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Sports Betting 101: The Basics of Betting and Terms to Know

At the Kota Sports Gambling Network, we have a number of followers. We have people who place bets on the daily. We have people who will occasionally bet. We have people who bet once in a blue moon. Of course, we also have people who have no idea what is happening when it comes to our cards. If you are in that last group, I have you covered. Down the road, I may be adding some more advanced betting basic articles, but this one is more suited for people who may or may not know the terminology and how to bet on sports betting. This article will hopefully teach those not understanding sports betting the basics to become more confident when wanting to place bets.

Basic Terminology

There are a number of different terminologies that sports bettors need to understand in order to make educated picks. This is a key first step in becoming an educated sports bettor.

  1. Sportsbook: A sportsbook is a place that a gambler can place bets on for a sporting event. For the longest time, it used to only be legal to sports bet in Las Vegas. However, around 2019, sports gambling became legal in any state that is willing to pass legislation allowing it. The state of Iowa (where myself and capper DJ are from) was one of the first states to allow sports betting, and several big casinos opened sportsbooks (Hard Rock, William Hill, and many more). Sportsbooks are also available online in states that legalize sports betting. Some online sportsbooks include DraftKings, FanDuel, and MGM.
  2. Favorite vs. Underdog: If you only need to read one thing in this entire article, read this. The favorite is the team that is projected to win the game. The underdog is the team that is projected to lose the game. You can tell who the favorite and underdogs for each game are by looking at their name and seeing either a (-) by their name or a (+) by their name. If the name of one team has a (-) sign, that team is the favorite and the team that the sportsbook projects is going to win. If the team has a (+) sign by their name, that team is the underdog and the team that is projected to lose by the sportsbook.
  3. Card: Those that pay a lot of attention to the Kota Sports Gambling Network Twitter page will notice that every day all of the cappers will tweet a card. A card in sports gambling is simply a list of all of the games that the person is betting on. In a sportsbook, a card is a list of all of the games that a person can bet on for that day.
  4. Unit: In our Kota Kapper Contest standings daily tweets, you will notice next to everyone’s name is a (+) or a (-) sign, a number, and the letter u. The letter u stands for units. A unit is a sports bettors’ betting size. For example, if I was to go into a sportsbook, and I usually bet $10 on a game, my typical unit size would be $10. If I really like a game, I could say that I want to spend 3 units on a game. In reality, I am spending $30. On the flip hand, if I do not like a game as much, but still want to bet on it, I may only use half a unit. In that case, I would be spending $5. Now in reference to the Kota Kapper Contest, let’s look back at the standings from the contest. Brandon Russell won the month of June and finished +3.53 units (this was a bad month for the cappers). If his unit size was $10, he profited $35.30 in the month of June. Now on the flip side, Josh Campbell finished dead last in the contest with -50.00 units (yes, a burger). If his unit size was $10, he lost $500 in the month of June. You will see a lot of sports gamblers talk units, so this is important to understand.
  5. Line: This is a sports betting term that is used a lot. A line is basically the odds in which you are betting. We will go over types of bets in the next section, but for now understand a line as the odds that both teams have according to the sportsbook.

There are so many other terminologies that are used in sports betting, but understanding these basic terms will help immensely for a person to get started.

Ways to Bet

When placing a wager on a game, there are a number of different ways to do it. We can dive into the more advanced wagers down the road, but the three basic bets that can be made are the spread, the moneyline, and the over/under. Each of these bets have a 50-50 shot at hitting, but are very unique in their own ways. Let’s cover each of them.

  1. Betting the spread: The spread is a type of bet that focuses on win differential. This type of bet is most popular in football and basketball, but can be used in other sports as well. For example, let’s say that someone wants to bet on a basketball team. Team A has a spread of -7, and they are taking on Team B with a spread of +7. If you bet on Team A, they need to win by at least 8 points to win your bet. If you bet on Team B, they either need to lose by less than 7 points or they need to win the game outright for you to win. If Team A wins by exactly 7 points, it is what is considered a push, meaning you do not win or lose any money and will get the money back that you bet on the game. This normally does not happen because most sportsbooks will put a .5 at the end of the spread to ensure a push cannot happen. Let’s use our example from earlier except we’ll change it up slightly. Let’s say Team A is favored -7.5 and Team B is the underdog at +7.5. For team A to win you some money, they need to beat team B by 8 points or more (8 is above 7.5, whereas 7 is under meaning Team B wins). For Team B to win you money, they either need to win the game outright or lose by 7 or less points. If you bet against the spread and your team wins, it is said that your team has covered. If a team covers the spread that you bet on, that team won you your bet. If you get really advanced and want to research how a team is when betting on the spread, you will want to pay attention to that team’s ATS. This stands for Against The Spread. For example, if a team is 21-13 ATS, they have covered the spread 21 out of the 34 games they have played, meaning they will have won bettors betting on their spread 21 times. This is a popular method that many sports bettors love to make wagers on.
  2. Betting the moneyline: Betting the moneyline is an extremely simple concept, but has some risk and reward to it. This bet is used in almost every sport, but is most popular for people that like to bet on baseball. When you are betting on a moneyline for a team, you just simply need that team to win. Even if it is just by one point, if the team you bet wins, you win that moneyline bet. Earlier in the article, I mentioned that you could tell which team is the favorite and which team is the underdog by looking next to the team name and seeing if there was a (+) sign or a (-) sign. The number next to it signifies how confident the sportsbook thinks a team is going to win. For example, let’s say that Team A has a moneyline of -160 and Team B has a moneyline of +140, the sportsbook is fairly confident team A is going to win. Now, reading these lines are key in determining if a bet is worth making in regards to total profit. Team A has a moneyline of -160, this means that a person would need to bet $16 in order to win back $10. So in total, if a bettor would have to  place a wager of $16 on Team A to win back a total of $26 ($16 wager + $10 profit). Now on the flip hand, if a person bet on Team B to win at +140 odds, that person would win a lot more. If the bettor bet $10 on Team B at +140 odds, they would win $24 ($10 wager + $14 profit). This is better for the person making the bet because there is less money they have to spend in order to make a good profit. For a favorite, you need to spend more money on the moneyline in order to get a good profit, but betting on the underdog doesn’t require that much of a bet. However, most people fall for the trick of always betting on the underdog and doing that is not a smart move either, as the favorite is the favorite for a reason. Sportsbooks use several factors in determining their odds. Now, sometimes these odds are not guaranteed to work, which is why betting the underdog on occasion can be a good move. Betting the moneyline is a lot of fun for sports bettors only focused on having the team they bet on winning.
  3. Betting the over/under: This type of bet is different from the other two because this type of bet doesn’t have to do with which team wins or loses and the margin of victory. The over/under bet focuses on the total points scored by both teams combined. For example, let’s say that the Team A vs. Team B electric basketball matchup has an over/under of 221. The bettor just has to determine if the both teams total points are going to be over 221 or under 221. If the final score is 120-103, the team totals were 223, and, thus, the over hits. People will bet this if they may not know who is going to win or lose, but they might think the game will be high or low scoring. There’s also different variations of an over-under. The most common one is betting the over-under for an entire game. In basketball and football, there’s also an over-under for points scored in the first half. In baseball, there is an over-under for runs scored in the first 5 innings. This is another really good betting technique that switches up a sports bettors mindset for games.

How to Place a Bet

After explaining some of the terminology in sports betting and a few different types of bets, we are going to transition into how to place a bet. First and foremost, this will completely vary on whether or not the state that you are in has sports betting legalized. If it does not, you will have to wait until/if it is legalized in your state to do so or you can travel into a state in which it is legal and place your bets. You can either place your bets on a mobile sportsbook like we discussed earlier or a sportsbook inside of a casino. When you decide which way you want to place your bet, you may begin the process of placing a bet.

  1. Study the lines of the sportsbook’s card: This first step is very important. If you are in a casino sportsbook, they will often have papers out with lines for the day or they may be shown on a projector screen. On your phone, the lines are right there for you to look at. Look at all of the lines carefully and ensure that the bet that you are going to make is one that you are confident in placing.
  2. Get in line to place your bet/place your bet on your phone: When you are ready to make your bet, make sure that you know how much money that you would like to place on all of the bets that you are going to make. The sportsbook will ask you that. If you are in person, make sure that you clarify exactly what bet you are going to be making and how much you will be wagering. If in person, the sportsbook will give you a betting slip that you will need to keep track of. Online sportsbooks will ask you to confirm your bet and normally will keep your bets in a vault on the app for you to view.
  3. Pay attention to the game: After the bet is placed, the best part of the betting process is watching the game take place. You may not have your favorite team playing at that time, but now that you placed your bet, you will have something to root for. Paying attention to your game and keeping track of how teams are doing will help you understand how you are doing with all of your bets.
  4. Cash out if you win: If you win any of your bets, you may bring back your betting slip to the sportsbook, and they will give you your total winnings. If using an online sportsbook, there will be a button on the app that will allow you to cash out and will give you options on how you can disburse your winnings. If you lose, you do not get anything back unfortunately, and the money you spent is going to the casino.

Helpful Tips and Advice

  1. Gamble responsibly: We at the Kota Sports Gambling Network cannot emphasize enough the importance of responsible gambling. There always needs to be a mindset that the money that you wager could be lost. Do not wager any amount that you do not want to lose. Gambling is fun if done responsibly and smartly.
  2. You are not going to win every bet: If people won every bet that they placed, the sportsbooks wouldn’t allow them to bet at all. Sports betting will always have highs and lows. Many people may start off really well and then quickly start doing bad. It is just a part of gambling. Sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you don’t.
  3. Bet on sports that you are knowledgeable about: It is free money to a casino if you go into a sportsbook and bet on a sport that you know absolutely nothing about. If you are big into all of the sports except for hockey, don’t bet on any hockey games until you are comfortable in doing so.
  4. Study the lines: Some bettors’ biggest mistakes are not paying too much attention to the lines and going off of quick instinct. By looking at all of the lines for every game, you will have a better idea of what games you are most confident in.
  5. Do not bet with your heart: This is a very common mistake that people do in the sports betting world all of the time. They will place bets on their favorite teams and will use bias to make a pick. This will skew your judgement and more often than not will not pan out well for you.

Sports betting is something that can be really fun and entertaining for anyone. It gets your skin in the game and makes you cheer for an outcome or for a team that you may not necessarily cheer for. It introduces you to a number of new players and teams that you may not have heard of before. It is something that you can do with your friends as well. These are some of the basics into sports betting. Down the road, I will write some more advanced topics, but this should give people a better idea of how sports betting works. Keep an eye out for future posts and give all of our cappers a follow on their social media pages to see what bets they like every day!

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