10-Step Beginner’s Guide To Sports Betting Online

Any time a state legalizes sports betting, there’s a flurry of new customers flocking to sportsbooks to get in on the action. With multiple sportsbook apps now accessible in so many states, it’s increasingly easy to place a bet right from your phone at home, at a sports bar, or from your seat right at the stadium.

A lot of sports fans have some experience with sports betting, whether it’s in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, or among friends. Betting at an online sportsbook is an entirely different experience though, and that can cause some uncertainty.

Which sports can I bet on? What bet types are available? How do the betting lines work? How do I know what my payout will be? All of these are normal questions for new sports bettors. Now that legal Maryland online betting sites are available, we’ll help answer some of those questions for you with our 10-step guide to getting started in sports betting.

1. Open a sportsbook account

Opening a sportsbook account

The first step to betting on sports is to open an account with a legal online sportsbook that’s licensed and approved for sports betting in Maryland.

Look directly above for a list of some of the best and click on any link to go right to the sportsbook and start the process. You can also claim any of the new-player bonuses or free bets we have posted.

Be sure to enter any bonus code when you’re creating your account to qualify for the sportsbook’s welcome offer.

The beginning of this process will also include specifying which state you are in. You will see a menu of options for every state that specific sportsbook operates in, so choose the location where you plan on betting from, like in the image below.

Even though you must pick a state to start with, in most cases you will still be able to bet in any state where that sportsbook legally operates once you’ve signed up. From there, follow these steps:

  • Fill out all required information (name, home address, email, etc.). If you have a promo code, enter it on this page.
  • Agree to the terms and conditions before submitting your registration. This will create your new account, and you’ll receive an e-mail confirmation.
  • Now that you are set up, you will need to click the deposit button to enter funds into the account.
  • Select a payment method and provide any necessary details such as credit card information, e-wallet credentials, etc.
  • From there, enter the amount you wish to deposit and hit the button at the bottom of the page. The example below is how the page will appear if you use an e-wallet such as PayPal on FanDuel Maryland Sportsbook:

Depositing at online sportsbooks

  • After completing the transaction, another confirmation will arrive via email. If the sportsbook offers to match your deposit, that will also be visible in your balance.
  • With your account set, you’re ready to fill out your betting slips and bet on some games or props.

At first, the sign-up process may seem daunting or time-consuming, but it’s really not. Registering for one of the many online sportsbooks in Maryland is pretty simple and takes just a few minutes.

2. Pick a sport to bet on

Once your account is all set up and you’re logged in, it’s time to start the research process. While most sites have a dashboard that will feature several leagues that are currently in season, bettors can also view all the available sports on the site.

After picking a sport and league to focus on, you can see each individual contest. You can then click on a specific matchup to see all the bets related to that game. But with so many options, where do you even start if you’re new to the sportsbook space?

It’s a common and very fair question. When first starting out with betting, a good idea is to focus on sports and leagues with which you are familiar. If you’re a basketball fan, stick with NBA betting or college basketball betting. If you have no knowledge base for a particular sport, it’ll be difficult to pick winners consistently.

Another suggestion is to start slow, meaning you don’t need to bet every single day. Starting with football betting, either NCAA or NFL, can be of some help because games mainly take place one day per week. The NFL also has standalone matchups on Thursday and matchups on Monday, but the bulk of the betting is focused on Sunday. And it’s mostly Saturday for college football.

3. Learn how to read betting lines

When you’re new to betting, knowing how to read odds and calculate the potential risk and reward of your bets is vital. Looking at the odds and seeing all the numbers on the board can appear overwhelming, but should be no problem with a little explanation and practice. Here, we’ve got a typical example of what a betting line looks like on a sportsbook app:

Betting moneylines, spreads and totals

The most common bets are moneylines, spreads, and totals, and these are the lines that appear by default for every game in most major sports. This is a good place to start, and we’ll go through each one below.

What is the moneyline?

Betting on the moneyline means picking one side to win the game. Since favorites are seen as more likely to win, betting on them requires you to risk more than you can win. With underdogs, you can win more than you wager.

The simplest way to read moneylines is by basing your calculations off the number 100. Then you can easily calculate payouts for any wager amount. The favorite will have a negative odds number, which represents the amount you must risk to win $100. The underdog has a positive number, and the moneyline is the amount of profit you can win on a successful $100 bet.

In our example, the Philadelphia 76ers (-240) are the favorite, and you will need to wager $240 for every $100 in potential profit. Betting on the underdog Wizards (+195) means a $100 wager could bring back $195 in winnings.

What is the point spread?

All teams are not created equal, and point spread betting aims to even out the game. Also known as a run line in baseball betting and a puck line in hockey betting, the point spread is the same for both sides, and it tells us how much a team must win or lose by for a wager on that side to be successful.

Accompanying the spread will be a set of odds, similar to a moneyline, that you can use to calculate any risk and potential winnings.

The favorite will have a negative number and must win by more than that amount. If Philadelphia is -6 (-107), you would need the 76ers to win by seven or more points, and you’d need to risk $107 for every $100 in profit.

The underdog has a positive spread number and has some margin for error since it can lose the game by less than the spread and still have bets on that side win. The Wizards are +6 (-114), meaning they can lose by fewer than six points or win the game by any score for bets on that side to win.

What is a totals bet?

Totals betting involves deciding whether the combined score of a game will go over or under the total that the sportsbook set. Similar to the spread, the total is the same on both sides, though the lines could vary slightly.

With the line set at 228, betting on the over in the above example means you would need 229 or more points in the game. An under wager wins if there are 227 or fewer points.  If the total is a whole number and the final score lands directly on it (in this case 228 exactly), the bet is a push and all bettors receive a refund of their wagers.

4. Try out some futures betting

Most sports bettors focus on day-to-day game lines for their preferred sports but it’s also good when starting out to try out some futures betting, which is betting on milestones or events that finish at a point later in the season.

Futures can take days, weeks, or months to settle, depending on the bet. Not only can they provide a rooting interest for much longer than an individual game, but they can also pay off well. Especially if you are picking a champion in a specific sport or placing a bet prior to the start of the regular season. The following are among the most common futures bets:

  • Championship winner (Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup, etc.)
  • Conference or league champion (AFC/NFC, East/West, AL/NL, etc.)
  • Division winner (AL East, NFC South, Atlantic, Pacific, etc.)
  • Team over/under wins (before season)
  • Will Team X reach the playoffs? (before season)
  • League awards (MVP, Rookie of the Year, etc.)

Additional markets are also available for each individual playoff series during the postseason.

While futures tend to focus on the most popular team-based leagues in the United States, you’ll find odds for other sports, too. Options such as golf odds, soccer betting, tennis, and NASCAR betting have futures odds available that allow you to speculate on the winner of the next tournament or race, wager on athletes head-to-head, and more.

5. Learn about prop betting

Proposition betting involves betting on an aspect of the contest separate from the moneyline, spread or total. Most props have nothing to do with the ultimate result of the game. Instead, bettors are wagering on more specific in-game events.

As is the case with futures, props are available for a range of sports, and there are many options to complement the conventional ones. Generally, props fall into these categories: team props, player props, and game props.

Player props

Player props are by far the most popular option. In this era of fantasy sports, people are obsessed with stats. And now, you can place a range of sports bets on individual player stats. Here are some examples:

  • NBA: Bradley Beal over/under 31.5 points
  • NFL: Terry McLaurin to score a touchdown
  • MLB: Max Scherzer over/under 8.5 strikeouts
  • NHL: Alex Ovechkin over/under 3.5 shots on goal

Game props

If you’re not into singling out a specific player and still want to bet on something involving the game as a whole, there are game props.

Sportsbooks vary in exactly how they categorize and display bets, but in the end, reading through betting lines will get you more familiar with what constitutes a game prop as opposed to a player or team prop. Here are some examples:

  • NHL: Goal scored, listed time
  • NFL: First team to score
  • MLB: Total runs odd/even
  • NBA: Race to x points scored

Team props

Team props focus on the overall performance of one side of a game. These can be good bets for anyone who wants to target a specific team, whether that means betting on them or against them. The most popular and likely team props to come across will be an over/under for total points, goals, or runs for a specific team. Depending on the sportsbook, you can also find options for each period, quarter, or half.

6. Consider some live betting

Thanks to the convenience of sportsbook apps, live betting has become increasingly popular. Oddsmakers will quickly alter lines to reflect the action taking place in a game. Since the contest is ongoing, live sports betting odds will change frequently based on what’s happening, so you must be ready to fill out a bet and press enter before things shift.

As the game progresses, you can continue to wager on the standard moneyline, spread, and total bets with updated odds that shift to reflect what’s happening in the game. There are also select pregame props that update as the game goes, though that will depend on the sportsbook.

Bettors also use live betting to hedge initial wagers, double down on their original picks or find a middle that they can use to hopefully win two bets at once. It is also a great resource for those who want to watch a game and get a feel for the action before committing their money.

Micro betting

Many of the in-game prop options get even deeper and more specific than the pregame ones, which has brought about a new category referred to as micro betting. Here are some examples:

  • Next drive result (NFL)
  • Player/team to score next goal (NHL)
  • At-bat result (MLB)
  • Hole-by-hole score (golf)

7. Learn to watch for line movement

Before you place any bets, there are some things that you should probably be aware of to avoid going in blind. One of those things is line movement, which can help you decide which side you want to bet on.

The odds will change after sportsbooks post them. Game lines are living entities that move based on the action that is coming in from the public and from professional bettors. Odds also change after new information comes out, such as an injury, a starting lineup decision, or the weather if we’re talking about an outdoor sport.

The history of a betting line is public information, so you can see the route the odds took from the opening number to the current number. Compare that movement with the percentage of the public that is on a certain side, and it can be an indicator of whether to follow or fade the masses.

8. Learn to “shop” for the best lines

Betting lines aren’t the same at all sportsbooks. Line shopping is absolutely vital to gaining value and getting the most for your money, and this is where having multiple sportsbook accounts really comes into play.

One site may have -110 while another has +100 for the same wager, and if you shop around for lines, you’ll be able to ensure you get the best price. Shopping around for lines could also reveal that two sports betting sites have entirely different spreads for a game. An NFL team might be -2.5 at one site and -3 at another, and getting the best line possible could be the difference between a win, a loss, or a push.

9. Open more than one sportsbook account

Even if you’re just betting on sports casually, it’s worthwhile to create more than one betting account. Each site offers its own welcome bonuses and promotions, so the more accounts you create, the more deals you can benefit from.

Some sportsbooks also have options exclusive to that site, and the only way to access a bet may be to sign up at a specific sportsbook. Another reason to have multiple accounts is so you can effectively shop for lines. The Maryland sportsbooks listed on this site are all legal and safe options.

10. Avoid these rookie betting mistakes

Betting on sports is not an easy thing to learn, especially in the beginning. It’s entirely possible that you sustain a few losses while getting the hang of things, and that’s perfectly OK. As long as you establish a process and maintain some discipline, you can educate yourself enough to make picks that wind up in profit.

There are also many mistakes that new bettors make that you should aim to avoid so you don’t fall too deep into a hole at the start. Here are three missteps to be aware of when sports betting online or at the sportsbooks:

  • Betting the entire board: On a Sunday during NFL season or a Saturday during NCAA football or basketball season, there are tons of games on the schedule and a seemingly endless number of bets on the board. Pick your spots and don’t bet on every single game. Remember that the more bets you place, the harder it becomes to collect any significant profits.
  • Falling in love with parlays: These are exciting bets that have the potential to be lucrative, but they are also very difficult to win, and wagering on parlays exclusively will result in many more losses than wins. There is a time and place for these bets, but at the beginning, stick to straight bets and give yourself a better chance to win.
  • Poor bankroll management: Settling limits and having the self-discipline to stick with them is an important part of preserving your bankroll. When losses pile up, bettors have the tendency to chase that money. New bettors are vulnerable to losing a significant amount of their bankroll early on.