So You Want to Be a Sports Bettor? Read These Tips to Help You Get Started

Man Thinking With a Sportsbook and Money Background

Perhaps you’ve been watching a bunch of football games with your buddies who are constantly talking about the betting odds. Maybe you’ve been tuned into the mainstream sports channels that now spend a significant amount of time airing segments focused on gambling. Whatever the reason, you’re ready to put some skin in the game.

Betting on sports is a pastime as American as the sports themselves, and the chance to make money makes it hard to resist. In this article, I’ll lay out four things you need to know to get started betting on sports.

Your Sports Betting Bankroll Is Everything

I hate to start off with this, but I would be remiss if I didn’t make it clear how important it is to your long-term success.

Your bankroll, if you’re unfamiliar with the term (and you probably are if you’re new to gambling), is the amount of money you’ve set aside for the sole purpose of gambling. This should happen before you ever place your first bet.

You should only set aside an amount of money that you feel completely comfortable losing. Nobody wants to think that they’re going to lose it all, but if you don’t take this approach you can find yourself in a dicey financial situation. In fact, the best way to look at it is like a purchase or investment where you might get your money back, but you also might lose it all. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.

World Series 2020 L.A. Dodgers

After you’ve determined what our overall bankroll amount is, the next step is to determine a percentage rang of your overall bankroll number between which you’ll bet. For example, if your bankroll is $1,000, you might decide you’ll only bet between 2% and 5% of your total amount on one play (these percentages are what most experts recommend).

That means on any one play, you won’t bet less than $20 or more than $50. The reason these percentages are so important is because they keep you from running through your bankroll too quickly by making ill-advised big bets. Keep in mind that the 2% and 5% amounts will change as your overall bankroll total changes.

It’s hard to make money betting on sports, but it’s nearly impossible if you aren’t keeping track of your finances. A bankroll isn’t fun to talk about, but if you’re serious about gambling, its importance cannot be overstated.

Find the Right Sportsbook(s)

Once you have your money set aside, the next step is determining where to place your sports bets. It sounds easy enough, but it can be a little bit overwhelming at first.

Due to relaxed gambling laws, there are more viable options than ever before for gamblers. What used to be a seller’s market (gamblers being the buyers, betting platforms being the sellers) has turned completely upside down.

So what makes one site better than another? Truthfully, it often comes down to preference. However, there are a few additional things to look for that can help you make your decision.

First and foremost, you should feel comfortable with the user-interface of any site you use. It sounds obvious, but there are many platforms out there that translate poorly on mobile devices – something you don’t want to find out after you’ve deposited hundreds of dollars.

Rivers Casino Sportsbook

Next, there are bonuses to consider. While they seem too good to be true, they’re almost always legit and should be taken advantage of in all cases. These bonuses can be things like: deposit matches, where a site will match your first deposit up to a certain amount of money, free entry into tournaments with massive prizes for the winner, and much more.

Finally, save yourself some frustration by finding out what the withdrawal process is on each site you’re considering. Speaking from experience, there is nothing worse than having a bunch of money sitting on a site with no easy way to get it back into your bank account.

Often times the issue has to do with your state’s laws regarding gambling. Even if you can’t find a site that’s perfect, some are undoubtedly better than others. Just make sure you don’t neglect this step before signing up.

Learn the Sports Betting Options

Now that you’ve completed the work on the “administrative” side, you’re ready to start placing bets! But first, you need to get acquainted with all your betting options and the associated terminology.

The most popular way to bet on games (assuming you’re going to wagering on team sports) is to utilize the point spread. For example, if the Cowboys are playing the Eagles, you might see something that looks like: Cowboys -3 (-110).

The “-3” represents the point spread. In this case, it would mean the cowboys are giving three points. The easiest way to explain how it works is to say that the Cowboys are starting out the game with a 3-point deficit. Meaning if you bet on the Cowboys, they must win by more than three points in order to win the bet.

NFL Cowboys Versus Eagles

The “-110” refers to what’s known as the juice (or the vig). The juice is, for lack of a better term, is how sportsbooks make money. In this case, it would mean that you have to bet $110 to win $100. That -110 number is the most common when betting with the spread, but you might occasionally see it at -105 or -115.

The second most popular way to bet on team sports is the moneyline. When betting with the moneyline, all that matters is who wins the game outright.

Continuing with the Cowboys vs. Eagles example, you might see something like: Cowboys -185, Eagles +165. This means that you must bet $185 to win $100 if you choose the Cowboys, or bet $100 to win $165 if you choose the Eagles.

While the moneyline and the spread are the two most popular betting options, many more do exist. However, if you’re just starting out in your sports betting career, I would highly recommend sticking to those two until you feel comfortable getting more creative with your plays.

Track Your Gambling and the Results

Just as any good business keeps a budget and a balance sheet, as a sports bettor you need to be keeping track of where your money is going.

It’s not necessary to have a fancy bookkeeping system that provides every insight imaginable, but you should be tracking your plays. Not only will this help you know where your bankroll stands at all times, but it can also help you identify where you’re having success.

Whether you decide to use an excel sheet, an online program specifically designed for tracking sports bets, or even just a pen and paper, the important thing is that you have a way of monitoring your bets over a long period of time.

Aside from being a financial necessity, conscientiously tracking your bets will allow you to see things you might not have noticed they weren’t on paper. For example, you might recognize that you’re hitting on your NFL bets at nearly 60%, while your NBA plays are losing you money each week. These insights will give you the opportunity to adjust your strategy accordingly, which will hopefully lead to improved success long-term.

The bottom line is that if you aren’t keeping a record of where your money is going, you run the risk of getting down big without even realizing it. Find a method that works for you, and update your tracker each day that you’ve made a bet.


Sports betting has become so popular because it allows fans to have a true rooting interest in every game – whether it’s from betting on the Super Bowl, or a Wednesday night MAC game that you’d otherwise ignore.

As long as you have the financial stability and don’t bet more than you can afford, gambling on sports can become a lifelong source of fun and enjoyment.

Keep this list in mind when setting up shop, and you’ll have a chance to be successful.