Types of Bets and Wagers

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Most Common for US sports

Let’s use this extract from a live NHL game from Points Bet to explain the 3 most common forms of US bets or wagers, which are used in our best sports betting picks service.

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This is the ‘line’ that the bookies (Sportsbook) think most probably represents a 50/50 bet. In the box above, the New York Rangers are already losing by 2.0. So the line is +2.5, meaning if they lose by 2 or less, you would win your bet. Conversely, Tampa Bay are -2.5, so they must win by 3 scores or more for you to win this bet. The odds on a spread bet should be fairly close to the standard -110 if the spread is fair. (See odds explanation here).  The spread has different terms such as the Puck Line in hockey, the Run Line in baseball, etc. The objective is the same. It is the expected goal difference between the 2 teams to allow for an almost 50/50 bet. The Best Betting site will always have spreads included.

Total or Over/Under

This is the ‘line’ at which the expected goals scored is set.  In the example above, it is 4.5.  Again, this is usually a 50/50 bet with odds close to -110. So, if you think more goals are likely, you bet on the ‘over’. In this case, you win the bet if the final total is 5 (or higher). You lose if it is 4 (or lower). You will win on 4 goals if you bet on the ‘under’


This is the ‘straight bet’ with no spread or complications. The favorite will have low odds and the underdog higher odds. In the example above, with the New York Rangers already down by 2, you can win over 8 times your bet if they come back to win.  Conversely, there is no point in betting on the Lightning to win at -2587. These odds are ridiculously low. On $100 you would lose all if they lose and only win less than $4 if they win. Needless to say, this would not represent one of our best sports betting picks.


As it says, a bet on a future event, e.g. the winner of the Stanley Cup or the next World Cup.  This is to distinguish them from ‘tonight’s games which dominate the betting screens on most Sportsbooks (for easy access).

More Complicated Types of Wagers/Bets in our best sports betting picks service


Parlays or Accumulators (Accas)or combos.  This is a very popular form of bet which combines different single or straight bets (i.e. one of the 3 above) into 1 connected bet. All legs of the bet must win in order for you to win. These bets have the characteristics of a ‘lotto ticket’, i.e. high risk for high reward.  However, tempting as they are (and popular) they are generally a poor form of betting.  The bettor only sees the upside of a mega-win, but the reality is that only one leg needs fail to lose all. Therefore, it is not surprising to see the larger Sportsbooks (such as Fan Duel) promoting them.

The most recent trend is same-game parlays so that you can combine straight bets from the same game. This is an option that many other leading Sportsbooks are introducing. If a website wishes to be the best betting site, it should avoid the temptation of overly pushing parlay betting. This goes against what is most popular with especially younger bettors. However, it would not be consistent with wishing to give the best sports betting picks to strongly advocate parlays as a dominant betting strategy.

Round Robins

This is another version of Parlays where you select a number of straight bets and then options to combine them in different ways. The sportsbooks normally provide these after the bets are selected in your bet slip.  As an example, if you selected 3 single bets, let’s say on teams A, B and C to win, you could have 3 2-leg options (A&B, A&C, B&C) and one 3-way option (=the same as a parlay).


This is a unique form of betting developed by Points Bet.  This takes normal single bets but leverages returns for the goals scored.  In the straight Over of 4.5. from the box above, it does not matter to the bet outcome if the end result is 5 or 6 goals. However, if you were pointsbetting, it would matter as your returns would double for every score in excess of the line.  Conversely, if you are wrong and the total ends up 2 under the line, your losses double. 

You need to have enough funds in your account to cover the maximum potential loss as set by Points Bet.  An option is sometimes provided to limit the losses that can occur. This will also limit the upside by the same proportion. Leveraged betting, like parlays, is much riskier, so you need to pick games or lines where you believe the upside is a good bit more than the downside, to make sensible use of Pointsbetting.

In-Play or live bets

As it says, this is any form of bet made once the game has started.  This is the fastest growing part of sports betting as the enjoyment of combining live bets while watching the action is the highest.  All the Sportsbooks now offer them as standard, though service levels while placing a bet can be frustrating sometimes. The lines keep changing during the game, making it difficult to place the bet in time before the line moves again. In-Play betting can be very profitable, as the emotional overreaction to what happens on the pitch changes the odds too much. You can see good examples in our article on whether can betting be profitable.


Another form of betting that is growing at a fast pace.  Prop bets mean any form of specialist bets such as the following-

-Player bets such as baskets scored, assists, rebounds, turnovers, etc in basketball

-Half or Quarter or period bets, or 1st 5 innings in baseball

-Any other form of unique bets such as top American at a golf major


Most common in football, it is a form of parlay where the sportsbook allows you to adjust the spread in your favor but gives you lower odds.  This can be a more ‘sensible’ way to play parlays, to maximize your chances of winning by adjusting the spread in your favor.

Each-Way betting

Very common around the world, but not yet in the USA, is the concept of combining a winning bet with a place bet.  This is most useful in events with large fields such as horse racing and golf. The more places the sportsbook offers the better.  Typically, a quarter of the winning stake is paid out if your runner is placed (places range from top 3 to 7 in large events).  This type of bet can be replicated in the US by halving your bet stake and placing it on the win outright market, with the other half being placed on a Top 5 or Top 10 market. It is unfortunate that each-way bets should form part of any best sports betting picks, yet they are hard to access in the USA.