Types of Sports Bets Explained

Types of Sports Bets Explained

New sports bettors can often feel overwhelmed with the myriad sports bets offered for a game or event. Bettors don’t have to just pick a winner. From parlays to props to futures and point totals, the options seem endless. And a common mistake made by new sports bettors is diving into the vast sea of different sports bets without a clear understanding of them.

Whether you have placed bets before, or you want to know more about Pennsylvania sports betting before you jump in, here is a guide to some of the most popular types of online sports betting.

Moneyline Bets

Moneyline betting is considered the simplest type of sports betting. When you bet the moneyline, you are picking the winner. No point spread. No handicap. Nothing else matters with a moneyline bet other than that the team or person you bet on wins. It can be a one-point win or a 50-point win. It doesn’t matter.

Here is a normal moneyline bet:

Pittsburgh Steelers -150

Cincinnati Bengals +200

The moneyline for bettors taking the Steelers is -150. The negative number tells bettors that the Steelers are favored to win and a $150 on them would earn back that money plus $100 in profit if Pittsburgh wins. The positive moneyline number for the Bengals tells bettors that Cincinnati is the underdog. Bengals bettors would win $200 in profit for every $100 they wager.

Total and Over/Under Bets

When betting totals (or Over/Under), who wins is irrelevant. Bettors are simply wagering on the total points, runs or goals scored in a contest. Sportsbooks set an Over/Under number (or totals) and an Over bet is one where you think the score for both teams will add up to a higher number than that total. An Under bet means you think the combined score will be less than that set number.

Let’s look at an NHL game as an example. If the Philadelphia Flyers face the Washington Capitals with a goal total at 4.5, then a combined five goals or more need to be scored for Over bettors to hit. Four goals or less and Under bettors win. The odds are typically similar if not the same for either proposition. Here’s how a normal total bet looks like at a sportsbook:

PHI Flyers o4.5 (-115)

WSH Capitals u4.5 (-109)

Bettors who think the Flyers and Caps will combine for five or more goals would bet $115 to win that back plus $100 in profit. Under bettors would wager $109 to earn $100 in profit.

Over/Under betting can go beyond the score. Sports such as tennis offer total bets for games played in a set or the number of sets in a match.

If a Serena Williams-Madison Keys match has a set total of 2.5, the two must play to a third set for Over bettors to win. If either Keys or Williams wins in straight sets, the Under bettors win.

Point Spread Bets

Point spread betting is handicap betting where you either give points (if betting a favorite) or receive points (if betting the underdog) in exchange for more balanced odds. Let’s take the NFL moneyline bet from above and explain further. A spread line on that game would look like this:

Pittsburgh Steelers -5 (-110)

Cincinnati Bengals +5 (-110)

Reading the +/-, we see that the Steelers are favored by 5 points. So those who bet on the Steelers need them to win by more than five points for their bet to cash. If you take the Bengals and the five points, you need Cincinnati to either lose by fewer than five points or win outright. If the Steelers win by five, then it is a “push” and bets are typically refunded.

Point spread bets don’t pay as much for underdog bettors – witness the -110 odds instead of the +200 for betting on the Bengals to win outright – but the points give underdog bettors a cushion. Favorite bettors need their team to not only win the game but cover the spread. In exchange, favorite bettors don’t have to risk as much money to get the $100 return.

Parlays & Accumulator Bets

Parlay betting and accumulator betting is the same thing, combining multiple bets into one wager. The payouts are much larger but so is the risk, and if you miss just one pick you lose the parlay. These types of bets are lots of fun but also win less frequently – and the odds of winning decrease with each leg you add to your parlay – so these kinds of bets should be a smaller part of your overall betting strategy.

If a bettor takes the Steelers, Flyers and Serena Williams in a parlay then all three will need to win for a successful bet. If the Steelers and Flyers win but Williams loses, the bet loses. Had you bet all three separately at roughly equal odds, you would have made money instead of losing it all. But if a parlay bet hits, it pays out more than if the bets were made individually. The more bets made in a single parlay, the higher winnings and higher the risk. That’s why some bettors construct larger, multi-leg parlays but only bet a small amount.


Teasers are typically used only in parlay betting and involves a bettor modifying the point spread, giving themselves additional points in exchange for worse odds. Take these odds for example:

MIL Bucks -10

ATL Hawks +10

LA Lakers -7.5

LA Clippers +7.5

MIA Heat +5

ORL Magic -5

If a bettor thinks the Bucks, Lakers and Magic will win but believes the point spreads are a little too large, he can “tease” the bets by modifying the spreads and combine them into one parlay bet. A “seven-point teaser” would change the odds to the following:

MIL Bucks -3

LA Lakers -0.5

ORL Magic +2

Because the alternate spreads present a greater chance to win each game, the odds of this style of parlay are significantly lower than if you just took the original lines. That said, the risk is smaller as well. Again, every component of the teaser must be successful for the bet to pay.

Another form of a “teaser” bet is an alternate line on games, where you can shift the line and change the potential payout. If you are betting the favorite, you can give more points (if you think your team will win big) and get a bigger return, or give fewer points to reduce your risk and payout.

In baseball, for example, a typical run line is +/- 1.5. But if you have a strong team with its ace facing a bad team, shifting that line to -2.5 or -3.5 would make sense.

Proposition Bets

Known as “prop” bets, these different types of sports bets do not depend on the outcome of a contest. Rather, they are usually pegged to an individual performance or situation. Here are some examples of prop bets:

  • Which player will score the first goal?
  • Will anyone record a hat trick?
  • Will either team score a shorthanded goal?
  • Who will score the first touchdown?
  • Will both teams score a goal?
  • Who will win Super Bowl MVP?
  • Will Diontae Johnson have more than 50.5 receiving yards?

As you can see, the possibilities are virtually endless. Every game usually has a wide array of prop bets to pick from. Sportsbooks will offer hundreds of prop bets for the biggest games such as the Super Bowl and AFC and NFC Championship Games. Some require analysis (such as the MVP one above), but there are also props such as whether the coin toss will be heads or tails, which require no skill to break down.

Futures Bets

Futures bets is a far-ranging wager that can be made before or during a season. Picking the Super Bowl winner while the NFL regular season is ongoing is a type of futures bet, as is picking an American League MVP or Cy Young Award winner.

Futures odds are favorable to begin the season, shortening or lengthening as the season progresses depending on how each team does. These bets are more difficult to hit as it's challenging to predict the outcome of an entire season. But if you bet wisely – such as if you wagered in in September 2019 on LSU to win the 2020 College Football Playoff – you will be handsomely rewarded.


Similar to teasers, pleasers also involve an altered point spread but don’t move the point spread in the bettors’ favor. Instead, pleasers move spreads in the opposite direction, making it more of a challenge to win. Take these odds for example:

MIL Bucks -10

ATL Hawks +10

LA Lakers -7.5

LA Clippers +7.5

MIA Heat +5

ORL Magic -5

If a bettor wants to parlay these games into a pleaser bet, it could read:

MIL Bucks -13

ATL Hawks +13

LA Lakers -10.5

LA Clippers +10.5

MIA Heat +8

ORL Magic -8

The spreads increase for the favored team rather than decrease like with teasers. This actually boosts a bettor’s potential payout (and risk) and should only be employed if the bettor feels the favorites will win easily.

If Bets

“If” bets are similar to parlay betting in that multiple bets are linked together, but it is very different in practice. With this style of betting, a fixed amount of money is wagered on one team, and if that team wins the bettor collects the profit and the original bet is carried on to the next wager – typically up to a maximum of seven total bets.

Despite wrong predictions, bettors can still come out in front or control their losses with this method. Getting all three games right in a three-way If bet won’t pay off as much as a three-way parlay, but you minimize losses – and perhaps even profit – if early legs of the If bet come in.

Here’s an example of a three-game If bet in which you are betting $110 at -110 odds on the Steelers, Eagles and Packers to win:

  • If the Steelers win, you win $100 and your original stake is carried over for another $110 bet on the Eagles.
  • If the Eagles win, you win another $100 (for a total of $200 in winnings) and your original $110 is then bet on the Packers. If the Eagles lose, you lose the $110 bet but are only out $10 total because you won the first leg and the bet ends.
  • Assuming the Eagles win, then your $100 original stake is bet on the Packers. If the Packers win, you would have won $300 profit overall. If the Packers lose, you would lose that $110 but still be up $90 overall because the first two parts of the “If” bet came in.

Permutation Bets

Look at permutation bets as a kind of parlay insurance not unlike “If” bets accept there are no canceled bets in this format. Using the above example, permutation betting means you are betting the three-team parlay as well as each individual game. That means you would have the following bets in play:

  • $10 parlay of Steelers, Eagles and Packers at +60
  • $11 on Steelers to win at -110 odds
  • $11 on Eagles to win at -110 odds
  • $11 on Packers to win at -110 odds

If all three teams win, then the bettor would not only win $60 on the parlay but also win the $10 payout for each of the three individual games, making for $90 in total profit. But if one team were to lose, the bettor would have covered all but $10 of his initial stakes.

This is a popular form of betting for those confident in a small parlay, as it controls the risk for potential losses while also giving bettors a great value.

In-Play Betting

An increasingly popular way to wager is live during a game – something you can easily do from your phone at one of Pennsylvania’s online casino options.

For example, if the Philadelphia 76ers go into a game against the Detroit Pistons as a 9-point favorite and the Sixers lead by 16 at halftime, oddsmakers will offer in-play option – say, making the Sixers a 20.5-point favorite in the game. If you bet on Philadelphia at that point, you might get it at -110 and you win if the Sixers win by 21 or more points. If Detroit loses the game but closes within 20 or fewer for the final margin, your Sixers bet loses.

Why Different Bets Are Important

Understanding the different types of sports betting opens vast online wagering options. Not every game has a clear winner or loser, so the different types of bets are a great way for bettors to make more secure picks. Plus, they can be fun.

Are These Bet Types Available For All Sports?

In most cases, yes. But sportsbooks can have different limitations; for example, there might be caps on the amount you can bet on certain props. Be sure you check various sportsbooks available in Pennsylvania for their rules.

Final Thoughts

Exploring different types of bets can be fun but be sure you understand them. If you do, you will be a savvier bettor. Make sure to check out all the odds at PennStakes.com and compare the types of bets available. There really is something for everyone. Make sure to also check out any PA sportsbook promos available.



Jim has more than 20 years of experience in sports journalism and covers sports, gambling and the intersection of those two industries for PennStakes.com. He has worked for publications such as the Tampa Bay Times, FanRag.com, SaturdayDownSouth.com and SaturdayTradition.com. He is passionate about getting Pennsylvania sports betting fans in the know and finding the latest PA sportsbook promos.

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