How to Bet on Sports: A 101 Tutorial for Beginners

In this article, I’ll be going through my top “tips and tricks” for betting on sports. This article is meant for beginners! As the article progresses, the topics will get slightly more advanced.

Line Shopping

Line shopping is the most important concept for new sports bettors. It is critical if you want to make money betting on sports in the long-run.

Although “line shopping” may seem like a confusing term, it’s very simple. It just means getting the best possible “price” (e.g. odds).

As an example, in the screenshot above, you can see that the Las Vegas Raiders are best offered at +300 moneyline odds on Pointsbet sportsbook (e.g. bet $100 to win $300 profit). Why on earth would you ever bet the Raiders at +270 moneyline odds (on BetRivers, Tipico, etc) if you can get them +300 on Pointsbet? For every $100 you wager, you’re missing out on $30 of profit if the Raiders win.

Although these differences in odds (e.g. +270 vs. +300) may seem relatively small, they’re not. They make all the difference in the long run. Any person who is profitable at sports betting is line shopping. It’s that simple.

Line shopping just means browsing odds. It’s simple and free on OddsJam. The OddsJam NFL Odds Screen has real-time NFL betting lines from 100+ sportsbooks, including DraftKings, Pointsbet, etc.

Most importantly, now that sports betting is “mobile” (e.g. not in-person), it takes just a few seconds to line shop and log into the sportsbook offering the best price. It’s not like you need to walk to another casino to get your bet down. Every sportsbook is just a tab click away.

Line Shopping in Sports Betting

Beating the Juice

The juice, or “vig,” is the spread that sportsbooks charge. This is how online bookmakers make money. Sportsbooks don’t charge you a “direct fee” for placing a bet – in other words, DraftKings does not say “Hey, you placed a $100 bet, you owe us $10 now.” The “vig” or juice allows sportsbooks to make money much more discreetly.

The easiest way to explain the juice is by going through an example. We’ll use the screenshot below (from Caesars sportsbook) in this example.

Let’s look at the “Total Points” market. Caesars sportsbook is offering -110 odds on the over 51.5 points, as well as -110 odds on the under 51.5 points. When you’re betting at -110 odds, you’re staking $11 to win $10 in profit.

Of course, the game is either going to over or under 51.5 points. If there’s 51 points or less, then sports bettors who took the under will win (and over bettors will lose). If the game has 52 points or more, it will be the opposite – overs will “cash” (e.g. win) and unders will lose.

So… imagine you and your friend both bet $11 on the total points in Raiders vs. Chiefs. You both disagree on whether the game will go over or under. You take the over on Caesars sportsbook, and your friend takes the under.

Thus, Caesars sportsbook collects $11 from both of you ($22 total).

  • If the over hits, Caesars sportsbook pays you $21 ($11 stake and $10 profit). Your friend is down $11, and Caesars sportsbook earned $1 in profit.
  • If the under hits, Caesars sportsbook pays your friend $21 (his $11 stake and $10 profit). You’re now down $11, and Caesars sportsbook earned $1 in profit.

In both cases, Caesars sportsbook earns $1 of profit. That’s the juice. Sportsbooks charge the juice through the odds they offer. In the example above, they’re forcing you to bet $11 to win back $10 on both the under and the over. That extra dollar they make you wager to win back $10 if the juice.

If sportsbooks had “Bet $10 to win $10” on both the over and the under (e.g. +100 odds), then there would no juice. The market would have “zero hold.”

Vig / Juice in Sports Betting

Although the vig, or juice, gives sportsbooks the advantage, it’s still possible to make money sports betting. You just need to pick your spots wisely. When you’re betting $11 to win $10 in profit, you need to have high confidence that your wager is winning over 50% of the time.

Positive EV Sports Betting

Positive EV is the most profitable form of sports betting. Out of the millions of odds on sportsbooks at any any given time, there’s typically only 5-10 wagers on each sportsbook that are mathematically profitable (e.g. beat the vig). These opportunities are known as Positive EV bets. Of course, any bet can lose, but Positive EV wagers make money in the long run since they have a positive expected return.

Positive EV sports betting is similar to finding a “weighted coin.” If the coin is 51% to show up on tails (49% heads), then you know that the coin will land on tails more than heads over the course of the long run. However, there’s still a 49% probability of any coin flip showing heads. Thus, even though tails is the more likely outcome, heads will show up almost just as much if you flip the coin. It takes a large sample size of coin flips (e.g. thousands) to see that Heads is favored.

That’s just like Positive EV betting. You can still lose a few bets in a row. Variance is inevitable. Even the best sports bettors have losing days and weeks. It’s all about following net profit over a large sample size of bets (e.g. 1,000 or even 10,000 bets). It’s very difficult to know if you’re a profitable sports bettor if you aren’t tracking your bets, which leads us into our next concept!

Tracking Your Sports Bets

Tracking profit & loss over a large sample size of bets is critical. Many sports bettors will win a few picks in a row, and they assume they’re profitable. However, it’s not about your profit in one day. It’s about your net profit over the course of one month or, even better, one year. It’s free to track all of your wagers with the OddsJam Bet Tracker.

How I Made $400,000 Betting on Sports

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