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Sports Betting 101: Understanding the Basics

https://www.barstoolsports.comSports betting is a popular form of gambling where individuals place wagers on the outcomes of sporting events. If you bet on sports already, do you have a favorite sport that you bet on - or do you try to take the best lines across every sport bet available?

With so many Sportsbooks becoming more and more popular (and legal) in the United States, we decided we needed to know some of the key terms before even remotely trying to dive into the world of sports betting.

From horse racing to football, basketball, and beyond, sports betting offers an exciting and engaging way for fans to add an extra layer of excitement to their favorite games.

In this article, we will explore how sports betting works, break down some key terms, and help you better understand the mechanics behind this thrilling pastime.

How Sports Betting Works

Sports betting involves placing a bet, or wager, on the outcome of a specific sporting event. The bettor predicts the result, and if the prediction is correct, they win money based on the odds provided by the bookmaker or sportsbook.

The odds represent the bookmaker's assessment of the likelihood of a particular outcome. The more likely an event is to occur, the lower the odds, and vice versa. Understanding odds is crucial to calculating potential winnings and evaluating the perceived probability of a bet being successful.

Key Terms in Sports Betting

Bookmaker (Sportsbook)

A bookmaker is an individual or entity that accepts and pays out bets on sports events. They determine the odds for various outcomes, ensuring they can make a profit regardless of the result.


Odds are numerical expressions used to represent the potential payout of a bet. They can be displayed in different formats, such as decimal odds (e.g., 2.50), fractional odds (e.g., 5/2), or moneyline odds (e.g., +200).


A wager is the amount of money placed on a specific bet. It represents the risk taken by the bettor in the hope of winning a larger sum.

Point Spread

Commonly used in team sports like football and basketball, the point spread is a handicap given to the favored team to level the playing field. The bettor can choose to bet on the favorite, who must win by a certain margin, or the underdog, who can lose by a specific number of points or win outright.


The moneyline bet is a simple bet on which team or player will win a game or match. The odds are expressed as positive or negative numbers, indicating the potential profit from a $100 bet.

Over/Under (Total)

This bet focuses on the combined score of both teams in a game. The bookmaker sets a total score, and the bettor predicts whether the actual score will be over or under that value.

Parlay (Accumulator)

A parlay is a single bet that combines two or more individual bets into one. To win a parlay, all individual bets must be correct. The payout for a parlay is higher than for individual bets, but the risk is also greater.

Handicap (Asian Handicap)

Similar to the point spread, the handicap is a way to level the playing field in games with a clear favorite. Asian handicaps offer more options by using fractional handicaps to eliminate the possibility of a tie.

Futures Bet

A futures bet is a long-term bet on an event or outcome that will occur in the distant future, such as the winner of a league or tournament.

In-Play (Live) Betting

In-play betting allows bettors to place wagers during an ongoing sporting event, reacting to the game's developments in real-time.

Sports betting can be an enjoyable and thrilling experience, but it's essential to gamble responsibly and within your means.

Understanding the basic mechanics and key terms will help you make informed decisions, enhancing your overall sports betting experience. Always remember to bet responsibly and enjoy the excitement of the game!

Interested in trying your hand in the sports betting world? Check out the wildly popular Barstool Sportsbook and Casino.

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