Sports Betting Guide

Sports betting is a fun way to seek extra excitement to all sorts of sports and entertainment events giving you the chance also to win money. What’s really been popular lately is live betting, which is betting in real time during the event. This sports betting guide goes through everything you need to know to start sports betting online. It’s more profitable to do the betting online because the odds are better and it’s easy compared to conventional bookers. Why bother walking to the local booker when you can make the same bets online from your own couch, even with better odds?

For those who bet professionally, betting is a constant battle against the bookers. The first thing you must come to terms with is the concept of value bets and non-value bets. For anyone attempting to build a career in betting, probability estimates must be clear.

Whether you’re playing for entertainment purposes or to win money, you should still read this guide. It has been drawn up by experienced professional bettors. If you like, you can just skip to the list of the best sportsbooks online.

BASICS

Odds

Odds are presented using either the European format (decimal odds) or the American format (fractional odds). Below is a useful Excel formula for converting the odds from one format to another.

Fractional -> Decimal = IF(A1<0;ROUND(1+100/ABS(A1);2);(A1+100)/100)

Decimal -> Fractional = IF(A2<2;-ROUND(1/(A2-1)*100;0);IF(A2=2;”Even”;A2*100-100))

The odds are converted so, that if there’s a plus (+) in front of the American odd, the odd is divided by a hundred (100), and 1 is added to the fraction, for example: +120=1+(120/100)=2.20. If there’s a minus (-) in front, the 100 is divided by this odd and 1 is added to the fraction, for example: -120=1+(100/120)=1.83.

Game forms

Several different types of games have been developed for players to bet on. Here are some of the most common ones.

1×2

In 1×2 you bet most commonly on the outcome of a match between two real opponents. Choices are a win, or a tie, in which 1 means home win (or the team marked as home team), X is a tie, 2 visitor (or a team marked as visitor team). 1×2 bets are almost always for after the actual playing time has ended, in football the score after the second half-time, in ice-hockey after the third round and so on.

Handicaps

Handicaps have been offered for a long time abroad. Companies offering handicaps usually offer better odds than 1×2-bets.

The idea of Handicaps

In a handicap you bet on a single match is a tournament or an event for the winner or a tie, considering the handicap. Handicap games can in certain cases be closely compared with the 1×2 games, however not all handicaps have to chance of a tie for either the bet of the outcome. In football and ice hockey the handicap is usually given in a form of 0.0, 0.5, 1.0 or 1.5 goals, in basketball the handicaps are usually larger.

Examples of handicaps:

In a 0.0 goal handicap you only bet on the winner, so it’s not really a proper handicap, more like a money line – a bet which you can read about further down. A 0.5 handicap is probably the most common form of handicap betting. In this case the booker gives half a goal handicap to one of the teams. This naturally shows in the setting of the odds. As an example case a football match Arsenal vs. Liverpool, with half a goal handicap given to Liverpool. A bettor betting for Liverpool wins, if the game is a tie or if Liverpool wins. E.g. an outcome of 0-0 would mean that the match ended with a score of 0-0.5. If Arsenal wins, the bet is lost. An outcome of 1-0 would mean that the bet ended with 1-0-5. In hockey these handicaps almost always covers the overtime. As an example, Detroit-Colorado, with 0.5 handicap given to Colorado; in this case the bettor who bet for Detroit will win, if Detroit wins at the latest, during overtime. Tie or Colorado winning (during playing time or overtime) would mean loss for those who bet for Colorado. In hockey the most common handicap is 1.5 goals. So even if Colorado gets a 1.5 handicap, it would still be enough for those who bet for Colorado if the game ends by one goal by Detroit. For example if the game ends 4-3, for the bet the outcome would be 4-4.5.

Asian Handicap Bets

+0 This is a “zero handicap”. You win, if the team you’ve bet on wins and you’ll lose if they lose. If it’s a tie you’ll get your money back (push).
-0,25 Consists of +0 and -0,5 handicaps. You’ll win with your whole bet if your team wins. You’ll lose the whole bet if they lose. If it’s a tie you’ll get half of your money back (losing the -0,5 but getting the money back for the +0 bet).
-0,5 Means straight win. You’ll win if the team you’ve bet on wins, and lose if they tie or lose.
-0,75 Consists of half -0,5 and half -1 handicaps. You’ll win with the whole bet if the team you’ve bet on wins with at least two goals. You’ll lose the whole bet if your team ties or loses. With a one goal win you’ll win half of the bet and get the other half back (winning the -0,5 bet and getting the bet back for the -1 bet).
-1 You’ll win if your team wins with at least two goals, or you’ll lose if your team ties or loses. If your team wins with one goal, you’ll get your bet back.
-1,25 Consists of -1 and -1,5 handicaps. You’ll win with the whole bet if your team wins by at least two goals and you’ll lose the whole bet if your team ties or loses. With one goal win you’ll get half of your bet back and lose the other half (back from the -1 bet and lose the -1,5 bet).
-1,5 You’ll win if your team wins with at least two goals, and lose if they win with one goal, ties or loses.
-1,75 Consists of -1,5 and -2 handicaps. You’ll win with the whole bet if your team wins by at least 3 goals and lose the whole bet if your team wins with one goal, ties, or loses. With an even two goal win you’ll win half of the bet and get the other half back (win the -1,5 bet and get the -2 back).
-2 You’ll win, if your team wins by at least 3 goals and lose if they win with one goal, tie or lose. With an even two goal win you’ll get your bet back.
+0,25 Consists of +0 and +0,5 handicaps. You’ll win the whole bet if your team wins and you’ll lose the whole bet if they lose. If it’s a tie you’ll win with half the bet and get the other half back ( win the +0,5 bet and money back for the +0 bet).
+0,5 You’ll win if your team wins or ties. You’ll lose if your team loses.
+0,75 Consists of +0,5 and +1 handicaps. You’ll win with the whole bet, if your team ties or wins. You’ll lose the whole bet if your team loses by at least two goals. With one goal defeat you’ll lose one half and get the other half back (lose the +0,5 bet and get +1 bet money back).
+1 You’ll win if your team ties of wins. You’ll lose if your team loses by two goals. With an even one goal defeat you’ll get your money back.
+1,25 Consists of +1 and +1,5 handicaps. You’ll win with the whole bet if your team ties or loses. You’ll lose the whole bet if your team loses by at least two goals. With an even one goal defeat you’ll win with half the bet and get the other half back (win with the +1,5 bet and get your money back for the +1 bet).
+1,5 You’ll win if your team loses by one goal, ties or loses. You’ll lose if your team loses by at least two goals.
+1,75 Consists of +1,5 an +2 handicaps. You’ll win with the whole bet if your team loses by one goal, ties or wins. You’ll lose the whole bet if your team loses by at least three goals. With an even two goal defeat you’ll lose half the bet and get the other half back (lose the +1,5 and money back for the +2 bet).
+2 You’ll win if your team loses by one goal, ties of wins. You’ll lose if your team loses by at least three goals. With an even two goal defeat you’ll get your money back.

Handicaps can be bigger in certain cases but the principle remains the same.

Total Goal Bets (under/over)

Over/Under bet is for betting if over or under x goals will be scored. The most common form is the so called line, in hockey 5.5 goals, and 2,5 in football, although there are other possible lines. In hockey 5.5 goals over/under the result is under, if there are max 5 goals scored (the game ending e.g. 1-0, 2-1, 3-2, 3-0 or 2-3) or over, the at least 6 goals are scored (e.g. 2-4, 5-1, 6-0, 8-3 or 5-3).
There are other lines too. Hockey offers a bet over/under 5, when you bet if the game scores a total of max 4 of at least 6 goals. If 5 goals are scores, the bet is returned regardless if you’ve bet over or under.

u1,5 You’ll win, if the match ends without goals or one goal is scored. You’ll lose if at least two goals are scored.
u1,75 Consists of u1,5 and u2 types. You’ll win with the whole bet if the match ends without goals or one goal is scored. You’ll lose the whole bet if at least three goals are scored. With an even two goals scored you’ll lose half of the bet and get the other half back (lose u1,5 bet, money back for u2)
u2 You’ll win if the match ends without goals or one goal is scored. You’ll lose if at least three goals are scored. With even two goals you’ll get the bet back.
u2,25 Consists of u2 and u2,5 types. You’ll win with the whole bet if the match ends without goals or with one goal scored. You’ll lose the whole bet if at least three goals are scored. With an even two goals scored you’ll get half the bet back and win with the other half (lose u2,5 bet, money back for u2,5).
u2,5 You’ll win if max two goals are scored and lose if at least three goals are scored.
u2,75 Consists of u2,5 and u3 types. You’ll win with the whole bet if max two goals are scored. You’ll lose the whole bet if at least four goals are scored. With an even three goals scored you’ll lose half the bet and get the other half back ( lose u2,5 and money back for u3).
u3 You’ll win, if max two goals are scored. You’ll lose if at least four goals are scored. With even three goals you’ll get your money back.
u3,25 Consists of u3 and u3,5 types. You’ll win with the whole bet is max two goals are scored. Youll lose the whole bet if at least four goals are scored. With even three goals you’ll get half the bet back and win with the other half (money back for u3 and win with u3,5 bet).
u3,5 You’ll win if max three goals are scored and you’ll lose if at least four goals are scored.
o1,5 You’ll win if at least two goals are scored. You’ll lose if no goals are scored or only one.
o1,75 Consists of o1,5 and o2 types. You’ll win with the whole bet if at least three goals are scored. You’ll lose the whole bet if there are no goals, or just one. With an even two goals you’ll win with half the bet and get the other half back (win o1,5 and money back for o2).
o2 You’ll win, if at least three goals are scored. You’ll lose, if there are no goals or just one. With two goals you’ll get your money back.
o2,25 Consists of o2 and o2,5 types. You’ll win with the whole bet is at least three goals are scored. You’ll lose the whole bet if there are no goals or just one. With even two goals you’ll get half the bet back and lose the other half (money back for o2 and lose o2,5).
o2,5 You’ll win if at least three goals are scored and lose if max two goals.
o2,75 Consists of o2,5 and o3 types. You’ll win with the whole bet if at least four goals are scored. You’ll lose the whole bet if max two goals are scored. With even three goals you’ll win with half and get the other half back (win o2,5 and money back for o3).
o3 You’ll win if four goals are scored and lose if max two goals. With even three you’ll get your money back.
o3,25 Consists of o3 and o3,5 types. You’ll win with the whole bet if at least four goals are scored and lose the whole bet if max two goals are scored. With even three goals you’ll get half the bet back and lose the other half (money back for o3 and lose o3,5).
o3,5 You’ll win if at least four goals are scored and lose if max three.

Marking Differences Between Bookmakers

Asian handicap and total-goals markings differ little between betting companies. In the beginning you should be careful to leave in the right bet. Here are some examples on the marking bookers used in this service have.

Pinnacle Sports:
Asian handicap: 0, 0 and -0.5 (read -0,25), -0.5, -0,5 and -0,75 (read -0,75) etc.
Total Goals: Under 2 and 2.5 (read u2,25), under 2,5, under 2.5 and 3 (read u2,75) etc.

188Bet:
Asian handicap: 0, 0/0.5 (read -0,25), 0.5 (read -0,5), 0,5/1 (read -0,75) etc.
Total-goals: 2/2.5 (read o2,5), 2.5 (read o2,5), 2.5/3 (read o2,75) etc.

Moneyline

Moneyline is somewhat related to handicaps. In ML-bet you only bet the winner of the game, in hockey taking into account overtime, in football the overtime or penalty shots aren’t taken into account. At the rnd of a tie the bets are returned, despite who you’ve bet on. Some companies have places ML-bets with handicaps, the handicap being 0.0 goals.

Totalizators or flexible-rate bets

These totalizators are risk-free for the bookmaker. In these flexible-rate bet games the odds are influenced by the share of exchange each of the results have received taking in to account the return rate of bookmaker offering the game. If the returned percentage is let’s say 80%, this means that of the amount placed on the bet, 80% will be given back to bettors as winnings. Naturally the more money bet on the option, the smaller the coefficient.

Example of a totalizator:

Football game Liverpool-ManU, the target of the bet is the outcome with the number of goals scored. This target is played with a total of 100 000 euros, so as winnings 80 000 will be dealt. The final score is 1-1, which has been bet with a total of 10 000 euros. This 1-1 scores represents 10% of all the bets made. Taking into account the return percentage of 80%, the 1-1 score would have the coefficient of 8. This comes by counting the 10 000 share of the 100 000 euros, which is 10%, the reciprocal will make a coefficient of 10, which still need to be divided by 0,8 (the return percentage). This is how every other final score could be counted, depending on the amounts of bets made on them.

Head-to-Head

In so called h2h bets, the bet are made competitors competing against each other rather than winning the certain race or an event. The Formula 1 races have become a popular bet, where you bet on two or three drivers and their placement among the others. Depending on the bookmaker you can also bet a “tie”, in which one or both drivers either have the same time, drop out, or get disqualified.

Example of h2h bet:
F1 race, Felipe Massa vs. Kimi Räikkönen. Depending on the case you can bet on either a driver’s placement or on the placement which also includes the option of a “tie” bet. In the former the bet is returned (unless stated otherwise) if neither of the drivers finishes or both get disqualified. In the latter the race is a tie, if neither of the drivers finishes or both get disqualified.
F1 race, Felipe Massa vs. Kimi Räikkönen vs. Heikki Kovalainen. This is a bet on who makes the bet placement out of the three. Again it depends on each case whether or not the bet is returned if none of them gets a placing or all get disqualified.

Exotics

The more special sporting event bets are called exotics. These can be e.g. who makes the opening goal, the score (in football) for the first half, (in hockey) after the first or second half etc. You should find out more from the bookmakers of these exotic bets, because they are always on a case-by-case basis.

Example on exotics:

Football match Germany-Italy. The bet is on the score in case of a home win, tie, or the away team win after the first and second halftime. This makes it a 1×2 bet but on the score after the first half. Possible scores therefore are (first half/second half) 1/1, X/X, 2/2, X/1, X/2, 1/X, 1/2, 2/X and 2/1.

Mythicals

Mythicals bets are offered at least on football matches. These can be somewhat compared to h2h bets, because mythicals are about betting between two competitors when they are not actually competing against each other.

Example on mythicals:

Spanish league round, which one scores more goals, Real Madrid or Barcelona? Real Madrid is playing a home game against Valencia, Barcelona also a home game against Deportivo. The options are 1=Real Madrid, X=even number of goals, 2=Barcelona. Note, that your team can lose their own match and still win as a bet. For example, Real Madrid – Valencia ends 1-0, and Barcelona – Deportivo 2-4, Barcelona has still scored more goals than Real Madrid, so as a bet, the winning bet would be 2=Barcelona. Mythical bets can also be offered between two teams playing in different leagues, or between 3 teams. Again it should be noted that this all depends on the bookmaker.

GAME THEORY

Non-value bet

Non-value bet is the opposite of value bet, so it is unprofitable for the bettor in the long run. Non-value bet is an odd that is smaller than the reciprocal of its probability. When faced with a non-value bet you should try to avoid it and not deal with it, because that is the only way to avoid problems.

Value bet

Value bet is the basic element of betting. Value bet is an odd which is bigger than the reciprocal of its probability. If you’ve for example calculated the result percentages to be 40-20-40 for the match Detroit – Boston then the appropriate odds for this results are 2.5-5-2.5. And therefore find a 2.7 odd for Detroid, you get to play Value bet. Value bet is the best way to bet in the long run.

Probability estimate

Probability estimates are the cornerstone of profitable betting. If you think, for example, that in the Detroit-Boston game Detroit will win with more than 50% probability; you have in your mind made a probability estimate. Professional bettors can’t place their judgments solely on images of team, they you a lot of time observing the team and analyzing all the data effecting the game (goalies, conditions, field players, strain etc.). This is how they end up with an estimated percentage (probability estimate) on the strengths of the teams on which to base the betting decision. For example, on this particular case an estimate of 25-25-50 means, that Boston wins 25 of the 100 played games, 25 will end up in a tie and Boston will win 50 in these series. Remember that the league table doesn’t always give a good enough a coverage to make these estimates, it can only be the very base to which build on.

So, how to form a probability estimate? We’ll unveil the mystery a bit.

Values and how they are formed in NHL bets

1) Before the season starts, form estimation for every team, by taking into account the offenders, defenders, goalies and other elements that affect the team. You’ll then produce an estimate between, say, 1-10. It’s not easy, but you can get more than enough information online to make these decisions. Estimations are the basement of the coming season, so make sure to be thorough.

2) In NHL, some games are more important to teams than others. Know which ones are important, and in which the players might get more rest. Conferences, divisions and other basic thoughts you must know by heart.

3) Know the players. Goalies, regular first team players and their absence form a large deal of the power of the team. Never forget to check the line-up and consider which place is missing players or how their absence will affect the number of goals made.

4) Identify your mistakes. If a team which you labeled lousy goes from victory to victory, don’t lose all your money on a mistake you made last summer. A smart bettor recognizes the mistakes made and learns from them. Only the dumb ones keep beating their heads against the wall.

Power rating

Power ratings are used to measure differences between teams. Odd compiler performes by calculating power rating for teams, which are based strictly on the facts available on the teams. When calculating the power ratings a bettor must be aware and deal with hard facts between the teams, and the league table alone is not enough to make these calculations. A wise odd compiler counts in both home and visitor” –power rating and by comparing these end up with the final percentage estimates on the levels of the teams.

Odd comparison

Once you’ve made your estimates on the probabilities of the teams, it’s time to look for value bets. The internet offers many tools to help you out comparing odds between different bookmakers.

Kelly formula

The Kelly formula is one of the corner stones of gambling: B = (pk-1) / (k-1). B = the wager, p= the probability of winning and k= the odds received on the wager. So, with a fraction of 1000€ of the bankroll to wager for a team with a 40% probability, the odds offered by the bookmaker 2.7 we’ll get =>(0.4*2.7-1) / (2.7-1) => the percentage of the bankroll to be waged would be 4.7%=>47€. It is not recommended to use this Kelly/1 formula in betting, because it is too risky. Read more from Kelly divider part.

Kelly divider

The Kelly divider is often used with the Kelly formula to reduce the risk Kelly formula guarantees an optimal wager but it also requires extreme accuracy of the probabilities which is sports betting is often difficult. Therefore a clever bettor reduces the risk by using the Kelly divider. Put into a Kelly formula => B = ((pk-1) / (k-1)) / 5 we’ve used the divider 5. Everyone must set their own divider, but it’s never a bad thing to be one the safe side. Recommended dividers are for example 6 or 8. You can use kelly calculator to determine bet sizes to your bets.

“SAFE BETS”

Remember, that there are no safe bets!

Basic information

Arbitrage is about a so called sure win. This is possible, when the same target is being offered large odds for all the outcomes. A simple case is a target with two options for outcomes – e.g. a tennis match. Let’s assume a match Sampras-Nadal, bookmaker A offeres 2.20 for Federer, bookmaker B 2.00 for Nadal, this makes an arbitrage: 1/2,20+1/2,00=0,955.

Therefore with a 0,955 unit makes 1 unit, in other words in the long run this kind of investment would profit 1/0,955=1,047=4,7 percent. It’s not a great way to make lots of money, but using arbitrages you’ll get some growth into your bankroll or you can use these surebets to clear bonuses. Arbitrage comes with certain risks, read more below.

Arbitrage betting

You don’t bet arbitrage by Kelly formula, but by how much “sure win” you’re expecting. In our example bookmaker A gives Federer a winning odd of 2,20, and bookmaker B a winning odd of 2,00 for Nadal. You must take into account the reciprocals of these odds and the estimated sure win. Let’s calculate:

Federer: (1/2,20)*1,047 = 47,6% Nadal: (1/2,00)*1,047 = 52,4%

These percentages refer to the fraction of the wager of the bankroll. E.g. is you have a bankroll of 10 000€, you’ll bet 4760€ for Federer to win, and 5240 for Nadal. If Federer wins, you’ll get 10 472€, if Nadal, you’ll get 10 480€. The difference between these sums comes from round offs in the percentages, but you’ve still make risk free growth in your bankroll. In each case you’ve grown almost 5% in your bankroll. There’s a surebet calculator available on this site, which you can use to count if there is an arbitrage opportunity available in a match or to calculate optimal bet sizes for all outcomes.

Arbitrage risk

Even though we’ve mentioned sure wins, arbitrages carry a risk. This appears when it turns out the bookmaker has made a mistake in the odds. This kind of clear mistake can happen if the event bookmakers have informed the bets wrong or even made a mistake about the whole match. A good example is a situation, when you choose odds for a match between David Nalbandian and Jarkko Nieminen from bookmakers A and B. A gives Nalbandian 1,30 odds and Nieminen 4,30, B gives Nalbandian 1,90 and Nieminen 1,90. This is probably a situation when B has gives Nalbandian-Nieminen match the odds that should go for an entire different match, say for example Federer-Nadal. This of course makes an arbitrage by playing A for Nieminen (odds 4,30) and B for Nalbandian (odds 1,90), but it’s likely that the bookmaker B will correct his mistake by cancelling the bet. This bet then no longer exists and the wager is returned. This causes a great risk, if the bet made with bookmaker A (Nieminen win, odds 4,20) still stands; if Nalbandian wins, the bet “Nieminen 4,20” lost and the bet “Nalbandian 1,90” cancelled. So you’ve lost the Nieminen fraction of your bankroll.

Another possible arbitrage due to a bookmakers mistake is setting the odds the wrong way. For example bookmaker A gives the Nalbandian-Nieminen match odds 1,30-4,30 and bookmaker B the same match 4,30-1,30, it’s obvious that B will cancel these wrongly places odds. Don’t play arbitrages unless you know what you’re doing!

ADVANCED GAME THEORY

Using the Poisson formula

Poisson, Siméon-Denis (1781 – 1840) developed a formula, which enables you to calculate probabilities of continual cases. Later several mathematicians have discovered that the Poisson formula can be used for ballgames (mainly football and hockey) to calculate the probability of goals.

Poisson formula:

P(x) = (e^-µ * µ^x) / x!

x = the number of cases, e.g. number of goals 3

x! = factorial of the number x, e.g. 3! = 1*2*3 = 6
It is also set that 0! = 1

µ = Goal estimation 2,70

e = Neper figure, invariable (~2,7183)

Example:

P(3) = (2,7183^-2,70*2,70^3) / 3! ~ 0,220 = 22,0 %

Excel also has a function which helps to use Poisson.

=POISSON(3;2,7;FALSE)

The function above gives the result of the same 22% we got above.

Therefore according to Poisson the team will score exactly 3 goals with a 22% probability, if the expected goal value is estimated at 2,70. This way you can calculate the probabilities for both teams and for every number of goals. After that you must multiply the probabilities with each other, thus getting the probabilities for different outcome combinations.

Example: If the home team scores 3 goals with 22% probability and the away team 2 goals with 26% probability, the probability of the outcome 3-2 is 0,22*0,26 = 0,0572 = 5,7%.

By adding up all the home wins, you get the probability of a home win with given estimated goal values. Similarly you can calculate the probabilities for a tie and the away wins.

Correct score betting calculator is available on this website.

OTHER TIPS

Tracking

Precise tracking on the bets played is your advantage. Accounting in this computer era is very easy, with Excel spreadsheet programs or with it’s free of charge cousin, Open Office. Basic tracking should give you the following details: Date, Match, Game form, Bet, Bet Size and Outcome. For example it’s easy to develop tools like the Kelly formula for yourself with spreadsheets to e.g. define the wagers. It’s also not a waste of time to make a list of factors that affected the game in the games played. You can measure your own skills with precise tracking when you make thousands of bets. Tracking is extremely important if you try to achieve profitable gambling.

Return percentage

Return percentage for a bettor means the profit he/she has made compared to the wager. When for example in a series of 100 matches the amount of money you’ve made is 100.000€ and the money you’ve invested is 90.000€ you can say you’ve gained 111% return percentage on the money you’ve wagered (100.000€ / 90.000€). You can tell a profitable bettor if he makes more than 100% return percentage in a long run.

Bookmakers return percentage refers to the percentage which the bookmaker returns to the bettor as winnings.

Long run

You’ll often come across this term in gambling, and it means series of thousands of bets which the bettor has played. When a bettor decides to buy/seek tips, one should estimate the quality of the person giving the tips by how well he’s done in the “long run”, that is in thousands of bets he’s made. This way you’ll get a better picture of the quality of his analysis.

Conclusion

Now after reading this guide, you are ready to start making accounts to online sportsbooks and placing bets. We have listed the best sports betting sites at the best sportsbooks section of the site.