Online bookmakers & betting exchanges

Before you can punt like a pro, you need to learn the basics of internet bookies, bets and jargon.

Sports betting is one of the biggest contributors to the online gambling market. It is also one of the most confusing for newcomers, with lots of obscure lingo and heaps of numbers to contend with. The tricks for becoming a smart sports bettor cannot be learned from any guide – it takes years of experience and a vast repository of knowledge. However, our guide will give you the grounding to develop as a bettor.

Using online bookmakers

The best online bookmakers should offer some or all of the following:

  • Access to lots of betting markets (some sportsbooks cover tens of thousands of markets).
  • Competitive odds (see below).
  • Enhanced bets – special offers on major events, with more favourable odds offered on particular selections.
  • Money-back specials so you can recover money on losses.
  • Filtered tables of all events and selections.
  • In-play betting, i.e. the ability to place bets during events.
  • A significant social media presence with a large betting community.
  • Social media integration to allow punters to place bets via Facebook.

Using an online bookmaker to place bets is very straightforward, as our step-by-step overview will demonstrate:

sports betting create account

Create an account

Most online bookmakers are a subsidiary of larger gambling brands. As ever, you will need to create an account before you can start wagering. For more information about setting up an online casino account, click here.

sports betting bet

Place your bets!

Once you’ve signed up and deposited funds, you can peruse your bookmaker’s event tables and find the event you wish to bet on. Not all bookmakers offer the same betting options, but all lines should be fully displayed.

sports betting ante

Ante post or starting price

You can elect to bet on the odds presently offered by the bookmaker (ante post) or settle for the official starting price, declared at the beginning of the event.

sports betting winnings

Collect your winnings

Once the event is concluded, your winnings will be added to your account according to the agreed-upon odds established between you and the bookmaker.

Betting exchange

When you place a wager at a bookmaker, you are basically betting against a company. However, with a betting exchange, you become the bookmaker. Whenever you make a back a selection, someone else involved in the exchange must take your bet by wagering against the outcome (this is called ‘laying’ the selection).

Essentially, every ‘wager’ represents a binary option where you win or lose a set amount of cash based on one of two outcomes: you cannot play ‘each-way’ bets, for instance. The exchange makes its money off a commission for every ‘contract’ (typically 5%). However, some betting exchanges will lower this commission for loyal customers.

Advantages of betting exchanges include better odds and the ability to cover your back (even make a reliable profit) via matched betting. Limitations include a restricted number of betting options, because exchanges tend to focus on as few markets as possible (in order to preserve liquidity).

Odds

Odds are the bread and butter of sports betting. As you can see in our terminology list below, the odds offered by bookmakers are not ‘true’ odds, but adjusted ‘points’ designed to give the bookmaker an advantage. Odds are expressed as fractions, ratios or decimals and set the dividend paid on successful bets.

Thus, if a bookmaker accepted a straight bet of £10 on a horse to win at odds of 5/1, that selection would pay-out £60 on winning bets (£50 profit, plus your original stake). The real big wins (and losses) come on accumulators, where cash rolls over across multiple events and selections.

Odds comparison websites

Not all bookmakers offer the same odds. Fortunately, there are a number of websites you can use to help determine where you should stake your cash.

Oddschecker.com compares odds from dozens of internet bookmakers, allowing users to decide which brands are offering the most competitive odds on various events.

If you want to bet on an upcoming sporting event, this should be your first port of call before registering with a sports book.

sports betting market reports

In-play

In-play markets are a relatively new innovation by some online sportsbooks. As you might expect, in-play allows punters bets while events are on-going (although, be warned, such bets usually have a fairly low value).

A handful of companies have even fully integrated their in-play markets with social media, allowing gamblers to wager via social accounts.

Betting terminology

One of the biggest hurdles for novice sports-bettors is the slang. Part of the difficulty is that betting jargon is sometimes nationally, even regionally specific. However, the following terms are pretty universal and feature prominently in land-based and online bookmakers.

General terminology

Accumulator: making multiple simultaneous bets on two or more events, with winnings from the one event carrying over to the next.
Action: any kind of bet or wager that is accepted by the bookmaker.
All-in: where there are no refunds if competitors are withdrawn from an event.
Ante post/early price: the odds on selections for future events.
Banker: the favourite to win. In permutation bets the banker must win for the punter to receive returns.
Bookmaker/bookie/sportsbook (primarily US): a person or company licensed to set odds and accept bets on sporting events.
Buy price: in spread or index betting, this is the highest figure quoted.
Circled game: an event where the maximum bet is limited, usually due to doubts about uncontrollable factors like weather and injury.
Combination bet: when any number of competitors is selected to finish first and second in either order.
Correlated parlay: two bets that are directly tied to one another. For instance, betting that a team will be ahead at half time and also go on to win.
Dividend: the agreed pay-out on a wager.
Each way (primarily UK): a bet for a team/competitor/horse to win OR ‘place’ (get in the top three).
Even money: a 1/1 bet that pays exactly double the initial bet, so an even money wager of £1 would pay £2 on a win.
Event: a sporting event on which bookmakers accept wagers.
Favourite: the competitor that is expected to win.
Fixed odds: where the dividend is fixed at the odds quoted at the time a bet is made.
Juice: the bookmaker’s commission on bets.
Long odds: bets with a low probability of success are described as having ‘long odds’ (usually poorer than 10/1).
Odds (also called lines): a competitor’s probability of winning, according to the bookmaker; expressed as ‘points’ in the form of a fraction, ratio or decimal (e.g. 5:1, 5/1, 6.00.) Odds also determine the punter’s dividend. For instance, a 10/1 bet of £1 would pay £11.
Points spread: a handicap on the favourite. Points are set by the bookmaker to level the odds between favourites and underdogs. If the favourite in a soccer match is favoured by 10 points over the underdog, the favourite must win by 11 points or more for bets to pay out.
Permutations: when a punter makes three selections, they can ‘perm’ possible doubles, meaning they win more cash if any pairs of bets are successful.
Picks/tips: the experts’ choice for winning competitors.
Selection: a competitor: team, athlete, horse etc.
Spread betting: a bet where the pay-off is determined by accuracy rather than a binary ‘win or lose’ outcome. Assume a punter took out a spread bet on the underdog. If the favourite’s point spread is 5 and the final score is underdog: 5, favourite 9, then the final outcome is 5 + 5 > 9 so the punter would win.
Starting price: the final dividend declared by the bookmaker after an event concludes.
True odds: the ‘actual’ odds of a particular outcome, as opposed to the bookmaker’s adjusted odds that ensure a profit margin.
Win only / Straight out: a bet on a competitor to win.

Types of bets

Singles: a bet on one selection in one event.
Doubles: a bet on two selections in different events. Both must be successful for a return.
Trebles: a bet on three selections in different events. All must be successful for a return.
Four-fold accumulator: one bet on four selections in different events. All must be successful for a return.
Five-fold accumulator: a bet on five selections in different events. All must be successful for a return.
Six-fold accumulator: a bet on six selections in different events. All must be successful for a return.
Seven-fold accumulator: a bet on seven selections in different events. All must be successful for a return.
Eight-fold accumulator: a bet on eight selections in different events. All must be successful for a return.
Nine-fold accumulator: a bet on nine selections in different events. All must be successful for a return.
Ten-fold accumulator: a bet on ten selections in different events. All must be successful for a return.
Trixie: a four bets on three selections in different events. A minimum of two selections must be successful for a return.
Patent: seven bets on three selections in different events. One successful selection guarantees a return.
Yankee: 11 bets on four selections in different events. A minimum of two selections must be successful for a return.
Lucky 15: 15 bets on four selections in different events. If one selection wins, returns are paid at double the odds. If all four selections win, 10% is added to total returns. For the bonus to apply, all selections must win. Lucky 15 bets are offered on horse racing and greyhounds only.
Canadian: 26 bets on five selections in different events. A minimum of two selections must be successful for a return.
Lucky 31: 31 bets on five selections in different events. If only one selection wins, returns are paid double the odds. If all five selections win, a bonus of 15% is added. For the bonus to apply, all selections must win. Lucky 31 bets are offered on horse racing and greyhounds only.
Heinz: 57 bets on six selections in different events. A minimum of two selections must be successful for a return.
Lucky 63: 63 bets on six selections in different events. If one selection wins, returns are paid at double the odds. If all six selections win, a bonus of 20% is added. For the bonus to apply, all selections must win. Lucky 63 bets are offered on horse racing and greyhounds only.
Super Heinz: 120 bets on seven selections in different events. A minimum of two selections must be successful for a return.
Goliath: 247 bets on eight selections in different events. A minimum of two selections must be successful for a return.
Forecasts: when the punter predicts the first and second place result in a horse or greyhound race.
Straight forecast: a bet on two selections finishing in first and second in the order named. A straight forecast dividend is declared based on the starting prices of all the horses in a race.
Reserved forecast: a bet on two selections finishing first and second in any order.
Straight forecast doubles: staked in the same way as ordinary doubles. The only difference is that you make two selections per race.
Straight forecast trebles: staked in the same way as ordinary trebles. The only difference is that you make two selections per race.
Reversed forecast doubles: four individual doubles.
Reversed forecast trebles: eight individual trebles.
Combination forecasts: three or more selections in a race, with any two to finish first and second in any order.
Combination forecast doubles and trebles: to win this bet type, you must have included the first two finishers in two races for doubles or three races for trebles.
Straight tricasts: three selections in a race finishing first, second and third in the order named (horses only).
Combination tricasts: three or more selections in a race finishing first, second and third in any order (horses only).

The right sports books

Now that you know your antes from your accumulators, it’s time to sign up at one of our top sportsbooks and get into the action.

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