Finding the right sportsbook can be just as important as some of the bets that you choose to make. In this guide, we’re going to walk you through everything you could ever want to know about how to pick the best online sportsbook for you. If you don’t feel like sifting through all of the options, you can always use one of the top-rated sportsbooks that we recommend. If that’s you, here is the list you’re looking for. We are sure that you’ll have an incredible time with the action and experience you deserve at any of these books.
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For those of you that want to take the time to find the perfect sportsbook for you, we’ve put together a lot of information and resources below to help you out. We’re going to show you the exact steps you should take to pick out a sportsbook, what criteria you’re going to want to look at, pitfalls of bad sites you’ll want to avoid, and a few special tips to help you find exactly what you’re looking for.
By the end of this guide, you’ll have all the tools and information you need to make an informed decision about which sportsbook is the best place for you to take your action. This is an important decision, especially if you’re looking to take your sports betting seriously, so please take a few minutes to read what we’ve put together for you here.
Steps to Picking Out a Sportsbook
All right, so you’re ready to start betting sports online. Awesome! Welcome to the club. The fact that you’re here shows that you know two things. One, you need to pick out a sportsbook to take your action. And two, you know you’re not just supposed to take the first sportsbook that pops up in Google. The fact that you’re willing to take a little time to research this already shows you have the right mindset to be a winning sports bettor.
Below, you’ll find the steps needed to pick out the best sportsbook for you. We recommend reading this section as well as the sections below before getting started. The “Criteria You’ll Want to Look at,” “Pitfalls to Avoid,” and “Tips to Find the Best Sportsbook” all go hand in hand with these steps. Let’s take a look at the steps.
1. Decide What You’re Looking For
You need to have a general idea of what you’re looking for and what you’re hoping to get out of your online sports betting experience. Are you looking to bet one or two events, and that’s it? Are you looking to bet full-time and make sports betting an income source? Are you planning on betting one sport or betting an array of different games?
By knowing what you hope to accomplish with the online sportsbook you choose, the process of finding the right fit becomes very easy. If you aren’t completely sure what you’re looking for, that’s okay, too. In the next section below, we are going to talk about the criteria we think are important for a great online sportsbook. The list should help to inspire your thoughts of what you’re looking for.
2. Make a List of Your Deal-Breakers
Once you have a general idea of what you’re looking for, you need to nail down your specific deal-breakers and the things you must have. These are the things that you can’t stand to have or can’t possibly live without. Knowing these will help you to quickly cross off sportsbooks that don’t make the cut.
For example, maybe being able to bet on every single Division I college football game is extremely important to you. This is probably a deal-breaker. You’ll want nothing to do with an online sportsbook unless they are offering you action on every college game.
Or maybe you only want to use PayPal or Neteller to fund your account and withdraw money. If this is the case, you’re not going to be interested in a sportsbook that doesn’t offer these payment options.
There’s no need to force things here if you’re really not that picky. But there is also no reason to settle on something that is important to you. There are thousands of sports betting websites to choose from and some that are extremely high-quality. You should never feel compelled to settle for anything less than the perfect site for you.
3. Find a Short List of Candidates
Once you’ve clearly figured out what you are looking for, it’s time to create a short list of potential candidates. If you need a starting point, start with the sites we’ve recommended at the top of the page. If none of these work for you, check out our sportsbook ranking page where we break down the books by location, type, and sport. If none of those are to your liking, you can always check out our sportsbook reviews page where we have reviews of pretty much any sportsbook worth looking at.
Look through these pages and find 4 or 5 sites that you’re interested in. If one grabs you right away and is perfect, then go for it. But we do recommend doing a little shopping around to make sure you do end up with the best site for you and what you’re looking for.
4. Read Reviews and Test Each Site Out
Once you have your short list of potential sportsbooks, it’s time to make a decision. First, make sure none of them violate any of your deal-breakers. If they do, cut them from the list. Next, take some time and read through reviews of the site. The link we’ve provided above has some awesome reviews of some of the top online sportsbooks.
Then, we highly recommend testing each site out. No, we don’t mean actually depositing and making bets. If one of the sites is terrible, you don’t want to have money stuck on there you have to worry about getting moved off. But most online sportsbooks will allow you to click around every section of the site and do just about everything except place a bet without an account. This is what we’re recommending you do.
See how the interface feels. See how easy or difficult it is to make a bet. Look at the sports and bet types they’re offering. Is the site smooth and somewhere you’d be comfortable spending a lot of time? In the next section, we’re going to go over a whole list of things that you can take into account when doing your own test of each potential sports betting sites.
5. Make a Decision
Once you’ve done all of your testings on your short-list sites, it’s time to make a decision. Pick the site that you like the best and get to it! Remember, you’re not signing a year-long lease or anything like that. If you start betting with a site and don’t like it, you can always withdraw your money and start over somewhere else. In the tips section at the bottom of the page, we will cover a few more things that will make this decision a little easier on you as well.
The Criteria You’ll Want to Look At
Some of you here might be brand new to sports betting altogether. Some of you might be avid sports bettors in physical locations but are looking to make the switch to betting online. Regardless of which of those categories you fall into, you’re going to want to know what makes a great sportsbook online. Without a lot of experience, it might be tough for you to know what’s good and what’s less than desirable.
Our team of experts has spent years betting online and has made tens of thousands of bets. As bettors ourselves, we know what you should be looking for and what you should be avoiding. While it’s always going to come down to your personal preferences, we can certainly get you pointed in the right direction. The following list is the criteria that we feel is the most important for you to look at when you’re picking out a new online sportsbook.
While not all of these might be important to you, we’re sure that a large chunk of them will be. The point of this list is to help you figure out what criteria are important to you and what great, good, and awful look like in each of them.
One of the first things you’ll want to know about an online sportsbook is which sports they offer action on. If you’re betting something major like the NFL, MLB, or NBA, you can expect to find coverage of some sort at pretty much any sportsbook. But if there are other sports you like to bet, you’re going to want to check and see what level of action they offer.
Additionally, you’re going to want to look at how many different games they offer for each sport. For example, a majority of online sportsbooks offer action on college football. But not all sites offer action on all of the games. Some sportsbooks online only scratch the surface and only offer action on the marquee games. Other sites, though, offer action on every single game every single weekend. These are some of the things you’ll want to check out in our reviews or for yourself when you test out a potential site.
Bet Options Available
Taking the above criteria one step further, you’re going to want to make sure the sportsbook offers the types of bets you like as well. For example, what if you’re someone who likes to bet a lot of NFL props? While most sites are going to offer moneylines, totals, and spreads, not every site is going to offer prop action on every game. Some sites will only offer it on the marquee games, while other sites will offer extensive props on every single game, including the preseason.
If you are brand new and don’t know what types of bets you’re going to be making, this probably isn’t a big deal. But if there is something specific that you’re a big fan of, we recommend taking the time to look for this in a review or on the site yourself. Coverage of a game means nothing if you can’t make the exact types of wagers you want.
Timeliness of Lines
This is more of a “checkmark” type feature that we’re looking for, as most online sportsbooks these days are good to go in this category. But we still mention it because if a book isn’t with the program, they have no business being in the business. What we’re talking about is the timeliness of when they put out their lines.
Some people like to start making their bets early in the week. If you aren’t getting NFL lines until late in the week, that’s garbage. This is the same with pretty much any sport. We want to get the lines as soon as they’re put out and not behind any of the other online sportsbooks.
Again, most online sites are great about this, but there are a few out there that seem to always be behind the ball.
A lot of online sportsbooks can seem pretty much the same in all categories except when it comes to user-friendliness. What we’re talking about specifically is how easy it is for you to create an account, find the bets you’re looking for, and make those bets. If it causes you physical pain to try and figure out where things are, there is a problem.
One of the biggest perks of betting online is the convenience. But if things are challenging, all of this convenience is lost, and you might as well just hop in your car and drive to the sportsbook. For this reason, this is one of the most important criteria that we take into account when racking and stacking online sportsbooks.
We look at the big picture with user-friendliness, but we also get pretty picky with small details. For example, if you want to make a bunch of individual bets for the same dollar amount, we think you should be able to select your bets and only have to type in that dollar amount once and select it to apply to all of your bets. This might not seem like a big deal, but it can save you a couple of minutes, and it’s a feature we look for. This is just one of the many features that we’ve discovered we love over the years.
While there is an element of user-friendliness that relies on personal preference, most of it can be realized by someone who understands the industry and what should and should not be there. Our expert team specializes in this, which is part of the reason we’re so high on the online sportsbooks that we recommend.
Mobile Betting Options
Continuing with the convenience trend, you should be able to place your bets from anywhere in the world where you have a phone or internet connection and a smart device, whether that’s at a bar with your friends or while you’re stuck waiting in the doctor’s office.
All online sportsbooks have a desktop version that you can use from your home computer. However, not all sportsbooks online have a mobile betting option for you. To be clear, we’re not talking about a standalone app that you have to download. We’re talking about having a mobile-friendly website that automatically adapts to whatever device you are using.
A good online sportsbook will set up their product to work on the computer, a tablet, or a mobile phone without the need for any sorts of downloads. The site will automatically recognize your device and change to the version that best fits your device. You’ve probably seen this with a ton of websites before on your phone or tablet and never even realized it.
While we think this should be industry standard for any online sportsbook these days, some sites are still behind the times. Some of them also claim to have a great mobile betting option and just have a garbage platform that is difficult to use unless you are on a desktop computer with a big monitor.
We want to be able to do everything we can on desktop from our phone or tablet just as easily. We understand it’s a challenge to fit all of that information onto a smaller screen, but here’s the deal. We know it can be done, and we know that it can be done well. Once we’ve seen that it’s possible, we expect it from everyone else.
Live Betting Options
One of the most fun and fast-paced ways to bet sports these days thanks to technology is live betting. Sometimes referred to as in-game betting, this is where you can place wagers after a game or match has already started. Sometimes you have options every single play, or sometimes it’s periodically throughout the game. The odds change fast, and you have to be quick and sharp to jump on value when you see it.
This is certainly not suggested for beginners, but if you’re an experienced bettor or a complete action-junkie, this might be something important to you. If you’ve ever seen a stock day trader’s screen or something similar, this is kind of what live betting feels like. As events happen in the game, the odds will change. This creates opportunities for you to bet game trends and capitalize on things you see within the game.
Additionally, in-game betting forces the sportsbook to make decisions very quickly. Sometimes this is done with a computer, and sometimes it’s an actual person monitoring the game and changing the lines. If it’s a computer, it is going to struggle to see the intangibles that aren’t showing up on the stat sheet that you are seeing. This creates opportunities. If it’s a person, people are not flawless. No matter how sharp of a person they have on the game, they’re not going to be perfect. This also creates some fantastic value opportunities.
If you aren’t interested in live betting, you don’t have to worry about this when you’re picking out a sportsbook online. But if it’s something that might be important to you, weigh it when you’re making your pick. Remember, as well, that you can always have a sportsbook you use for “normal” betting and one that you use for your in-game if you like different platforms at different locations. It’s all about finding what you like the most and what makes you the most comfortable, giving you the best opportunity to make the most money.
Banking Options and Quality
How bettors are going to fund their accounts and how they are going to get paid is what we lump under the major header of banking. Basically, when we’re analyzing the banking options and quality of an online sportsbook, we are looking for a few things.
First, we are looking for the number of options. Are there different ways for us to fund our account and get our winnings off in case we have an issue with one option? If a sportsbook only has one way to get money into your account, and it doesn’t work for you for one reason or another, then that sportsbook is worthless to you. But if they have multiple options to help in case you do have issues, that’s a win for us.
We also want to see quality options when it comes to getting your money and winnings offline. How long do they take to pay you? What options do they have? Do they charge fees for taking your money off? Are their options reliable? These are just a few of the questions that we ask and feel you should be asking when you’re trying to choose an online sportsbook.
Their limits also matter. For most recreational bettors or those just starting out, you shouldn’t ever really have any issues with limits. But when you start getting more serious, and your bankroll grows, you’ll want to know that you won’t have any problems withdrawing or depositing the amounts of money that you want to.
The one time that smaller bettors will want to look at banking limits is with withdrawals. This is very rare, but we have seen some sportsbooks online with some rather high minimums for withdrawal. This usually results in a big no way Jose from us when we see this, but we still wanted to bring it to your attention in case you are looking elsewhere for an online sportsbook.
Bonuses, VIP Programs, and Rewards
Whenever we talk about bonuses, VIP programs, and rewards, it comes with a pretty big disclaimer. Do not sacrifice a great sportsbook for a mediocre sportsbook with some great promotions. Yes, free stuff, perks, and cash back are awesome. But we don’t love that stuff if it comes at the expense of our profitability because we’re betting with a subpar sportsbook. You should only be looking at these things as a final decider between two great sports betting sites.
Now that we got the disclaimer out of the way, what are we looking for here? First, the promotions need to be lucrative. If all they are doing is giving away some free jerseys, stuffed animals, or t-shirts, we’re probably not that interested. We like promotions that give away free cash or free bets. Second, the promotions need to be attainable. If we have to bet $100 million to get a $10 free bet, that is not attainable. We understand that we have to work to get some freebies, but we want it to be something that we can feasibly attain.
Lastly, the promotions need to be laid out in a clear and easy to understand fashion. It shouldn’t take a legal degree to figure out what we’re going to be getting and how we need to go about getting it. We understand the sportsbook needs to have limitations and rules for each promotion, but they don’t have to be so confusing that we don’t even want to participate. If you have to make 14 bets on Tuesdays while wearing a raincoat and 3 more bets on days with full moons on sports that begin with a B in order to get your free $10 bet, there is a problem.
All of that being said, given the option of free stuff at a great sportsbook versus no free stuff at a great sportsbook, you can bet your bottom dollar that we’re going to take the freebies.
Something that people often fail to pay attention to is the availability of where they can place their bets from. If you’re someone who doesn’t travel a whole lot outside of your home location, this isn’t going to be that important. As long as you find a site that offers betting in your location, you’ll be good to go. But if you’re someone who travels a decent amount and still likes to bet when you’re on the road, you’ll want to look into this.
For example, let’s say you live in Nevada and choose to bet with one of the state-regulated sites offered by the casinos. If you’re within the state limits, you can bet all you want. But the second you step foot outside of Nevada, you are no longer allowed to place any bets. This is obviously not an ideal situation if you are traveling a lot. You could always make your bets before you leave, but you lose the ability to change or add anything the second you step foot outside of the allowed boundaries.
If you don’t travel a lot, don’t even worry about this. If you travel a lot and don’t bet when you travel, ignore this. But if you travel a lot and still like to be able to bet while on the road, pay attention to what regions of the world the sportsbook allows you to bet from. It’s important to note that there is a difference between sites that won’t allow customers from a different area and sites that block all betting from that area. A site might not let new customers join from a particular region, but if you’re an existing customer who lives elsewhere, you might still be able to access everything just fine.
What’s the first thing you do when you’re thinking about trying out a new restaurant? You probably ask your friends or check out some reviews to see what people think. If the restaurant has a reputation for not being that great or for being dirty, do you go there? Nope. This should be the same approach you take when looking at online sportsbooks.
If the book has a bad industry reputation or a bad reputation amongst mass numbers of its customers, you might want to steer clear of them. One caveat to this, though, deals with customer reviews of online sportsbooks. When customers don’t win their bets based on their own bad picks, they like to blame the sites and bash them to oblivion in reviews. We’re not saying not to read reviews, but keep this in mind when you’re reading them.
We tend to pay attention to mass trends where we see the same issue repeatedly in complaints. We also weigh the quality of the review based on the sniff test. If the person is talking about how they hope the site dies and that the site is cheating and yada yada, we usually assume they’re just a hot head mad about losing a bet. But if the review is calm, collected, and presents evidence of the issue well, we will take it seriously.
With so many great options out there, you don’t need to settle for a site that is hated within the industry by the experts and the customers. There are great online sportsbooks that have great reputations and have earned their customers. These are the books you should be placing your action with.
How seriously sports betting sites takes security is key. Are they protecting your money properly? Are they using site encryption? Are their banking practices up to industry standards? Are they updating the site constantly to patch any vulnerabilities or threats? Do they have a team in charge of security?
We’re really looking for three things. One, is their technology and software being kept up to date to keep your money safe? Two, are their practices and procedures proper to keep you safe? And three, do they seem to take security seriously, or is it an afterthought?
The answers to these three questions will tell you if an online sportsbook is worth you investing your time and money into it. Unlike the other criteria on the list, this is somewhere that you should have no wiggle room. If there is any sort of security issue, it should be an instant no from you. You don’t need the added stress of worrying about the safety and security of your money when you’re not betting.
Pitfalls to Avoid
Besides just lacking in one or more of the above categories, there are some additional pitfalls that we think you should be aware of and look to avoid. Below, you’ll find several site characteristics that should instantly get you to walk away and look elsewhere for a sports betting home.
When an online sportsbook has been naughty, they aren’t going to tell you about it; that would be bad for their business. Instead, you have to rely on outside sources to bring this stuff to your attention. If you Google a site’s name and the word “blacklist,” you can see if anything comes up. Always be wary of the source you use, though, because some sites like to engage in some aggressive negative marketing against their opponents.
What we recommend instead is checking out our reviews. If we think a site is garbage or needs to be blacklisted, we’ll certainly let you know about it. We have no problems hurting someone’s feelings if they aren’t someone we think should be welcomed in the industry. We aren’t in anyone’s pocket, so we have no shame letting loose and unloading on garbage sportsbooks.
Sites That Don’t Pay on Time
We talked about this briefly in the banking section above, but we wanted to talk more in depth about it. If sports betting websites have issues with how quickly they are paying their customers, that is one of the worst red flags you can see. Sure, we understand that from time to time, there will be a one-off where there is a delay of a couple of days. But if a site is habitually late with their payouts, it’s usually a sign of bigger problems.
The problem here is that shady sportsbooks aren’t going to advertise on their site that they are having payout issues. You’ll usually need to dig a little further into gambling forums and any other resources you find on the web. When we’re analyzing this, we utilize any and every piece of information we can get our hands on. The good news is that this information usually spreads pretty quickly throughout the industry when a site is having problems. If you have a nice pulse on the industry, you’ll know who is doing it right and who is having problems.
Sites with Questionable Management Teams
When reviewing an online sportsbook, we look at who is on their management team and what company is behind the scenes. We look for shady characters with bad reputations from their existing company or from sportsbooks or casinos they have been associated with in the past. From time to time, we’ll catch shady folks that have left the company they got in trouble with and started their own sportsbook or joined another team.
While we do think people are capable of changing, we don’t need to be taking those risks in this industry. There are too many great options out there being run by reputable people and companies to waste our time with second chances. While our mom might not be happy we aren’t giving second chances, we have to stick by our guns here.
Sites with Blemishes on Their Record
Our lack of second chances continues on past the management team and to the site itself. While on extremely rare occasions, we might make exceptions, most of the time a blemish on an online sportsbook’s record is enough for us to give them the permanent no. It all really depends on the severity of the event, how long ago it happened, and if it was an isolated event or is habitual.
Tips to Find the Best Sportsbook
The last resource that we want to give you today to help you choose an online sportsbook is our expert’s list of tips. These are things you should keep in mind throughout the selection process.
It’s About What You Like
We can give you all of the tips and criteria in the world to look for, but what it always comes down to is what you like. Just because we say something is important doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily important to you. The only exception should be security and anything that deals with the safety of your money. Other than that, though, it’s all about the experience you are looking for and what is most important to you.
So, basically, listen to what we have to say to help you out, but at the end of the day, you can completely ignore it if you want and do your own thing. All we care about is that you find the right sportsbook that gives you the experience and results that you’re looking for.
Join Multiple Sportsbooks
Who says you have to pick one? It’s actually strategically smart for you to have several different sportsbook accounts that you can use to shop your bets around. Shopping your bets just means checking different books for the best line on a particular bet. If one sportsbook is paying +125 and another is paying +135 for the exact same bet, you’d be nuts not to bet at the place offering the better odds. The only way you’ll know about these better odds, though, is by looking around (line shopping).
So, if you’re on the fence on a couple of sports betting sites, go ahead and just create an account on them all. You certainly don’t need any more than three, but even two will give you opportunities to get some better spreads and better payout odds from time to time. Every little inch counts.
Don’t Sacrifice Quality for a Promotion
We’ve touched on this already, but it’s important enough that we want to drive it home again. Promotions and free stuff are awesome. But don’t let them cloud your vision and get you to join a less-than-great sportsbook. Sometimes terrible sites will use flashy promotions to distract you from the things they’re doing wrong.
A great promotion does not mean the sportsbook has something to hide. But you should focus on the order in which you look at certain criteria. Promotions and bonuses should be looked at last once you’ve already decided on the overall quality of the book.
You Can Always Change Sites If You Need To
You don’t have to sign an exclusivity contract when you join an online sportsbook. If you join a site and bet for a few days or weeks and realize it’s not for you, withdraw your money and try somewhere else. They’ll be sad to see you go, but you have the right to take your action wherever you want to. Once you start betting with a site, you aren’t forced to stay there forever.
This should help make the initial decision easier. As long as the site is safe and reputable, the little bits and pieces that make one site greater than another will be small details. You can always choose to take your action elsewhere no matter how short or long of a time period you have been betting with a particular online sportsbook.
The Final Word
The only thing left for you to do now is get out there and find the sportsbook or sportsbooks that are right for you. Follow the steps we laid out for you, and you should have no problems picking out a site and getting to betting right away. Remember, if you happen to join a site you end up not liking, it’s totally okay. You can just withdraw your money and move on to try somewhere else you might like better.
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