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By Jonathan Lewis | 1st Sep 2023

If you’re just starting out with sports betting, you might be surprised by the variety of bet types available at bookmakers. All offer specific odds for a particular outcome, but their content varies, and some can be quite complex. Nevertheless, it is possible to divide the main types of bets on a bookmaker into four basic categories: moneyline, spread, total, and parlay. To give you a quick start, we explain below what they mean and how they work. You can visit to see a list of the best bookmakers to try your luck with these bets.

Moneyline Betting
This type of bet is the simplest option you can find at a bookmaker. It is also known as “win betting” or “straight betting”, and is about one outcome: who wins? You simply bet on who will be the winning team or athlete in a particular match or game. To win the bet, it is enough for your chosen team or athlete to win: it doesn’t matter how they win or with how many points. “Favorite” and “underdog” are important concepts for this type of bet. A favorite is predictably the team or athlete that everyone expects to win the match – for the same reason, its odds will be low. The underdog, on the other hand, is the team/athlete with a low chance of winning, offering much higher odds. Simply make your choice of who will win and enter the wager amount.

Example: In a match between “Team A” and “Team B”, odds of 1.20 are offered for Team A (favorite). For Team B, the odds are 4.20 (underdog). You can only bet on Team A or B – pick whichever you think will win.

Spread Betting
This type of bet can also be listed as “point spread” or “handicap betting”. USA-based bookmakers prefer the term spread, while European-based bookmakers prefer the term handicap. Here, it is not enough for the team or athlete you choose to win, the match result must comply with a precondition set by the bookmaker. Before the start of the match, the bookmaker gives one team “plus” points and the other “minus” points. The result of the match is evaluated according to these points, and it is determined whether you have won the bet or not. Spread betting offers much higher odds as additional conditions are required to win.

Example: In a match between “Team A” and “Team B”, let’s say Team A gets -5 points and Team B +5 points. This means Team A must win the match by a margin of at least 5 points. So, for example, if Team A wins with a 2-1 score, your bet will not win, because the score difference is less than 5 points. However, if Team A wins with a score of 6-0, you will win the bet because the difference is over 5 points.

You can also bet on Team B. In this case, your bet is about “Team B won’t lose the game with more than 5 points”. In other words, Team B can still lose the game, but if the score difference is less than 5 points, you will still win your bet.

Total Betting
Another name for this type of bet is “over-under betting”. Once again, whether you win is determined by how well the match result matches a preset value set by the bookmaker. Here, the bookmaker sets a score for the match, not for the teams – 40 points, for example. Bettors can bet that the result of the match will be under (under betting) or over (over betting) this value.

Example: Let’s say the bookmaker offers 30 points and the match ends with a score of 24-16. The sum of this is 40 (24 + 16). Over bets win, under bets lose.

Parlay Betting
USA-based bookmakers define this bet as an “accumulator”. It simply means placing a single wager for multiple outcomes. To win the bet, all outcomes must win: if even one loses, you lose the entire bet. Different types of bets can be combined into a parlay bet and the payout can be very big, but the probability of losing is also very high.

Example: You can combine up to four different moneyline bets for Team A, Team B, Team C, and Team D into one parlay bet. If all these teams win, you also win the parlay bet.

Jonathan Lewis is an MFF sports writer

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