Bets on sports are most commonly placed on the outcome of a single event or game. In virtually all contests, there is a favorite and an underdog.
To make wagering more even, the oddsmaker or bookmaker draws up an odds line, or the odds, such that you can bet on the probability of a competitor’s chance to win that single event or game.
For example, if Tiger Woods was to take on legendary golfer Arnold Palmer in an exhibition match, Woods would obviously be favored to win the match and Palmer would therefore be the underdog.
The oddsmaker would then post the odds so that it would make it favourable to take a chance betting on either golfer. The odds would probably look something like this:
- Woods: 1 to 20 (noted as 1/20)
- Palmer: 15 to 1 (noted as 15/1)
To win $1 on Woods, you must wager $20. If he wins, you get $21 back, the $20 you bet, plus the $1 you won.
On the other hand, when betting on Palmer, you need only wager $1 to win $15. If Palmer does win, you get $16 back, the $1 you bet plus the $15 you won.
That is how odds are created to entice betting "action" on both sides, which is what all bookmakers are trying to do.
There are three basic betting types in North America: Moneyline, Point Spread and Totals.
Odds can be converted into a moneyline representation (see Calculation Table). This is a bet strictly on who wins and who loses. See Bet Types for a more detailed description.
- Point Spread
Point spreads are used by bookmakers to level the playing field and attract betting action on both sides of the same event by placing a handicap on one side (giving points), or getting points by taking the other side. So if betting football, you can either give points, say a touchdown (-7), which means your team must win by 7 points or more. Or you can get points (same game would be +7) where you can lose up to 7 points and win your bet. See Bet Types for a more detailed description.
Totals or Game Totals are used in football, basketball, baseball, and hockey. You are betting on whether or not the "Total Points" scored in that specific game are going to go "Over" or "Under" the number established by the bookmaker. The total is set and periodically adjusted to ensure that half of the people will wager on the over and the other half will wager on the under. See Bet Types for a more detailed description.