Maryland Sports Betting

How to Get Started with Sports Betting

You’ve opened an account at an online sportsbook and you’re ready to get started. Or you’ve arrived in Las Vegas ready to take on that city’s four dozen sportsbooks. This post will help you learn how to get started with sports betting.

I also aim to demonstrate how to bet on sports and win. This is meant to be a complete guide to sports betting for beginners.

Here, I cover all the steps to placing a sports bet. I give an example of a real bet I placed a few months ago. I’ll track that bet from my preseason budgeting process all the way to its completion. As you read, you’ll learn how to get started placing your first sports bet.

Step 1 – Create a Budget

Creating a budget is a responsible first step when you’re getting started betting on sports. This doesn’t just mean saying “I can afford to lose $1,000 this NFL season” or whatever. You need to budget in a lot more detail than that.

Before the baseball season started last year, I worked out a season-long budget and a few more details besides. I knew I’d want to do about 26 weeks of betting – I don’t like to bet on the postseason, so baseball’s 185-day regular season is it for me.

I took my total budget ($1,850 that I could afford to lose) and broke it up into 26 units. That’s about $70 per unit, give or take. That means I have $70 to play with in each week of the baseball regular season. Understand that includes any vig or other fees I may have to pay to bet.

Here’s what this meant: I was limited to $70 in total bets over any seven days between April 1st and October 3rd of last year. I didn’t necessarily have to bet the entire $70 each week, but it was available based on my budget and the length of the season.

Obviously, you can apply this to any sports season, I’m just using an example from baseball season.

Step 2 – Find a Good Bet

Finding a good bet means finding a bet that offers you positive value. That’s a fancy way of saying that the likelihood of a bet winning is greater than what the book’s odds suggest. Understanding this is critical if you want to know how to bet and win.

You should be able to calculate implied probability before you go placing sports bets. If you want a refresher on the concept of implied probability, check out our post on how football odds work. There’s a detailed description of implied probability in that post.

I found the bet I’m tracking in this post by looking at my favorite sportsbook’s available odds. It was early in the season – the first week of April. It’s one of my favorite times to bet on baseball because the odds are the least like reality that they’ll be all year.

My book had Toronto +140 on the road against the Yankees -160. The books were only giving the Blue Jays a 41.67% chance of winning, granting the Yankees a 61.54% chance of pulling off the W at home. It made a kind of sense. The Bronx Bombers had just taken care of Toronto the night before 5-3, covering the run line and very nearly triggering the over.

But I wasn’t so sure. New York was starting the rehabbed Domingo Germán, a guy who’d been lights-out in 2019 (going 18-4) but unpredictable after an injury and rehab. It’s not that I didn’t think Germán could have a good start. He was a force to be reckoned with just a couple of seasons ago. I just didn’t see him as the kind of guy to push the Blue Jays’ likelihood of winning down into the low 40s.

I didn’t have much else to bet that week, so I figured I’d drop as close to $70 as I could depending on the vig.

Step 3 – Watch the Line

By the time I’d researched the bet a little, chewed on it for a few hours, and passed it by a couple of baseball buddies for confirmation, I had a nice surprise waiting for me at my book. The line moved in my favor.

When I first saw the bet, it looked like this:

TOR       +140
NYY        -160

But after a couple of hours of bets and the natural rapid line movement baked into the baseball market, it looked like this:

TOR       +164
NYY        -178

The books now gave the Yanks about a 64% chance of winning and dropped Toronto’s chances to 37.88%. And just like that, a bet that I loved at +140 became even more attractive at +164.

My expected win on my $70 bet went from $98 to $114.80 and all I did was wait and think it out a bit. There’s a lesson in that, although it’s just as likely that my odds would’ve changed in the other direction.

Why did the line change in my favor?

It’s impossible to say for sure. Maybe the book took in a big bet on the Yankees and wanted to balance their action. Maybe other books’ lines moved, and my book moved to match. Whatever the reason, Toronto’s value shifted downward in the eyes of the book.

Thanks to line movement, it’s possible for a line that looks bad in the morning to become much more viable by the afternoon. The opposite is also true.

Step 4 – Place the Bet

Last year, I did all my baseball betting online. Here’s how to place a sports bet online:

Placing a bet online is no different from making any online purchase. My book displays all their odds on a landing page. When I click a bet that I like, a bet slip pops up. That bet slip displays the bet, the date, my risk, and my potential win. I can turn that single bet into a multi-bet right from the payslip.

I wasn’t interested in a parlay. I just wanted Toronto +164 at New York, and I decided to put my entire $70 budget for the week into the game. Anticipating some further movement in my favor, I waited a couple of hours to place the bet, but the line didn’t move again.

Once I confirmed the bet with my book, my bet was official. All there was left to do was watch the game.

I briefly considered looking around at the other books where I have an account to search for a way to hedge this bet. Bet-hedging is a popular tactic used by sports bettors to protect their bets or even guarantee a win regardless of the outcome of the game. See our post on how to hedge bets for more on this tactic.

Ultimately, I felt confident enough in my read of the real-world odds vs. my book’s line that I decided not to hedge the bet, make a parlay ticket, or do anything else like that.

Just this one bet, all on its own, was enough for me. Besides, I’d already spent my $70 budget for the week.

Step 5 – Watch the Game

Obviously, you don’t have to watch every game you bet on. You can wait patiently for the outcome and analyze it after the fact. Thanks to Internet replays, post-game stats, and the box score, watching the game is a matter of choice. Some folks do it, some don’t.

Here’s why I like to do it:

I’d guessed that the Yankees’ starter Germán would struggle based on a few odd notes in his scouting report and the fact that this was his big return from a long time away from the league.

What I saw during the game proved my intuition to be (mostly) correct.

Germán had a good first inning, allowing only one hit, a double to Bo Bichette on a screamer up the right foul line. Made me a little nervous, but starting pitchers often have a strong first three outs.

Germán reverted to the player I thought he was immediately in the top of the second inning. Facing Vlad Guerrero, Jr., Germán gave up a first-pitch home run to the opposite field. After an ugly double, most likely the fielder’s fault, the Yankees’ starter let Randall Grichuk go long to deep left field.

The score after two innings – Blue Jays 3, NYY 0.

Ultimately, Germán would be pulled after just three innings, and I got to watch the Blue Jays protect their lead all the way through the ninth inning, having given up just one run in the bottom of the 5th.

Getting to see my prediction play out in real-time was sweet. Sweating out those last few outs with money on the line gave me the adrenaline rush I’d been seeking.

The game’s final score – Blue Jays 3, Yankee 1 – meant I was in the money. I’d bet $70, and now the book owed me $184.80. That’s my stake plus the $114.80 in winnings.

I’d won almost three units with just a single bet. That’s a good way to sustain a bankroll throughout a long baseball season.

Step 6 – Enjoy the Win (Or Learn from the Loss)

In the afterglow of a win, it’s easy to forget to do the necessary custodial work of a sports bettor.

After checking my account balance just to see the prize money sitting there – legitimately my favorite part of betting on sports – it was time to do some bookkeeping.

I record every bet as well as its result and the financial details.

This bet went into my books like this:

4-4-21 – $70 ML Toronto (+164) @ NYY – W, $114.80.

This tells me that on April 4th, 2021, I bet $70 on the money line for Toronto on the road against the Yankees. It also tells me that I won and how much I won.

Keeping good records like this not only helps me celebrate my wins, but also helps me learn from my losses. I can also adjust my budget as needed thanks to the data I’ve compiled on my wins and losses over the years. I can also look for patterns, contexts in which I am unsuccessful, bets I probably shouldn’t place in the future.

Conclusion – How to Get Started with Sports Betting

People who want to know how to get started with sports betting assume that it’s an impossible task. They imagine barriers to betting on sports that don’t exist. They come to the hobby with lots of misconceptions. This post, and all the content on this site, is designed to clear up those misconceptions, replacing fiction with fact.

After reading this post, you should be prepared to place a sports bet.