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Sports Betting For Dummies

Sports Betting Tips For Beginners

“Learning the Ropes of a legal Sports-book”

On May 4, 2018 the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision of 6-3 in favor of New Jersey. This ruling shifted the narrative on sports betting in America making the federal ban on all sports betting outside of Nevada unconstitutional. Prior to the decision, sports betting was ruled illegal due to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. 

Now that the PASPA has been labeled “unconstitutional,” Individual states can create their own sports betting laws and regulations. Since New Jersey pleaded the case of legalizing sports betting and won, it should come as no surprise that New Jersey hit the ground running, starting the first legal sports books in the state one month shy of the ruling. Mississippi, West Virginia, and Delaware also struck the iron while it was hot, passing sports booking legislation on their own. With dozens of other states in legislative talks, the nations hunger for sports gambling is only increasing. Today Millions of sports fans can now drive to a licensed sports booking facility and safely place wagers on their favorite sports teams.

So now that it’s legal to place wagers on sporting events, both amateur and professional, how do you put yourself in the best position to take full advantage of the sports-booking?

To answer that question we have to first start with the sports-book betting board. The sports-book betting board can be found brightly lit on the back wall of any major betting shop. The betting board is a direct reflection of all the odds and lines available for upcoming events. The betting board is separated by day, sport, and game. Next to every team will be a number (-10). This number is what’s known as the point spread. The spread is used to reflect the gap in skill and talent between the 2 competing teams. If you place a bet on a team you are basically saying that the team will win by (-10) points. In this case the sports-book believes that the team you selected is 10 points better than their opponent. In essence, your bet is stating that you believe that the team you choose will win if you subtract 10 points from their final score. So say the team you selected wins the game 20-13, your ticket would be a loser. Even though you choose the correct team, they did not win by enough points to “cover the spread”- no pun intended.

To make the spread concept even simpler, imagine that (-10) doing exactly what it is purposed to do, – subtract 10 points from your teams final score. After that 10 points has been subtracted the spread score would be 10-13, meaning you lose. Now say the final score ended up being 20-7, your ticket would be a winner due to the fact that when those 10 points have been subtracted, your team would still be a winner.

The spread works the same if you choose the opposing team, taking them as (+10) underdogs. Here is where the head scratching begins because why exactly would you place your bet on an underdog? well my friend, that is why the bookies invented the point spread system in the first place.

Though it is enticing to flock to the better team ,the point spread system essentially levels out the two teams in terms of their odds. This means that even the biggest underdog gets the benefit of those extra points once the game is assessed and the final points are posted.

The next number to look for on the betting board is shown on the right of the point spread. You should see a number like (-600) or (+400).

These numbers are known as the “money-line” in sports betting, when faced with this you would be betting “straight up” in the sports gambling world which means that since the money-line bet involves no point spread at all, the actual final score dictates the winner. So why exactly would you bet straight up on a “Big Dog” when they should be getting 10 points due to the spread? I’m glad you asked. The answer to your question lies in the money-line numbers which reflect the odds on the amount of money you will receive for winning. With the ability to wager whatever you want, the money-line odds are simply applied to your wagers amount to determine what you will win in the end.

On the left of each team will be another number. Think about this number as a tag identification number. Since the sports betting world is heavily reliant if efficiency and on-time bet placement, the sports-book relies on these numbers to clarify exactly what team you’d like to bet on. For example, if you would like to place a bet on the vikings but you only told the clerk you want to place a beat on Minnesota, the attendant could think your talking about the Twins, Wild, Timberwolves, or the Vikings. Clarity is the key to efficient sports wagering. So when you approach the clerk at the desk you will say “give me $20 on 401 please” which means that you will place a spread bet on your selected team. If you only want the money-line you would say “$50 on 401 money-line.”

The use of these team codes is an essential step for betting novices. A rookie blunder at the sports booking slows down the betting process for others who would like to place a bet. No need to shy away from the sports books because the betting board is condensed into paper slips so you won’t have to place your bet from the actual board hanging on the wall to find your wagers. Simply pick up a sheet, find a seat, and thoroughly plot out your bets for the day. Once you have your bet code and wager type, you can place your bet confidently when you get to the front desk.

As a novice you will not be expected to to know everything right off the bat because if that where the case then Cover The Spread 365 would simply not exist! As a beginner you have every right to ask questions and figure things out but like your mother told you when you where younger “it’s a time and a place for everything.” Feel free to ask the staff for help, just make sure that you do so in a timely fashion so that everyone gets to place a wager.

Types of Bets

Money-Line Bets are the most basic wager type. A negative money-line number always signifies the favorite while a positive number will always reflect the underdog. Spread betting is used in almost any sport, but it’s by far the most popular in football and basketball due to the high volume of scoring. The overall purpose of a spread bet is simply to level the playing field between two disproportionately talented teams.

Parlays are one of the most popular wager types among beginning bettors. Parlay bets offer higher rewards for a higher level of risks. To picture a parlay bet imagine stringing two or more wagers together into a single ticket. You might like the braves (+110) to beat the cubs in baseball that night, along with the Cardinals to defeat the Brewers. Instead of placing 2 different bets on both games , a parlay bet links the wagers together. Thus, if both the Cardinals and Braves emerge victorious, the bettor collects a winning ticket. Both teams must win in order for you to reap benefits from a parlay bet. Though enticing, parlay bets are a bad bet from a strategic perspective. Nevada’s sports books average a win or “hold” of 5% on single-game football bets. That number climbs to 23% when parlays fall into the equation.

Future Bets allow you the option to take the over/under on a teams win total for the year, even their odds to win a championship. Future bets come in different forms, including division and league titles, win totals, and individual statistical performance.

Prop Bets, short for “proposition,” is a bet that is exactly that, a wager on specific scenarios taking place in the sports world. Prop bets can be based on player or team performance, statistical oddities like a player hitting 2 home runs in a game, or any number of results. Prop bets tend to lean towards the odds, with wagers on whether heads or tails will decide the opening coin toss, how long the halftime show will last, and other tangentially related wagers.


As states continue to pass legislature for sports betting, novice bettors across the nation are educating themselves on the art of sports betting. Use this “sports betting for dummies” manual to guide you along the way on your sports wagering endeavors.