The most common types of sports bets

By Andrew D

October 25, 2022

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Even individuals who have no other interest in gambling can occasionally be drawn towards the heady, exciting world of sports betting. There are lots of reasons why.

Loyalty to a particular team is a strong motivator (it can also severely skew the decision-making process but that’s another story). The chance to have a cheeky bet on your favourites in the big games. It gives another level of excitement to any game.

Or when groups of friends get together and socialise. We’ve all been there when the suggestion of a joint bet is brought up. 

Let’s all chip in small and win big! 

The rise of the dreaded parlay bet can be attributed to groups of friends. There’s a very good reason why serious sports bettors don’t have anything to do with them!

There are events that create a kind of national fervour and obsession. As in the case of the Grand National horse race in the UK. 

Or as seen when insane amounts of money are wagered on March Madness in the USA by people who otherwise pay little attention. 

College sports bringing in billions of dollars in bets. Think about that. 


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A 2015 research paper in Australia showed that over half a million adults regularly engage in some level of sports betting. As a nation that is so interested in all aspects of sport in general, this is perhaps not all that surprising.

It’s a guilt-free chance to have a flutter that won’t make or break the bank and can add some spice to any occasion. There are, of course, people who go overboard and risk more than they can afford to lose.

Another thing that makes sports betting so enticing is that there are just so many ways to get involved. All kinds of different bets. 

Like, a ridiculous amount. Enough to make your head swim. 

So, for those who are considering dipping a toe in the shark-infested waters - here are a few tips to get started and a breakdown of each type of bet.

Straight/win/moneyline bets

Depending on where you are in the world, this simplest form of all sports bets has a different name. But the concept is the same. 

It is easily the most straightforward way to lay a few dollars on your chosen team and go about your day. It works like this:

You choose the team that you think will win the game. 

It works for individual contests too. Anything from MMA matches to matchplay darts. 
Pick your winner and get your hand in your pocket. 

Let’s say you've taken a liking to the English Premier league. You find yourself drawn to the timeless ballet of who can throw themselves to the ground with the most panache. 

To each his own

So, you pick your team of ninnies and settle in for a lovely snooze while 22 grown men behave like toddlers and pretend to be injured. 

The final score doesn’t matter. If they win, you win. 

That works both ways of course...

Because a soccer/football game lacks any action or excitement at all, it is common for neither team to be victorious. 

Points may be awarded for artistic interpretation. Best dive. Most anguished expression. Quickest, most miraculous recovery once it becomes clear no advantage will be awarded. Spitting distance and most inventive swear words directed at the referee. 

None of these will affect your money line bets

With low-scoring, tedious sports like soccer, betting markets will often offer you the chance to bet on a tie/draw as one of your wagering options. 

If not, then any tied game is considered to have "No action" and your stake will simply be returned. 

Unless you happen to be watching a game where something actually happens and a tie/draw is not possible. 

For example, NBA games will go into overtime (OT) if the scores are level at end of regular time. They carry on until one period ends with a team in front. There are not enough hours in the day for this technique to be applied to soccer. 

When it comes to payouts on moneyline bets, the odds reflect which team is the favourite and which is the underdog. 

It’s usually not an even split. 

The bigger the favourite, the greater the odds, and the less potential payout. 

Of the teams playing, the underdog has less chance of winning but will pay you a higher rate if you bet on them and they manage to prevail.

So, if the betting markets expect Arsenal to overcome Aston Villa, with decimal odds, we might see something variation of this:

  • Arsenal 1.50 Aston Villa 3.00 

Effectively, we're saying that if you bet $1 on Arsenal and they win, you will get back $1.50 in your hand. If you do the same with the mighty Villa, you will get back $3 (including the return of your initial stake)

Check out our in-depth article - 'How to read NBA odds

It explains the various different ways we can expect to find odds expressed. Depending on where you find yourself placing your sports bets. 

Head-to-head bets like these are the least time-consuming to decide on and lay. For that reason, the moneyline wager remains the most popular of all bet types. 

Straight bets can certainly play a vital role in any decent betting strategy but serious sports betting aficionados tend to think beyond the simplistic final outcome of moneyline betting. 

How to Calculate Betting Odds hero image

Point Spread

Another very common type of bet is the point spread. 

In this case, your straight bet is based on the margin of victory rather than the victory itself. 

With decimal odds, anything coming in under 2.00 represents the favourite. A fairly standard set of odds for the favourite would be 1.91

This means that for every $1 you stake, you can expect a return of 0.91 if you win. 

Conversely, the underdog is represented by odds of 2.10

So, every $1 staked returns $1.10 in a winning situation. Not exactly giving it away, are they? 

Welcome to the unfair, frustrating world of sports betting. 

With a point spread bet, the major indicator of who the market fancies comes in the handicap that they give to the favourite. 

Let's say we have a matchup between the Atlanta Hawks (Go Hawks!) and the New York Knickerbockers. The Hawks are (naturally) expected to see off the pesky pantaloon-wearing buffoons and are accordingly made favourites. 

In its wisdom, the market decides that we can even afford to give the Knickerbockers a 'head-start' and the Hawks will still surpass them. 

This difference between the teams is known as 'The spread' and it is the job of your chosen team to cover that spread if you are to win your bet. 

  • Atlanta Hawks (-7.5) 1.91 @ New York Knickerbockers (+7.5) 2.10

We can see that the Hawks need to come back from a deficit of 7.5 points to win the bet. If they beat the Knickerbockers by 8 points? 

Happy days. The bet is a winner.

Beat them by only 7? Disaster. 

The extra 0.5 is to ensure that there will be no tie/draw/push and a winner will be found either way. 

The underdog can lose the game outright but score within 7.5 points of their opponent and a bet on them will still be good. So, in the case of a result like this:

  • Atlanta Hawks 110 @ 104 New York Knickerbockers

The Hawks were (naturally) triumphant. But the Knickerbockers had a lucky break and managed to keep the score within their allotted 7.5 point handicap. They lost at home and were humiliated, but any bet on them to cover the spread was still a winner. 

If the markets are wary of how a team will perform then that handicap becomes less generous. If we had only given New York +5 then the bet would be lost.

Spread betting can be pretty tricky. But it does add another layer of depth to your sports bets. Your prediction steps up a level from 

"Who will be the winner?" 


"How much will they win by?"

But it would be a mistake to think that the difficulty of making accurate predictions does not go up exponentially with that extra layer. There's a huge gulf between simply picking a winner and predicting how much they will win by. 

You have been warned. 


So, once we have dealt with the most popular bets like moneyline and spread bets, we come to the over/under. 

This type of bet is also known as a 'total' or 'points total'

The over or under aspect of the wager refers to our prediction of the combined total score of the two teams

It does not matter how many points each team scores, provided the total is above or below your prediction. 

Most major sports are well suited to over/under betting and it's a personal favourite of some of the guys here in The Jump Hub office. 

If you're watching a game where you don't really care emotionally who wins, then it's nice to cheer on the points. The more the merrier! 

Let's say you find yourself watching an NFL game. 
The market has set the total at 42.5 points. 

If, like us, you know almost nothing about the NFL then a bet like this gives you an investment in the game for a longer time. 

It doesn't matter how the points are split between the two teams. 

As long as the final amount is either above or below the designated total. 

We like to make bets like this when we're hanging out with our American football-loving friends. It makes for a more interesting afternoon than just picking a win outright and sitting back to see what happens. 

Not exactly a scientific way to do it but we're all about honesty here at The Jump Hub. 

Now. If we were settling down to an afternoon of NBA games then we would also be inclined to place over/under bets. But that tends to be a tad more involved on our part. 

As our preferred, specialist sport, we are much more aware of what goes on in the NBA. To this end, we have an 'NBA over under strategy

Futures Bets

A futures bet is a very simple concept. 

It is a wager contingent on the future outcome of any given sporting event. It can be anything from a bet on who will be the Defensive Player of the Year in the NBA to the total number of points any given team will accrue over the course of a season. 

Some sports bettors will place bets on who will be victorious in the NFL Super Bowl before the season has even kicked off. 

Ridiculous? Maybe

Some futures bets are more wayward than others. But there are some that make sense if tasty odds can be found and a modicum of common sense applied. 

Parlay Bets

We couldn't in good conscience, write this article without mentioning the dreaded parlay bet. If only to warn you good people about the madness it entails and why you should run screaming at the merest suggestion of it. 

A parlay relies on multiple bets winning. In order for it to be a winning ticket, every 'leg' or bet within that ticket needs to win. 

The bets accumulate (hence it is often referred to as an 'accumulator' or 'acca' in some countries). The winnings from one bet become the stake of the next. This way, the stake amount can become much more than you would ever normally risk. 

But, here's the rub:

ONE loss and you're out. 

If you've got a parlay bet with 6 results riding on it then they ALL have to win or the entire wager is lost. 

Serious sports bettors want nothing to do with parlay betting and for good reason. 
Statistically, your chances of winning are ridiculously low. You are almost guaranteeing that you will hand your hard-earned cash over to the online sportsbooks of your choice. 

Not only that but the odds that you get for achieving the near impossible are nowhere near reflecting the actual difficulty in doing it. The odds themselves do not accumulate and improve. You are essential just risking higher amounts on each stake. 

It is a mug's game. 

Sports betting is hard enough as it is. The scales are never tipped in the bettor's favor. To choose a parlay bet is to add an elephant to the other side of the scales. And it's sitting on an aircraft carrier. 

With all the myriad, exciting betting options on the table in the modern world, The ONLY time when parlay bets are appropriate is when getting together with a bunch of friends and all throwing in a few dollars. 

There will be a few moments of fun in figuring out what life-changing sum of money you can each expect to pocket should the ticket come in. That is perhaps worth the entrance fee in and of itself. You will bond with your buddies and create a short period of binding and excitement before one of the bets fails. 

Have your fun. Spice up your afternoon. Lose your money

Fine. It was part of the budget for a social occasion. Let it go. 

As a serious sports bet, a parlay is not even something to consider just for the fun.

You will not win

There are variations of parlay bets called a 'Round robin bet' or 'Teaser bet'. 

Investigate those further if you wish. But we are not going to encourage you down that road in this article. If you truly despise having money in your pocket then feel free to pursue as many accumulating bets as you wish. 

Just don't say we didn't warn you. 

Can you tell we don't like parlays? Good...

Prop Bets

A proposition or 'prop bet' is one that is not directly tied to the final score or result of the game. 

The most common type of prop bets are player props, game/team props.

A player prop is made based solely on an individual player’s performance and some aspect thereof. 

  • Will LeBron James make a double-double? 

  • How many passing yards will a given quarterback make in this game?

A game/team prop is based on some event that will usually happen during a game. 

  • First team to score 20 points. 

  • Which team scores first? 

  • How many points will be scored per quarter? 

The variations are almost limitless and, if you enjoy prop bets as we do, be sure to scour the betting apps for those that cater best to prop betting. Many top betting sites will now offer more prop options than they do traditional bets. 

Prop bets are generally more for fun than anything else. 

Luck is too high of a factor for them to be serious, information-based wagers most of the time.

However, maybe you have noticed, in the course of your incredibly detailed analysis of the stats that a certain player tends to score big after a break. Or that a particular team is inclined to play more defensively after a long period on the road. Then your prop bets can reflect that.

Most punters use the prop bet as a way to liven up games while they wait for the overall result. But there are those who take them much more seriously and, if you can put in the work and the research, there is potential to be found. 

Live betting

Live betting merely denotes that the game in question has already started. 
The game is now 'live' and the odds will change fast as events unfold. 

There are, perhaps, few ways to engage more with any particular game than to make live bets. It is crucial to be focused on the action and make well-timed decisions based on what you see. 

There are myriad bets to be made within the live heading. In fact, almost any bet that can be made before the game starts can also be made once it is live. 

Final thoughts

Now that you have a basic understanding of the different types of sports bets and how they apply to each sport, it's time to figure out which ones are for you. 

Clue: The answer is NOT the parlay. 

If you feel that you have a better handle on how individual players perform then you're in there with the player props bets. 

If you have a feel for the bigger picture and are happy to play the long game then go ahead and pick yourself some tasty futures. 

Spicing up an uninspiring clash by getting some skin in the game? The money line bet or the point spread should give you the fix that you crave. 

Pick out some head-to-head results and give yourself a few games to focus on. 

You will naturally gravitate towards particular bet types as you become accustomed to them and how they operate. 

Start small and, if you do nothing else then read this article - 'How to manage your bankroll in sports betting'
We seldom agree on much here in The Jump Hub office, but this is one thing we are united on. If you protect your bankroll the way that the professionals do then your enjoyment and satisfaction will be so much longer-lived and sustainable. 

It is an easy concept to grasp and put into practice. Do yourself a favour. Read the article and soak in what it says. 

It is not an exaggeration to say that your success in the world of the sports bet depends on it. 

Winning wagers are hard to come by 

There's a really good reason why there are so many online sportsbooks vying for your business at any given time. Hint - it's not because they're losing money. 

It would be hypocritical of us to try and dissuade you from making sports wagers. We would bet on a coin toss if it came down to it. 

Making a sports bet in a responsible, sustainable way is one of life's great joys if you have that kind of mentality. 

But it all too easily becomes dangerous and destructive. Pay close attention to your gambling habits and be honest with yourself about them. 

Routinely ask yourself these questions:

  • Could I watch my favourite sport and not make a bet?

  • Am I making bets to try and recoup money that I already lost? 

  • Do I sometimes bet more than I can afford to lose? 

  • If my bet loses, do I feel the need to place another?

Assess your gambling habits carefully and often. Make adjustments if necessary. If you find that certain types of sports bets can lead you to take greater risks, then ban yourself from those. 

NEVER gamble when drinking. It's difficult enough as it is. Lay the bets first and then get loaded if you must. 

Please bear in mind that:

Problem gambling is real

If you think you or someone you know might have a gambling problem then there is help to be found.

Remember the golden rule:

When the fun stops, stop

Now run along you crazy kids

When the fun stops, stop

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