Sports Betting for Beginners

Lee Jackson by Lee Jackson | Published: June 14, 2019

With so much involved in sports betting, it can be difficult to know where to start. We are pooling together some of the basic knowledge about sports betting in this beginners guide to help beginners when betting on sports.

We will take a look at some of the most commonly asked questions about sports betting by beginners, while also taking a look at some betting terms. We’ll also give a simple overview of other aspects of betting like what odds mean and how to control your betting.

Anytime that you want to explore further resources, don’t worry we have you covered there too with our extensive Betting Guides.

1 – Things to Consider

Is sports betting for me?

What is your drive to do sports betting? It is not a bad question to ask yourself if you are reading a sports betting for beginners guide. Something has piqued your interest, what is it? The reality of sports betting is that it is not likely to make you rich overnight. If that’s your ambition for taking up sports betting, it may be worth rethinking your motives.

Sports betting is like a game of cat and mouse because sometimes you are going to beat the bookmaker, other times the bookmaker will be beating you. You are going to face losses in sports betting, so trying to gamble your way out of financial problems, or trying to get rich quick, is not what sports betting is about.

Another factor of betting is that it can be addictive, particularly when you are having losses and you keep throwing more and more money the bookmaker’s way to try and recover from them. Everyone experiences betting differently. Everyone has different amounts of money to bet with, everyone will apply themselves to betting differently.

You will get the hardcore studiers of stats, subcribers of strategies and there are professional gamblers out there. But for the general punter, most will just see sports betting as a little bit of a hobby. Maybe it is to be just a casual pastime for you, shelling out a few pounds on the odd football match throughout the season here and there.

Maybe it’s just a flutter on the big horse races like the Grand National and the Cheltenham Gold Cup for a bit of fun. If that’s the case it’s more likely to be about the thrill of a win than getting rich. Sports betting is all about balance and finding what you are comfortable with. Ask yourself again, is sports betting for me? Why is that you want to bet on sports?

2 – Betting Basics

Getting started in sports betting doesn’t particularly have to be a complicated or overwhelming thing. In fact it can be an enjoyable enterprise to just jump straight into. However the more knowledge that you have, the better betting decisions that you are probably going to make.

We have several beginner guides like Betting Slips Explained and How To Beat The Bookies among others which will cover a lot more aspects in a lot more detail.

What to bet on?

Absolutely anything can be bet on these days, from the weather to the winner of the next football World Cup. The best advice is to stick to a sport that you are familiar with. If you follow the Premier League week in, week out, make that your starting point for betting. Whether it’s horse racing, boxing, cricket, tennis, start with a sport that you are familiar with.


Because you will have an understanding of which teams are stronger than others, who the key players are and who is in form. You probably already read team selections and previews, and that’s all knowledge which is helpful in making betting decisions. That familiarity is going to help you as a beginner in sports betting.

How much to stake?

This is totally down to the punter and the bet. Online bookmakers do have payout limits, which the average punter is never going to get close to. How much you bet will depend on how much you are willing to risk on your selection, and how much you can afford to lose.

Placing a £10 stake on a 12/1 outsider is a lot riskier than placing your stake on a 4/5 odds-on favourite. So there is an understanding of the risks involved in the betting odds that is needed. That will influence your stake.

What are bonuses and offers?

Bookmakers offer bonuses and special offers to their customers. While they really shouldn’t form a big part of everyday betting, it’s always good when you can grab one that fits into your wagering. For example, you see a Money Back Special on a football match. It’s giving you a lost stake refund if Barcelona loses. You were going to back Barcelona anyway. So take the bonus for extra cover, just in case.

Bookmakers like Bet365 have on-going promotions where they pay out if your team goes two-goals up in a match, so you don’t even have to wait for the full-time result. Shop around, see which ones fit for your betting. If you see a promotion for golf but you know nothing about golf betting, it’s probably not worth your time.

There’s also new customer offers to help boost your bankroll. Make sure you read the full terms and conditions for staking requirements. An example of a popular online bookmaker offering a sign up bonus code is Bet365.

What’s an exchange?

A betting exchange is where bettors bet against each other instead of wagering against a bookmaker. Betfair is one of the major online players for this. The betting exchange is something that may appear to be a bit confusing. It’s simple at its core, and at the end of the day it does the same job. But it does perhaps take more understanding to really reap the benefits of it as opposed to a traditional Sportsbook. Read our Betting Exchange Beginners guide for fuller details.

3 – Betting Odds

A beginner to sports betting may not be fully aware of just what the odds are and what they represent. Bookmakers do a lot of number crunching to set the numbers that you see in a sports book. They are not random and they are not done by chance, although ironically they represent chance. Well, implied probability is the term really.

The odds that are presented represent the likelihood of an event happening. We have a full beginners guide called Betting Odds Explained which will go into a lot more depth about this. However, let’s take a look at some key points;

What are betting odds?

We’re not going to go heavy into the mathematics here, as you can check out our in-depth guides for a richer experience there. But as a simple example of what odds are, a 4/1 quote equates to an implied probability of 20%. So if you are backing a tennis player to win a match at 4/1 the bookmaker has assessed that that player has little chance of doing so. 20% in fact. If that player was 1/4 odds-on then that is an implied probability of 80%, a high chance that they will match. So odds = implied probability. Knowing what the odds represent can help you make informed wagering decisions.

Fractional, Decimal or Moneyline odds?

There are different ways that odds are presented. The traditional method is fractional odds like 2/1. Decimal odds have become popular with online betting because they are easier to read and calculate winnings from. Moneyline odds are used primarily in North American betting.

The key difference is that Fractional odds represent potential profit, while decimal odds represent the return including the stake. In Moneylines, positive numbers are how much you would win if you bet 100, while negative numbers are how much you have to bet to win 100.

Peak behind the curtains and there’s no difference between any of them and they can all be converted between each other. Picking how you choose to have your odds displayed is a matter of preference. It will be whatever you are most comfortable with using and reading. Beginners betting on sports should probably pick one and stick to it until they have a full understanding of odds.

What is Odds-On and Odds-Against?

This is just a term used in betting for quotes that are either side of Even Money. Even money represents a 50/50 chance. You will win however much you stake on an Even Money bet. Any odds quote that is less than Even Money (fractional odds where the first number is smaller than the second such as 8/11, 10/11 and 1/3) is odds-on. It will represent a strong likelihood of the outcome happening. Anything bigger than Even Money (2/1, 3/1, 5/2 for example) is an Odds-Against quote.

Where to find the best odds?

There are so many online bookmakers available out there, and that means you can shop around for prices. This guide is not going to come up with an answer of where you can find the best odds every single time on every single bet that you make. Shopping around is the way that you find the best odds. If one bookmaker has Rafael Nadal to win at 10/11 and another has him at 11/10, then you take the bigger, better price.

4 – Bet Types

There are so many bet types available, so many different ways to wager on just a single event. There are, basically, markets and bet types that you will likely never even touch upon. As a bit of advice for a sports betting beginner, it’s not worth trying to become an expert in a whole bunch of different bet types.

Stick to simple and straightforward ones like win singles and from straight forward markets like the outcome of a F1 Grand Prix. Take a look at our 1X2 Bet Explained Beginners Guide. It’s good to get a solid grounding of simple things and then gradually advance.

What is a Win Single?

This is pretty much the starting point of all bettors. It’s simply a case of you putting a stake on an outcome of an event that you think will win. It could be the winner of a football match, a horse race or a chess match. It doesn’t matter. You are betting one stake to win.

What is a Handicap?

This is a familiar term in betting where the bookmaker handicaps the favourite in a match to try and offer betting value to the punter. If you imagine Barcelona playing Accrington Stanley, then the Spaniards would be no value to back because they would be highly expected to win.

But if they are handicapped at -3 for example, it means that Accrington would have a three-goal head start at the kickoff. So you would back either Barcelona to cover that handicap by winning by a four-goal margin, or back Accrington to not lose by more than 3 goals. Read our What Is a Handicap Bet for fuller details.

What is a Banker?

Although there is no such thing as a dead-cert in any sports betting, in certain events you have teams which are more likely to win. In a World Cup match between Brazil and New Zealand, you would expect the South Americans to win. So they would be deemed a banker, which generally don’t come at good value. Bankers are used in multiples, where they have to win in order for the bet to return.

What is an accumulator?

An accumulator is a number of different selections that are combined into one bet. All of the selections have to win in order for the bet to win. This type of bet appeals to beginners because they can be played with a really low stake and offer big odds. The odds in an accumulator are the “accumulated” odds from all of the selections in it.

A good tip for beginners is to recognise that accumulators, while immense fun, are notoriously difficult bets to actually succeed at. The more selections in one, the more difficult it becomes. They are alright for a dabble here and there, but likely shouldn’t a main staple of betting.

What are Multiples?

Multiple bets are when a number of different options are rolled into the one wager. At the simple end of things is the accumulator. If at least one of them fails to win, the bet is a bust. But there are multiples available like a Lucky 15 which is a common type of horse racing bet, where not all selections are needed to win.

These work by taking the selections and making all combinations of doubles, trebles and accumulators out of them. So for example, if you have made three selections, you would only need two of them to win to get something back, because a Double could be formed.

What are Value Bets?

Value bets are situations where you assess the probability of odds (chance of an outcome happening) and think the bookmaker has set them too big. For example, Bayern Munich are even money to beat Chelsea in a Champions League fixtures, but you think the Germans should be stronger odds-on favourites.

If that’s the case, you think that the bookmaker have underestimated Bayern’s chances of winning slightly, so that in your opinion is a value bet. It’s where your assessment of the odds / probability differs from that of the bookmaker. If you want to find out more about Value Bets, read our full guide.

5 – Bankroll

You are betting with your cold hard cash at the end of the day, and just because you’ll likely do most of your betting online looking at numbers, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t real money. Real money needs to be managed and maintained to try and prevent the loss of control when betting, especially when emotions creep in. We explain and offer Bankroll Tips in our full guide but here’s the guide summary;

What is a Bankroll?

The bankroll is a massively important factor in sports betting. This is basically how much money you have to bet with. This is a big one in sports betting for beginners because it is something that gets overlooked. But basically, so that wagering doesn’t get out of control and you end up losing more than you can afford to, you set a bankroll.

There are plenty of different ways to do this. Maybe you give yourself a £50 budget for the month for example. If all of that goes by the third week, you stop betting because you have no bankroll left. It’s basically money management and you can also do things like betting no more than 10% of your bankroll in one wager. You never, ever want to end up losing more than you can afford to. That’s why a bankroll is so important.

6 – Advanced

As you get started to get more into your sports betting you will find and explore new and advanced ways to bet. Things like betting systems, strategies and betting tips will start coming on to your radar. These are outside influences on your betting and a fuller understanding of betting basics is really needed before jumping into things like this:

What about a betting strategy and systems?

As a sports bettor, you will indeed come across betting strategies. There are some famous strategies and systems out there like the Fibonacci and the Martingale ones. These are big lure because they offer a betting plan and most of them will seem pretty foolproof on the surface.

Newbies sports betting should probably cast a cautious eye over them. While the math may well stand up, a big flaw about them is that they expect the punter to have a bottomless pit of money. All betting strategies, of course, rely on wins happening, but wins don’t always happen and to recover losses in betting systems, you need increasingly big stakes.

Are betting tips good?

Another aspect of sports betting are tips. There are ones that you pay for out there online, others are given out for free. So are betting tips good? The advice for sports betting beginners is to keep them in mind but don’t put your whole stock into them. There’s nothing wrong with reading different tips for the same horse race for example.

The more credible sources of tips are, such as a racing column in a racing newspaper, the better. Also check to see how accurate previous tips have been. It’s a bit of extra insights for you. But at the end of the day, it’s your money so you do what you think is best. Don’t just be swayed from your own assessments because someone said something different. Everyone has different opinions and the more you study things like statistics and form the further you will expand your own expertise.

Sports Betting for Beginners Guide: Getting Started
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Sports Betting for Beginners Guide: Getting Started
Learn the betting basics and getting started with our sports betting for beginners guide. We take a look at some of the most commonly asked questions.
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Best Free Bets
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Article by Lee Jackson

Lee has built a vast working knowledge of different bet types, betting systems, probability and all-important experience. His experience within the betting industry extends to over a decade of researching and writing betting guides. Understanding the statistical and mathematical side of betting is something that fascinates Lee. The study of statistics and implied probability in odds are factors that he finds engaging and important to understanding the inner workings of the practice of betting.