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22.06.2023, 11:22
27.05.2024, 04:26

How Does Sports Betting Work?

In sports, wagering and punting more broadly discussions inevitably orbit around the concept of odds. For newcomers stepping into this milieu, odds denote the likelihood of a specific outcome.

Renowned sportsbooks in Nigeria usually have a preference for American odds. They use positive (+) odds to delineate the potential earnings from a successful ₦100 wager and negative (-) odds to demonstrate the requisite investment to amass a ₦100 win.

Example 1

For instance, if Manchester United are assigned +700 odds to claim the Premier League title, a ₦100 stake could yield a ₦700 return should they clinch the crown. Conversely, backing Real Madrid at -150 odds to triumph over Barcelona would necessitate a ₦150 wager to earn a ₦100 profit.

It's crucial to understand that positive and negative odds scale in relation to your stake; the ₦100 bet is merely used for simplicity to demonstrate how American odds function. Therefore, a ₦20 punt on Manchester United to win the Premier League could earn you ₦140 (with the odds at +700, your ₦20 stake is multiplied by 7). And if you aimed to earn ₦20 from the Real Madrid bet, you would need to wager ₦30 (since the odds are -150, your ₦20 wager is multiplied by 1.5).

Odds accompanied by a negative symbol also denote the "favourite"—the team that sportsbooks deem the most likely victor (assuming the involvement of positive odds, known as the "underdog," on the opposing side).

Example 2

The odds of Manchester City at -220 to defeat Liverpool (+190) suggest that Manchester City are the favourite in this matchup, with Liverpool deemed the underdogs.

In scenarios where multiple teams/players exhibit a "+" before the number, the more petite figure indicates the favourite, while the more prominent figure represents the underdog.

For example, in international football, the odds for the 2026 Men's World Cup show France at +350, Belgium at +500, Wales at +550, Spain and Italy (both at +600), and so forth. France, with the smallest number, is therefore seen as the favourite.

On the other hand, when multiple teams/players have a "-" preceding the odds, the more significant number designates the favourite.

To illustrate: In La Liga, Barcelona are -150 to secure the title, while Real Madrid is -120. Since Barcelona has the most significant number, they are considered the league's favourites.

Sports betting has never been as accessible as now, but there remains a learning curve for those who haven't mastered the nuances of the various betting types. Below, we explain extensively the most popular betting types, supported by real-world examples.

Straight Bets

A straight bet is the predominant form of sports wager. Often labelled as a "single bet," a straight bet essentially involves staking on the outcome of a solitary match or event.

  • Example #1: Liverpool are squaring off against Manchester City in a Premier League clash. You're confident that Liverpool will emerge victorious over City, hence you place a straight bet on Liverpool.
  • Example #2: UFC heavyweight champion Jon Jones is stepping into the ring against challenger Israel Adesanya. You're convinced Jones will retain his title, and thus, you place a straight bet on the reigning champ.

Spread Bets

The most effective way to comprehend spread bets is to relate them to victory margins. A spread bet involves either "handing out" or "receiving" a particular number of points/goals. This number, determined by the sportsbook, mirrors the anticipated margin of victory.

Punters have to decide whether they will "take" the spread (which entails betting on the underdog) or "give" the spread (which implies betting on the favourite).

  • Example: Chelsea (-2.5) vs Arsenal (+2.5). If you believe Chelsea will triumph by at least three goals, you will give (or "lay") 2.5 goals. If you fancy Arsenal's chances to either win the match or lose by 2 goals or fewer, you will take the 2.5 goals.

All point spreads are coupled with odds; more often than not, those odds stand at -110 for both teams. As elucidated above in the "How do the odds work" segment, this indicates that if you wish to bet on either Chelsea -2.5 goals or Arsenal +2.5 goals, you would have to stake ₦110 for a shot at winning ₦100 (or ₦11 to win ₦10).

Parlay Bets

A parlay constitutes a consolidation of two or more straight wagers into a single bet. Parlays are favoured due to their potential for larger payouts while risking less capital. Consider it akin to a lottery within the realm of sports betting.

The number of legs (bets) in a parlay, along with the odds attached to each, determine the potential winnings for the bettor. Naturally, the more extensive the parlay and the larger the stake, the greater the prospective payoff.

However, it is crucial to remember that parlays, regardless of their size, are challenging to win—and as you augment the number of legs, the difficulty level escalates exponentially. A single missed leg spells the end for your parlay. To put it plainly, if you go 6-1 on a seven-team parlay, you might as well have gone 0-7.

Here are the two principal types of parlays:

  • Same-match: A parlay assembled with multiple wagers from a single match. 
  • Multi-match: A parlay crafted with bets from several matches. (Note: the legs of a multi-match parlay needn't be from the same sport.)

A third type of parlay, known as a "teaser," is particularly prevalent in football (especially in the Premier League). Similar to a parlay, a teaser comprises two or more teams. The key distinctions: only point spread bets can be included in teasers, and punters have the liberty to shift the point spread by a specified number of points in any direction they prefer.

Consider an example of a four-team, 2-goal Premier League teaser: Manchester United (-1.5) vs. Chelsea Liverpool (-1.5) vs. Arsenal Leicester City (+0.5) vs. Manchester City Everton (+1.5) vs. Tottenham Hotspur

If you select Manchester United, Liverpool, Leicester City, and Everton for your teaser, you can move the point spread 2 goals in your favour. Therefore, the teaser point spreads would be:

  • Manchester United (+0.5) vs. Chelsea 
  • Liverpool (+0.5) vs. Arsenal 
  • Leicester City (+2.5) vs. Manchester City 
  • Everton (+3.5) vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Due to bettors' capacity to adjust the point spreads the payouts on teasers are significantly lower than parlays.

Totals Bets

Totals bets bear considerable resemblance to point spreads. Sometimes known as "Over/Under betting," total bets revolve around the final score of a given match rather than the victor.

In placing a total bet, you're simply predicting whether the two teams' combined score will exceed (Over) or fall short of (Under) the total tally set by the sportsbook.

Example: A match between Manchester United and Chelsea has a total of 2.5. If you believe Manchester United and Chelsea will amass at least 3 goals by the game's conclusion, you will bet on the Over. If you anticipate a tactical standoff culminating in 2 goals or less, you would stake on the Under.

For those keen on delving into Over/Under betting, remember this popular saying about wagering on totals: "It's never Under until it's Over!" This implies that, as long as a game is in progress, there's always a chance of winning your Over bet (or losing your Under bet).

Conversely, if you bet on Manchester United-Chelsea Over 2.5 goals, and the scoreline reads 2-1 at half-time, you've secured a win and needn't worry about the second half.

Futures Bets

Futures bets offer another exciting avenue to engage in sports betting. Rather than staking on a match occurring today or this week, futures bets are exactly as they sound: wagers that will be decided in the future.

Examples encompass betting on a team to win the Premier League; betting on a nation to win the FIFA World Cup; wagering on a golfer to win next year's Open Championship; or placing a bet on a player to win the Ballon d'Or.

Futures bets typically proffer higher odds—and consequently larger potential payouts—than straight bets. The reasoning is straightforward: It's more challenging to predict, for instance, the Premier League victor at the commencement of a season than it is to pick which team will prevail in a random regular-season fixture.

One vital aspect to remember regarding futures bets: The odds are in perpetual flux. For example, just because Manchester United holds +1500 odds to clinch the Premier League title on the first day of the season doesn't imply those odds will remain unaltered for the ensuing several months (in reality, they almost certainly won't).

Injuries, transfers, and underperforming (or overachieving) can sway how a futures market evolves. That said, the odds you secure when you place your wager will remain constant—in other words, if you bet on Manchester United at +1500, those are your odds for the whole season. If the betting market lowers Manchester United to +400 because they're playing excellently, you've placed an astute bet. However, if Manchester United struggle and their odds plummet to +5000, your bet is likely in dire straits.

Astute bettors in the futures market always hunt for the best value. You should do the same. That's why conducting thorough research is vital before putting your money down. After all, why would you bet on Manchester United at +1500 at one sportsbook when another offers odds at +1800?

Prop Bets

Whilst other markets concentrate on the ultimate result of a match or event, proposition bets, or prop bets, pertain to an individual player's performance—or even something that isn't reflected in the scoreline.

One example of a player prop could be wagering on Harry Kane's total goals in a game (Over or Under 1.5 goals).

One instance of a prop bet that bears no connection to the actual proceedings on the pitch would be predicting the colour of the sports drink that douses the coach of the FIFA World Cup-winning team.

Here are some of the more prevalent types of prop bets:

Player prop: Pertains to a singular player's performance, such as the total number of goals scored in a football match, tries in a rugby game, or runs in a cricket match.

Game prop: Pertains to a single match, like selecting which player will score the first goal in a Premier League match or which team will finish with more corners in a football game.

Novelty prop: Usually reserved for substantial events—predominantly, the FIFA World Cup—novelty props can range from the duration of the national anthem to the first song that the halftime performer will present.


How do I place a sports bet?

Register an account with a licensed sportsbook or online betting platform to place a sports bet. Once registered, you can browse the available sports and select the event or game you wish to bet. Choose the type of bet you want to place, enter the stake (the amount you want to wager), and confirm your bet.

What types of bets can I place in sports betting?

There are various types of bets you can place in sports betting, including moneyline bets (picking the winner of a game), point spread bets (betting on the margin of victory), over/under bets (predicting whether the total score will be above or below a specific number), prop bets (betting on specific player or team performances), and futures bets (betting on the outcome of a tournament or season).

How are odds determined in sports betting?

Odds are determined by the sportsbook based on various factors such as team form, player injuries, historical performance, and betting trends. The odds represent the sportsbook's assessment of the likelihood of a particular outcome. They determine the potential payout if your bet is successful.

What do the plus and minus signs (+/-) mean in odds?

The plus and minus signs in odds indicate the potential profit relative to a ₦100 bet. Negative (-) odds indicate the amount you need to bet to win ₦100, while favourable (+) odds indicate the potential profit on a ₦100 bet. For example, -150 means you need to bet ₦150 to win ₦100, while +200 means you can win ₦200 with a ₦100 bet.

Can I bet on various sports in sports betting?

Yes, sports betting covers many sports, including football, basketball, baseball, soccer, tennis, golf, boxing, and many others. You can bet on the sports that interest you or where you have the most knowledge.

Is it legal to engage in sports betting?

The legality of sports betting varies depending on your jurisdiction. It's essential to familiarise yourself with the laws and regulations specific to your location. Sports betting is fully legal and regulated in some regions, while in others, it may be restricted or only permitted through authorised operators.

What should I consider when participating in sports betting?

It's essential to consider factors such as team or player performance, injuries, weather conditions, head-to-head records, and any other relevant information that may impact the outcome of a sporting event. Additionally, setting a budget is crucial, practising responsible gambling and avoiding chasing losses.


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