How to Start Betting on Sports — The Ultimate Beginners Guide

by Darko Jacimovic  ·  May 26, 2021

Do you have that one friend who constantly talks about winning at bookies, and you’re tempted to test your luck and knowledge? Or you simply want to see what’s betting all about but have no idea where to start?

No worries. If you are new to betting and wish to learn how to start betting on sports, you’ve come to the right place. Our guide is tailored towards new players who have never bet before. Here, you will find everything you need to know about placing your first online bet.

Moreover, we will also include a ton of other advice and tips to help you increase your chances of winning and potentially making a profit. So, with all that said, let’s dig right into it.

Eight Quick Facts About Sports Betting in the UK

  • Football is the most popular sport to bet on in the UK, followed by tennis, rugby, and horse racing.
  • Odds represent the chances of an outcome happening, according to a bookmaker.
  • Bookies use three different types of odds: decimal, fractional, and moneyline.
  • Information is the key to making good bets, so make sure you bet on the sports you are knowledgeable of.
  • There’s a ton of different betting markets, but you should stick to simple bets, especially if you are new to betting.
  • Always bet at the bookie that provides the best odds for the match you are interested in.
  • Betting exchanges are a great way to deviate from standard betting, so make sure to try them out.
  • A reliable betting strategy is a must for any punter serious about betting.

Sports Betting Guide for Beginners

Sports betting is the process of predicting the result of sports events and wagering money on the outcome. With most bets, you win if your prediction is successful, and you lose your stake if your prediction is unsuccessful.

To understand how sports betting works, you should master several different aspects of betting, such as the sport you are betting on. You should also learn how to understand and calculate betting odds and all about the different types of bets you can place on a sport.

Bet on the Sport You Follow

Betting has come a long way. In today’s time, you can bet on virtually any sport there is or even use a mobile app for betting from the comfort of your bed or while you’re commuting. The options seem limitless, and the most popular sports to bet on in the UK are football, horse racing, cricket, rugby, and golf. Additionally, many online bookmakers allow you to bet on exotic markets like esports, darts, politics, and many others.

However, if you wish to learn how to get good at sports betting, the first bit of advice is that, just because you can bet on virtually anything, it doesn’t mean that you should. Instead, you should always bet on the sport you are familiar with.

One of the best pieces of advice you will ever get for sports betting is that information is the key to making good bets. The more you know about the event you are betting on, the easier it will be to make a successful bet.

If you want to learn how to win at sports betting, you should research several different aspects to place a well-informed bet. Those aspects depend mainly on the sport you are betting on. A good rule of thumb to follow is always to check participants’ form. Be it football, tennis, horse racing, or golf, make sure to see how players or horses performed in previous events.

Another sports betting advice we have for any new punter is to check for news that may affect players’ or teams’ performance, such as absent players, injuries, whether players are in full health, and similar reasons. Even a squad of 11 can lose if only one of their key players cannot give it their 100%.

The last tip we have for anyone wondering “How does sports betting work?” is that each sport has different things you should research. For football, it can be the team’s performance on home and away matches. As far as tennis goes, it can be head-to-head statistics or a dozen other factors for horse racing.

If you are familiar with the sport you are betting on, you will know what those relevant factors are. Moreover, it is also the best way to learn how to win at sports betting. After all, betting means you are investing your money for a chance to make a profit, and you shouldn’t just bet for the sake of it. Unless, of course, you are betting only for fun.

Betting Odds

Once research becomes a part of your routine, and you get used to doing it each time before you place a bet, the next thing you should learn is the odds.

One of the first questions novice punters ask is — how do odds work in sports betting? The simplest way to explain the odds is to say they are the numbers that stand next to a betting selection, and they represent the likelihood of an event happening.

Odds can tell you the chances for a team to win according to a bookmaker, and by calculating them, you can determine the amount you are expected to win by betting on that particular event.

If you want to know how to understand sports betting odds, the easiest way to do that would be to learn how to calculate them and what the numbers represent. Once you do, you will easily determine whether a bet has merit and if you should make it in the first place.

For example, nearly everyone would risk £1 for a 10% chance to win £10 million. However, would you risk £10 million for an 80% chance to win £1?

Bookmakers display odds in three different formats. If you wish to know how to understand sports betting odds, you should learn about each odds format. With that said, odds can be written as decimal, fractional, or moneyline.

While these odds may be written and calculated differently, they all represent the same thing. Most modern-day online bookies allow you to change the format on the website to the one you prefer, but it won’t hurt to learn how each of these odds formats is calculated since it will make the process a lot smoother.

The easiest way to learn how to calculate sports betting payouts is with decimal odds. As the name suggests, they are written with a decimal point, such as 1.40, 2.20, and 3.70.

To calculate them, you have to multiply your initial stake with decimal odds. If you bet £10 on a team to win at the odds of 2.20, you would win £22 if your bet is successful. In other words, your payout depends on the odds and your initial stake.

Once you learn how to calculate sports betting payouts and master how odds work, you will be able to easily convert them from one format to another with a few simple formulae. However, if you don’t wish to do all the math yourself, you can always use tools like online odds converters or calculators to do all the work for you.

Another thing you can do with a little bit of math is to convert the odds to the implied probability — the chance of a team or player to win. If you wish to learn how odds work in sports betting in detail, you can check our comprehensive guide and find everything you need to know.

Betting Markets

Betting markets are the last aspect of betting you should master before placing your first bet. If you have never bet before, the term betting markets might seem a tad confusing, but they are simply the types of bets you can place on a game or match or in horse racing.

If you wish to learn how to start betting on sports, you should begin with the match winner bet — one of the most common types of bets in virtually every sport. In this scenario, you would bet on one team to win the match. If they do, your bet is successful, and you will receive a payout based on your initial stake and the odds of the selection you bet on.

Another common bet we advise anyone looking to learn how to start betting on sports to try is the outright bet. Unlike other bets, this one may take a while to resolve since you will be betting on a team or a player that will win the tournament or a league.

Bookmakers offer hundreds of different markets that vary from one sport to another, and it would be virtually impossible to cover each one separately. For that reason, you will have to roll up your sleeves and do a little bit of extra digging once you find the sport you wish to bet on.

While you shouldn’t be afraid to explore new bets and even some more exotic ones, one of the best sports betting advice we have for novice punters is to stick to simpler bets until they become more experienced.

At the same time, make sure to check out betting markets that significantly improve your chances of winning, like the Double Chance bet in football, for example, or an each-way bet that is popular in horse racing. Even though betting markets like these generally have worse odds than regular bets, they are much easier to land and are excellent for new punters.

Sports Betting Advice for Beginners

Now that you know everything you need about betting, you are ready to place your first bet. However, before you do, we have prepared several tips to help boost your chances of making a profit. At the same time, we will show you how to make your betting experience a lot more enjoyable.

Picking the Right Bookmaker

Naturally, before you can place your first bet, you will have to find a bookmaker where you are going to bet. When it comes to sports betting in the UK, there are a ton of betting sites around. However, you shouldn’t be satisfied with just any bookmaker. Instead, find a reputable place that offers competitive odds and plenty of betting markets for you to enjoy.

After all, chances are you are going to invest a lot of your time and possibly money, so instead of settling for a mediocre bookie, make sure to pick the one that excels in multiple areas, such as payment methods, security, variety of betting markets, and much more.

New punters often ask what the best online sports betting site is, and truth be told, there isn’t one. There is no single betting site that offers the best of everything. However, there are betting sites that are a lot better than the rest.

Considering the number of betting sites around, it could take days to inspect each of them manually. However, there’s no reason to be concerned since we have already prepared a list that includes some of the best bookmakers in the UK. These betting sites are an excellent starting point for anyone who wishes to learn how to start betting on sports.

To compile the list, we’ve examined each site closely and made sure that only licenced and reputable bookies offering competitive odds and excellent welcome bonuses are on our list, so make sure to check it out.

Shop Around for the Best Odds

Earlier in our guide, we’ve briefly shown you how odds work in sports betting. However, did you know that a bookmaker relies on an expert opinion of professional punters and analysts to set the odds? In other words, those odds are not set in stone and only represent a bookmaker’s view for that particular match.

What’s important to know is that odds vary from one bookmaker to another, not only across different sports but also for the same market. For that reason, you should always look for the best odds available before placing a bet.

If you learn how to understand sports betting odds, you will be able to decide which bet is better. Let’s say that Bookmaker A is giving the odds of 1.80 for Arsenal to win, while Bookmaker B is giving the odds of 1.90. In this scenario, it is evident that you should place your bet at Bookmaker B.

If you bet £10, you would win £18 for betting on the odds of 1.80 and £19 for betting on the odds of 1.90. However, what happens when you bet £100? One bet would net you £180, and another £190.

When you put things on paper, shopping around for the best odds available is one of the most effective ways to learn how to make money betting on sports online. Granted, while a tenner might not be worth the trouble for some, what happens if you place 100 bets in a year?

Suddenly, you could be looking at a potential loss of hundreds of pounds simply because you took worse odds. Of course, we are exaggerating a bit, but hopefully, it helps get the point across.

For that reason, rather than focusing on a single bookmaker, you can open accounts at several different bookies and bet at the one that’s offering the odds for the match or race you plan to bet on.

Of course, you need to have several different accounts if you just try to learn how to bet. However, if you wish to learn how to make money betting on sports online, looking for the best value is a must-do.

Bankroll Management

As the name suggests, bankroll management refers to properly managing the money you will use for betting and is another step you should learn before taking a plunge into the world of betting.

If you are new to betting, one thing you should know is that you are going to lose bets. In fact, you will continue to lose bets even when you become more experienced. While bankroll management won’t necessarily help you learn how to win at sports betting, it will help you minimise your losses.

As simple as it may sound, the goal of betting is to win more than you lose, which is why knowing how to minimise your losses by properly managing your bankroll is essential in the long run.

Many other sports betting guides for beginners fail to point out that your bankroll doesn’t refer to the money you have or money you may use for groceries, bills, or living expenses. Your bankroll is strictly the money you set aside for betting.

There is no set amount for the bankroll, and you should determine it yourself based on your financial situation. Additionally, you can define bankroll as the amount you are prepared to lose with each bet during a week or a single month. Naturally, you should never go above your limit and spend more than you can afford.

How to Make Money Betting on Sports Online

We have already covered all the basics, and we are optimistic that you should be capable of placing a good bet by now. However, if you wish to go a step further, we have prepared several advanced tips to help you learn how to bet like a pro.

Follow a Tipster

Tipsters are professional punters with plenty of experience. Most of them have their websites or are a part of a larger organisation that provides tips to punters willing to pay for their services.

If you wish to learn how to start betting on sports but don’t want to invest a lot of your time researching bets, using tips from professionals is an excellent way to bet. Granted, while almost anyone can call themselves a professional tipster, you should look for the ones that have a proven track record.

Rather than wasting your money on paying for bad tips and losing bets that will only cost you even more money, you should use some proven tipster websites like Tipstrr, Betting Gods, and Bettingexpert, to name a few.

Use a Betting Strategy

Betting strategies are essential for anyone who wants to learn how to make money betting on sports online. Just as it is important to know which tipster websites to pick, you should also know which strategies are proven and may help you make a profit.

Among dozens of different sports betting strategies, some of the best ones are arbitrage betting and matched betting. Even though they are not always applicable, they will bring you a small profit every time you use them.

While our sports betting guide for beginners doesn’t include detailed information about these strategies, we have already covered them in another guide. Therefore, if you wish to beat bookies, make sure to check out our list of the best football strategies you can apply to other sports as well.

In addition to the strategies we mentioned, you can also use a betting strategy like dutching designed to minimise your losses and help you make a nice profit if one or more of your bets win. With dutching, you would split the amount you wish to bet into several different bets and determine your stake proportionally based on the odds of the selections you are betting on.

Perhaps the best sports betting advice you will ever get is to use a betting strategy. They are an excellent way to make a profit, and anyone serious about betting should always have a plan and use a strategy rather than just bet blindly.

While some of the strategies are basic and revolve around a single type of bet, others are more advanced and require time to learn. However, regardless of the strategy you decide to use, make sure it is well optimised and can help you make a profit.

Try Betting Exchanges

When new punters ask “How does sports betting work?,” they generally think of betting at a bookmaker and are not familiar with betting exchanges.

Betting exchanges are a new addition to the world of betting, and they have been gaining in popularity in the past few years. Similar to regular online bookmakers, betting exchanges allow you to bet on sports events. However, rather than backing a team to win as you would with a regular bookmaker, you will lay against a certain event to happen at a betting exchange.

To show you how to start betting on sports at a betting exchange, let’s say that Manchester City is playing with Chelsea in the next fixture. If you wish to place the basic match bet at bookies, you can back Manchester City to win, bet on a draw or Chelsea. To win a bet, you have to make a correct prediction.

However, if you lay against Manchester City at a betting exchange, you are technically betting that Manchester City will not win. In that scenario, you will win your bet if the game is a draw or Chelsea wins.

If you wish to learn how to win at sports betting, you may skip bookmakers altogether. Namely, betting exchanges usually have slightly better odds since a lay bet encompasses several different bets, and many punters enjoy betting at a betting exchange.

While betting exchanges may seem slightly confusing to new punters, you should most certainly give them a go once you become more experienced.

The Bottom Line

While we have shown you how to start betting on sports, it is important to know that you will not become excellent at betting overnight. It will take time to gain enough knowledge and experience to make a profit whenever you are betting.

Additionally, don’t let losing bets discourage you because even the best punters make wrong predictions. However, make sure that you don’t force yourself too hard and allow betting to become an obsession. Gambling can be addictive, so make sure that you are gambling responsibly and never spend more than you can afford.