The 7 Most Important Sports Betting Tips for Beginners

Odds Board and Money
When it comes to sports, it’s hard to tail is wagging which dog. Is sports driving the money, or is money driving the sports?

Think about how much it costs to advertise during the Super Bowl?

Do you think people would spend that kind of money for that kind of audience if no one had any money riding on these games?

I don’t either.

But if you’re just getting started in your sports betting hobby, there are some tips you might need to hear.

1. You Should Learn the Basic Bets First

The most basic bets in sports betting are these:

  1. Point spread bets
  2. Totals bets
  3. Moneyline bets

A point spread bet is one where you get a (more-or-less) even money payout on a bet, but the book accounts for the point spread between the teams when determining a winner.

For example, if team A is a 6-point favorite, they have to win by 7 points or more for a bet on them to pay off. And a bet on team B will win if they get within 6 points.

A totals bet is a bet on whether the total score for the contest is over or under a specific number set by the sportsbook.

For example, if the over/under for a game is 20, and team A scores 14 points, and team B scores 7 points, a bet on the over would win because the total score for the game was 21. A bet on the under would lose.

Finally, a money line bet is a bet that doesn’t account for a point spread, but the amount you win varies based on whether you’re betting on the favorite or the underdog. For example, if you’re betting on the favorite, you might have to risk $165 to win $100. Or, if you’re betting on the underdog, you might only have to risk $100 to win $140.

Understanding those bets will get you started, regardless of which sport you’re betting on.

2. You Need to Understand the House Edge in Sports Betting

The house edge is a statistical measure of how much you’re expected to lose (on average) on each bet that you place. On a standard point spread bet, the house edge is 4.5%.

Where does that edge come from?

It’s called the “vig” or “vigorish.”

Odds Board

Remember when I said that you’re risking “more or less” even money on a bet?

The truth is that you’re risking $110 to win $100.

And when the point spread is accounted for, you have a roughly 50% probability of winning that bet.

When you lose $110 half the time and win $100 half the time, it’s easy to see how the house has an edge.

3. To Profit, You Need to win 52.4% of Your Bets

Assuming the standard ratio of risking $110 to win $100, you need to win 52.38% of your bets just break even. Any number above that will show a profit, and the higher your win ratio is, the better your return on investment will be.

The best sports bettors in the world probably don’t win more than 55% to 57% of their bets.

But if you can see such a big return on your investment in such a short time, you can make a fortune in no time at all.

Think about it. Most of us are thrilled to see an annual return of 10% on our money.

What if you could do that in a matter of weeks?

With a win ratio of 56%, you can do that.

How do you achieve such a win ratio?

Entire books have been written on that subject. The truth is that it’s harder than you think. The sports books do a really good job of setting a number for the point spread that gives them a 50% chance of winning.

Your job is to find situations where the odds of winning are in your favor.

You don’t have to bet on every game.

4. You Have a Lot of Work to Do

A serious handicapper can get the edge that we’re talking about when betting on sports, but it isn’t easy. You basically need to become addicted to sports news and statistics. You’re probably watching sports analysis on TV constantly.

And when you’re not, you’re reading analysis or discussing sports with someone.

Chances are you’ll need to focus on a single sport to achieve any kind of success as a serious sports handicapper.

5. Never Pay for Sports Picks

You’ll find plenty of individuals and companies who would love to have you as a customer buying their sports picks. The problem with these companies is that they are no better at picking winners than you are. They used to sell their sports picks via 1-900 numbers, which ought to tell you everything you need to know – at least if you’re a certain age.

Companies that sell these picks are called “tout services,” and I know at least one person who worked for one of the biggest tout services in the country. He explained to me that they would sell picks on both sides of a game to make sure that half their customers were happy.

The customers who lost got free picks on a future game – picks which, again, had a 50% probability of winning anyway.

The problem with buying these sports picks is that they add to the cost of the bet, and you’re out that money regardless of whether you win the bet or not.

Handing Out Money

For example, you have to risk $110 to win $100 on a football game.

But you pay $10 for a pick for that game.

Now you’re going to lose $10 regardless of whether that pick wins or not.

You already needed to win 52.4% of the time to show a tiny profit.

Now that percentage needs to go up even further.

Also, think about this:

If a tout were really that good at picking winners, they could make so much money betting on sports themselves that they would never need to sell picks at all. They’d be rich already.

Besides, half the fun of sports betting is picking the winners yourself.

6. Sports Betting Can Be a Lot of Fun

Few things make a sporting event more fun than having a little action on the line. I was at a buddy’s house for a poker tournament not long ago, and I busted out early.

Luckily, there was a boxing match on television. I knew nothing about either boxer, but I asked someone if he wanted to bet $100 on the outcome of the match.

I don’t remember what criteria I used to decide which fighter to bet on. I think I just picked the one with the name that I liked better.

That boxing match became the most interesting thing in the world to watch on television that night.

I enjoyed the $100 I won, too.

7. Sports Betting Is a Hard Business to Run

Becoming a professional sports bettor sounds oh-so-cool, but I promise you it’s harder than you think. You’d probably be better off becoming a bookmaker, but that’s illegal. I have a relative who had some buddies who ran a sportsbook in college, though, and he said they made a fortune doing it. They shut it down when the parties at their apartment started getting too wild.

My biggest concern with trying to bet on sports professionally is the danger of addiction. Find an open meeting of Gamblers Anonymous and visit sometime to hear some of the horror stories from addicted gamblers who have lost everything.

Try to keep an open mind, too.

Some people think that just because it doesn’t involve a mood-altering substance, it’s not really an addiction.

Modern science has demonstrated that process addictions like gambling addictions can be even harder on people than chemical dependencies.

Unless you’re sure of yourself, avoid getting too bogged down in sports betting. Watch a movie like The Gambler again to see how ugly that lifestyle can get.


Betting on sports makes being a sports fan much more fun than it otherwise would be. Putting money on a game is a traditional way of making that game more interesting.

Taking it to the next level, though, and trying to be a consistent winner – now there’s a real challenge.

You not only have to understand that basic bets well, you also need to understand the mathematical implications of the vig and what it means for both your win percentage and your return on investment.

Winning sports betting is worth the effort, though.