How to Bet on Sports Online 101: Guide for US Players

Since the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was overturned in May 2018, states all around America have been rushing to legalize sports betting.

As of April 2022, more than 30 states are either legal or have some kind of legislation in the pipeline.

However, if you’re in a state where sports betting is not yet legal, there are alternative sportsbooks that you can access so long as you are 18 years of age or older.

Here, we will cover everything you could ever need to know in this sports betting guide regarding how to bet on sports online, including finding the best sportsbook, how to use them safely, how to use sportsbooks, and strategies for all kinds of betting categories.

Let’s dive into the only online sports betting guide you’ll ever need.

Sports Betting

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How to Bet on Sports Online

When it comes to sports betting, everyone will have their priorities. There are some general aspects of sportsbooks that everyone should look into and judge for themselves regarding the best sports betting sites in 2022.

  • Site Safety: This is a no-brainer — you want the peace of mind that you’re wagering at a secure and safe site.
  • Bonuses and Promotions: When deciding which online sportsbook you want to first play at, rewards and promotions — especially the welcome bonus — significantly impact your selection. Welcome bonuses can contain $1,000s in value.
  • Banking Methods: Are banking methods available to you for depositing and withdrawing? If you like an online sportsbook but find there are no methods for public banking that suit you, you’ll be unable to play.
  • Customer Support: This ties in somewhat to site safety, but having reliable and numerous ways to contact customer support instills trust for players.
  • Types of Sports Offered: We’ll discuss the various sports and other potential betting offers throughout this page. It goes without saying, though — make sure you can wager on your favorite sports and teams.

With the above criteria in mind, here is how we rank the top-five online sportsbooks of 2022.

Rank Betting Site Key Info Bonus Info Visit Site
#1
  • A Top Rated US Sportsbook
  • Visa, MC, Amex, BTC
  • Fast Cashouts (3 Hrs.)
#2
  • Caters to US Customers
  • 100% Welcome Bonus
  • Great Customer Service
#3
  • Trusted Brand
  • Excellent Betting Odds
  • Generous Welcome Bonus
#4
  • Great US Sportsbook
  • Licensed by Kahnawake
  • Trustworthy Brand
#5
  • Many Different Offerings
  • Competitive Odds
  • 3-6 Hr. Payout Time

How to Safely Bet on Sports Online

There are ways to wager safely no matter what kind of online sportsbook you are playing at.

Next, we’ll cover the legal landscape by state, the warning signs to look for, and how to bet money on sports.

Florida Sports Betting


The following states have legal sports betting and meet the sports betting laws the US has. However, they are not equally legal, meaning some states may only have tribal retail sports betting, whereas some may have legal mobile wagering and retail betting.

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Maryland
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia
  • Washington DC
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

The following states do not have legal sports betting options.

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • California
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin

Criteria & Warning Signs to Look For at an Online Sportsbook

Some sportsbooks do present some risks, but many reputable sites, such as those in our “safest casinos” rankings, eliminate those risks.

Still, there are plenty of warning signs to look for, especially if you venture outside of our reviews list.

Magnifying Glass Looking Over Document, Icon

  • No licenses: When discussing alternative sportsbooks, there won’t be a license from the United States, but having some kind of license to show that some governmental gaming body trusts in a product illustrates a baseline level of trust.

Bonus Icon - Red Gift Box Open

  • Promotional Offers: While welcome bonuses do present $1,000s in value, there are some promotions that you can look at and label as too good to be true. For example, if a welcome bonus at an online sportsbook goes beyond $3,000, it gets a little questionable. Also, the wagering requirements (if any) can be another warning sign.

Green Sticker Icon with Mastercard, Paypal, Visa, PayNearMe Logo

  • Payment Delays: Things happen. But if you deposit money or request withdrawals and they consistently take longer than what the online sportsbook promises, we’d thoroughly recommend that be the last transaction you perform on that site.

Icon with Hand Giving Thumbs Up, Hand Giving Thumbs Down

  • Voiding Bonuses: This is sadly one of those warning signs that you won’t know unless you experience it for yourself or read online reviews or “blacklisted casinos” lists. If you participate in a welcome bonus and the sportsbook voids it for no discernible reason, that’s an instant “never go back” sign.

Online Sports Gambling 101

When betting on sports for the first time, you’ll find more ways to win or lose your money than you’d ever imagined.

Here, in this beginner’s guide to sports betting, we’ll discuss each in detail so that you know and understand the type of wager before visiting any of our recommended online sportsbooks and how to bet on sports legally.

Here is how to bet on sports in the US.


Odds

Starting with the basics, odds indicate how favored a particular side of the wager is. When you see a line with a “-” ahead of it, this implies that they are a favorite or that the participant/team is more likely to win.

Conversely, if you see a “+” line, this means the opposite and indicates that the participant is less likely to win.

A Sportsbook with Multiple Monitors Showing Games

These odds influence payouts. If you see a “-” line, you need to wager whatever the odds are to win $100.

  • Example: If the odds are -120, you need to wager $120 to win $100.

For “+” lines, you will win that amount on a $100 bet.

  • Example: With +200 odds, you’ll win $200 on a $100 wager.

Obviously, you’re welcome to bet more or less than $100, but this gives you an idea of the ratio you can expect to risk on your bet.


Spread

The spread is the number of points that indicate the difference in strength from one competitor to another. Most commonly, it tells you how much the sportsbook thinks a certain team will win by. Strangely enough, the favored team is the one with the negative number.

  • Example: If the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a spread of -3 points, they are three-point favorites. Thus, their opponent is “spotted” 3 points when factoring the bet result.

With this wager, the favored team must win by more than the indicated spread, whereas the underdog must either win or lose by no more than the stated amount. If you pick the Buccaneers to cover the spread but they only win 23-21, you’ve lost the bet.


Moneyline

The moneyline is simple to understand, as this is just picking an outright winner. However, the favored teams will have less than lucrative odds in most cases.


Over/Under

Also known as totals, over/under is typically about wagering on the total amount of points in a contest. You’ll wager money on whether or not it will go over the line or under.

  • Example: Betting that the NBA’s Celtics and Nets will combine for under 219.5 points in their next game

Parlay

As they say, with any kind of gambling, there is no reward without risk. With a parlay, you’ll be wagering on multiple events on one betslip. The betslip is where you’ll learn how to place bets on sports in general.

  • Example: If you bet on the Boston Red Sox moneyline and the “over” on the teams’ combined runs on a parlay, you need both of these bets to win for the parlay to win.

Each bet you add to a parlay is called a “leg.” No matter how many legs you add to a parlay, they all must result in a win.

With this added risk, the odds offer more return than wagering on the events separately.


Prop Betting

The best way to think about props is to consider them as micro-events within the larger event. These bets are not tied to the final outcome of the game.

Basketball Game Scoreboard

Props can present themselves in many ways. One of the more infamous props is betting what color Gatorade will be poured on a coach at the end of a Super Bowl.

  • Example: More common props are passing yards for a quarterback in a single game, the number of points scored by a player in basketball, the number of hits a player gets in baseball, and more.

Futures

Of all of these betting methods, futures often come with the greatest monetary upside, but they require patience. Futures betting is about predicting a long-term outcome.

  • Example: Betting on the Jets to win the championship next NFL season … thought we wouldn’t recommend it. (Sorry, Jets fans.)

This market presents upsides, but is less frequently wagered on due to the sometimes months-long wait for a final result.


Live Betting

We’ve all been there: You meant to wager on a game but forgot. No worries — live betting allows you to still wager mid-game.

However, live betting presents a unique betting style. The odds on games actively in progress change rapidly as they reflect what is happening in the game up to the minute.

  • Example: With the underdog Tar Heels taking a surprising 40-35 lead into halftime, their spread has been updated from +8 at the opening whistle to +2.5 right now.

Strategy – By Sport

No matter what sport you bet on, there will always be a similar sports betting strategy. With that said, there are some unique strategies to deploy for different sports due to just the general nature of their rules and scoring styles.

Here, we’ll explore those more sport-specific strategies.
California Sports Betting


Whether it’s the NFL or college football, betting on football is one of the most heavily wagered-on sports in the United States. However, it can be one of the more volatile, as sportsbooks do a great job in assigning spreads and odds to these matchups.

With such a physical sport, injuries can often happen. However, the best time to bet on football betting is at the beginning of the week or when odds first drop. This is because you will usually find a few points of value before the books adjust throughout the week.

Generally speaking, you’re putting yourself more at risk if you’re not betting on NFL games until Sunday morning.


How to Bet on Basketball

In the NBA, some teams lean heavily on 1-to 2 players to carry them to victory. Should those players miss a game, this can dramatically impact the potential outcome. In betting on basketball, we’ve found that stats, coupled with staying up-to-date on injury reports, matter quite a bit compared to other sports.

Sometimes, especially with basketball, simply looking at …

  • How many points a team averages per game
  • How many points it gives up per game
  • Its 3-point shooting percentage
  • The health of its star players

… can be what decides your bet.

Additionally, betting on totals in the NBA can be lucrative. Looking at stats such as opposing points allowed per game and pace of play (high-flying vs. methodical gameplans) can directly influence how you wager.


How to Bet on Baseball

One of the more intriguing sports to bet on is baseball. Looking at the MLB, these regular seasons are north of 160 games, so there are many data points to look to. Generally speaking, targeting the plus-line underdogs is an excellent place to start because you can get excellent value here.

Some of the best MLB bets are wagering on plus-line underdogs that also have a pitcher that strikes a lot of batters out.

Baseball is truly a statistically-driven game, as we’ve seen over the years with sabermetrics, so here are some stats to keep in mind.

  • Team Batting Splits: How do teams perform against right-handed and left-handed pitching?
  • Pitcher Splits: How does a pitcher perform at home, on the road, during the day, and the night?
  • Ballpark: Is the park more prone to home runs?
  • Weather

How to Bet on Racing

Horse Racing

This old-time classic features more ways than ever to bet, and below are some ways to do so.

  • Win: Which horse will win the race.
  • Place: Which horse will finish in either first or second.
  • Show: Which horse will finish first, second, or third.
  • Exacta: Picking the horses that’ll finish in exactly first and second place.
  • Daily Double: Picking the winners of two races.
  • Picks 3-6: Picking the winners of three to six races.

The most well-known way to bet on horses is pari-mutuel wagering. With this type of wager, you place your wager into a pool with all other bettors that wagered the same thing as you. If you win, you all split the money equal to the number of units wagered.

Interestingly enough, many casual bettors rarely know what they’re wagering on and why with horse racing. With horse racing, do your homework. Keep track of the horses in terms of how they perform on certain kinds of tracks, and track the jockey’s performance throughout their career.


NASCAR & Formula 1

With both NASCAR and Formula 1, there will be a large field of drivers to bet on, similar to golf. Like any other sport, you’ll want to see how a driver has been performing throughout the year, what types of tracks they perform best on, and so on.

Nascar at Pocono Raceway

Still, some of the best strategies are divvying your bet up amongst a few drivers, picking a couple of the more favored drivers you think will win, and taking an educated shot on some lower-tier underdogs.


How to Bet on Hockey

With similar bet types to baseball, football, and basketball, many of the same principles apply. Keeping that in mind, totals can be a profitable wager, factoring in defense and especially goaltending prowess.


How to Bet on MMA/Fighting

UFC/MMA

With so many different weight classes in the UFC, there are many variables. There are some baselines, though, including flat-out avoiding massive favorites altogether — this is our #1 general tip.

This is dangerous territory, as the UFC is a sport where one punch can change the entire outcome.


Boxing

In addition to wagering on the outright winner, there are many other ways to bet on boxing:

  • Rounds
  • Decisions
  • Knockouts

Before making a bet, look at each competitor and their track record, including their physical traits such as reach advantage and whether they’re a southpaw.


How to Bet on Soccer

If you’re someone who likes wagering on moneylines, soccer is not the sport you should bet on. With soccer, the more creative bets tend to do better, assuming you’re knowledgeable about the clubs involved. Total number of goals is the best bet to make when it comes to the more traditional bets.

Everyone’s bankroll will be different, but the smaller the wagers, the better with soccer due to its volatility.


Novelty Betting

C’mon, it’s the internet – did you really think betting was limited to just sports?

Today, there’s an ever-expanding variety of topics you can place money on – even politics.

United States Capitol Building With a Sportsbook Background


Entertainment – Awards Betting, Etc.

Using betting on the Grammys as an example, the best way to approach these is to bet early.

Most of the time, underdog wagers are better, but consider options that are, objectively, less artistic. If you’re listening to a song or a record and it’s unique and strange, remember that these tend to not win specific awards compared to something more straightforward.


E-Sports

While nobody’s really shooting a basketball or throwing a punch, many of the same principles apply here as they do with real sports like the NFL or NBA – stats matter. There are going to be better squads and individuals than others.

There are two good ways to approach e-sports betting — live betting and betting on many different outcomes within a match.


Politics

Politics can be a tricky thing to bet on. However, while polling data is not always correct, it can help you make an informed wager.

Also, if you’re betting on a political event such as the House of Representatives or the Senate, remember these will often change their majority during the mid-terms.

You cannot successfully bet with a political bias. You need to treat betting on a Republican or Democrat just like betting on the Minnesota Vikings.

Guide to Online Sportsbook Bonuses, Promotions, & Payouts

While betting “bonus” and “promotion” are two terms that often mean something positive happening for you, these do come with slightly different connotations and expectations.

Here, we will look at both payout types and how to receive them.


Online Sportsbook Bonuses

Whenever you see the word bonus, this typically implies a welcome bonus. A bonus offer will be a deposit bonus, a risk-free bet, or a no-deposit bonus. These are more “static” and are offered for more extended periods of time.

  • Deposit Bonus: Receive a percentage match up to a certain bonus amount.
  • Risk-Free Bet: Receive a losing bet up to a certain amount as site credit.
  • No Deposit Bonus: Receive a small bonus amount ($10-$25) for creating an account.
  • Bet and Get: Bet a certain amount of money and receive bonus funds.

Online Sportsbook Promotions

Promotions are something that generally all players can access. These offer incentives and even include bonus funds, but they’re not nearly as lucrative as a welcome bonus.

Here are some examples of promotions that you will find in online sportsbooks.

  • Reloads: This is similar to a deposit bonus in that you will receive a percentage match up to a certain amount. However, this offer is available to all players instead of just being a welcome offer.
  • Parlay Insurance: With this kind of offer, you will mitigate some losses if your parlay wager loses.
  • Parlay Bonuses: Parlays are inherently risky, so some sportsbooks will add additional bonuses on top of the wager to potentially win even more cash.
  • Odds Boosts: Select sportsbooks will pick contests daily, take their odds, and artificially enhance them to be more appealing.
  • Loyalty/VIP Bonuses: If the sportsbook you’re playing at has a loyalty program, it’s not uncommon to find days/weeks where you earn extra loyalty credit for playing.

Online Sportsbook Payouts

To receive the best payouts on bonuses and promotions, you must complete the corresponding wager requirement. Before you can be paid out on the bonus you receive, you will need to wager a certain amount of cash.

  • Example: At BetOnline, you’ll receive a 50% deposit bonus of up to $1,000. At BetOnline, you have a 10x wagering requirement. So, if you deposit $100, you will receive $50. To withdraw that $50 as cash, you must wager $500.

Depending on the payment method you’re using, the payout speed could differ. Online sportsbooks often list a certain window, such as Visa is 3-4 business days. However, it’s typically faster than that.

It’s better to be under-promised and over-delivered instead of the other way around, right?

Be sure to look at the banking page for all up-to-date payout speeds.

Setting A (Responsible) Budget

Deposit Methods

Banking Methods

Below is a general list of deposit methods at online sportsbooks. Remember that these may or may not be offered at the sportsbook you wish to play on.

  • Cryptocurrency: Bitcoin, Ethereum, Shiba Inu, Dogecoin, etc.
  • eWallets: PayPal, Skrill, and Neteller.
  • Credit/debit cards
  • ACH transfer
  • Online banking
  • Check my mail
  • Wire transfer

How Much to Wager?

When placing bets on sports online, treat them in terms of “units”. This is a bet measurement based on your specific budget.

Generally speaking, each wager you make should be no more than 3%. This should be the amount of your unit.

So, if you ever want to wager “two units,” it would be 3% of your bankroll multiplied by two.

Ready to Test the Best Sports Betting Sites?

Hopefully, you’re feeling more confident about venturing into online sports betting after looking at this sports gambling guide. All the numbers and odds can seem overwhelming at first, but most games are simple after you try them a few times.

Ready to learn more about how to make money betting on sports? Check out our guide to the top online sports betting sites for U.S. players: