Types of Sports Bets


Anytime someone tells you a story about when they made a wager on a sporting event, one of the first pieces of information that they will give you is what type of sports bet it was. There are many different types of sports bets that are possible to make and some of them have such strange names that if you are not familiar with them you might not be sure if the other person is speaking English or not. 

In order to help you decipher what people are talking about in these situations, we have compiled a list of all of the different types of sports bets that can be made and an explanation on how they work. This information will also come in very handy if you find yourself in a sportsbook one day with some extra money to burn and a huge wall of options staring you in the face, which can be very overwhelming for a beginning sports bettor. 

Spread Bets

A point spread is a number that oddsmakers set which reveals the difference in points that the favored team is expected to score compared to the expected score of the underdog team. In the NFL and NBA markets, a spread bet is one of the most common types of bets that are made. If you made a spread bet on the favored team and they win the game by more points than the spread, then you will win your wager.

For example, if the Boston Celtics are sporting a spread of -4 points against the Lakers then you will win your spread bet if the Celtics win the game by 5 or more points. If they win the game by exactly 4 points then the bet is considered a push and you will receive your money back. Conversely, if you bet on the Lakers +4 spread then they must lose the game by no more than 3 points OR win the game in order for you to win your spread bet.

Moneyline Bets

If you are looking to make a wager on who is going to outright win a certain sporting event with no point spread or handicap involved, then you should be making a moneyline bet. All that you have to do is pick the winning team in a moneyline bet and your wager will be a success. 

This is the simplest type of bet that you can make and they are most popular in low scoring sports such as soccer, hockey, or baseball. Moneyline bets are also a big hit amongst new sports bettors who just want to keep things as easy to understand as possible. 

Totals Bets

These common bets, which are also known as “over/under bets”, are quite easy to understand since they involve betting on how high the total score of the game will be. You can easily calculate the total score of the game by adding together the scores of both teams that played. This type of bet usually has a half of a point added to the end of it just to avoid all of the potential push situations where the score and the over/under are the same number and everyone receives their money back.

For example, let’s say you bet the over on a football game featuring the Patriots and the Raiders where the over/under is set at 34.5 points. If both teams score a combined total of 35 points or more, then you will win your bet. 

Futures Bets

You might be thinking to yourself, “Isn’t every bet that is made pertaining to a future event?” Well, futures bets do take place in the future but the bets are usually aimed at events that take place much further in the future than usual. 

For instance, in almost every major sport you will be able to make futures bets regarding the national championship game for that sport, even if it is currently the preseason! Even though the most popular futures bets usually involve simply picking who will win the championship, you can also find bets on who will be MVP or what teams will make the Final Four.

One of the appeals of these types of bets is that the actual sporting event takes place so far in the future that the payouts can be enormous. If you pick an underdog team at the beginning of the season to win the championship and that team ends up trading for some big superstars you might find yourself winning up to 5,000-10,000 times your money. The only downside to making a futures bet is that your money will be locked up and untouchable for the duration of the season, so be sure not to bet your entire bankroll when making a futures bet.

Parlay Bets (Combo Bets)

A parlay bet (or “combo bet” in some sportsbooks) combines two or more individual bets and the only way to win is if every single selection that you make is a winner. This happens to be one of the most popular types of bets that are made due to the high ceiling of possibilities, but it also comes with a high degree of difficulty due to the demand for perfection. For example, a typical 11-team parlay will pay out around 1,500 times your original bet when you win which can make things very exciting during the last couple games.

A popular move by sports bettors who make parlays is to sometimes hedge, or bet against, the last leg of their parlay if all of their previous selections have already won. This allows the bettor to guarantee himself a little bit of profit for getting every selection correct up to that point, but it comes at the price of getting raked by the sportsbook multiple times on your bets. 

One of the best features of parlay bets is that you can make cross-sport parlays. This means that you can take a list of bets that is comprised of games from many different sports and combine them into one parlay bet. Just like in a normal parlay bet, you will only win the cross-sport parlay bet if every selection from every single sport is a winner.

Teaser Bets

A teaser is a type of bet that allows you to combine your bets on multiple sporting events at the same time. This is very similar to making a parlay except that in a teaser bet you can adjust the point spreads and bet on alternate lines for each game in exchange for a smaller return on your money. 

As a general rule, the more points you use to tease the spreads the less your payout will be since the bet is now much safer for you. The amount of points that you can tease usually depends on both the sportsbook that you are placing your bets in and the sport that you are placing your bets on. 

A teaser bet is most commonly made by bettors in the football or basketball markets where game spreads are more of a betting target. If you are betting on football, it is quite common to see teaser bets that adjust the Vegas lines anywhere from 6 to 10 points while most basketball teasers will adjust the spread from 4 to 6 points.

Most sportsbooks will allow you to include anywhere from two to fifteen different teams in a teaser bet. Just like when you make a parlay bet, the more teams you include in your teaser bet the higher your payout will be if all of your teams beat the adjusted spreads. 

Pleaser Bets

A pleaser bet allows the bettor to adjust the line for a game in favor of the sportsbook, which is the exact opposite of what a teaser bet does. A simple example of this would be if you made a two-team seven-point teaser you would subtract seven points from both the original lines to find out what margin you need that team to win by.

In exchange for this added difficulty, you will always receive a higher payout for winning these types of bets in comparison to betting the normal spread line. You will also receive an exponential increase in payouts the more teams you add to the bet, which is very similar to how a parlay will work.

 A typical two-team pleaser bet will pay you 6 times your original investment when it wins, while a six-team pleaser will pay out up to 300 times your original bet. You will usually not be allowed to bet on more than six teams at once in a pleaser bet.

Round Robin Bets

A round robin bet is one of the most complicated types of sports bets since it will allow you to wager multiple parlays at the same time with just a single bet. While round robin bets are offered in every sportsbook, they are not actually made by sports bettors very often due to their advanced nature. 

When making a round robin bet at most sportsbooks you will have to choose somewhere between three to eight teams to bet on.  After that, you must choose how many teams will be in all of the mini-parlays, which is usually going to be between two to six selections. The number of teams that you include in the mini-parlays will always be less than the number of teams involved in your round robin bet.

Round robin bets are a great way to save some time for bettors who already planned on making a ton of parlays because every single possible mini-parlay combination will be accounted for. They are also more lenient compared to making straight parlay bets which require you to get every single selection correct. 

For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume you made a 3-team round robin bet for the Detroit Lions, Pittsburgh Steelers, and New England Patriots to win their games. This means that your mini-parlays must consist of two teams since a bet with just one team is not a parlay and having three teams is not an option since the round robin bet is for only three teams. Therefore, if any two of these three teams wins their game then you will win some money but if ALL three of the teams win then you will win the maximum amount of money.

It is important to note that your original bet will be applied to every single parlay combination when making a round robin bet. In the example above, you essentially made three different two-team parlays at the same time so you will be charged three times your original bet. Once you add in more teams and more combinations, these round robin bets can get extremely expensive to pull off so make sure you double-check how high your total wager is before you complete one.

Prop Bets

Prop bets are strange or unusual bets that are meant to be fun in nature and they are not a normal betting option that you will find on a regular basis. For example, when the Super Bowl rolls around you can bet on random occurrences such as which company will be featured on the first commercial or what color of Gatorade will be dumped on the winning coach’s head.

You will usually find a wider variety of prop bets to make when betting in online sportsbooks due to the fact that groups such as the Nevada Gaming Commission have decided that exotic prop bets are not allowed. Nonetheless, the brick-and-mortar sportsbooks are slowly catching up to the online books since prop bets are one of the fastest-growing types of bets in the sports betting industry thanks to sportsbooks such as the Westgate in Las Vegas and William Hill.

If Bets

These complex bets are similar to parlay bets because they allow you to bet on multiple games at once. Another similarity is that if you lose the first leg of either a parlay or an if bet then the entire bet is a loss.

However, if bets are different from parlays due to the fact that the result of each bet you place will determine whether the subsequent wagers are actually placed or not. The order in which you place your bets is very important because you will need to win the first leg in order for the second leg to be in play, you will need to win the second in order for the third leg to be in play, and so on.

Another big difference between if bets and parlay bets is that you will not need every single selection to be a winner to receive some money back from an if bet, which makes them slightly safer bets than a parlay. As soon as you win the first wager you are already guaranteed to win some money back and once you win the second leg then you are guaranteed to make some profit off of your bet.

There are many different scenarios that can occur with if bets so we will look at one basic example and examine all of the possible outcomes. Let’s assume that you want to make a simple three-team if bet of $200 that predicts the Saints, Packers, and Bears will all cover the spread for their games, in that order. 

If the Saints win the first game, then you will win your money back (minus the rake), and then the second leg involving the Packers will be activated. If the Saints lose, then your entire bet is a loss no matter what happens in the other games. If the Saints win AND the Packers win, then your third leg involving the Bears will be activated and you will have yet another chance at increasing your profits with no extra risk. If the Saints win and the Packers lose, then your if bet ends right there and the result of the Bears game is irrelevant.

It is important for us to mention that the actual time in which the games start does not matter at all with an if bet. You could make the Monday Night Football game the first leg of your bet if that is the game you are the most confident about and the other games which took place on Sunday will be calculated in afterward if your Monday selection wins. 

Reverse Bets

Reverse bets are similar to an if bet in every way except that the order of your selections will no longer matter. These bets are basically just a combination of all of the possible if bets for the games that you chose to include in the wager. The number of games that you can include in a reverse bet usually ranges from three games to six games.

If you select three games for your reverse bet, you will be charged 6 times your wager for the six different possible if bet combinations. However, if you select the maximum of six different games then you will be charged 30 times your original wager for the 30 different combinations. This makes reverse bets a lot like round robin bets simply because of the fact that they can get very expensive if your original bet is too high. 

The main advantage of making a reverse bet instead of an if bet is that it is not possible to lose a reverse bet from picking the wrong order of selections. This makes reverse bets slightly safer than if bets, which is why the payouts on a winning bet in similar conditions will be slightly lower as well. 

Head-to-Head Bets

These bets are exactly what they sound like since you are simply wagering on one person over another person to finish better in a specific event. Head-to-head bets are very popular in the Nascar and golf markets because the main alternative is to bet on who will be the overall winner in the event, which is very tough to pull off. 

There will usually be a moneyline associated with each player involved in a head-to-head bet as a way to handicap the contest in an effective manner. For example, you could bet on a rookie’s first PGA tournament as a head-to-head bet against Tiger Woods and you would most likely be able to receive at least 5 to 1 odds on your bet. If the rookie simply has a better score than Tiger Woods at the end of the tournament, then you will win your head-to-head bet.