5 Steps to Get Started Sports Betting: A Step-by-Step Guide

Person Walking Up Steps

You can’t flip on a sports channel for more than an hour without hearing a reference to sports gambling numbers. With betting on your favorite games becoming increasingly legal, both in physical and real money online sportsbooks, fans have never been more eager to get in on the action.

From all the confusing terms to knowing what the numbers really mean, getting into sports betting can seem a little intimidating.

The good news is that there is a plethora of easy-to-use platforms and an endless supply of information that can help you get started.

If you’re looking to put some skin in the game, this article is a good place to start. I’ll lay out the first five steps you should take to get involved in the exciting world of sports betting.

1 – Determine Your Bankroll

Your bankroll isn’t the sexiest aspect of your sports betting strategy, but there’s no question that it’s the most important. Your bankroll is what keeps you from making costly (literally and figuratively) mistakes that will derail any chance you had at making money in the long run.

Your bankroll is a pool, or bank, of money you have set aside solely for the purpose of betting.

I would recommend choosing an amount of money that you would be comfortable losing. In fact, when I first created my bankroll, I had mentally written off the amount as a “purchase” that wasn’t going to pay me back.

Once you’ve allotted an amount of money, the next step is choosing how much of your bankroll to bet on any one play. This concept is your protection against losing your entire bankroll quickly.

Most bettors recommend playing between 2% to 4% of their overall bankroll on one play.

For Example:
If you’ve set aside $500 for the purpose of sports gambling, bet only between $10 and $20 (at the most) on a play.

Becoming a profitable sports bettor is about sticking around long enough to see your bankroll grow. Proper money management is essential to long-term success and should be your first priority.

2 – Choose Your Sportsbooks

With all the betting options on the internet today, it can seem like the best move would be to pick one and stick to it. Unfortunately, that might be the easy way, but it’s not the best way.

Because of the competition between sportsbooks for your money, each has developed a method of attracting new players. These methods are usually in the form of a bonus offered to first-timers who create an account of their site.

Man Pushing Sports Betting Bonus

The bonuses can range from a cash match to free entry in weekend tournaments and many other features that provide an incentive to use their service.

These offers are truly beneficial, especially if you’re just getting started. Take advantage of all the freebies you can and do your best to learn sports gambling using the house’s money. The offers available vary widely, so do your research and find out which works best for your particular situation.

Choosing a handful of sportsbooks isn’t just beneficial for the offers, it also helps you become familiar with different platforms for you to line shop once you start betting games.

Line shopping is the practice of looking around for the sportsbook that gives you the best odds for a particular bet you’re looking to make.

For Example:
You might be set on taking the Packers -4, but if you look around, you might be able to find them at -3.5 on another site.

This half-point difference might not seem like much, but it’s the difference between cashing in and a push if they win by 4.

Get familiar with a half dozen platforms and take advantage of all they have to offer. Remember, when businesses compete, use their incentives to your advantage.

3 – Learn the Terminology

Spread, moneyline, teaser, parlay… the list goes on. Don’t get overwhelmed by all the different sports betting vocabulary you’re currently unaware of, you’ll pick up on it as you go.

Before you get down to business, browse through some articles online that help you understand what everything means. You probably won’t fully understand it at first, but once you get comfortable, it becomes easier than you thought it would be from the beginning.

The importance of knowing all the terminology is simple—it gives you more options.

It’s true that the majority of sports bettors focus on the popular plays like the spread or the over/under, but the pros (also known as sharps) find value in making plays that other people pass up.

With that being said, don’t go trying out the most complicated betting type you find on a “betting terms to know” article. It’s best to start slow and get a feel for the numbers before you start exploring all of your options.

4 – Find Your Research Sites

When I first started betting on sports, I took the approach that each bet I made on a spread, over/under, or any other bet with a moneyline of -110, was a 50-50 proposition. This is not the case.

It sounds like advice your high school teacher would give, but believe me, a little research goes a long way.

Man Pointing At Chalkboard With Research Written

While I won’t lay out all the different things you should look for in this article, studying line movements is a great way to gain a slight advantage over the sportsbook and other bettors.

Profitable sports gamblers know there is invaluable information to be gleaned by watching the way a spread fluctuates in the days (or even hours) leading up to a game. Find a few sites that help you follow these movements, then do your own research to discover what the movements mean.

Additionally, it’s vital to know which way the public is betting on a game or event.

If you’re new to betting, it’s a widely-held notion that betting the opposite of the public (known as “fading the public”) is a tried and true strategy for long term profitability. I won’t go so far as to say you should always choose the other side, but it’s critical information to know for making good decisions consistently.

Keep in mind that your expectation shouldn’t be to win 75% or even 60% of your bets.

However, if you’re able to consistently win more than half of your bets, you’ll end up making money in the long run. The research you do is what separates someone who wins 48% of the time and slowly drains their bankroll, and someone who wins 53% of the time and slowly grows their bankroll.

5 – Keep Track of Your Bets

This one might sound similar to knowing and managing your bankroll, but it differs in that it provides valuable insight into what’s working and what’s costing you money.

Create a simple spreadsheet that keeps track of the games you bet on, who you chose, how much you risked, and what the odds were on the play.

It won’t seem that valuable at first, but this data set can help you make some better-informed decisions in the future.

Over time, you’ll begin to notice that you have more success betting on certain sports or making a particular type of bet.

Conclusion

Following these steps doesn’t guarantee you’ll become a world-class bettor, but they do prevent you from falling into the traps that many amateurs find themselves in after a few months.

Here are some parting thoughts that I’d be remiss to leave out.

  • First, remember that success is winning money, not necessarily winning games.

Look for good value (don’t wager a lot to win a little) when you bet and you’ll be able to grow your funds.

  • Second, you’ll go through times where you lose a few in a row.

Don’t stray from the basics trying to turn things around. Good luck!

Rex Hoffman / Author

Rex Hoffman is a passionate sports writer, with over five years of experience covering sports journalism in line with the Vegas betting landscape. His favorite subjects include football, basketball, and baseball. As a Las Vegas resident, he enjoys finding an edge against the local sportsbooks and aims to share his extensive knowledge with both beginners and experienced bettors. Rex also dabbles in horse racing wagering and enjoys typical casino fare like blackjack and poker in his spare time.