can afford to lose. Only use the legal sports betting apps that are on our site.

What is the safest betting strategy?

Use live betting to hedge your existing wagers. If your pregame wager looks bad, you can place a live bet that goes against your other wager.

What do odds of +200 mean?

When you have odds of +200, you only have to wager $100 to win $200. If a team is +200 to win, that means they are the underdog.

Devin Erickson-Sheehy

Devin is a diehard New York sports fan and betting expert. He supplies a wealth of knowledge about everything online gambling, providing readers with up-to-date tracking on the latest trends, industry news, and betting offers.