Hands up if your first look at the odds board inside a sportsbook or on a sportsbook app left you pretty confused.
If you stare at the numbers for too long, it begins to resemble the extra-credit equation on the chalkboard in AP calculus you were never able to solve.
Fortunately, sports betting isn’t anywhere close to that complicated. In fact, once you learn how to read the odds and know what all those numbers really represent, sports betting is not that difficult. As simple as picking one team to win a game against another, or deciding if a certain player in a single game will hit a very specific statistical goal.
Yes, there are professional sports bettors that use advanced handicapping systems and computer-generated algorithms to help pick winners. However, the research you do eating Cheetos and watching SportsCenter every night can turn into positive results — without all that math.
Our beginner’s guide to sports betting has simple explanations for the easiest bets you can make on sports, a guide to understanding odds and how they work, step by step instructions to start betting online in Virginia, and more.
The easiest way to bet on sports is to place one of these pregame bets:
All you have to do to make a moneyline bet is pick a winner. When you look at moneyline odds, you’ll see the name of each team involved in the game and either a positive or negative number beside it.
Let’s say the Washington Football Team is posted as a -300 moneyline favorite over the Detroit Lions (+350).
That means a $300 bet on Washington stands to win a total of $400 if Washington wins, which is $100 plus your $300 bet back. It also means every $100 you bet on the Lions will win a total of $450 if the Lions win: $350 in winnings plus the $100 bet.
Moneyline bets are as simple as they come and all about picking winners. You place moneyline bets at the currently posted odds set by sportsbooks and get paid at those odds if the bet wins.
Point spread bets ask you to pick the winner of a particular game with a line set by oddsmakers factored in. That line equals the number of points oddsmakers have determined the favorite will win by.
The Washington Football Team (-7) might be seven-point favorites over the Detroit Lions (+7). That means you need to deduct seven from Washington’s final score or add it to Detroit’s final score to determine the winner of any point spread bets.
It also means if Washington wins by eight or more, Washington point spread bets win, and if the Lions win, or lose by fewer than seven, point spread bets on the Lions win.
All point spread bets are a “push” if Washington wins by exactly seven, meaning the bets are refunded.
Point spread bets are almost as simple as the moneyline and are all about picking winners with the spread factored in. You place point spread bets at the currently posted odds set by sportsbooks and get paid at those odds if your bet wins. The odds are usually the same for both sides and hover around -110, which gives the sportsbook a chance to earn a little profit.
Totals bets, or the over/under, ask you to decide if the total points scored by both teams in a game will be “over” or “under” a line set by oddsmakers.
The total for a Washington/Detroit game might be set at 55.5 points. You bet on whether it will land over or under that total.
That means if the game ends at Washington 30, Detroit 27, the teams scored a total of 57 points, and any “over” bets pay. If the game ends Washington 25, Detroit 20, the teams scored 45 points, and the “under” bets pay.
Totals bets are as straightforward as they come and aren’t concerned with who wins the game — just how many points were scored in comparison to the line. You place totals bets at the currently posted odds set by sportsbooks and get paid at those odds if your bet wins.
The odds are quite often the same for both sides and hover around -110, similar to the odds for point spread bets.
You can get a little fancier and increase your potential payday by placing one of the following multi-part bets:
Betting on futures involves betting on a team or individual to accomplish a specific goal over a period of time. That might mean betting on a team winning a title, or a specific number of games this season. It might also mean betting on an individual to reach a specific statistical milestone over the course of a season.
Futures odds are adjusted based on probability through the time period. You book futures bets at currently posted moneyline odds, which usually means the earlier you bet the better the odds.
Betting on props involves betting on a team or individual to accomplish a specific goal inside a single game. These are normally goals considered outside of the outcome of the game. That might mean betting on things like the team or player to score first, or whether a player can reach a specific statistical milestone.
Props often involve betting an over/under on stats or answering a yes or no question based on team or player performance. You book props at traditional moneyline odds with favorites and underdogs based on probability.
Live betting allows you to bet on games that are already in progress at odds that are adjusted alongside the action. Sportsbooks use real-time sports data to offer the same standard pregame bets at adjusted odds throughout the game. Plus, many offer even more up-to-the-second odds on a variety of in-game betting markets.
Live betting allows you to pick a winner after you get a good idea of how the game is shaping up. The odds may be reduced, but you’ll have a better chance of winning.
Plus, live betting on games allows you to hedge obvious pregame winners, betting against yourself to lock in a reduced profit and avoid a disastrous comeback, and chase obvious pre-game losers instantly, mitigating your losses.
The Virginia Lottery Board spent the summer of 2020 creating regulations to govern sports betting across the state. It will spend the fall issuing up to 12 licenses to online and mobile sports betting operators.
These operators are expected to launch Virginia’s first sports betting apps in January 2021. The best sports betting apps on the market will help turn your smartphone, tablet or computer into your own personal sportsbook available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Of course, you’ll need to be:
Virginia sports betting apps will verify your age using the last four digits of your Social Security number during the sign-up process. They’ll also verify you are inside state lines using geolocation technology to make sure you’re in Virginia.
Once verified, you should be able to place any one or more of the bets listed above using your iPhone or Android phone or tablet, or your computer.
Betting apps are the most convenient way to bet on sports because you can access the apps anywhere across the state. There’s no need to leave home to bet, and because these apps will be competing for your business, you can take advantage of promotions on the apps such as free bets, deposit bonuses, risk-free bets and odds boosts.
Virginia sports betting apps also offer you more ways to bet, including access to live betting options, and the flexibility to browse through different betting outcomes before settling on a bet.
The list of sports you can bet on in Virginia extends beyond the big four of football, basketball, baseball and hockey. Unfortunately, it does not include college sports of any kind involving college teams based in Virginia or prop betting on all college teams. There’s also a ban on betting on all youth sports.
Here’s a list of some of the betting markets expected to launch in Virginia:
You should also find betting markets in Virginia for more sports from across the globe such as cricket, darts and rugby, among others.
Handicapping is just another word for sports betting, or more specifically, the study and practice of betting on sports.
The term itself is derived from the practice of setting point spread lines, which is a way of handicapping teams to even up the odds on both sides of a bet.
Back in the day, many professional sports bettors were referred to as handicappers because it meant they made picks rather than bet. While making picks is completely legal, betting those picks was illegal just about everywhere outside of Nevada.
These days, the number of states where it’s legal to bet on sports is continually growing, and terms like “handicapping” and “handicapper” are being used less and less.
In sports betting, the odds represent two basic things: A team’s or individual’s chances of winning and what you will get paid if you bet on the winning side.
Virginia sportsbooks post odds for all of the basic bets listed above. You lock in the odds at the time you place a bet, which means even if they change ahead of game time, you’ll get paid at the currently posted odds at the time you place your bet if your side wins.
This is the United States of America, so Virginia sportsbooks post what are known as American odds, but there are other ways to look at these numbers using some basic math equations. Many sportsbook apps will also let you choose how odds are displayed.
American odds are either positive or negative three-, four- and even five-digit numbers. A positive number means you’re looking at the underdog, and it represents how much you stand to earn for every $100 you bet, if your team wins. You also get your bet back on winning wagers. A negative number means you’re looking at the favorite, and it represents how much you’ll have to bet to stand to win $100, plus your bet back, if your team wins.
For example, the Washington Football Team might be -170 moneyline favorites over the New York Jets in an NFL game. In that case, the Jets might also be +150 underdogs.
That means you’ll need to bet $170 to stand to win $100 plus your $170 bet back on Washington. It also means you’ll stand to win $150 plus your bet back for every $100 you bet on the Jets.
American odds can reach four or five digits when teams are huge favorites or massive underdogs, mostly involving futures.
Odds can also be represented by a fraction. You can easily convert positive American odds into a fraction by dividing the American odds by 100. That would make the fractional odds on the +150 Jets 1.5/1 or 3/2.
You can convert negative American odds into a fraction by dividing -100 by the American odds. That would make the fractional odds on the -170 Washington Football Team 0.5882/1 or 10/17.
Odds can also be represented by a smaller decimal odds number. You can easily convert positive American odds to the smaller decimal odds number by adding 1 to the American odds divided by 100. That would make the decimal odds on the +150 Jets 2.5.
You can convert negative American odds to decimal odds by dividing -100 by the American odds and adding 1. That puts the decimal odds on Washington (-170) at 1.5882.
Converting to decimal odds makes it easy to see your potential payout on any bet. Just multiply your bet by the decimal odds to see what you stand to win.
If you win a bet, Virginia sportsbook apps will deposit the winnings directly into your account immediately after the bet is settled. Bets are settled in most American sports leagues when the final score and box score is labeled official by the league.
Just how much those winnings will amount to depends on how much you bet and the odds you bet on.
Even if you bet on something other than the moneyline, including point spreads, totals or props, you most likely booked the bet at American moneyline odds, and the Virginia sportsbook app will pay out the same way.
As explained above, betting favorites can be risky with much lower returns, while betting underdogs brings greater rewards with a much lower level of risk. That said, favorites are favorites for a reason. It’s up to you to decide if an underdog has a real chance to win or if the favorite is a better bet.
If you’re betting with cash at a retail sportsbook, you’ll get issued a ticket for each bet you make. Take any winning tickets back to the window to redeem them for cash. Once again, how much cash you’ll earn depends on how much you bet and the odds you bet on.
However, if your bet amount and the odds are equal, you’ll get paid out the same amount whether you bet with a Virginia sportsbook app or at a retail sportsbook. The difference is that retail sportsbooks pay out in cash while betting apps credit your account.
However, converting that credit into cash with the app is a relatively simple process.
Most of the time, VA sportsbook apps will allow you to withdraw money from your account using the same method you used to deposit funds in the first place. If you used a credit card or some other method of deposit that you can’t use for withdrawals, you’ll have to use another method or ask for a check by mail.
The most popular methods for deposit and withdrawal with Virginia sportsbook apps are:
Before you can place a bet with a Virginia online sportsbook, you’ll need to sign up for an account
Whether you do it on the website or through the app, the process is a breeze. Just look for a tab labeled “sign up” or “register” and click it.
This will take you to the sign-up page, where you’ll be required to enter a little bit of personal and account information. This may include your:
There may also be a space where you can enter a promo code or bonus code. You can find those here on this website. Just read the review for your Virginia online sportsbook of choice and you’ll see it. Entering the promo code or bonus code you find there during the registration process will ensure you get the best new player bonus available with that operator.
After that, it’s just a matter of confirming that you’ve both read and understood all the terms and conditions and clicking to submit your personal and account information.
Virginia online sportsbooks will verify you are 21 or older using your Social Security info, and they’ll make sure you’re in Virginia using geolocation technology. Of course, you can sign up from anywhere in the US, but you won’t be able to place any bets until you’re inside state lines.
As long as you’re in Virginia and the sportsbook can verify that fact, you should be ready to deposit some funds and start betting in a matter of minutes.
Virginia online sportsbooks are going to be competing for customers with a variety of marketing campaigns. Since they’ve proven successful in other states, a lot of these campaigns will involve free-bet offers.
That means you should be able to take advantage of free bets just for signing up for an account, free bets just for making your first deposit, and possibly even a number of risk-free first bets offering site-credit refunds if you lose with a variety of different Virginia online sportsbook operators.
Just read all of the offer’s terms and conditions first, so you know how it works.
You’ll often find you can get free bets for signing up and making a deposit, but the sportsbooks might keep the stake on winning bets, restrict you to betting on certain odds, or force you to bet a number of times before you can withdraw any winnings earned. Plus, risk-free bets may give you a site-credit refund if you lose, but you can’t withdraw that money. You’ll need to make another bet.
The best way to get your hands on any of these offers is to read the review for the sportsbook of your choice here on this site. Take note of any bonus code or promo code, click through our exclusive link to that sportsbook to sign up and use the code when you do.
Here’s a glossary of some of the most common sports betting terms: