Basic Bet Types

How to place a sports betBefore you jump into sports betting, it’s vital to understand the most common bet types offered by oddsmakers. It’s shocking how many people bet on sports not realizing what they are betting on or simply not caring. Here’s a basic rundown of each of the major bets offered by the oddsmakers.

Point Spread

Point spread betting is also known as handicap betting and is the most common form of wagering for American sports bettors. Those who bet on football will be familiar with point spread wagering, but it’s also the go-to method for wagering on basketball, in both NBA and NCAA contests.

Here’s a basic example of an NFL point spread wager:


NY Giants




Dallas Cowboys



Generally, US sports will list the home team on the bottom and the road team on the top. In this NFL contest, the Cowboys are favored by 7 points against the visiting Giants.

Betting on the Giants

Giants New York would have to win the game outright or lose by less than 7 points for a ticket to be a winner.

Betting on the Cowboys

Cowboys Dallas would have to win the game and win by more than 7 points in order for your ticket to be a winner.

If the Cowboys won by exactly 7 points, the game would be ruled as a “push.” In this case, neither side would win nor lose, and the stakes would be returned.

However, it’s important to remember that betting pushes aren’t likely if the point spread has a half point. If this game was listed at 7.5, a push would not be possible, and bettors would either win or lose their wager.

Point spread wagering is so popular because it’s so simple. The best way for newer bettors to understand it is to add or subtract the point spread from their side’s score. Add the point spread if you bet on the underdog, and deduct points if you wagered on the favorite. If you’re covering the point spread after your basic math – you’re winning the bet.


Totals, also called “overs and unders,” are generally the same across most betting markets, regardless of the sport. The concept is simple. The sportsbooks offer their estimation of the total number of points scored in a particular contest, and bettors can wager over or under that number.

Using an NBA total, here’s an example:

Over 195.5 (-110) – OR – Under 195.5(-110)

The 195.5 total is the number of points scored by both teams combined. Bettors can opt to bet over or under this number. Like point spread wagering, if the number hits exactly, the bet would be graded as a push, and all bets would be returned. In the above example, there can be no push due to the half point in the number.

Also, it’s important to remember that the total takes into account the full number of points scored in the game, not just in regulation. If a game goes to overtime, those points are also counted when calculating the total.


Moneylines are far and away the easiest type of bet to understand. Known in other parts of the world as “win betting,” moneyline wagers do not involve a point spread or a handicap of any kind. When betting moneylines, bettors are wagering on the winner of the contest only. There is no point spread.

Moneyline wagering is available for all major US sports and is utilized as the main wagering type for baseball and hockey. Though, in today’s betting market, there is a bit of a combo point spread and moneyline in the form of pucklines and runlines, these sports traditionally don’t offer a point spread,

Using a Major League Baseball game, here’s an example of a moneyline wager:



New York Yankees




St. Louis Cardinals


As with other examples, there is a favorite and an underdog. The Yankees are on the road and the underdogs at +130, and the Cardinals are at home and the favorites at -140. As with all moneyline odds, the betting odds are based on the amount to win $100.

There are no pushes in moneyline wagering since there is no point spread. The one rare instance of a possible push in US sports is an NFL game that ends in a tie. In this case, the wager would be graded a push. This is a rare occurrence but does happen once or twice every few seasons.


Futures, also known as “outrights,” are wagers that are placed on an event that typically takes place several weeks or months later. However, they can also be bet on within a shorter timeframe until the event is decided as well.

Unlike point spread or total wagering, future markets cannot push. Bettors will either win or lose their bet.

The most common future wagers are centered on the championships of major sports. Bets on which team will win the NBA Championship, Super Bowl, or World Series are the most common type of future wagers.

Here is another example, this time using NFL Super Bowl betting odds:

Team Odds
Patriots New England Patriots 4/1
Packers Green Bay Packers 9/2
Broncos Denver Broncos 19/4
Cardinals Arizona Cardinals 10/1
49ers San Francisco 49ers 12/1
Seahawks Seattle Seahawks 16/1
Cowboys Dallas Cowboys 18/1

If you were betting this at a sportsbook, the full list of teams would be available, but you get the idea. The above odds are listed in fractional format, but most US-facing rooms will also have them available in American odds as well.


Propositions, or “props” for short, are called “specials” by many online bookmakers. Props are markets that aren’t related to the final outcome or score of the game. They’re derivatives of the point spread and total and are sort of the “game within the game” for bettors. Originally, they were merely novelty type wagers for the Super Bowl, but now they are offered everyday for a variety of sports.

Props can be grouped into two categories, player props, and team props. The most common team prop is, “Which team will score first?”

Which Team Will Score First?

Pittsburgh Steelers



Cleveland Browns


This is a team-centered proposition on an NFL contest. Now, here is an example of a player prop:

Total Passing Yards – Peyton Manning

Over 320.0


Under 320.0


These props only scratch the surface when it comes to this market. Prop markets can be extremely large. Many sportsbooks offer hundreds of proposition bets on an NFL Sunday and dozens on a night with a full NBA slate. It’s up to the oddsmakers’ imagination, but proposition markets have an unlimited number of options.


In Conclusion

The above bet types are still just a small part of the oddsmakers’ arsenal of wagering options, but it’s recommended newer bettors stick to these before advancing to other more complicated and advanced bet types. There is plenty of value to be found in the above markets. If you line shop correctly, you should have no issue grinding out plenty of profits with the bet types listed above.