Legal online sportsbooks in the US offer numerous ways to bet on sports but sports betting odds can be confusing to new bettors. Thankfully, it’s a lot easier and more approachable than it looks at first glance, and sports betting apps let you bet as little as one dollar.
The simplest, most time-tested betting methods like moneyline, point spread, totals, and parlays represent just some of the overall betting markets available on mobile sports wagering sites. You also have access to more unique betting options, like futures, in-game, in-play, and prop betting, which offer even more ways to wager for bettors in the US.
US federal law allows individual states to legalize and regulate sports betting. As of January 2021, 14 states legalized online sports wagering, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Illinois, and Michigan.
Types Of Bets Available At Online Sportsbooks
Legal online sportsbooks offer a vast number of different ways to wager on sports. Sports bettors have engaged in point spread and moneyline betting for decades, as these betting types represent some of the most time-honored and simplest ways to bet.
Totals bets (aka over/under bets), another very simple way to bet, task you with predicting the total final score between two teams in a sports contest.
Bettors have also enjoyed parlay wagers throughout the entire history of sports betting. Parlays allow multiple wagers to be placed on the same ticket, with the parlay paying out only if all bets (known as legs) on the ticket win. Parlays can generally involve any combination of different bet types, with winning tickets offering massive potential payouts.
To lesser-known but highly popular (and potentially profitable) bets include futures and live betting, also known as in-game betting.
Futures bets allow wagering on a season-long event, such as what team will win the NHL Stanley Cup, or which player will win the NBA scoring title.
In-game or live betting, usually done specifically through online sportsbooks, is betting after the game has begun. For example, you can bet on who will score the next goal in soccer during the second half.
Learn more in our Guide To Placing A Sports Bet Online.
American Odds: Quick Explainer
We’ll get more into how betting odds are calculated after going over the types of bets themselves.
Thankfully, online sportsbooks allow you to simply type in the amount of the wager to see how much you can win before you lock in the bet. You can also type in the amount you’d like to win, and it will let you know how much you’d need to bet.
But to clarify the examples of the bets, American odds simply represent $100 bets or $100 wins. The plus (+) number is how much you’d win if you bet $100, and the minus (-) number is how much you’d need to bet to win $100.
It seems weird at first, but you’ll get used to it fast. However, online sportsbooks also let you change how you see the odds. Instead of American odds, you might find decimal to be more palatable.
Moneyline bets represent the most straightforward kind of sports wager. This kind of wager tasks the bettor with simply picking the winning team in a sports contest.
Underdog teams pay out at better odds than favorites in a moneyline bet. For example, an NBA moneyline bet offered by DraftKings Sportsbook might look like this:
This line sets the Orlando Magic as the favorite. The -240 odds mean that a $240 wager would net $100 in profit if the Magic win.
The Brooklyn Nets +195 line means a $100 bet yields $195 in profit if the Nets win.
Over/Under, aka totals bets, allow bettors to wager on the total number of points scored in a game. An over/under line looks like this:
|Orlando Magic||Over||+211.5 -112|
|Brooklyn Nets||Under||+211.5 -109|
This line allows bettors to wager on whether the total score of the game will go over, or fall under 211.5 points. The under bet pays slightly better than the over in this example.
Note that both the over and under lines represent a bet on the total score from both teams. The bottom row isn’t offering a bet on the Nets to go under 211.5, for example.
The most popular bets at most sportsbooks are point spread bets. These bets allow the bettor to choose the underdog plus points, or the favorite minus points. Instead of significantly better odds on the underdog, the point spread allows sportsbooks to set the favorite and underdog at relatively even odds.
Here’s the Magic vs. Nets example from above as a point spread bet:
|Orlando Magic||-6 -110|
|Brooklyn Nets||+6 -110|
Bettors can pick favored Orlando with six points deducted from its final point total, or underdog Brooklyn plus six points. Both teams pay -110 odds in this bet, meaning a $110 wager wins $100 in profit.
For example, if you bet $110 on Orlando, and the team wins the game by a 98-91 score, you get $210 back total for a $100 profit. Applying the -6 line to Orlando’s score still positions the team as a 92-91 winner.
A futures bet generally functions as a wager on a season-long event, rather than a single game. An example of a futures bet might be a wager on what team will win the MLB World Series, or what player will win the NFL rushing title.
A futures bet can be made at any time before or during a sports league’s season, up until the specified event occurs.
NBA Finals Futures Bets
|Team||Odds to win the 2020-2021 NBA Championship|
|Los Angeles Lakers||+280|
|Los Angeles Clippers||+550|
These five teams represent some of the favorites to win the championship, but all 30 NBA teams are in the championship hunt and available for betting.
MLB National League MVP Futures Bets
Before the start of the 2021 Major League Baseball season, William Hill set the following lines on what player would win the National League MVP:
|Player Name||Odds To Win The 2020 NL MVP|
|Fernando Tatis Jr.||+1000|
|Ronald Acuna Jr.||+900|
Futures market betting odds change as the season plays on, and the lines can alter drastically as the season comes into focus.
For example, if Mookie Betts leads the National League in multiple offensive categories with a few weeks left in the season, the odds on Betts winning the MVP would become the most likely, which would mean a lower payout.
A prop bet (short for proposition bet) is a wager on an aspect of a game unrelated to which team wins. Examples of prop bets can include what player will lead a basketball game in scoring, or whether the total number of points in the game will end up as an odd or even number.
Super Bowl MVP Prop Bets
The Super Bowl annually brings in the largest number of prop bets of any US-based sports event.
One of the most popular prop bets on the game each year involves predicting the Super Bowl MVP. DraftKings Sportsbook set Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (-106) as the favorite to win the Super Bowl LV MVP while Tom Brady was the second runner up with +210.
If you had placed a $100 bet on Mahomes, it would have lost, as Tom Brady was named 2021 MVP. On the other hand, that same $100 bet on Tom Brady would have paid out $210.
Player Prop Bets
Player prop bets involve wagering on an individual player’s statistics in a particular game. The 2020 NBA Finals, for instance, offered several ways to bet on LeBron James’ statistics for each of the games in the series. You could bet the over/under on his total points and a host of other player props surrounding his performance as well as the performances of his teammates and opponents.
Exotic Prop Bets
Exotic prop bets can be fun but they’re based purely on luck, not statistics. Examples of exotic prop bets include predicting what team wins the Super Bowl coin toss, or the length of the National Anthem before the game.
Super Bowl LV offered numerous exotic prop bets, including a prediction of what color liquid would be poured over the winning coach’s head after the game.
Live In-Game Betting
In-game betting presents one of the most exciting and dynamic ways to wager on sports.
Unlike other types of bets, in-game betting allows for wagering on a game, while it’s being played. In-game betting odds on moneyline, point spread, and prop bets flow dynamically based on what already happened in the game.
For example, a standard NFL point spread bet might look like this before the game starts:
|New England Patriots||-7 -110|
|New York Jets||+7 -110|
If the Patriots take a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, however, a sportsbook could offer an in-game bet with the following line:
|New England Patriots||-10.5 -110|
|New York Jets||+10.5 -110|
With the Patriots holding a touchdown lead, the point spread on the underdog Jets switches from +7 to +10.5. In-game betting odds generally update at each commercial break for a televised sports contest.
In-play betting, a subset of in-game betting, offers an even more dynamic betting experience, with odds changing every few seconds during live play.
In-game and in-play bets are offered as time-sensitive bets, which must be made within a certain time frame for the bettor to get the advertised odds.
Where Can I Bet On Sports Online?
FanDuel Sportsbook, much like DraftKings Sportsbook, represents one of the most popular legal sports betting brands in the US. Bonus offers for new players at FanDuel Sportsbook include a risk-free bet of up to $1,000.
Get your exclusive DraftKings Sportsbook bonus offer for new players. Deposit $5 or more to receive a $50 free bet. That’s like a 1,000% deposit match credited as a free bet, which is one of the most generous online sports betting welcome bonuses.
Then new players can receive a 20% deposit match up to $1,000 with the standard welcome bonus offer. If you plan on betting at DraftKings Sportsbook for the long term, then you’ll probably benefit from opting into both offers. Terms and conditions apply.
William Hill started in Europe but has since become one of the most successful and accessible online sportsbooks in the US. This is also the only sportsbook in our list of the top choices that’s available in Nevada, home to Las Vegas and Reno.
New players at William Hill can receive a risk-free bet between $300 and $2,021 depending on the state.
William Hill is available in Nevada, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, New Jersey, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C. (within two blocks of Capital One Arena).
BetRivers Sportsbook originally launched in Pennsylvania, as a product of parent company Rush Street Interactive. The BetRivers platform now operates in nine states, including Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, and Virginia. They’re also available in New Jersey and Pennsylvania under the SugarHouse name.
New player bonuses at BetRivers include a 100% deposit match bonus up to $250, with only a 1x playthrough requirement, the best in the industry.
PointsBet offers a unique style of wagering known as “PointsBetting,” a form of totals betting involving multipliers. You can learn more on the PointsBet website, but the number of points “over” or “under” the sportsbook’s points total is the multiplier, which applies to your winnings or your losing wager.
This means you can maximize your payout, but it also means you risk multiplying your losing wager. It’s risky, but it can be rewarding.
PointsBet offers new players two risk-free bets up to $2,000. You can place a risk-free fixed-odds bet up to $500 as well as a PointsBetting wager up to $1,500.
PointsBet is currently available in six states: Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and New Jersey.
How Odds Differ Across Legal Online Sportsbooks
Sports betting odds and lines for the same game often vary from one online sportsbook to another. Smart bettors own accounts at multiple online sportsbooks and shop for the most favorable lines.
For example, here’s a look at the futures odds for the 2021 NBA Championship mid-season, compared across five different legal online sportsbooks:
|LA Lakers||Brooklyn Nets||LA Clippers||MIL Bucks||Utah Jazz||PHL 76ers|
A bettor looking to bet on the Utah Jazz or the Philadelphia 76ers to win the championship would find enormous value by line shopping. The odds on both teams at FanDuel Sportsbook and William Hill offer significantly better odds versus other sites, while PointsBet has great odds on the 76ers but not on the Jazz.
How Sports Betting Odds Are Calculated
Moneyline bets simply establish a favorite and an underdog for a game. Bettors choose which team they think will win, straight up, with no point spread.
Underdogs pay at better odds than favorites. To calculate the potential payouts of a moneyline bet, you must understand what the odds notations mean.
Here’s another look at the NBA moneyline example from above:
Moneyline betting odds with a “+” notation are relatively simple to calculate. The +195 line on the Nets means a $100 wager would net $195 in profit. In other words, the $100 bet would return a total of $295 (the $195 in profit and the original $100 bet).
Another way to calculate “+” moneyline odds is to divide the odds number by 100. Using this method, the +195 odds convert to 1.95.
Multiplying this decimal number by the amount of the bet yields the total profit amount. A $50 bet on +195 odds yields $97.50 in profit ($50 x 1.95).
Calculating “-“ odds on the moneyline is a little trickier. The -240 line for the Orlando Magic means you would have to bet $240 to win a $100 profit.
For “-“ odds, you must divide 100 by the moneyline odds number. For a -240 line, dividing 100 by 240 yields 0.416.
Multiplying your bet amount by 0.416 yields the total profit of the bet. A $50 bet, for instance, comes out to $20.80 in profit ($50 x 0.416). A $50 wager on the Magic, if it won, would result in the sportsbooks returning $70.80 to you ($20.80 profit plus the original $50 bet).
Point Spread Bets
A point spread bet adds points to the underdog’s score and subtracts that same amount of points from the other. Adding the point spread allows the sportsbook to put relatively even odds on the favorite and underdog.
The point spread variant of the Orlando vs Brooklyn NBA game looks like this:
|Orlando Magic||-6 -110|
|Brooklyn Nets||+6 -110|
Bettors can choose the Magic with six points taken off their final score, or the Nets with six points added to their final score. Both choices pay the same -110 odds.
Bettors on Orlando wins if the Magic win by seven points or more. If Orlando wins by exactly six points, the bet is a push, and the wager is returned to the bettor.
If Orlando wins by five points or less, or if the Nets win the game outright, Brooklyn bettors win this point spread bet. For instance, if Orlando wins the game 98-94, the Nets +6 bet wins.
Over/under bets, aka totals bets, allow for wagering on the total combined score of a game. Bettors can wager that the game total will end either over or under a line set by the sportsbook.
Like point spread bets, the over and under options generally pay relatively even odds. For example:
|Orlando Magic||Over||+211.5 -112|
|Brooklyn Nets||Under||+211.5 -109|
The sportsbooks set the total at 211.5 for this game. If the total goes over 211.5, the over bet wins at -112 odds. If the game score total finished under 211.5, the under bet wins at -109 payout odds.
If the Nets win the game by a score of 100-98, for example, the total for the game is 198. This total is under the 211.5 line, and therefore the under bet is the winner.
Moneyline, point spread, and totals bets use the same notations seen above across all sports. The betting types are offered for virtually every NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB contest.
What Affects Sports Betting Odds Throughout A Season?
Each sportsbook employs its own linemakers (aka oddsmakers), and these expert analysts set the lines and odds for games. An algorithm determines the lines for certain kinds of in-play bets, as those lines rapidly change throughout a game.
Linemakers consider every imaginable factor when setting a game line, including lines set at other sportsbooks. Lines on a game can change considerably after they’re posted, as injuries, weather, lineup changes, and other factors influence the game.
NFL teams, for example, play just one game per week. The opening line on an NFL game could drastically change by kickoff time.
For instance, the Kansas City Chiefs could be listed as a 10-point favorite over the Los Angeles Chargers for an upcoming Sunday game. If Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes suffers an injury in Wednesday’s team practice, however, that 10-point line will drop, as it’s now unclear whether Mahomes will even play.
Linemakers will adjust point spreads and odds from game to game based on how teams are trending in recent contests. For example, the Milwaukee Bucks could stand as a strong pick to win the NBA title, prompting linemakers to set the Bucks as a big favorite in every game.
If the Bucks lose a few games in a row, however, linemakers will adjust accordingly, considering Milwaukee’s recent performances.
Sports Betting Odds For Professional Leagues
The NFL stands as the most-watched professional sports league in the US. Point spread betting on NFL games represents one of the most popular ways to bet on any sport in the US.
The NFL plays its regular season and playoff games in a weekly format. The 32 NFL teams play one game per week in the regular season, with 14 teams advancing to the playoffs.
Here’s a look at what an NFL bet for Week 1 of the 2020-21 regular season looked like at FanDuel Sportsbook:
|Week 1||Point Spread||Moneyline||Total|
|Houston Texans||+9.5 -105||+350||O 54.5 -110|
|Kansas City Chiefs||-9.5 -115||-460||U 54.5 -110|
Note that the “Total” column displays the over/under line for the combined final score. The “O 54.5” bet isn’t a bet on the Texans, even though it’s the same row as the point spread and moneyline options for the Texans.
The NFL season culminates in the Super Bowl, which brings in more bets than any other sporting event in the world, except for the World Cup. FanDuel Sportsbook, DraftKings Sportsbook, William Hill, PointsBet, BetRivers, and all other legal online sports betting platforms offer numerous ways to bet on the Super Bowl.
These betting options include exotic prop bets, such as betting on the color of Gatorade dumped on the winning head coach after the game. The Super Bowl produces many different prop bets not seen in any other sports event.
Much like the NFL, the NBA functions as one of the most popular sports in the US. Ways to bet on the NBA regular season and playoffs are also similar to the NFL setup.
The NBA’s 30 teams play 82 regular-season games. Of those 30, 16 teams advance to the playoffs, with teams facing off in the best 4-of-7 series until a champion is crowned.
With that many games on the schedule, betting opportunities abound for the NBA. Here’s a look at how an NBA bet is displayed at FanDuel Sportsbook:
|Los Angeles Clippers||+1 -105||-108||O 218.5 -110|
|Los Angeles Lakers||-1 -115||-108||U 218.5 -110|
The linemakers at FanDuel set this game as almost dead even between the Clippers and Lakers. Note that the moneyline odds on both teams are identical, and there isn’t a favorite or an underdog on the moneyline for this game.
All legal online sportsbooks offer NBA betting throughout the regular season and playoffs, all the way through the NBA Finals. Special bets on the NBA Finals allow bettors to predict what player will win the NBA Finals MVP, what player will be the first to be ejected in a given game and many more.
Major League Baseball Odds
The numbers for MLB single-game betting look a little bit different, as baseball by nature is a lower-scoring game than its NBA and NFL counterparts. The odds and lines work the same, however.
A typical MLB game setup at FanDuel Sportsbook looks like this:
|New York Yankees|
|-1.5 +138||-130||O 7.5 +100|
|+1.5 -162||+114||U 7.5 -122|
The names under the teams (G. Cole and M. Scherzer) are the names of the starting pitchers for this particular game. MLB teams generally use a rotating cast of 4-5 starting pitchers, with each pitcher starting around 30 games throughout the 162-game MLB season. If the expected pitchers don’t start the game, then the bets are refunded by the sportsbook. On these rare occasions, you can usually still do in-game live betting.
The MLB season culminates in the World Series, where the National League champion meets the American League winner in a best 4-of-7 series. Prop bets on the World Series include over/under lines on the number of strikeouts from a particular pitcher, odds on a certain player hitting a home run, and many others.
The betting setup for an NHL game looks similar to an MLB contest. Like MLB, NHL games tend to be low-scoring contests, and as such point spreads typically linger around 1.5. Anything higher than that represents a pretty massive spread in an NHL game.
Here’s a look at the setup for an NHL game at FanDuel Sportsbook:
|New York Rangers||+1.5 -250||+110||O 5.5 -125|
|Carolina Hurricanes||-1.5 +210||-130||U 5.5 +105|
Like MLB games, payout odds on point spread bets are often wider than moneyline odds. This differs from the NFL and NBA, where the point spread usually evens out the odds.
The NHL plays 82 regular-season games and four rounds of best 4-of-7 series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The playoffs end with the Stanley Cup Finals. Special bets on the Stanley Cup Finals include wagers that task the bettor with predicting the score at the end of the first period and lines on whether a particular player will score a goal or assist.
See our complete guide to NHL Betting On The Stanley Cup.
Other Sports Betting Odds
College Sports Odds
The popularity of NCAA football and basketball in the US rivals that of any professional league. With hundreds of teams in each sport, bettors enjoy an enormous selection of games throughout the year.
The main difference between college sports and professional leagues is the larger point spreads in college contests, as the disparity between teams can be much greater.
College football games generally feature higher scores than an NFL game. College basketball games, however, usually end with lower scores than an NBA game.
NCAA Football And Basketball Postseasons
The biggest college football league, known as the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, culminates its season with the four-team College Football Playoff.
The most prestigious college basketball championship is decided in the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. This tournament, also known as March Madness, draws some of the biggest betting interest of any event on the US sports calendar.
March Madness starts with 68 teams and culminates in the Final Four each year, with the last four teams remaining to battle it out for the championship.
For both NCAA basketball and football, numerous special prop bets can be made on postseason games. The 2020 CFP National Championship Game was attended by President Donald Trump, and prop bets for the game included an option to wager on whether Trump would tweet during the game.
NASCAR’s large and loyal fanbase makes the stock-car racing circuit one of the most popular sports in the US. Legal online sportsbooks allow wagering on the NASCAR schedule throughout the year.
NASCAR bets resemble futures market bets for other sports. The most popular NASCAR bets involve picking the winner of a race from the NASCAR Cup Series, which represents the top level of the sports.
DraftKings Sportsbook offered the following betting lines on the 2021 NASCAR PENNZOIL 400 ODDS, a NASCAR Cup Series race from March 7, 2021:
|Winner||Top 3||Top 10|
|Martin Truex Jr.||+650||+190||-265|
The “Winner,” “Top 3,” and “Top 10” columns represent different bets. If you bet the winner, the driver has to come in first. If you bet top 3, the driver has to come in first, second, or third. And if you bet the top 10, the driver has to come in 10th or better.
English Premier League Odds
Soccer betting on major international leagues like the English Premier League opens up even more betting opportunities at legal online sportsbooks.
Betting on the EPL offers many more lines on any single game, compared to domestic sports leagues. DraftKings Sportsbook offered the following moneyline odds on a March 2021 EPL match between Manchester United and Manchester City:
|Manchester City Win||Tie Game||Manchester United Win|
Unlike the four major US sports leagues, EPL games can end in a tie. Moneyline bets for EPL games include an option to bet on a tie.
With Manchester City listed as the distant favorites, you’d have to bet $205 to win $100. But if you were to bet on a tie or Manchester United to win, the payout on a $100 bet would be $340 and $575 respectively.
Sports Betting Odds FAQ
Yes, in states that legalized online sports betting after the overturn of PASPA. Federal law allows US states to legalize and regulate online sports betting on an individual state basis.
States with legal online sports betting include New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa, among several others. Legal online sportsbooks in these states function as extensions of retail or tribal casinos.
All online sportsbooks employ their own team of linemakers, and odds and lines vary across all of the different sportsbooks.
Skilled bettors shop for lines, evaluating the odds at different sportsbooks before making a bet.
Odds written out as 5/1, 5-1, or 5-to-1, indicate fractional odds notation. The 5/1 odds here are just an example, as 10/1, 9-4, 7-to-2 and any other odds displayed in this fashion represent fractional odds.
A winning bet made at 5-to-1 odds means you win $5 for every $1 bet. For example, a $100 bet made at 5-to-1 odds pays $500 in profit ($100 x 5). This bet would return $600 total ($500 profit plus the return of the original $100 bet).
A 5-to-1 fractional odds bet is equivalent to +500 moneyline odds, or 6.00 decimal odds.
Decimal odds are written as Lakers 2.00, Bucks 3.00, Clippers 5.00, etc. The payout for this notation is calculated by multiplying the odds by the amount of the bet, then subtracting the original bet to determine the profit.
A $100 bet on Bucks 3.00, for instance, would result in a total return of $300. Subtracting the original $100 bet gives you $200 in profit.
A 3.00 decimal odds bet is equivalent to a +200 moneyline bet, or a 2-to-1 fractional odds bet.
No. Betting on high school sports is not legal in any state in the US. Usually, you can’t bet on athletes under the age of 18, but exceptions are made for international sports like soccer as well as esports betting in some states.
Yes. Some states do have restrictions on college sports betting. New Jersey, for example, outlaws betting on New Jersey-based college teams and contests.
In general, however, college sports betting is permitted in all states with legal online sportsbooks.