How Does Sports Betting Work: Betting Guide
Placing wagers on a betting site requires an understanding of how to bet, what lines mean, and how to hopefully win. Most of the time, it's not as simple as just picking a winner or a loser. Whether you want to bet on an underdog or favorite, a total number of points or goals scored, an individual player's stats, or several other options, there's a lot to learn for new bettors.
Reading Betting Lines
Every game available to bet has a point spread associated, with the exception of Baseball, which we will explain later. Betting lines are published in American sports books by showing a favorite with a negative number and an underdog with a positive number. For example, if the Browns are playing the Steelers and you see “Cleveland -6” this means that the Browns are the betting favorite.
What many fans do not understand is that the betting line is not a prediction by the sportsbooks of the outcome of the game, the betting line is simply a divider by the odds makers to attempt a 50% split of betting action on each side of the line.
Betting lines move. When the betting money starts rolling in, the sportsbooks in an effort to balance the wagering will often move the line. In our example, if 75% of the betting money is coming in on Pittsburgh, the sportsbook will likely move the line to make Cleveland cover fewer points, say -5.5…or -5. It is rare that sportsbooks will make radical changes in betting lines. Most of the time, the lines move in half-point increments.
Betting a $100 on a game does not always mean that you will win $100 on your success. Odds, plus the amount you bet are the key to determining payouts. Fortunately, online sportsbooks and their related mobile apps make it super-easy to know what your potential payout will be.
For simplicity, the payout will be determined by the odds placed on your wager. For american odds of +110, you must bet $110 to win $100. In our example of “Cleveland -6,” if you had bet $110 on Cleveland, and the Browns win by six points or more, you win $100. If the Browns lose, OR if they do not win by at least six points, you lose your $110.
The “Juice,” that is what sportsbooks call the $10 in our example. You bet $110, they pay you $100 for a win or they keep the entire $110 for a loss. Juice is the price you pay for playing.
Choosing A Sportsbook
Ohio is expecting to approve as many as 25 sportsbooks and online betting vendors by January 2023, but how do you select the right one? Our group regularly publishes sports betting guides on sportsbook features and how to choose. Here’s the executive summary:
- Look at features: Sportsbooks, by and large, will carry similar games and odds, but will have different features like loyalty programs, early cash-outs, games, contests, etc. What you find most important will be a big driver in how you choose one.
- Betting your sport: Some sportsbooks are better for Baseball vs. Basketball, or have more games for Hockey action. If, for example, you are planning to bet the NBA, our experts believe PointsBet is the #1 site for Basketball. You will find more articles in the near future on which site we like for each specific sport.
- Reputation & Customer Service: For many people, this will be a critical determining factor. Check out our writers’ opinions on the sportsbooks and how they rate.
- Securing the bag: How do you get your money? Payouts, banking options, time to delivery are all important. Using a mobile wallet? You will want a sportsbook mobile app that’s flexible.
Sports Betting Guide: Types of Bets
There are tons of sports to wager on with the online sportsbooks from NFL and NBA action to Russian Hockey and Scandinavian Curling. Additionally, the sportsbooks give you a number of different ways to bet these sports. Below is a small list of bet types you can expect to see:
A bet on the point spread, or “Straight Bet” is what we have described above. One team will be a betting “favorite” and one will be an “underdog.” To win a straight bet, your favorite must match or exceed the point spread, your underdog must only lose by less than the point spread or win.
Repeating our example above, if the Browns are favored over the Steelers by 6 points, you would need the Browns to beat the Steelers by 6 points or more to win the bet. If you bet the Steelers, you only need for the final margin to be less than 6 points. In this example, if the Browns win 24-19, the Steelers have “covered,” and that side of the betting wins.
While most bets are not as simple as one team winning, this would be the exception. In a moneyline bet, the player is betting on a team to win a game outright, no matter how many points the spread reflects. Monelines can be extremely lucrative as the underdog carries a higher odds number than a straight bet.
Here's an example from college basketball: Illinois is playing Ohio State, and the Buckeyes are -9. Your straight bet odds (against the spread) are -110 for Ohio State, meaning you have to bet $110 to win $100. Your moneyline odds, however are -450 on the Buckeyes and +340 on the Illini. Betting $100 on Ohio State would profit just $22, but a $100 bet on Illinois would profit $340.
Totals Betting or Over/Unders
Betting “Totals” is completely different from betting lines or outright wins. In this type of bet, the winner of the game is completely irrelevant. What the bettor is looking to do is manage the total points scored, runs, or goals of the final score of the game of the teams combined. The total is set for the same reason as the point spread: to split the betting action 50/50. Totals lines can move just like that of point spreads.
Typically, when you see a total posted it will carry odds of -110; meaning you must bet $110 to win $100. For lower-scoring games where scores are only expected to be in single digits, the sportsbook will typically adjust payouts instead of the total line.
Here’s an example from soccer: the totals are almost always 2.5, so instead of adjusting such a small line, the book may make your “over” odds -180 and your “under” odds +150. This would mean that payouts on your “overs” are smaller than your payout on the “under.” A $100 bet on the Over would profit $56, a $100 bet on the Under would profit $150…if successful of course.
A parlay bet is two or more bets that have been bundled into a single bet to increase odds payouts and potential profits. The payouts are eye-popping for Parlays, but don’t let that fool you, they are hard to hit successfully and professionals tend to avoid them. Even still, they are fun so let’s take a look at a sample three-leg Parlay:
The Bengals are playing the Colts and the Colts are a 6-point favorite carrying odds of -110 on the straight bet. Odds makers have set the total at 41.5 (also carrying odds of -110). The player believes it is going to be a high-scoring game and bets the Bengals to win the game outright and bets the over in a 3-leg Parlay that includes a straight bet on the Bengals as well. The Parlay’s odds would combine all three bets at +1263, meaning that a $100 bet would profit the player $1,263 with a winning ticket. If just one of the three legs fails, however, the entire bet is a loss.
With the ability to now bet on sports online, and several operators releasing mobile apps, the new concept of live betting has taken sports gambling to a completely new level. In the old days of sportsbooks, once a game started, all betting action was suspended.
Live betting allows players to place additional wagers on games while the action is taking place. Players can watch betting odds change as the game/match progresses in order to take advantage of the flow of action.
Futures are the options for betting outcomes of events like the Super Bowl, World Series, Heisman Trophy winners, etc. Players can typically find futures bets available immediately after the season completes. For instance, immediately after the Super Bowl is completed, retail sportsbooks will post the odds for every team in the League to win the Super Bowl the following year. Players might also find futures odds on Conference and Divisional winners, win/loss totals and more.
As of the writing of this article, the Cincinnati Bengals are +1400 to win the Super Bowl in 2023, the Browns are +3000. A player would profit $1,400 or $3,000 respectively for a successful bet.
The Super Bowl is the “King” of prop bets. There are more proposition bets designed on the Super Bowl than any other event worldwide.
Props are bets on events like the coin toss, or how long the National Anthem takes to sing. Props can also include the number of touchdowns by a single player. With the typical online sportsbook, bettors can find player props, betting team props, and many more. Props are the sportsbook’s way of being “creative” and opening more ways to bet the game’s action.
Betting Guide: Popular Sports to Bet On in Ohio
Ohio betting operators offer a multitude of ways to bet on literally thousands of markets and most will have a common set. That said, sportsbooks will have some differences when it comes to specific sports, props, and more. In this section, we will take a look a the most popular sports to bet, why they are popular, what makes them different, and some sport-specific strategies.
Americans bet more on the NFL than any other sport. The betting doesn’t even wait for the regular football season to start either, sportsbooks will offer markets on preseason games. NFL betting is not a volume enterprise, so players will want to educate themselves on players, coaches, trends, even officiating crews to gain every advantage possible. As always, the more information you have, the better you will perform in the sportsbook, but with the NFL being so popular, the information about the league is ubiquitous.
One of the biggest reasons the NFL is so popular for bettors is because its is easy. The lines are easy to understand, players are familiar with the teams and because of the popularity of the League, players have more knowledge with which to bet.
The advent of Fantasy Football, and Daily Fantasy Sports has given football fans and bettors even more opportunities to enjoy the game.
The fast-moving NBA is one of the more exciting sports to bet owing to the high scoring and volume of games. From a betting perspective, the NBA has the same lines, totals, etc but has the added intrigue of the volume of the regular season (82 games). Bettors looking to score big in a single evening can bet a bunch of games in a single night, or they can spread out their action over the long haul.
NBA betting has some quirkiness that should produce caution for the beginner. First is the lines for each game are released the day before a game, so bettors will have very little time to evaluate the side of the line they want to bet. Also, whereas the NFL is very transparent about injuries and substitutions, the NBA is known for having last-minute scratches on star players.
One of the most intriguing NBA bets is produced by PointsBet online. With PointsBet, you can multiply your totals bets by escalators. See our related articles about points betting.
Major League Baseball may be one of the oldest sports betting markets in the United States. America’s pastime offers players the most inventory to bet and the most data from which to form a “system” (see below).
Point spreads don’t exist in baseball because of the low scoring expectations, so what bettors will want to evaluate are the odds on each team. You can also bet the “run line” on each game. Check out our related articles about betting on baseball for more information on odds and run lines.
The advantage to baseball is that you can rack-up big money over the course of the season with a good system and consistency; additionally, you don’t have to stress over a single week if you lose a bunch of games. You can endure a rough stretch and still come out on top in the end.
Betting the NHL is very similar to betting Major League Baseball, except for its smaller volume of games. Fans of the Hockey league are loyal and dedicated, and for good reason. The action is more akin to the NBA, but with the scoring at a premium, the drama is constant.
Just as in baseball, the NHL markets use odds and totals to drive most of their wagers with the “puck line” playing the supporting role just as the “run line” does in baseball; and yes, it works the exact same way.
Bettors on Hockey will want to pay close attention to how teams are trending, how goalies in particular are playing and how well rested they will be for this week’s games. A hot goalie may be getting a rest vs. a lower end team and the club may want to bring up someone from the minors. In that case, a close examination of the total and puck line will be in order.
College Football Betting
College football, like the NFL, is extremely popular in the United States, and maybe nowhere else in America is one team so popular for a state than Ohio State. The Buckeyes dominate the football landscape for Ohio, which is why the Cincinnati Bearcats’ inclusion the College Football Playoff in 2021 was such a landmark occasion for that fan base.
Action is virtually the same in college as it is in the professional ranks, but with a lot more volume. The NCAA FBS division sports over 120 teams and 50+ games every week, so betting lines are plentiful. Finding an obscure line on Ohio vs. UNLV may be just the thing you’re looking for…or just the trap you need.
A word of caution, however, college sports fans betting on teams have a tendency to bet with their heart over their brain. Many professional gamblers will steer away from betting a team they have an affection, or disdain for as it can influence their decisions.
College Basketball Betting
The same rules apply for betting college basketball is the same for college football. When betting, you want to be mindful of influence from your heart. The tips are the same as betting the NBA, track who is playing and who is not, watch those intra-conference rivalries, and never bet on Carolina playing at Duke, or against Kansas winning the Big 12.
As for basketball, the game can be easily bet with the greatest inventory of action in American sports. There are dozens of games on each week, so finding action is super-easy. So easy, in fact, that several sports scandals have been initiated betting on obscure college basketball games including points shaving, officiating and the like. Remember the points-shaving scheme spoken about in the movie Goodfellas? That was a real-life college basketball points-shaving scandal, ESPN even made a 30 for 30 movie about it.
Other Sports To Bet On
Sportsbooks are constantly adding more and more markets to their existing lineup of hundreds of sports to bet. Aside from the common sports, there are also some obscure ones, like an old sport called “Bandy” played in Scandinavia and Russia. DraftKings has seemingly cornered the early market on the Russian Super League, so if you want to bet Volga vs. Murmansk, you can do that.
FanDuel, BetMGM Ohio, PointBet, Caesars OH, and many more sportsbooks are offering some other less-known sports from around the globe. Many of these platforms also live stream these sports for your viewing at 3 a.m. So if the baby won’t go to sleep, or you're having a late night, maybe you can watch that darts match from Scotland.
Lastly, bettors can still take full advantage of an expanding fantasy sports market as those accompanying sites continue to grow.
Online Sports Betting in Ohio
As stated earlier, the bill legalizing online sports betting in Ohio has been signed and passed, but there remains a lot of work before the action can start. The OCCC will have to draw up regulations and approve vendors by January 2023, but the good news is that deadline will be just in time to start betting next Super Bowl and Daytona 500.
Check back with us for more updates and tips on emerging markets, trends, vendors and platforms as Ohio online sports betting gets closer to its start date.
Betting Lines and Odds
We would like to think that “local” betting lines will differ from those set by Las Vegas sportsbooks, but the truth is they will not to a large degree. Sportsbook odds makers use advanced analytics to set lines, totals, and other parts of the betting landscape and those analytics don’t change much based on location. What may influence lines to a small amount is the action on Ohio teams. Book makers are not stupid, and they know many bettors will allow their emotion to affect decisions, so be careful in looking at betting lines on local teams.
Bettors are advised to take a strong look at several sportsbooks across the country to see how their local lines compare to the national average. Not only can they see where book makers are using emotion, but may be able to take advantage of these “trap” lines.
If you’re into betting on volume sports like Baseball, Basketball or Hockey, you will want to take advantage of shopping the lines for the best ones in your favor. In our article on betting Major League Baseball
Betting Bonuses: Ohio Bettors Guide
As things begin to ramp up in Ohio, expect to see more advertisements on radio and television about bonuses for new users in the Buckeye State. You will see a lot, because these companies are highly competitive and want your business desperately. We’ll list a few of them below so you know what to expect:
Sign-up Bonuses or Deposit Match
Welcome offers are sign-up bonuses for new users, often it is a $1,000 deposit match added to your first deposit (with terms and conditions), these bonuses act as site credits to be used for wagering. They are not redeemable for cash unless translated into actual winnings, however, so don’t expect to make a $10 deposit, and withdraw $1,010.
This type of offer, again, typically for new users or a first bet is where a sportsbook will back your play with site credits. If you place a $10 bet on the Indians vs. Yankees and if you lose the book will refund your $10 with site credits to be used on wagers within a certain time frame. Read the fine print on “risk free bets,” because there are quite a few details you can easily miss.
Some of our reviewed sportsbooks will offer a “free bet” for referring someone to the site, but as always there are stipulations. The first is that the friend has to make a deposit and your free bet amount is scaled to the amount of the deposit. As always, site credits are not redeemable for cash.
These are offered by specific sportsbooks and not across the board, so you might have to seek them out. When applied to a wager, they increase the odds for a game in the player’s favor, thereby increasing the payout potential. Odds boosts can only be applied at the time the bet is made; they cannot be applied retroactively.
Sports Betting Apps
All of the online sportsbooks we review have mobile wagering apps that accompany their online website. Not having a mobile app would be the equivalent of having an online store that does not take credit cards. Just a dumb idea, and not a sportsbook that we would ever recommend.
While online betting has changed the industry of sports gambling, the ability of the player to have access to the sportsbook 24/7 from their phone has taken things to a completely new level. No longer does the player have to be tethered to a laptop or at home, just open your phone, sign in and you’re ready to play.
Sportsbooks have done a very nice job designing their apps around mobile devices and make it super-easy to find the action you want to bet, place that bet AND get paid! Apps connect to your mobile wallet so getting your winnings is as fast as it is easy.
Some sportsbooks even have exclusive offers just for mobile app users, so if you are inclined in that direction, you can take advantage of the special treatment they give.
Deposits and Withdrawal
Compared to “Offshore” books (who like to deal in cryptocurrency), Ohio’s new legal sportsbooks will be able to utilize mainstream deposit and withdrawal methods like bank transfers (ACH or Bill Pay), PayPal, Credit Cards or even Cash. The more options you have, the easier it is to make wagers and get your winnings. You’ll need to look at the specific options here to determine if the sportsbook you want to use, offers the payment method you’d like to employ.
Also, offshore books will typically have a minimum deposit amount that’s large enough for them to cover their transaction fees, and may have a limit on the number of withdrawals you can make in a given time period. This will not be the case with legal sportsbooks in Ohio. Yes, there will be minimum deposits, but that number is usually around $10.
Finally, because offshore books are essentially unregulated, you could end up losing some or all of your money for petty reasons, or no reason at all. That is not the case with state regulated sportsbooks domestically. Your money is protected by the regulations set forth by the gaming commission in your state.
- 💰 Credit Card – You can charge your deposits to your credit card* (Discover, Mastercard, or Visa). Not recommended if you have impulse control issues as you could potentially gamble yourself into debt. (Note:) American Express does not permit deposits into Sportsbooks or Casinos.
- 💰 Online Banking – usually a sportsbook’s preferred method. Connect to your bank through the site’s vendor to transfer funding easily.
- 💰 PayPal – Connect your PayPal account to transfer funds directly from PayPal. Super Easy to do, PayPal is a trusted brand in financial funding transfers globally.
- 💰 ACH eCheck (VIP Preferred eCheck) – Connect your bank account and easily cut checks from your bank.
- 💰 Play+ Prepaid Card – Play+ is another form of middle-man similar to PayPal where you can fund your account through a 3rd party. You load funds into Play+ and then connect that account to DraftKings.
- 💰 Wire Transfer – You’ll need to go to your bank to transfer the funds (or online from your bank’s website). The minimum deposit is $100 and can take 1-2 business days to process and be applied to your account.
- 💰 Gift Cards – Yes, some sportsbooks have gift cards that you can purchase at stores or online. You simply input the number from the gift card into the form space provided and your account is credited with the full amount of the card.
- 💰 Cash - Go to your nearest Family Dollar, Dollar General, CVS Pharmacy or 7-Eleven store, present a barcode that you’ll create on the app very easily. You give your deposit cash to the cashier; they will scan your barcode and voila! You’ve deposited money into your account. Limit $500 cash per day.
How To Contact A Sportsbook Customer Support
Online companies typically offer standard methods of support like live chats, email and pages dedicated to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). What we are looking for is what separates a sportsbook. Items like a phone number, an issue submission system, or the ability to get someone to call you back are all great customer support features. Check out our table below listing the various support options for each sportsbook in this review.
- Live Chat – Dedicated online support consultants are ready to “chat” with you online if you have an issue. This is normally a text conversation, sometimes with a computer (bot) first, then leading to an actual human who will attempt to help resolve your issue.
- Email – Email addresses are available from all the sportsbooks we have profiled, but sometimes are difficult to locate. Check out our full reviews of each book where we list these for you.
- Phone Number – Having a dedicated phone line to call and talk to a person is a HUGE benefit for a user who needs help right now because they want to bet on a game that is getting ready to start and they are having trouble logging-in. Online companies don’t always provide phone numbers to actual operators and that’s the case with most of the sportsbooks we have reviewed. If getting someone on the phone is important to you, the table below will be a big help.
- Ticket System – There are also the options to submit a support request, along with the ability to attach a document to that request. Say you need help with something and have documentation that will help support your case, the ability to send that document to a support system is critical to getting help quickly.
- Call Back – Maybe having a dedicated phone line to call and talk to a person is a big deal to you, but can you at least submit a request for an operator to call you back? If it’s not an emergency, but you need to talk to someone, submitting a call back request would be helpful.
- Mail – Is a physical address provided to send documents to if needed?
- FAQ – Customer service is great, but customer self-service is even better for the vast majority of issues encountered; besides, if you can get to a resolution quickly that saves you time and money. Having a vast library of issue and resolution articles is attractive to most users. Sites also employ a sports betting glossary for beginners.
Simple Ohio Sports Betting Guide: Tips and Strategies
Sports bettors in Ohio need to do a couple of things to be successful: select a reputable sportsbook, understand the markets, and understand what is working against your success. Reading and understanding how oddsmakers will adjust localized lines and odds. Study up on how to make your entry into online sports betting a successful one.
Sign Up For Multiple Sportsbooks
Most of the online sportsbooks will have very similar lines on the most popular markets, but they all have different features and promotions going on constantly. Shopping around for your “Manic Monday” free bet, or a “Wild Wednesday” super-bonus can be a big deal. You might even occasionally find a line or two with just the right amount of juice reduction for that game you want to bet.
Shop The Lines
As we talked about earlier, shopping for the best lines can be an advantage for sports bettors, especially with volume betting sports like Baseball, Basketball, and Hockey. Ohio bettors will want to pay close attention to how local sportsbooks set lines versus the Las Vegas lines. Try to catch where emotion is being calculated for the locals.
Stick To A Betting System
Betting systems allow players to take advantage of advanced analytics when placing bets vs. going with your ‘gut’ on the amount of your wagers. There are several from which to choose and you can decide if you want to avoid losses or play the positives. Either way, you want to stick with the system you have chosen over the long run.
Whether you’re going to use a Flat Bet, Fibonacci, or Martingale system, making sure you manage your bankroll effectively is the key. Always keep in mind that unless you are going to dedicate yourself to being a professional gambler, this is for entertainment and you should always use discretionary funds…don’t bet your rent money.
Start With Straight Bets
For beginners, straight bets are the easiest to understand and pay well enough to not damage the bank roll too much…and as we talked about earlier, football is probably the best sport for beginners. Ohio is a big time football state, so players should be well versed in how teams will perform on Saturdays and Sundays. Beginners are advised to maybe stick to one sport until they get their "feet on the ground."
Bet Smaller Markets
Sportsbooks will focus most of their attention on the larger market sports like the NFL or the NBA. They keep a tight control over the lines and odds because millions of dollars are at stake. Smaller markets do not get quite the same amount of attention and bettors may be able to take advantage of an overlooked line on a WNBA game, an MMA contest or a lacrosse match. In fact, dedicated fans of obscure sports may actually know more about a particular match than the oddsmakers.
Make Small Wagers
When you are just getting started in sports betting, you are not going to know how well your betting strategies work. So take it easy to start, do not go out with a $1,000 bet to start the MLB season (even though it may be “guaranteed”…see above). Start out with a bankroll, choose a system and stick to a betting unit. Once you get your feet on the ground, so to speak, then you can determine whether you will increase your stake in the games.
Sportsbooks spend time and energy setting lines, but when the action starts, the movement is fast and furious. The oddsmakers adjust lines and totals (final score) as games progress, but they can’t catch everything and you, the bettor watching the game, may be able to take advantage of this type of mistake.
For example, if the Cincinnati Bengals are down early, but you think they have a chance to comeback, you can place a live bet at better odds than the original line. Now, you could still lose the bet, as Joe Burrow could struggle after a slow start. Still, with live betting, you can take advantage of new information in real time, beat the oddsmakers to the punch and win money.
FAQs About Betting in Ohio
Once the OCCC settles regulations and awards vendors, betting inside of Ohio will be 100% legal. The deadline set by Governor Mike DeWine is January 2023 for the conclusion of the process. Keep checking back with us for further developments in OCCC regulation and awards.
BetOhio.com will have multiple articles moving forward on how to choose a sportsbook, so keep up with us here. That said, you can register for a sportsbook and browse without making bets. Neighboring states, Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania all have legal online sportsbooks, so there’s plenty of time for new bettors to “try out” the apps and sites.
We rate FanDuel Ohio as our #1 sportsbook and mobile app for overall customer experience. There are many vendors to choose from, however, so feel free to check our articles on each of them and make the choice that is best for you.
For beginners, we recommend using straight bets, or “against the spread” bets that predict how much a team will win or lose by. This allows players to manage the stake and the odds evenly. Straight bets are the baseline for sports betting and the most popular.
Betting lines come in three types: point spreads, totals, and run/puck lines. See sections in this article above for details on how to bet on sports, and what the different lines mean when it comes to the wager you place.
Ryan Buschmeyer is a freelance reviewer for BetOhio.com. Buschmeyer, a software developer professionally, which make him perfect for analyzing the top betting apps in terms of what features they have to offer as well as identifying what sets each sportsbook apart from the other brands in Ohio.