Alternative Types of Sports Wagers – Beyond Basic Betting

Guide to Easy Alternative Sport Bets: Spreads, Totals and Prop Bets

Guide to Easy Alternative Sports Bets – Spreads, Totals and Prop BetsSports betting is one of the most common gambling mechanisms in the world. Whether it’s a friendly bet between friends, an online wager with your favorite sportsbook, or laying odds at the local casino—putting action on an upcoming sporting event certainly increases the entertainment level of watching the game.

Previously, in our introduction to sports betting for beginners, we covered the most basic wager of all—the straight up bet. This is a simple wager for one athlete or team to win over the other. Today, we’ll get a little more involved, covering a few intermediate types of sports wagers.

Easy Alternative Sports Bets

There are nearly as many ways to bet on sports as there are types of sports to bet on. That’s a high number, let me tell you. We won’t get into the more complex wagering methods just yet, though. Some easy alternatives to the straight-up betting include point spreads, totals (a.k.a. over/unders), and prop bets.

Betting on Point Spreads

Point spread betting is extremely easy, once you become familiar with the semantics. It’s all about calculating the probable difference between how much one team scores, versus their opponents score. Point spreads are very similar to straight up bets, except that instead of picking one team to win, you’re picking a range of how many points a team will win or lose by.

The bookmaker will set the spread, and the payout is always even money. For example, let’s say the Toronto Raptors are playing the Boston Celtics. The spread might look like this:

Toronto Raptors -8

Boston Celtics +8

This means the bookmaker believes the Toronto Raptors will win by 8 points. Therefore they’ve deducted 8 points from their total score. The Celtics are the underdog, and have been given +8 points.

If you choose to bet on the Raptors, they must win by more than 8 points in order for your wager to pay out. If the Raptors lose, or win by 7 points or less, the bet is lost.

If you pick the Celtics, they must either win, or lose by less than 8 points in order for you to win the bet. If the Raptors lose by 8 or more points, you lose the bet.

Should the game end directly on the points spread—meaning the Raptors win by exactly 8 points—it’s a tie. All player bets are lost; the bookmaker wins everything.

Betting on Totals (Over/Unders)

Totals, or Over/Unders as some call them, are similar to point spreads. However, you’re not betting on a team to win/lose by a certain range of points. Instead, you’re betting that the total score between both contenders will be higher or lower—over or under—the total score estimated by the bookmaker.

Let’s say the projected total score for a football game is 42.

If you bet Over, you’re betting that the two teams combined will score a total of 43 or more points. If so, you win. But if the score is 42 or below, you lose.

If you bet Under, you’re wagering that the total score will be 41 or less. If so, you win. But if the score is 42+, you lose.

Again, if the score is exactly 42, the bookmaker claims all bets.

Prop Bets and Specials

Prop bets, short for proposition bets (a.k.a. Specials), are very different from straight up bets. It has nothing to do with winners and losers, or who scores the most. These are extremely easy sports bets on whether some particular event will occur during the game.

Some examples of common prop bets in football include:

  • Which team will win coin toss
  • First team to score
  • First player to score
  • First score will be a touchdown
  • First score will be a field goal
  • Team who scores first will win
  • [Player Name] will score a touchdown
  • Special teams will score touchdown
  • [Player Name] will fumble

These and other prop bets can be applied to all types of sports, in many different ways. The payouts will be determined by the bookmaker, based on the likelihood of the event occurring.

Once you’re familiar with some of these easier alternative sports bets, why not explore some of the more complex wagering options? See our follow-up tutorial, Advanced Sports Betting Tactics, dealing with futures, parlays, teasers and pleasers. You can also learn about special types of parlay wagers in our segment on Understanding If Bets and Reverse Bets.

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