How to Bet on Sports – a Beginner’s Guide

Written By:  Will Rosen
Last Updated:  Feb 20, 2023

If you are new to sports betting, it can be an exciting place for a novice bettor. It’s easy to get caught up in the thrill of it all and start placing bets without thought.

However, jumping the gun could end up costing, so setting aside some time to read our sports betting guide is a smart move. This guide informs beginners about mistakes they can avoid in sports gambling.

When it comes to betting on sports, there are a lot of things you need to know. You need to research before the game starts and see what odds are available for the competing teams. Some people like picking winners based on their gut feeling, while others prefer using statistics and past performances as their guide. We lean towards the latter rather than relying totally on our hunches.

If you have the itch to bet on sports but don’t know where to start, read on to discover how to bet, learn about the different bets you can make, acquire some tips for beginners and more.

Horse Racing Riding Betting Sport

How to Place a Sports Bet

To place a sports wager, you can go down to your local high street bookies and place a bet physically, or attend an actual sporting event – for instance, a racecourse or greyhound stadium and place the bet or over the phone with your credit card. However, the most practical and convenient way for a sports bettor to bet nowadays is online. We will discuss why it is so advantageous to use an online gambling site to place your bets shortly, but convenience is one of the main factors.

It couldn’t be easier to sign up and get started. First, you will need to find a reputable sportsbook; one of our favourites is BetFred, a market leader in sports betting for many decades.

Where can you place bets on sports?

As a new player, all you need to do is create an account by adding your details and choosing a memorable username and a strong password. You will also need to provide proof of identity and address for verification. If you want to place a sports bet from your iOS or Android device, you can easily download an app for either.

Once you have provided your information, deposit some money to fund your account; you’ll find several payment methods available. Don’t forget to claim your welcome bonus, and you are good to go. All you need to do now is find the betting market you are interested in and place your first sports bet!

But before signing up, read the rest of our sports betting guide – we don’t want you to lose money! You’ll learn about sports odds, the different types of bets and some valuable tips and betting skills.

Why Bet on Sports?

Sports betting is not a new phenomenon. It has existed in one form or another for as long as civilised humans have been around. From the ancient times of Greece to more recent centuries of England and America, people have wagered on sports with varying degrees of success and failure. The reason why so many people continue to bet on sports even today is that it can be an enjoyable experience in itself while also serving as a way to make money as well. Whether you’re looking to bet for entertainment purposes or to win money, or more likely both, it’s up to you.

There are numerous other reasons why someone might want to bet on sports. One reason sports bettors prefer gambling in this way rather than playing casino games is that there are no special rules to learn. All you need to do is choose the sport and type of wager you want to place and start betting.

Many sports bettors like to bet on their favourite team or sporting personality; placing sports bets on sports events, you already have an interest in intensifying the excitement even more.

Many sports fans also become interested in other sports and, instead of just betting on one sport, will research others to wager on. Learning the rules of a new sport can be a little tedious at first, so betting on the game can make it a lot more fun. You might start off betting on the footie but end up following the Swedish hockey league as well!

Why Bet on Sports Online?

Online sports betting has a number of advantages. You can place a sports bet at any time of day or night, which is convenient for people who have irregular work schedules or who work late hours. An online betting account makes it simple to keep track of your wagers, and there are many different types of bets available for various sporting events. Whether you’re a sports fanatic or just want to place a wager on your favourite team or player, there’s no better place to do so than online.

Online betting sites make it simple to place bets on sports events with the click of the mouse or the tap of a button on your mobile device. You can place your bets from the comfort of your own home while still watching the game.

The bonuses and promotions offered by online sports betting sites for attracting new customers and rewarding existing customers is yet another fantastic feature of the industry. These benefits are essentially a way for sports bettors to get free bets.

What Sports to Bet On?

Football sport play competition


One of the significant advantages of online sports betting is the vast selection of sports and markets to place wagers on. But also an important question is what sport to bet on?

One of the most popular types of betting is football, with many different leagues and tournaments that offer short-term and long-term wagering opportunities. Football is followed by horse racing and cricket – two sports that have been around for centuries.

Some other popular options include tennis, golf, boxing and Formula 1. Apart from that, you can bet on American football, baseball, or basketball if you are interested in sports events and tournaments held in the United States. The UFC and mixed martial arts (MMA) fights are becoming increasingly popular as well, and they often provide a thrilling spectacle. There is another area of sports betting that is experiencing tremendous growth, and that is eSports.

If you don’t see your favourite sport listed above, don’t despair as they aren’t just limited to these few. You’ll also be able to make sports wagers on athletics, bowls, darts, hockey, snooker, volleyball and more. In addition, you might be interested in betting on specific sporting events such as the Olympics, football World Cup or the Superbowl.

Understanding Sports Betting Odds

To get a good grasp of sports betting basics, you’ll need to understand what betting odds are and how they are used. The prices that sports betting sites offer are referred to as odds, as in, what are the odds of the favourite winning the race? Or what are the odds of Manchester United winning the cup?

How much you can potentially win from your bet stake is determined by the odds you are offered. It is common for online sportsbooks to offer odds in three formats: Decimal, Fractional or Moneyline. We go into that more below, and if you want to dig deeper our Sports Betting Odds deep dive goes into more detail.

Fractional Odds

Traditionally, fractional odds, also known as British odds, have been the preferred format in the UK, though decimal odds are gradually gaining ground, especially when betting online. Fractional odds are displayed as the amount of money that you can win for a specific wager. For example, if your bet wins at 4/1, you will receive £4 in winnings for every £1 you have staked. If your wager is successful, you will also get your stake returned, so in this case, you would get £8 back. If you lose your bet, the sports betting site keeps your stake.

Sometimes you will be required to wager more than £1 to receive a return of the same amount; this is referred to as an odds-on bet. An example of an odds-on bet would be 4/5; you would need to stake £5 to have a chance of receiving a win of £4. You’d still receive your initial stake, so your total return would be £9.

There is also an even money bet where the odds are 1/1; in this case, for every £1 wagered, you win £1.

Decimal Odds

Except for the US-based betting sites, decimal odds, also known as European or Continental odds, have now largely replaced fractional odds as the standard at most sports gambling sites. As you can probably guess, the amount paid out for a win is shown in a digital format.

So if we take our fractional bet examples, 4/1 will be represented as 5.00, 4/5 as 1.8, and an even-money bet will be 2.00. If you stake £1 on a bet with odds of 5.00, you will receive £5 in return, which is made up of your £4 winnings plus your £1 stake. If the wager is unsuccessful, the online betting site retains your £1 stake.

Real-Life Example

It often helps to explain it in context. Let’s assume you are an Arsenal fan (our sincere apologies if you aren’t!), and you wanted to bet that they will beat Leeds United 3-0 in an upcoming fixture. When you visit a sports betting site, you will see the odds for that result. Let’s imagine some hypothetical odds that are shown in decimal and fractional odds, 8.00 and 7/1.

If you wagered £100 on this outcome, you would potentially win £700 and return your initial stake. In decimal odds, we can calculate 8.00 x £100 – £100 = £700 and fractional odds 7 x 100 = £700.

Moneyline Odds

Moneyline line odds, also sometimes known as American odds, are typically encountered at US gambling sites and, on rare occasions, if you are placing bets on American sporting events like the NBA, NFL or NHL. Moneyline odds are expressed as either positive or negative numbers, such as +500 or -125, respectively. So a positive Moneyline bet would be how much you would win if you staked $100. So in this example +500, you could expect $500 back in addition to your $100 stake. For -125, you would need to wager $125 to get a $100 return. Even odds are +100.

Types of Sports Bets You Can Place

There are a multitude of different types of bets that you can place when it comes to sports betting. In fact, there are far too many for us to cover them all in this sports betting guide. We will discuss a few common wagers that could be a good first bet to place for beginners.

Win Bet

This is probably the easiest of bets to place and is relatively self-explanatory; you are betting on a team or individual to win a sporting match. Examples would be for a particular horse to be first across the finish line, Tyson Fury to win a boxing match or Everton to win the League. In the event of a successful £5 win bet at odds of 5/1, you will receive a payout of £25, in addition to having your £5 stake returned.

Place Bet

With a place bet, you are backing a selection and wagering it will achieve a certain position. To explain this better, you might bet on a horse to finish 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th in a race or your favourite football team to finish in one of the top four positions in the league table.

Each Way Bet

An Each Way Bet is a popular type of bet usually used for horse racing that typically pays out if the horse finishes first, second, third or fourth. It can also be used for betting on football and golf tournaments such as the World Cup or Masters.

It combines a Place Bet and a Win Bet, and the stakes for each wager must be equal. For example, if you placed a £10 each way bet, it would consist of £10 on the Place Bet and £10 on the Win Bet, for a total of £20. The amount of money you win is determined by a variety of factors. Most notably, did the horse you wagered on win or did it place. Also, what were the odds when the bet was placed.

Let’s assume you back a horse to win a race, and the odds are 10/1, and you’ve wagered £10 each way. Your bet will pay £100 for the win, and your initial stake of £10 is returned. In addition, you will also receive a payout for your Place Bet as well. The amount may vary, but typically it is around a quarter, so you’d receive £25 back. This would be a total of £125 in winning and your £20 stake back.

If the horse didn’t win but was still placed, you’d lose the Win Bet and the initial stake but still receive the Place Bet winnings returning £25 and your £10 stake.

Over/Under Bet

Over/Under betting is a popular type of wager in which the bettor predicts whether the final score of a sports match will be over or under a specific number. For instance, in a football match Crystal Palace vs Everton, if you believe that there will be more than four goals scored by both teams combined, then you would want to place your bet on over. If you think there will be less than four goals scored by both teams combined, then it’s time for an under wager.

This type of bet isn’t limited to just football; it could be applied to other sports such as tennis or cricket.

Live Betting

Recent technological advances have allowed for a whole new sports betting method – live betting, also known as in-play betting. Live betting is an option that will enable you to bet on a sporting event as it happens – it’s a fast-paced, exciting way to gamble.

Live betting has taken off in popularity with sports fans and horse racing enthusiasts alike because it offers more excitement and fun than other types of gambling. Live betting gives people a chance to make real-time predictions about what will happen next in a game or horse race. There are many different types of in-play wagers that you can place, and the odds are updated every few seconds on your screen as you watch.

Without a doubt, it is the most exciting sports betting experience seeing the action unfold before your eyes and being able to adjust your betting strategy according to how the match progresses.

Sports Betting Tips

Here are some sports betting beginners tips that might help your money go further:

Always start with small bets-  To win in gambling, one needs luck and skill. No matter how much money you have. Start off slow so that if things go wrong, then your losses will not be as significant as they could have been had you bet larger amounts right away like many sports bettors do when they first start out in gambling.

Don’t chase losses- This is a common mistake for beginners who lose money and hope to make it back by betting even larger amounts. If you have a long term plan, there will be no need to chase losses. Keep your bets at one level until you are winning consistently and then go up once your skills get stronger and more refined.

Do your research – This is one thing that people don’t do, and it’s a big mistake. By reading up on the sport you are betting on, you will have more of an advantage over other sports bettors who don’t take as much time to learn about what they’re getting into. Be diligent in your research to get all of the information you need to succeed. Being a successful sports bettor takes time, effort and knowledge. It’s not something that someone can do overnight or even after just a few days of practising it.

Sports Betting Glossary

Each sport has its own lingo, but here are some betting terms you may often hear mentioned:

Acca – Is short for an accumulator bet, which is a type of sports wager that allows you to combine several predictions in one bet.

Back – The term to back something in sports refers to the act of supporting a team or player by placing money on them and betting on their success. For example, if you back your favourite football team, you would place a bet with an online sports site that they will win against another team.

Bookmaker – A bookmaker is a person or company that accepts bets on sports and other events. They are often also known as bookies. Bookmakers are an integral part of the sports betting process because they provide the necessary infrastructure for bettors to place wagers conveniently.

Dead Heat – A dead heat is an outcome in which two or more competitors finish with the same time, number of points, strokes, etc. The term originates from horse racing, where if two horses (or more) cross the finish line together and neither has a lead on the other, they have a dead heat, and both receive first-place. As for your wager, if you bet on one of the winning horses, you’d receive half the amount you would have expected to win.

Favourite – In sports, a favourite is a player or team which most people think will win. A favourite can be determined by various factors such as previous performance in competitions, match-ups against other teams or players, and what the oddsmakers are predicting. A favourite is not always successful because anything can happen during a game, and sometimes there are surprises. Some favourites have lost to an underdog before, and some underdogs have become favourites after defeating their opponents.

Non-Runner – A non-runner in horse racing is a horse due to race but does not race on the day. The reason a horse can be considered a non-runner varies, but it could include an injury or illness. Bettors will always get their stake back on single bets if the horse is a non-runner. If you have placed a multiple bet and one of your chosen picks does not run, your bet is still valid; it is simply calculated without the non-running horse.

Novelty Bet – A Novelty Bet is a wager on an event that is not related to sports. For example, the Eurovision Song Contest or who the next prime minister will be.

Punter – The word ‘punter’ is a slang term for someone who bets on sports. The word punter in the UK describes people who place wagers with bookmakers but is now used throughout the world. It is often used in a broader sense of gambling, and a punter can describe someone who likes playing poker or the lottery.

Stake – Stakes in betting are a player’s bet. This is the amount of money that they risk losing on each wager, as opposed to their total holdings. Stake size will vary according to how much one has available to play with and what odds one is being offered for different types of bets.

Tipster – A tipster is someone who provides a service to people by predicting the outcome of sporting events. Tipsters can be professional or amateurs, and they usually make predictions for upcoming games in their sport of expertise.

The term ‘tipster’ originates from horse racing, where it refers to a person who offers an opinion on which jockey, trainer, or horse has the best chance of winning any particular race. Nowadays, a sports tipster can provide tips for any sport but is most often used for football and horse racing.

Sports Betting FAQs

What is the best sport to start betting on?

Our advice would be to bet on a sport that you have some background knowledge of. If you start betting on a sport that you don’t know anything about or don’t understand the rules, you’ll likely end up losing money.

How long does it take to deposit and withdraw my winnings when betting online?

Usually, with most payment methods, you’ll see the money deposited in your account pretty much instantly. When it comes to withdrawing your winning, this can take as little as 48 hours, but it will depend on the payment method and the online betting site you are using.

Can sports betting be addictive?

Yes, it can be, as can a lot of things, some people have more addictive personalities than others, and it can be a problem. It is up to you to gamble responsibly; if you believe you have a gambling problem, then acknowledge the issue and seek help as soon as possible.