Beginners Guide to Betting

Beginner's Guide To Online Sports Betting

For as long as there have been sports, there has been sports betting. Placing a wager on competitors and teams adds to the involvement and entertainment that a sporting contest provides, and also of course offers the opportunity to win money.

With the plethora of online sports betting markets at our fingertips, there has never been a better time to wager on sports. Convenience and choice are at an all-time high, but in order to equip yourself with the best chance of success, you need to know the basics.

Anything can and often does happen in the world of professional sports. And for this reason alone, there’s no such thing as a guaranteed win. However, before you head straight into placing bets, it’s wise to first understand a little more about what sports betting is, how to place bets, and the main types of bets you can place.

If you're checking out this blog ahead of the 2024 Cheltenham Festival, be sure to check out our Cheltenham Betting Offers

What Is Sports Betting?

Sports betting refers to placing a bet, also known as a wager, on an outcome in a sporting event. It can be done either on-site, such as at a racecourse or football stadium, in a bookmaker's shop, also known as a 'bookies', but perhaps the most popular way to place sports bets in modern times is online, either on a mobile, tablet or PC.

Why do people bet? That will depend on the person, or 'punter' as sports bettors are commonly known. Some might be recreational gamblers who enjoy wagering on sports for pure entertainment, along with the chance to win money, using gut feelings to decide which bets to place. Whereas others may take sports betting more seriously, using long term strategies and conducting detailed research into form to help find what they consider to be good value picks.

Whatever your betting style, it’s important to remember not to bet more than you can afford to lose regardless of how certain you are of an outcome. At its heart, betting on sports is a form of entertainment that can enhance your enjoyment of events as they unfold.

How To Place Online Bets On Sports

Let's start right from the very beginning. How do you place a sports bet?

When you want to place a bet online, you first need to register an account. At Bet UK you can do this simply by clicking the ‘Join’ button at the top of the page. Once you have provided the necessary information, opened your account and added some funds, you will be ready to place a bet. It’s also worth taking a look at the online betting offers available to help you get started.

When betting online, you would usually navigate to the event you want to bet on. This can be done by first picking the sport you want to bet on from the menu. There are a wide range of sports available to bet on. Football betting and horse racing betting are some of the most popular, along other choices such as golf betting and tennis betting.

Once you’ve found the sport you want to bet on, you can then see a list of events, some of which may be ongoing, which is known as in-play live betting, and others that could be scheduled for the future.

If you simply want to bet on the winner of a contest - a tennis or football match, for example, you may find the odds - that is, what you stand to win if the bet is successful - next to each competitor or team. Clicking on these odds can allow you to add the bet to your virtual betting slip. Want more betting options? Clicking on the match or tournament name will usually bring up a selection of other bet types (markets).

If that's all clear, let's move on to understanding odds.

How To Understand Sports Betting Odds

Sports betting revolves around odds. Odds tell you what you stand to win if your bet is successful. With odds, we can assess which bets offer the most value, depending on our own opinion of what the outcome of a sporting contest will be.

Odds come in fractional, decimal or moneyline form. In the UK, they are typically shown as fractions. Let's take a look at an example. Here are the fractional odds 3/1, shown in all three forms:

  • Fractional - 3/1
  • Decimal - 4.0
  • Moneyline - 300

We will concentrate on fractional odds in this guide, but if you ever want to convert odds from one form to another, use one of the many odds converters which are available as free tools online.

So how should you read odds? The number on the right of the fraction represents your stake, and the number on the left shows what you stand to win if your bet is successful. We can use the same example of 3/1. If you bet £10 on Fulham to beat Liverpool at Anfield in a Premier League football match at odds of 3/1, and the Cottagers beat the Reds, your bet would be successful and you would win £30, as well as receive your stake back.

But odds don't only show us what we stand to win if our bet is successful. They also provide a way to assess value in the price (another name for odds) that the bookmaker has attached to an outcome. That's because odds represent 'implied probability'. This means they reflect the probability of an outcome in the eyes of the bookmakers. You can compare this implied probability to your own assessment of the probability of an outcome.

We won't complicate things too much at this stage, but there is a simple equation to work out the implied probability. First, you need to convert your fractional odds into decimal, which can be done easily using an online tool. Let's say Queens Park Rangers were 5/2 to beat Wolverhampton Wanderers in an FA Cup football match. Fractional odds of 5/2 translate into decimal odds of 3.5. Now we apply these odds to the equation for working out implied probability:

(1 divided by the decimal odds (3.5), x 100)

This comes to 28.5, which means the implied probability in the bookmaker's odds is that QPR have a 28.5 percent chance of beating Wolves. Do you think that QPR have a bigger chance of winning than the odds suggest? If so, QPR to win could be a good bet to take.

If you’d like to learn more about sports betting odds, you can do so here.

Types Of Sports Betting

Now we will move on to the different types of bets you can make on sports. The kind of market - that is, the form of bets - you will see will vary according to the particular sport. Here we will touch on some of the most common bets, and mention which sports they apply to:

Outright Winner

Quite simply, this type of bet requires you to pick the winner of a sporting tournament or match. You would typically see this type of bet available for tournaments in which there can be only one winner - from football's Champions League to tennis's Wimbledon and Golf's US Masters.

You can also bet on the winner of a match. In many sports - such as American team sports like Baseball, Basketball and American football, and individual sports like Formula One, Golf and Tennis - there can be no draws, so you will pick one team or contestant to win.

Match Outcome

For sports in which it is possible to draw a match, you would bet on the match outcome. This is the choice of either team to win, as well as the draw (that is when both teams have an even score). This type of market is relevant in sports such as Football, Rugby and Cricket.


Especially popular in football and rugby, an over/under bet requires you to predict whether there will be over or under a set amount of goals or points during a game. In football, the amount of goals usually includes a half number - i.e. 0.5, 1.5, 2.5, 3.5 and so on. An over/under can also be applied to individual scores. For example, in cricket, you could place an over/under wager that a batsman will score more or less than a set amount of runs, or a bowler to take more or less than a set amount of wickets.

Correct Score

Another football favourite, correct score requires you to predict the final score at the end of the match. If you get the score right, you will win; but any other scoreline means you would lose the bet, making this a typically higher risk wager than over/under or match outcome.

Each Way

For events with large fields of individual competitors - such as horse racing, Formula One, or golf - an each-way bet brings down the risk attached to simply predicting the outright winner. It splits your bet into two, with half of the stake being placed on the outright win, and the other half being wagered on your pick to 'place'. To place means to come in the top two, three, five, or more places, as specified by the bookie. If your pick places but does not win, you can at least expect to make a profit, rather than walk away with nothing.

First Goalscorer

The First goalscorer bet is one that could change in name depending on the sport and scoring system - requires you to pick the player who will score first.

In-Play Betting

In-play betting, also known as live betting, allows you to bet on a contest while it is happening. In-play betting typically features many of the same markets that you can see in pre-match betting. Odds will fluctuate through the event, depending on how it develops. In-play betting allows those watching an event to get a feel for the action before placing their bets.

Handicap Betting

Handicap betting involves a handicap being given to the favourite in a sporting contest, making betting more attractive in matches that feature a heavy favourite up against a big underdog.

Let's say Manchester City were playing Newcastle United in a Premier League football match and were heavy favourites. The handicap market could give City a -2 handicap. This means that in the context of the handicap market, City would start the match two goals down.

If you placed a handicap bet on City to win, they would need to win the match by at least three goals for your bet to be successful. While handicap bets can carry more risk, they also have the ability to make odds more rewarding in contests that would be considered a mismatch in a traditional market.


Accumulators or ‘accas’ are a type of bet made up of two or more individual bets. For example, you may pick the winners from a number of Premier League games that were taking place during the course of an afternoon and combine your selections into an accumulator bet. The benefit of accumulators is that the potential winnings can often be significant. However, the downside is that it only takes one of your selections to fail and the whole bet is lost.

Sports Betting FAQs

We’ve covered the basics of how to get started with sports betting, so let’s move on to answering some of the most common questions that come up in regards to betting on sports:

How do I place a bet?

You simply need to register to bet online by providing the required details, before funding your account with an initial deposit. You can then make your way to the sport and specific competition you’d like to bet on and make your selections from the options available.

What are the best sports to bet on?

This comes down to personal preference. Many people find that sports such as football, horse racing, tennis and golf are among the most entertaining sports to bet on. In general, the more popular the sport, the more pre-match and in-play betting options you can find. You may also like to bet on sports that you particularly enjoy watching, which adds an extra dimension as a spectator.

How do betting odds work?

Betting odds are shown in fractional, decimal or Moneyline form. In the UK, fractional odds are more commonly used. With fractional odds, the number on the right always represents your stake, and the number on the left represents how much you stand to win if you are successful.

How does in-play betting work?

In-play betting, also known as live betting, refers to bets made while a sports event is in progress. Odds typically change according to how a match develops.

What does EVS mean in betting?

EVS is short for 'evens'. This is the common name for odds which equate to 1/1 in fractional form.

What is each way in betting?

An each-way bet effectively splits your bet into two, with half the stake going on a participant to win an event, and the other half going on them to 'place'. Achieving a place could be finishing in the top two, three, four, five or more positions, as specified by the bookmaker.

How do I calculate a return on a bet?

To calculate your return on a bet, look at the odds. In fractional odds, your stake is represented by the number on the right, and your potential profits by the number on the left. Remember that your total return would usually include your stake.

Do you get your stake back on a bet?

In the UK you would usually receive your stake back when you win a bet. If you lose the bet, you lose your stake.

What does cash out in betting mean?

Cash-out is an option you can see in in-play betting markets. If your bet is currently winning, but the contest is not over yet, cash out gives you the option of stopping the bet and claiming your winnings. However, you should note that cash out winnings would typically be less than the winnings you could have claimed had your bet been successful at the end of the game.

What is the most difficult sport to bet on?

If following the betting odds, the most difficult sport to bet on in the modern day is Horse Racing, bets on the Cheltenham Festival were at an all-time high but many bettors may do what is called 'betting blind', which is where bettors will place a bet on a funny name rather than in-depth research, this is because researching a race for Horse Racing is significantly harder than researching a football match.

Finding tips for Sports Betting

Here at Bet UK, we have a wide range of betting markets for sports such as football and horse racing, players can also find betting tips for each sport. Some of our most popular betting tip blogs include our Premier League betting tips and our Horse Racing betting tips for weekly updates.

Take Time to Think | | 18+

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