What is Sports Betting?

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Sports betting is a form of gambling that entails placing a wager, also known as a bet, on the outcome of a sporting event. The primary intent of sports betting is to win additional money. With the exception of spread betting, ‘draw no bet’ wagers and a few other examples, a bet will have two possible outcomes. Either you win a profit based on the bookmaker odds, or you lose your wager.

While sports betting obviously incorporates wagers on sports like rugby and tennis, it also includes betting on entertainment, such as the winner of Dancing with the Stars, and finance, such as interest rate changes.

Sporting wagers can be on fixture or tournament results, or on events that take place during a fixture. For example, in a football game between Arsenal and Chelsea, possible bets include Arsenal to beat Chelsea, Arsenal to win 2-1, Arsenal to win by one goal, Arsenal to be leading at half-time, and a particular player to score a goal.

A company that provides sports betting services can be called a bookmaker, bookie, sportsbook or betting agency. A service that provides a marketplace in which odds are set is called a betting exchange. A customer who places bets can be called a punter (popular in the UK) or a bettor (popular in the USA).

When you place a bet on an outcome, you are said to be backing that outcome. For example, if you bet on Arsenal to beat Chelsea, you are backing Arsenal. With bookmakers you can only back an outcome, while betting exchanges enable you to bet both for and against outcomes. A bet against an outcome is called a lay bet. For example you could lay a bet against Tiger Woods to win a golf tournament. Your lay bet wins if anyone except Tiger Woods wins, and loses if Tiger Woods does win the tournament.

One point of difference between sports betting and casino gambling is the probabilities of winning are not known with sports betting – they are only estimated. Unlike a casino game, where the house edge is known with certainty, sports betting rewards patience and research, because bookmakers are only guessing the true probability of each possible outcome. While bookmakers provide accurate odds on average, good value can be found for the experienced punter.


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