Top Sports Books

Everything you need to know

Below is a general outline of sports betting. Consider it a crash course on the basics. We’ll cover how odds work, the basic straight bets and touch upon props and parlays to give you the groundwork you need to get started. This will lack in strategy as it is more so an explanation of the essential mechanics of sports betting.

Understanding American Sports Odds

One of the first lessons that you will need to learn is what the odds mean. The standard betting line is -110, which means that you will have to wager $110 to win $100. In broad terms, this means that the book is running juice at 10-percent. A perfect world would see even action on both sides, with the loses paying the winners and the juice keeping the 10-percent as a handling fee. That’s the basic business model of sportsbooks in a nutshell.

The whole American betting system is based on bets of $100 but that doesn’t mean that you have to bet that much. It’s simply a different way of presenting the payouts. Most books will use American odds for sports betting, but there are also fractional odds and decimal odds. Fractional odds are the popular choice in horse racing. The table below will give you a few examples which will help you achieve a general understanding of how these odds work.

American Odds Fractional Odds Decimal Odds Win With $100 Bet
+100 1/1 2.00 $100
-110 10/11 1.91 $90.91
+200 2/1 3.00 $200
-150 2/1 1.67 $66.67
-450 2/9 1.22 $22.22
+175 7/4 2.75 $100

The Basics - Spread, Moneyline and TOTAL’s

There are essentially three elements to know about sports betting that help you understand the framework of how it works: the spread, the moneyline and the total. It’s best if we use an example spread from an NFL game to illustrate this.

Chicago Bears vs. New England Patriots -9.0 (44.5)

First off is the spread, which is the handicap provided to equalize the playing field and make a bet on an underdog more attractive. If a team is much better than their opponent, then there’s no gravity to the matchup because it’s essentially spoken for. However, a spread can change that by giving teams what’s known as a “point cushion” or “spread”.

In the above example, the Patriots have to win by at least 9 points in order to cover the spread. The Bears can lose by up to eight points or win the game outright in order to cover. An example would be an end score of 24-17 for the Patriots, which would be a spread win for the Bears.

Basketball and football tend to follow very similar patterns with lines because point differentials will be fairly consistent based on the teams involved. The spreads in baseball are referred to as “run lines” and are consistently -1.5 for the underdog and +1.5 for the favourite with odds adjusted based on matchup. Hockey uses a similar template for “puck lines” with a fixed spread of +/- 1.5 as well.

The entire idea of the spread is to create a line that will receive even action on both sides. Spreads in football and basketball by move by a point here or there after they are released to the market, and this movement is based on action generated by the betting public. Typically speaking, spreads will have odds of -110, meaning that you have to bet $110 to win $100.

The moneyline is a much more straightforward play. Whomever wins the game wins the bet. However, because certain teams are clearly much stronger than others they will incur increased odds. Using the above example once more, the Patriots would be slated as heavy favourites and require a lot more risk to win money while the Bears would pay out a large reward for a smaller bet based on the odds of them actually winning the game outright.

Totals are also simple. These are the combined end score of the game, and will ask a better to wager on the OVER or the UNDER. In games that are sometimes too difficult to call, even where there’s a spread, bettors will gravitate naturally towards the TOTAL in order get action in.

What Are Futures and Props?

Now that we’ve covered the three standard bets you can make in sports betting, it’s important to mention futures and props. These are bets which you bet on a particular outcome. The most famous betting prop in the world is the Super Bowl coin flip, where you can bet on heads or tails.

Futures can be standard bets on who will win the championship at the end of the season. However, oddsmakers have grown increasingly creative in offering players a wider variety of prop bets for games and future outcomes. You can also bet on player props, such as a player achieving a certain number of rebounds in a basketball game or a pitcher accruing a specific number of strikes.

Playoffs sees an increased interest in the prop market. One of the most popular is the “Series Outcome” prop bet, where you can bet on the specific game and team that a series will come to its end. Sportsbooks have even released entertainment props on the Oscars, and draft NFL draft odds. Basically, if you can bet on it and the event is popular enough, the oddsmakers will craft something for you to wager on.


An advanced form of wagering is known as the parlay. This is when you couple together multiple outcomes for a bigger payout. The more outcomes you tie together, the bigger the reward. It’s a much more difficult bet type to win, hence the larger reward.

The standard play is a two team parlay, and don’t be fooled by the word “team”. This is merely any two bets that you tie together. You can put a spread bet and a moneyline together on two different games, or even a pair of totals. The more you stack up while building three-team parlays or even six-team parlays, will increase the pay out exponentially.

Since the return on investment is based on the teams involved, there is no standard way to outline how parlays pay out, however they exist for a very good reason. While difficult, they can offer significant returns.