Sports Betting Types Explained

Sports betting is extremely popular in the US with many states having legalized or moving towards it.

As a result, sports betting is new to many bettors and it can take a while to understand the jargon, in particular for betting options. To get you quickly up to speed, we’ve created a simple tutorial.

We explain with simple football and basketball examples.


The moneyline bet is the simplest bet to place. Of the two teams playing against each other, choose who will be the winner and that’s it. If you pick the winning team, you win the bet. And if you pick the losing team, you lose the bet. It really is that simple.

For each team in the moneyline bet, there are odds displayed. Interpreting the odds can be a bit confusing as a starter. But after awhile it becomes second nature.

You might be familiar with the terms “favorite” and “underdog”. In a contest of two teams, usually there is a favorite – the team is considered most likely to win, and the underdog – the team most likely to lose.

The favorite will have a lower payout than the underdog. Why? Because the odds of the favorite winning are higher, and therefore for a lower risk, you get a lower payout on your bet. Whilst betting on the underdog will result in a higher payout, because of the higher risk.

Interpreting the Moneyline Odds

The odds for the favorite, are displayed with a negative at the front. I like to read the negative as a handicap. The underdog has a positive (a benefit to help them).

The negative and positive signs are then followed with digits which indicate how much you would get back if you placed a bet on them.

Calculating the return on a negative vs a positive (favorite and underdog respectively) is different, so be careful when doing this when comparing bets. It is easy to make a mistake!

Negative Moneyline

To calculate the negative moneyline return you need to perform 100 divided the negative odds amount. This will result with how much you will get back in return as a percentage.

For example:

New England Patriots-120
Dallas Cowboys+150

The moneyline odds for the New England Patriots is -120.

To calculate the percentage return we perform 100 / 120 = 83.3% (or 1.83 in decimal).

Therefore if you wager $100, and you win, you will get a return of $83.30.

Positive Moneyline

To calculate the positive moneyline return you need to perform positive odds amount divided by 100 (plus a 1 to arrive at the decimal). This will result with how much you will get back in return as a percentage.

For example:

New England Patriots-120
Dallas Cowboys+150

The moneyline odds for the Dallas Cowboys is +150.

To calculate the percentage return we perform 150/100 = 150% (or 2.50 in decimal)

Therefore if you wager $100, you will get a return of $150.00.

Comparing negative and positive moneyline

If we want to compare the moneyline odds we have to convert them to a common denominator, and the easiest way to do that is to use the decimal format.

For example:

New England Patriots-1201.83
Dallas Cowboys+1502.50

You can now clearly see the value or return of the New England Patriots vs the Dallas Cowboys.

Moneyline displayed as a fraction

Some sportsbooks are now displaying their moneyline odds in fractions rather than with negative for favorites and positives for underdogs.

With fractions it is easier to see the payout for each team, and naturally the team with the lower payout is the favorite.

For example:

LA Lakers1/21.50
Boston Celtics33/202.65

The LA Lakers have lower odds than the Boston Celtics. The sportsbook is displaying the odds in fractions, but still you need to convert these to payout ratios to grasp the comparison. By converting to decimal, we can see that the LA Lakers will pay out $0.50 (50c) on a dollar, while the Boston Celtics will payout $1.65 on the dollar.

Moneyline displayed as a decimal

There aren’t that many, but more sportsbooks are turning to displaying their odds in decimal.

Ultimately with decimals odds can be easily compared not only from moneyline to moneyline to among all other betting types such as point spreads, futures etc.


The spread (a.k.a points spread) is a derivative of moneyline, and therefore it is easy to understand after you have grasped the concept of moneyline.

A spread bet, is giving the two teams that are competing against each other either a handicap or a headstart.

The reason that sportsbooks provide this, is to cater for better odds that you see with providing underdogs with a headstart and handicapping the favorites.

For example:

LA Lakers-4.5
Boston Celtics4.5

The LA Lakers are favorites. To provide a higher return for you, the sportsbook has decided to handicap them by 4.5 points. That is, if the LA Lakers win by more that 5 points against the Boston Celtics, the payout is $0.90 for each dollar placed.

On the other hand, the Celtics are the underdogs. To give them more favorable odds, the sportsbook has decided to give them a head start of 4.5 points. If the Celtics lose by less four or less points (or even win) then the payout is $0.90 for each dollar placed.

The spread usually lands at half a point. This is to ensure that there will be no draw, and that there will be a definitive winner and loser on the bet placed.

In our example, you can see that the odds are displayed in American, fraction and decimal, just so that you can see the comparison of odds value again.

Over and Unders

Over/Unders (also known as Totals) are bets which basically give odds for picking the total points scored being under or over threshold (called “line”).

This threshold usually represents the total amount of points with 50/50 odds of either going under or over it.

It can be shown in one row because the line is the same for both Over and Under.

However, sometimes a sportsbook will display the odds in two rows, the Over in the top row and the Under in the bottom row. This is because, the odds will actually move and deviate between the Over and the Under.

For example:

New England PatriotsO 53.5
O 53.5
O 53.5
Dallas CowboysU 53.5
U 53.5
U 53.5

The Over and Under threshold is 53.5. If you believe that the total points scored will be under 53.5 then choose Under. If you believe that the total points scored will be over 53.5 then choose Over.

For either bet, you will get paid out 0.90 for each dollar wagered if you choose correctly.

Do not be confused with team names being listed on the left hand side. You are not betting on a team, but rather the combined points of New England Patriots and the Dallas Cowboys exceeding or falling short of 53.5.

Future Bets

I love betting on “futures”. It’s one of the easiest types of bets to understand, and it gives a relatively good chance of getting value for money with the odds offered.

Future bets typically require more time than other bets because it is based on the completion of multiple games (events). The final outcome of the many events is what you are betting on.

An example is picking the winning team of the NBA Championship at the start or early on in the season. The winner will not be known until the regular season is completed, then the playoffs, then finally to the outcome of the NBA finals. Naturally, it can be quite unpredictable because of the length of time. Players may become injured, players could be traded, a coach could be sacked, or even a pandemic may hit and change the format! Not that, that could ever happen.

Future bets develop over time. The odds will change as the the games are played and the final outcome draws near. Unpredictability reduces because the chances of something occurring to significantly change the winning profile of a team becomes less likely.

At the beginning of a future bet, the betting odds and the value for money are normally very good, when compared to other bets. Due to the length of time, it is often a level playing field. What I mean by this is that, no one has more information than each other.

For example: a star player getting injured. No one has a better chance of knowing if a star player will get injured or not.

There are some factors which people in the know may still have a slight advantage through thorough analysis, but these are few and normally don’t weigh heavily on changing the odds.

Then, as we draw nearer to the final outcome, the odds become less variable and more bettors and sportsbooks are able to price better the odds of winning. I find that, at this stage it is very hard to find value, because certainty is more or less allowed for by everyone.

Therefore, I love to bet on futures very early when there is a good amount of uncertainty. However, not everyone likes to place a future bet. Future bets takes time to develop. It won’t normally conclude within a week, let alone a day. If you can’t stand the wait, then future bets aren’t for you. But if you like to play the odds, and give yourself a good chance of winning then place a future bet.

Please note: A future bet, could also be described as a bet that is way down the track on one event. A good example is the US Presidential election. Although this is not a sport, it is a future bet on one event that will take time to eventuate (at the time of writing).


A parlay is a fancy name for multi-bet.

Let’s say you want to bet on several bets at once.

With the winnings from one bet, you want to reinvest it in the next bet, and so on.

But, you know what, it’s so cumbersome to wait for one bet to finish, then place the winnings on the next bet. AND, sometimes it’s not even possible to wait until the first bet finishes, because the first and second bet maybe happening at the same time!

To avoid the hassle, you can place a parlay. You can select and combine several bets together. It could be a moneyline, a spread, over / under or a future. Nearly any type of bet, can be combined, and if they all win, then you win! But if any of the individual bets lose, then the parlay is lost.

As you can imagine, if you string a lot of bets together into one huge parlay the odds of winning will be low, BUT the payout will be high!


I have placed the following bets into a parlay

TeamBet TypePayout
New England PatriotsMoneyline1.20
LA LakersSpread -4.5 1.50
New England Patriots / Dallas CowboysOver 53.51.90

In order for me to win this parlay,

The games for the Lakers and the Patriots are on at the same time, but fortunately with the parlay it cater for it.

If all “legs” (another term for a bet in the parlay), comes up as a winner, I win 3.42. That is, for every dollar I place, I get back $3.42.

Lots of bettors love a parlay bet, because the outlay can be small with the potential to win big.

Teasers and Pleasers

Two derivatives of the traditional parlay, are “teasers” and “pleasers”. A teaser is whereby you adjust a leg of the parlay to give you a better chance of winning. To do this you accept a larger positive spread to win. Of course the offset is that the payout is lowered by the sportsbook.

Therefore, teasers are great if you want to increase the odds of winning and happy to swap the higher winnings of a traditional parlay with the lower winnings of a teaser.

Pleasers are the opposite. You adjust the spread by giving up more points, making it more difficult for you to win. But, you get a bigger payout, if you do win.

Proposition Bets

Also known as Prop bets, Derivative bets, Exotic bets or side bets. These bets are not directly related to the outcome of the game, but rather is related to the performance of players like first scorers, top scorers of length of time, such as song length of national anthem sung at the Superbowl and so on.


The number of variations is numerous!

In-game Betting

Technology is so advanced that betting can now be done during a game. You can place a bet on play by play. For example: in NFL, you could wager on whether the next play will be a run or a pass.

Pari-mutuel Wagering

The term is derived from French to mean ” wager among ourselves.” The bets are pooled, and a percentage is used for paying taxes and administrating the pool.

The winners of the pool share the remaining funds on a proportional basis. The pool is open for a period of time, in which bettors are allowed to join the pool. As more bettors join the payouts will adjust, and therefore estimated payouts are provided to participants of the pool. This differs from tradition fixed odds betting. In pari-mutuel betting, the payout is not known until the pool is closed.

Risk Free Bet

A risk free bet is not a type of bet, but rather a betting promotion by sportsbooks. “Free” money is added to your bankroll, and should you win with the free money, you get to keep the winnings. If you lose with the free money, you are not required to pay back the money. Hence, the bet is risk free, you have nothing to lose, but you can keep the winnings.