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A beginner’s guide to getting in on the action

By Sean Chaffin

With eight states already allowing sports wagering by the time you read this, there’s a good chance that number may grow by the time the Super Bowl kicks off on Feb. 3. If you’re in one of those states currently offering legalized sports betting (Nevada, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New Mexico, Mississippi, Delaware, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania) or planning to be in one of those states, a trip to the sports book might be in order.

Those new to sports betting need not fear, Casino Player is here to help with that first trip to the betting window. Place a wager and grab a seat.

The game’s about to start and you’re hoping that underdog hangs in there.


A trip to the sports book can make for great night out with friends, especially if you’re a sports fan. The first things a bettor will notice is the numerous TVs around the room as well as the big digital betting boards with odds on the day’s games (and races for horse racing fans) as well as major events like big fights, upcoming championships, and other events.

Players can bet on just about any game for almost any amount. It’s as simple as determining which game you’re ready to bet and approaching a betting window. For a specific game, most sportsbooks have numbers that correspond with the team you’re trying to place a wager on. Simply make note of the number and relay that to the teller as well as the betting amount (for more on betting types and terminology, see the glossary below):”I’d like $20 on the Patriots [add number]:’

Many casinos offer player points for sports betting just like at a table game. Don’t be intimidated in the book and feel free to ask questions. Mo-bile wagering is available in some states (including Nevada and New Jersey) and make wagering even easier. So place that wager, maybe order a cocktail, sit back, and take in the action. And hopefully that last-second field goal has you headed back to the window to collect some winnings.


There are numerous theories and strategies on how to manage your bankroll when it comes to sports betting. Like any form of gambling, don’t bet more than you can afford to lose. New Jersey native “Professor Shine” (not his real name, @ProfessorShine onTwitter) is in his 40s and works as an investor and business owner. He’s also a regular sports bettor and offers advice on his Twitter feed.

The Professor advises inexperienced bettors to avoid touts, companies paid to offer selections. Many fudge their records and it’s difficult to determine if the service selling the info is actually a winner. For a chance at success, The Professor advises students some fitting advice – study.

“Get as good as you can at learning statistics and probability math,” Shine says. “You don’t have to be an expert, but a new bettor should understand why things like trends with small sample sizes are most likely worthless information. Most serious bettors are always trying to find an edge so it takes up a lot of our waking moments thinking about betting in general?”

That last notion is important. Don’t feel the need to bet every game, and instead look for games where you can determine an edge and get your action on that game. Along with seeking an edge and doing your homework, bankroll management is also important and it’s a good idea to keep your bets no bigger than five percent of your overall bankroll.

Lastly, try to bet games without emotion. Devise a system a stick with it – hopefully you’ll be cashing plenty of tickets.



Here’s a look at some common terms someone new to sports wagering might need to place those bets as well as a guide on how to place some of the differing bets at a sports book.

Action — This is any money bet on a contest or race. The term can also be used in other gambling references. (Ex I’ve got some action on the Dallas Cowboys game today.)

Against the Spread (ATS) —A bet on one side of the point spread. Can also be used in reference to how a team does against the spread. (Ex The Saints are 7-2 this season against the spread.)

Betting Line or Line —Also known as the odds or point spread. This is how much one team is favored over another. Can also be termed as “odds” when it comes to bets like futures wagers.

Bookmaker/Bookie — A sports book or person who accepts wagers on games – both legal and illegal. `Book” can also be used for short and also in terms of placing a bet. (Ex. I’ve got three bets booked on Sunday’s NFL games.)

Buying Points —This is allows a bettor to move the point spread a bit for a better chance of a winning bet.

Cover — This means that a team wins versus the spread. If the Giants are a 2.5 point favorite (2.5), and win by 3 points, then they have covered the spread.

Futures Bet — A wager for some future event, such as betting a team before the season to win the Super Bowl or World Series.

Handle — The total amount bet on a game, contest, or total at a sports-book over a certain period of time.

Laying the Points —When a bettor takes the favorite.

Moneyline — This is a bet in which a bettor simply has to pick the right team to win. However, payouts are less depending on the odds. Odds are usually posted as such:

Packers -160: This means you would have to wager $160 on the Packers to win $100.

Packers +160: With this bet, you’d get back $160 for a $100 bet if the team wins.

Note that these amounts aren’t required to place a bet. Lower amounts can certainly be bet, but this an easy way for a book to display the odds on these types of wagers.

Odds — General term for the betting lines or point spreads.

Over/Under —This is a bet based on the total number of points scored between two teams in a game. If the Giants play the Eagles, the Over/Under might be listed by the sports book as 45. If a player bets the under and the final score is 27-21, that player would lose the bet as the score went “Over” – 27+21=48.

If the game ended at 24-20, “Over” bettors would lose as the total only reached 44. If the score ended at 24-21 (45 points total), the bet would be a push and bettors get their money back.

Parlay —A bet in which a person selects more than one outcome that must happen. The payout will be higher based on the number of events, but if one part of the bet does not come through then the entire bet is a loss.

Pick ’em —A game in which there is no favorite. The two teams are considered equal and bettors must simply pick the winner.

Point Spread — This is the margin of victory for a game determined by the oddsmaker. Sports books use this to create action on both teams. The favorite will have to win by more than the margin the oddsmakers set. If the Jets are favored by 2.5 against the Cardinals, they must win by 3 points or more for a win. If they only win by 2, they didn’t cover the spread and those who bet the Cardinals will win.

Point Spreads may be posted in the following ways:

Steelers -3.5: This means the team is favored by 3.5 points, spotting the opposing team a 3.5-point lead. Bookmakers often use half-points to avoid a push. If the Broncos win by 4 or more, they have covered the spread.

Steelers +3.5: This means the Steelers are a 3.5-point underdog. If they lose by 3 points or less, a player would cash a winner on them.

Push — A bet that results in a tie. If the Jets are favored by 7 and win 21¬14, neither team won and the bets are returned.

Teaser — A type of parlay where a bettor can move the point spread in his or her favor, but results in a lower payout.

Vig or Juice — The commission or percentage of the betting pool that the house (sports book) takes. This is how a sports book profits.

Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas. His work appears in numerous websites and publications. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions. For story assignments or ideas, email seanchaffin@sbcglobalnet.

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