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Understanding betting markets

The entire sports betting landscape in the US has changed dramatically over the last few years. Historically, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) effectively outlawed sports betting throughout the country with the exception of a few states. The act, passed in 1992, left only Delaware, Nevada, Oregon and Montana with legal sports betting.

Over the next 25 years we would see the inception of online sports betting with it eventually becoming the home of sports betting, as opposed to the previous brick and mortar bookmakers. This not only made it harder to police but also meant the US government were missing out on billions of tax dollars as a result of illegal gambling.

In fact, in January 2018, the American Gaming Association estimated that Americans would wager approximately $4.76 billion on Super Bowl LII between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles, with a shocking 97% of that number being wagered illegally. It was around this time that they began toying with the idea of legalizing sports betting and finally in May that same year, PASPA was struck down by the supreme court ruling that the law was not “consistent with the Constitution” and that states were now free to establish their own sports gambling laws.

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This was quickly rolled out in tens of states and fast forward to 2023 there are now 26 states with legal online sports betting. With sports betting now becoming so prominent, many US citizens may feel like they have some catching up to do when it comes to betting on world series odds. The markets can be confusing for first time wagerers, but fear not, for here we will help to better understand just what you are betting on.

Understanding betting markets

Before we start, lets explain what odds mean. Sportsbooks will price their markets with positive (+) and negative (-) numbers. A positive number will tell you how much you would win on a $100 bet whilst a negative number outlines how much you would have to wager to win $100. For example, a line with odds off +200 would mean that if you wagered $100 you would win $200 plus your stake returned. If it was -200 then you would need to wager $200 to win $100 plus your stake. Its very straightforward.


The moneyline is perhaps the simplest sports bet to make. You are simply wagering on the outcome of a game/fight. For example, betting on the Patriots to win their game or Conor McGregor to win his fight. Whilst this is easy to understand, moneyline bets generally offer smaller returns if you are backing a favourite as the odds are shorter. 


Another simple market to understand is the total. You are betting on the total number of points in a game to be either over or under the line set by the sportsbook. For example, if the total of an NBA game as 210.5 then you would bet on whether you thought more or fewer points would be scored. Half points are often used on these lines to prevent the outcome of a tie or ‘push’. So in our example, 210 points or less would mean the under was the winning bet whilst 211 or more would mean the over.


Spread betting is one of the most popular methods of betting on team sports. This is because it is a good way to back heavy favourites without giving way to the shorter odds of the moneyline. The spread is essentially a virtual points handicap handed to the favourite by the sportsbook. For example, if the Eagles were the favourites for a game they may have a point spread of -10.5.

This means that they would have to win the game by a minimum of 11 clear points if you backed them. Alternatively, you could back the underdogs at +10.5 meaning that they would have to either lose by no more than 10 points or win the game for your bet to come in.

Other Bets

With online betting becoming so prominent we have started to see player props become huge. These bets allow you to bet on the stats of players at the game end. For example, you could bet on Patrick Mahomes to go over or under 289.5 passing yards or on LeBron to make over or under 6.5 rebounds. These are so popular because it makes every play of the game important when you are watching .

You can also make parlays and even same game parlays. Parlays are bets with multiple markets across different games. For example, Chiefs moneyline, Warriors/Lakers over total and Eagles against the spread. Same game parlays are just as they sound, parlays on a singular game. For example, Chiefs moneyline, Travis Kelce to score a touchdown and Jalen Hurts to throw over 1.5 interceptions. 

This guide should have helped first timers better understand the ins and outs and nuances of betting markets. Always make sure you know what you are wagering on within sports and have fun!

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Rahul Roy
Rahul Roy
I am a computer guy by profession and a sports fanatic by choice.

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