Sports Betting 101

Many people see professional sports bettors on TV and think, “This must be easy!” But the truth is that betting on sports is not only hard work but requires a certain amount of knowledge of math, variance and team statistics. It takes months, if not years, to become a profitable sports bettor.

The first step in becoming a successful sports bettor is to understand the language and terminology used at the sportsbooks. Here are some terms you should know:

Vig: The margin the sportsbook makes on a bet. It is usually around 5% but can vary. The lower the vig, the better. Power ratings: A method of evaluating teams based on a number of factors, including past performance, schedule, injuries and other factors. A good power rating is subjective, meaning different bettors may have different opinions.

Over/Under: A bet on the total number of points scored in a game, including overtime and extra innings. It is easier to win an Over bet than a Under, but both bets have risk. The over/under line is constantly changing based on bets and the actual score of a game.

Money lines: A bet on a team to win by a specific number of points, often made early in the week. This type of bet is most common in baseball and hockey because these are lower-scoring sports that tend to be decided by one run or goal. Money lines are also more popular in the NHL and NBA because of the heightened attention to player injuries.

Point spread: A number the sportsbook sets to attract action on a particular side of a bet, often in favor of the underdog. A bet on the underdog will win if it beats the spread. A bet on the favorite will lose if it fails to cover the spread.

If you are serious about making money wagering on sports, it’s a good idea to open a separate bank account specifically for this purpose. This way you can keep track of your bets and avoid over-betting and going broke.

When it comes to the number of games, the best time to make a bet is in the summer when sportsbooks are not as sharp as they are during the winter. This is because there are 30 teams playing 162 games and bettors can find a ton of overlooked situations where they can get an edge. For example, some teams just can’t hit left-handed pitching and some pitchers are bad against certain opposing lineups. In addition to these situations, there are a lot of obscure stats that can be gleaned from watching a lot of games and studying their box scores. These types of bets are often called “sleepers.”