5 Sports Betting Rules and Strategies Most Players Don’t Know About

People Betting at a Sportsbook - Hand Holding Dollar Bills

Sports betting appeals to so many gamblers precisely because it doesn’t feel like gambling.

Everybody who follows their favorite team avidly considers themselves to be knowledgeable about the sport and league in question, so they have no qualms about risking a few bucks on the back of that knowledge.

Unlike other forms of gambling in which players have no influence on the outcome, sports bettors can study statistics and player performance, gauge external factors like weather and roster movement, and choose their wagers with care to ensure exact odds.

If you’re an avid sports bettor aspiring to bring your bankroll into the black on a steady basis or a rookie just learning the ropes, consider this page to be essential reading.

Below, you’ll find five sports betting rules and strategies that most players simply don’t know much about. When it’s all said and done, the lessons you learn here should serve you well as an informed sports bettor who knows the score in more ways than one.

1 – Bettors Can Shape the Spread by Buying Points

In the world of football betting, and in basketball to a lesser extent, the point spread reigns supreme.

Knowing that most bettors won’t want to risk money on major underdogs, bookmakers create the point spread to level the proverbial playing field. Most bettors know that a (-7) favorite in the NFL needs to win by more than a touchdown to “cover” the 6-point spread, but far fewer know the secret to shaping the spread as you see fit.

Online sportsbooks that cater to their customer base have made buying points a breeze, but you can also apply this savvy play when frequenting a land-based bet shop in Las Vegas or Atlantic City.

Let’s say the point spread on Dolphins vs. Patriots makes the defending champs a (-14) favorite at (-110) odds. You like the Pats but aren’t positive about them covering by three scores, so you wait around for the line to drop under 14 points.

Meanwhile, another bettor heads straight to the window, plunks down a pile of cash, and walks away with a ticket reading Patriots (-13.5) for (-120).

What the hell just happened?

Well, that well-informed bettor simply bought a half-point to improve the spread to their liking.

See how the odds changed from (-110) to (-120) in this example? By parting ways with an additional 10% on the vig, you can purchase half a point in either direction on the spread.

That means a Dolphins backer who wants to enjoy the benefit of a three-score spread could move from (-110) to (-120) in exchange for bumping their underdog line from (+14) to (+14.5) too.

2 – Arbitrage Betting Can Be Used to Guarantee a Small Profit on Any Game

By borrowing a technique pioneered by ambitious investors, sports bettors can utilize a process known as “arbitrage” to guarantee themselves a small profit.

When making an arbitrage play — which many hardcore bettors refer to as “arbs,” “surebets,” or “miracle bets” — the basic premise involves betting on both sides of the same game. By searching high and low and scanning the odds posted by as many sportsbooks as they can find, an arbitrage bettor tries to spot discrepancies in the prices attached to two teams playing each other.

Arbitrage can be a rather abstract concept on paper, so here’s an example to show you how it works.

Outcome 1

  • Warriors to Win
  • Bookmaker: Bovada
  • Odds: (-276)
  • Wager: $80
  • Payout: $110
  • Outcome Including Other Wager = $10 profit
Outcome 2

  • Trail Blazers to Win
  • Bookmaker: XBet
  • Odds: (+450))
  • Wager: $20
  • Payout: $110
  • Outcome Including Other Wager = $10 profit

In this example, you’re looking to bet on the Warriors and Trail Blazers in the NBA Playoffs. After an exhaustive search of the major online sportsbooks, you manage to locate a few fluctuations that open an avenue for arbitrage betting.

By firing an $80 moneyline wager at (-276) odds on the Warriors, a Golden State victory produces a $110 payout for a $30 profit.

And by betting $20 on the Trail Blazers moneyline at (+450), a Portland
upset is good for a $110 payout and $90 profit.

Here’s where the magic of arbitrage betting becomes clear.

Under this example, you had absolutely no way of losing money on this game. Assuming the Warriors take it, you’ll earn $30 profit on your winning ticket, minus $20 on the losing ticket for a $10 total profit. Conversely, if the Blazers get the W, you collect a $90 profit on that ticket before deducting $80 on the losing end for, you guessed it, a $10 profit.

As you might suspect, sportsbooks don’t like arbitrage players, so this strategy is only used by a select few bettors bankrolled to take a few massive shots before riding off into the sunset.

3 – Harnessing the Whims of Weather to Your Advantage

Every football fan knows that the ultimate outdoor sport is subject to inclement weather conditions from time to time.

When the winter months approach, so-called “Snow Bowls” can make for a unique viewing experience, as formerly speedy receivers slosh around in the muck and quarterbacks cope with a slippery ball.

Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles – Dec. 18, 2013

Rain, sleet, and thunderstorms can all affect a football game’s outcome, so sharp bettors do their best to anticipate the weather in advance. When you consult NFLWeather.com before the games kick off, you can get a leg up by betting the under on any game destined to be played on a frozen or sloppy field.

Non-domed stadiums in baseball also allow for weather considerations, so check out DailyBaseballData.com to see what’s in store for the day’s action on the diamond.

4 – Each Sport Has Set Durations Before a Bet Is Considered Action

Back in 2015, a college football game was called off before the final whistle sounded when Louisiana-Monroe and Georgia concluded at 51-14 with over 9 minutes left to go.

Lightning strikes near the stadium forced that early call, and while Georgia’s huge lead resulted in a win for the team, Bulldog bettors weren’t so lucky.

Please Note:

In both NFL and NCAA football, sportsbooks use a 55-minute house rule to officially consider bets action. In other words, when the game is called for any reason with more than 5 minutes to go, all bets are refunded automatically.

The same 5-minute rule applies to basketball, with NBA games needing 43 minutes and NCAA games 35 minutes before they’re official. NHL games have to go 55 minutes, and in baseball, 5 innings must be in the books for bets to get paid.

5 – Sportsbook Tickets Are Played as Written – So Always Double-Check

On a final note, always be sure to double-check your ticket after leaving the cage.

Because numbered codes are used to input teams and wagers, ticket-writers occasionally make an error. Those errors can be fixed if you raise the issue immediately after the ticket is issued, but if you wait any longer, the mistake becomes unredeemable.

Every day, bettors come back to complain to Vegas bookmakers about their ticket being wrong, and nobody’s received a refund, so play it safe and scan everything twice before walking away to sweat.


The idea that simply knowing a lot about sports — studying statistical trends and watching games with an objective eye — can lead to success as a gambler seems too good to be true.

After all, anybody can watch the best poker pros on the planet ply their trade in a televised tournament, but buying in and taking them will largely lead to immediate losses.

Sports bettors don’t take the field or court for themselves, but when you enter the sportsbook arena and use your wits to win money, the thrill is still just as satisfying.

By incorporating the five rules and strategies you learned here today, anybody can improve their results as a sports bettor and move closer to that magical win rate of 54%.

Tim Johnson / Author

Tim has been a sports fan for as long as he can remember. The Vermont native has lived in Las Vegas for the last two decades, and he uses his experience in the industry to try and give readers the best possible advice when it comes to betting on sports. Football is Tim’s primary area of expertise, but he also dabbles in other sports like horse racing and basketball. Tim uses his wealth of knowledge to try and make the reader a better bettor.

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