Online Sports Betting Beginner’s Guide: Wager Types

A basic, fundamental guide for new sports bettors who desire to learn more about the different types of wagers available in the legal Tennessee online sports betting market.

The Tennessee online sports betting market has quickly become a successful mix of state-regulated mobile sportsbooks apps that service patrons aged 21 and over who are physically located within the Volunteer State.

Each day, online sportsbooks in Tennessee accept thousands of real money wagers that range from basic “which team will win” bets to  micro-stakes live betting predictions on “who will win a point.” Seasoned sports bettors are extremely familiar with the different types of wagers available in the legal U.S. statewide sports betting market, but learning about this topic can be intimidating for a newcomer.

For this reason, the following guide is aimed at new sports bettors in Tennessee who do not have extensive experience or knowledge about wager types and are interested in placing real money wagers online.

NOTE: Although this Guide mainly focuses on mobile betting due to the Tennessee sports betting market, the concepts and ideas expressed below can also be applied to sports betting “wager types” that are available throughout the state-regulated marketplace within the United State.

“Even Odds” Or “Coin Toss” Bets

To get started, let’s take a look at the most common type of wager that casual sports fans will likely be most familiar with – an “even odds” or “coin toss” bet.

In rudimentary terms, let’s consider a “Coin Toss” for the Super Bowl, with two options available: “Heads” or “Tails.”

As a casual bettor, you will likely recognize the fundamental mechanics of a 50/50 bet whereas one individual chooses one of the two evenly-matched options and risks real money with an understanding that the chances of winning or losing the bet are exactly fifty percent.

So, in theory, if you wager $100 on “Heads” and you win, the bettor might expect to receive a $100 payout along with the return of the original $100 that was wagered. And if the coin lands on “Tails,” the bettor would expect to lose the bet, and therefore the original $100 wagered on the 50/50 outcome.

However, in the sports betting business, even fifty-fifty wagers are not quite so simple. 

Due to a legal mobile sportsbook app’s overhead (which may include assets such as software, acquired licenses, human infrastructure, and payment processing mechanisms), it simply would not be a prudent business decision to pay out “100 percent” on a true Even Odds wager such as a coin toss. Property costs and corresponding taxes will also be a consideration for overhead for a “retail” (aka “land-based”) sportsbook as well as any office space occupied by personnel employed by a mobile sportsbook app.

If that were the case, a sportsbook would hypothetically receive $100 each from two separate bettors (one wagering on “Heads” and the other on “Tails”), then payout the winner a full $100 win. This would essentially result in a sports betting company temporarily retaining (and being responsible for) monetary funds that would eventually be guaranteed to simply exchange hands – with no margin for profit for the business entity to justify its overhead costs.

So this is where a sports betting customer may see a “line” or some form of “odds” on a coin flip wager. “Heads” and “Tails” may both be listed – for example – as a “-115” wager when a customer places such a bet online.

So what does this “-115” line (or “odds”) mean?

Basically, it means that a customer would need to wager a total of $115 on the outcome in order to receive a payout of $100.

And while such a line does not represent a true “fifty-fifty, even odds” opportunity for the customer, the “-115” line does ensure that the sports betting business is able to turn a profit if, in theory, that company manages to organically accept bets totaling an equal amount of funds on each of the two potential outcomes. 

If the company hypothetically accepts one $115 wager on “Heads” and another $115 wager on “Tails,” the business that is booking the action would temporarily be responsible for retaining (or “handling”) a total of $230 – but would return a total of $215 (the original $115 wager plus $100) to the winner.

Therefore, the company would turn a total profit (or “hold”) of fifteen dollars. Or roughly 6.5% of the original $230 that was entrusted to it through legal, real money wagering.

Of course, this does not mean that a mobile sportsbook app will – as a natural consequence – wind up accepting a precise, equal total amount of wagers on a fifty-fifty wager such as a “Heads” or “Tails” coin toss. But as a (very) rudimentary guide point, such a scenario would theoretically represent a basic, fundamental explanation of how such a wager may be accepted and how sports betting business may turn a profit as a result of the above-detailed real money action.

“Moneyline” Bets

So with that out of the way, let’s get into the next type of wager that sports bettors can legally place online in Tennessee and other select statewide jurisdictions within the United States.

“Moneyline” bets are a consequence of two opponents facing each other, in which one team (or individual) is favored or considered to have an “edge” over the other.

As a very basic example:

Let’s hypothesize that a professional golfer is in a unique, single-hole contest against an amateur who has never hit a golf ball or swung a golf club in his/her lifetime. And let’s assume/suppose that there is one or more clear “incentives” for the professional golfer to play and perform at or very near one’s maximum capability 

In such a contest, a rational sports bettor would (very) likely be motivated to place real money on an outcome in which the professional golfer completes the single course hole in fewer strokes than the amateur, inexperienced opponent. 

But can such a sports bettor reasonably expect a sportsbook to accept a bet for, say, Tiger Woods to win a single hole or “skin” against a noob at even odds? Wouldn’t you, me, and just about anyone else (along with the horse we all “rode in on”) just love a betting spot in which a $100 “investment” on Tiger Woods to win would result in an “Even Odds” or “1:1 Ratio” payout of $100?

This is a fundamental concept of why “Moneyline” bets exist.

Tiger Woods, in this case, may be listed (hypothetically speaking) as a -2000000 favorite… meaning a bettor would need to wager a total of $2,000,000 on the professional golfer to win in order to receive a $100 payout!

And the amateur golfer? Well, perhaps that amateur player, who has practically or a “near-zero” chance of being victorious would be listed as a +1500000 underdog, which would mean that a bettor could risk $100 for a shot at winning a payout of $1.5 million! 

Again, this is a very exaggerated hypothetical example aimed at explaining why “Moneyline” bets exist. They serve as a form of “handicap” for the mobile sportsbook app (as well as the customer) to gauge an equitable line that – in theory – would attract and/or entice action on both sides of an otherwise lopsided anticipated result. 

Of course, not every sports contest offers a public/private perception of such an obvious outcome. Team X may be slightly favored over Team Y, but “upsets” do frequently occur. So a “Moneyline” bet for the favored Team-X at “-150” will mean that, before the contest begins, a bettor can anticipate a $100 payout if Team-X is victorious. Yet Team-Y may be listed at “+130” and award $130 to the bettor for every $100 wagered – forming a betting “handicap” in the process.

Also, due to the business nature of sportsbook businesses, the total payouts likely will not “zero-out,” meaning there is theoretically a “margin” for companies to turn a profit on real money wagers regardless of the final outcome. 

In general, a “minus” or “favorite” line displays the amount the bettor will need to risk in order to receive a payout of $100, while a “plus” or “underdog” line shows the amount a bettor will receive for every $100 risked.

Therefore, if someone wagers $300 on a “-150” favorite and wins the bet, that individual can expect a payout of $200. If someone wagers $200 on a “+150” underdog and wins the bet, then that individual can correspondingly expect a payout of $300.

This brings us to our next wager type…

“Point Spread” Bets

The concept of a “Point Spread” bet is very similar in nature to a “Moneyline” wager in that it aims to provide a “handicap” that will, theoretically, attract a, relatively speaking, an equal amount of real money action from bettors on both sides of a potential outcome.

For an example of a “Point Spread” wager, let’s utilize a “Second Round” NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament (or “March Madness”) game between a #1 seeded team and a #8 seeded team.

Barring some extraordinary set of circumstances, the top-seeded team will be a clear favorite to defeat the #8 seeded team in a “Second Round” NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament matchup. But again… upsets do occur. This is why a “Moneyline” type of wager will be offered on these games. 

However, maybe an individual bettor prefers to place real money action on the outcome of the contest in a manner that gives that person a near “fifty-fifty” shot at winning or losing. Sure, the #1 seeded team will likely be a heavy favorite entering the contest, but what if that top-seeded team had to “spot” the #8 seeded opponent 12 (or 12.5, or however many) points towards the total outcome?

Hence, the possible creation of the bettor’s standby expression of “Good teams win. Great teams cover.” 

A “Point Spread” wager will typically be listed somewhere around “Even Odds” minus the sportsbook’s commission (or profit) margin. 

So, for example,

#1 seeded team at “-12.5 Points” to win “-115”  -OR-

#8 seeded team at “+12.5 Points” to win “-115

In the above betting situation…

If the (#1) seed Team-X wins the game by (#8) seed Team-Y by a final score of 70-57, then the #1 seeded team “covered” the Point Spread bet because they won by a total of 13 points. The bettor who wagered $115 on Team-X to cover in the above example could expect a payout of $100.

However, if the (#8) seed Team-Y happened to make a last-second free throw close to the buzzer and the resulting final score was 70-58 (Team-X still being the victor), then the bettor who wagered $115 on the Team-Y at “+12.5 Points” would correspondingly receive a winning payout of $100, while the other bet on Team-X would be declared (or “graded as”) a loser.

As an aside, decimal points are often added to Point Spread bets (as well as “Totals”) to ensure that the final result does not end in a “tie” or “push.”

So, to answer what might be the reader’s next logical line of questioning…

Are “Point Spread” bets a source/cause for seemingly unmerited fan celebrations when a certain team adds on an otherwise meaningless field goal during a “garbage time” win of 38-14 over an opponent?

Or when a loud roar of random cheers occurs in the stands (or in a retail sportsbook) when a player nets an innocuous, buzzer-beating, “garbage time” layup at the end of the 4th Quarter to make the final score 70-57? As opposed to 68-57?

In short, the answer is: Yes.

And that’s not the only type of wager that will emotionally lift (or upset) sports betting members of a live audience during any given amateur, collegiate, licensed, sanctioned, and/or professional athletic contest.

“Point Totals” & “Over/Under” Bets

By now, a complete beginner to the legal statewide U.S. sports betting market may be able to grasp exactly what “Totals” or “Over/Under” bets are and the specific reason why they form part of just about every sportsbook business.

As with “Point Spread” wagers, “Totals” are typically engineered (through real money action and study) to grant both sides of an O/U bet a near equal chance of winning or losing.

So, in this example, let’s say Team-A is playing Team-B in a basketball game, and there is an “Over/Under” option that you can wager on that sets the line 126.5 Points.

So you might see an invitation to wager -120 (meaning you’ll need a $120 bet to potentially win $100) on the “Over,” and likewise see a -120 line for the “Under.”

As a general rule of thumb, “Over” bets may entice more bettors and real money “action” in the long run due to the fact that an “Over” line is almost always “live” – meaning that it can theoretically be reached at some point throughout the athletic contest unless it’s very late in the game.

The “Under” option – to the contrary – can theoretically be surpassed very early on in a game (especially in sports like football and baseball) if a team starts scoring a massive amount of points or runs. So a bettor may place an “Under” wager on a football game at 50.5 points, only to be out of action (and the owner of a guaranteed losing bet) if the score in that game is 28-24 at halftime. Or if better wagers on the “Under” at 11.5 total runs, and the score in the Top of the 3rd inning in that specific baseball game is already 7-5.

With “Totals” bets, it matters not which team does the scoring. The only metric that matters for the sake of the wager is the cumulative “Total” posted by both teams combined.

“Over” bets have also gradually increased in popularity as major sports leagues implement rules and standards that favor the “offensive” side of the ball. 

If the NFL passes rules that call for more scrutiny on defensive “pass interference” judgments, or relaxes guidelines on what defines an offensive “catch,” then those rules, in turn, may (over time) move the “Over/Under” line to a higher number in most contests.

The same can be said for rules that prohibit defenders in a basketball game from “hand-checking” or Major League Baseball parks with shorter outfield fences (in terms of distance from home plate). These rules promote more scoring, and that leads to higher “Over/Under” lines in general. 

Summary: Basic Guide To Sports Betting “Wager Types”

It is the hope of this author that, upon reading the contents of this article, even the most inexperienced sports bettor will be able to comprehend the basic types of wagers that are available in the legal, state-licensed U.S. sports betting market – including within the state of Tennessee.

Note that this article does not cover other, more complex wager types such as Futures, Propositions, Parlays, Live, or other bets that either (a) require multiple predictions to be fulfilled in order for the bet to win, (b) are dependent on the performance of one or more individuals in a team-based sport, (c) is based on a single, time-sensitive action within a game that requires a very fast internet connection in order to submit, and/or (d) mandate that a licensed sportsbook retain a wager amount for a period of time that extends beyond the conclusion of a single athletic contest. 

If you have read this article, find it helpful as a beginning sports bettor, and would like to sign-up for a new Tennessee Online Sportsbook account, you may do so through TNBets by clicking here.

You can also check out our detailed Tennessee Sports Betting Guide for more information.

Thank you for reading TNBets.