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Online Sports Betting Guide for Beginners

Betting on sports online for the first time? There’s never been a better time, with online sports betting now legal in almost half of US states. Find out more!

When the Supreme Court overturned the federal ban on sports betting, the floodgates were opened for regulated and licensed sports betting stateside. This includes online sports betting, as well as betting in retail sportsbook environments. Almost half of all US states have legalized and regulated their own online sports betting industries since 2018. Anyone can bet on sports online provided you are above the legal age limit and reside in a US state that has legalized online sports betting.

Within this beginner’s guide, we’ll explore the basics to get you on the fast track to becoming a successful online sports bettor.

Getting to grips with the basics of online sports betting

Online sports betting really does up the ante. Never has it been so fun to watch two teams play out a tie in a random game of soccer in England or even Belarus (if you know you know). Having a stake in the outcome of a game can make it even more entertaining, especially if it’s a sport you’re not familiar with.

If you’re drawn to sports betting purely for its entertainment value, then there’s really not much you need to know. Just find a sport, market, or line that interests you and go from there. One important caveat to this: make sure you know what bet you’re placing. If you’re not sure how a bet wins or how much it pays out (this should at least be clear on the bet slip), then find out before you place your wager.

But, betting is also about probability and value odds.The most profitable online sports bettors scour the betting markets for odds with a likely probability of an outcome happening. Unlike doing your homework back in junior high, putting in the time really can pay off here.

For example, let’s say there is a 50% chance of Team A winning a game. Implied probability is also used to determine the price of sports betting odds. 50% implied probability equates to odds of +100. If you can find odds of greater than +100 on Team A winning a game, this is considered a value bet. Profitable sports bettors seek out value in every bet they place, as they know the implied probability is on their side long-term.

There is a growing number of online sportsbooks in the US. It’s your job as a bettor to find the sportsbook that offers the most competitive (value) odds in your preferred sports.

How to choose an online sportsbook

With competition in the online sports betting industry hotting up, there are plenty of US sportsbooks to choose from as a first-time online sports bettor. As a newcomer to the industry, it can seem impossible to differentiate between them all. That’s where we come in. In an ideal world, you should choose an online sportsbook that offers the following:

  • 24/7 customer support: The most reputable and trustworthy online sportsbooks are committed to offering exceptional customer support 24/7. This includes live chat facilities, telephone helplines, and email helpdesks that provide responsive assistance day and night. Sportsbooks offering more than one method of customer contact are typically preferred.
  • Broad spectrum of payment methods: Today’s online sports bettors want the freedom and flexibility to deposit and withdraw funds from next-generation payment methods, as well as conventional sources like debit cards and bank transfers. These next-generation payment methods include eWallets that offer instant deposits and swift withdrawals in under 24 hours.
  • Fully responsive user interface: The best online sportsbooks make it easy to browse and locate the betting markets you want – both on desktop and mobile. Responsive user interfaces mean bettors can rely on a consistent user experience on a sportsbook’s desktop site and its native mobile app.
  • Fully licensed and regulated: For an online sportsbook to be truly reputable, it must be fully licensed and regulated in the US state in which you reside. If it’s not licensed, it's considered a “black market” operator, because you will not have any legal protections in terms of your deposited funds.

Welcome bonuses

The caliber of welcome bonuses is also another crucial differentiator that separates good online sportsbooks from great ones. We all love something for nothing, right? Within our online sportsbook reviews, we explore the welcome bonuses of each site in detail. The best sign-up offers are those that don’t require you to make a real-money deposit. You can get free bets upon simply creating your new account with certain sportsbooks. There’s also a string of online sportsbooks offering risk-free bets for your first real-money wager. This is another great feature as it allows you to make a bet and familiarize yourself with the operator’s betting markets and betslip – safe in the knowledge that if your bet loses it will be refunded in cash or free bets. Think of it like having one too many beers but without a hangover the next day.

Be sure to look at the wagering requirements of any welcome bonus received. The lower the rollover requirements the better chance you have of turning that bonus money into cold, hard withdrawable cash.

Live streaming of sports events

The best online sportsbooks also make it possible for customers to live stream events they wish to bet on within the user interface. Many of the leading operators have secured broadcasting partnerships with the major networks to cover some of the Major League sports, as well as other leading sports like ATP and WTA tennis, handball, and even coverage of the burgeoning eSports industry.

These live streams are often embedded within a sportsbook’s desktop site and it’s also possible to view the streams within native mobile apps.

Types of sports bets you can place online

What’s great about online sports betting is that sportsbooks have got literally every market you can think of covered. Our most popular bet types at an online sportsbook include:

  • Moneyline: A go-to option for sports betting beginners online, moneyline bets require you to bet on the winner of an upcoming game, match or race.
  • Totals: Also commonly known as over/under bets, totals bets allow you to bet on the overall points scored being above or below a benchmark figure.
  • Parlays: Parlays are multi-leg bets which require all selections to win in order to pay out. Parlays have the potential to pay out big sums from a single wager.
  • Parlays Builders: Like regular parlays, these are multi-leg bets but the bets are placed on outcomes within a particular game, rather than multiple ones. Again, all selections needto win in order to pay out.
  • Point spreads: Also known as handicap betting, points spreads allow you to bet on a favorite overcoming a pre-game points handicap or an underdog to retain a pre-game points advantage.
  • Futures: Futures bets allow you to have speculative wagers on future outcomes, such as the winner of the next Super Bowl.
  • Prop bets: Prop bets allow sports enthusiasts to let their knowledge shine by betting on various alternative aspects of an event that aren’t linked to the final score.
  • Player prop bets: These are proposition bets based on particular individuals involved in a game. Bets can include things like how many touchdowns a player will score or if a particular NBA player will commit five fouls in a game.
  • Live bets: Many online sportsbooks now offer in-play bets, with their in-house traders managing live odds across a whole host of sports.

Understanding the cash-out feature

A growing number of online sportsbooks are starting to offer a cash-out feature to bettors. This is one of the newest live sports betting features, giving customers greater flexibility when managing their bets in-play.

The cash-out function gives bettors the freedom to lock in a profit before the final whistle of the live event. Online sportsbooks allow bettors to take a partial profit if their wagers are looking good in-play. Bettors that may have second thoughts on their bets when watching the action live can take the partial profit instead of risking losing their entire stake. Sure, it's a bit like you've chickened out, but at least you've got something to show for it!

Some online sportsbooks will only offer a cash-out facility on single bets, but it’s also offered by some operators for wagers on everything from the moneyline and point spreads through to futures bets and multi-leg parlays.

Online sportsbook payment methods

Wondering which payment methods are the most widely accepted by the leading online sportsbooks? You can typically deposit and withdraw funds from the leading US operators using the following payment sources:

  • Bank Wire Transfer: Bank wire transfers are still one of the most secure ways to deposit and withdraw funds from online sportsbook accounts. However, they are also much slower for funds to be processed and cleared than newer payment methods.
  • Debit Card: Debit cards are also a simple way to manage your online sportsbook funds, with instant deposits and funds withdrawn quicker than a wire transfer.
  • Apple Pay: iPhone owners can also use their Apple Pay accounts to deposit funds into online sportsbooks, although withdrawals are not often supported.
  • Google Pay: It’s a similar case for Android mobile owners, with Google Pay the fastest payment method for those betting on sports with their smartphone or tablet. Like Apple Pay, withdrawals are not often supported.
  • eWallets: eWallets like PayPal, Skrill, and Neteller have changed the game for online sports bettors. Customers can deposit funds from bank accounts into their eWallets, making it easier to set betting budgets. eWallet withdrawals are also processed much faster than conventional methods.

How to get started with online sports betting

Once you have read our extensive library of online sportsbook reviews, and you’ve chosen your preferred sportsbook, you can go ahead and create a new bettor account. You’ll usually need to provide proof of identity, such as a government-issued ID card, as well as proof of address in the form of a utility bill. These documents can often be uploaded digitally to expedite the sign-up and account verification process.

Make sure you include any relevant welcome bonus codes in the sign-up form when prompted to ensure you get full value for becoming a new customer.

Now that you already know the basics of the sports you can bet on online – and the types of sports betting markets available – you've got everything you need to hit more home runs than Barry Bonds!