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Sports Betting 101: How to Place a Bet at a Sportsbook or Online

April 26, 2020 12:51 AM

In this space, we talk a lot about betting philosophies and strategies, specifically the importance of going contrarian, ensuring you're on the sharp side of every play and always trying to get the best number so you can beat the closing line. The goal is simple: Do your homework and always try to make the smartest bet possible. But what good is this if you don't know how to actually place a bet?

Generally speaking, there are two different options for placing a bet. You can either bet in person at a physical sportsbook (usually located inside a casino) or online through a computer, tablet or mobile app. 

Betting at a physical sportsbook can be intimidating if you've never done it before. It's usually loud and full of bright lights with lots of people congregating and cheering on their bets, also known as "sweating" their bets. The walls are covered with massive televisions showing every game under the sun. There are huge scoreboard that display countless sports, teams and various numbers. A long line of bettors patiently wait for their turn to place a bet at the cashier, which is also known as the "ticket window" or "window" for short. If you're new to betting, the last thing you want to be is "that guy" who doesn't know what he's doing when it's his turn to place a bet. 

Before you place your first bet, it's important to know a few things beforehand. When you first walk into the sportsbook, do yourself a favor and find a seat. It may seem trivial but its important. The "book" will likely be packed with patrons. It makes everything a lot easier if you can find a seat instead of having to stand. By claiming a spot, you can set up a work station where you can study the games and go through your bets. 

Once you've found a spot, the next thing you want to do is search for the betting sheets. They are typically located in front by the ticket windows. Every sportsbook will print their daily offerings onto sheets of paper, which you can then grab and keep for yourself, free of charge. It will show every sport, every game, the lines and the ID numbers, also known as the rotation numbers. 

The sheets will show the opening lines, which will have surely moved by the time the sheets are in your hands. You can compare the opening lines to the current lines listed on the big boards to see how the odds have changed. Circle games of interest and write notes in the margins. Another suggestion is to bring your smart phone and an iPad or tablet, which you can use to look up stats, matchups or access a live odds page, which can help immensely. 

Once you've identified the bet or bets you want to make, it's time to walk up to the window and get in line. Make sure you have the betting sheets to lean on and your wallet ready. Remember: They only accept cash. So don't expect to pay for your bets with a check or credit card. Some sportsbooks allow bettors to bet on credit, which is like a loan that you must pay back. But that is only reserved for high rollers who have passed extensive financial background checks.

You will need to know a few key things when it's time to place your bet: the ID number of the game (located on the betting sheet or the scoreboard), the team you're betting on, the bet type and the bet amount. When it's your turn at the window, have a friendly attitude and be courteous to the ticket writer. Say hello and then tell them how much you want to bet, the game number and the bet type for each of your bets.

For example, if you want to bet $50 on the Clemson Tigers as 7-point favorites, know the game number next to the Tigers and then say "fifty dollars on 137 spread." The 137 would be the ID number for Clemson. You can't just say "fifty dollars on Tigers" because the cashier doesn't know if that's the Clemson Tigers, Memphis Tigers or LSU Tigers. They also don't know if you want the moneyline, spread or Clemson to win the national title. The goal is to be efficient and limit confusion. Then hand the cashier your $50. 

The ticket writer will then hand you a receipt, also known as a "ticket" or "bet slip." Don't walk away just yet. Inspect the ticket while you're at the window to ensure it's correct. Make sure the game number, team, bet type and amount is correct. If something is wrong, immediately give the ticket back and tell the cashier. They will fix it for you. Once you walk away, there is no way to fix the ticket. All sales are final once you leave the window.

Put the ticket in your wallet in a safe place. Hang onto it. Now it's time to watch the game you bet on and root for your team to win. If the bet wins, you would return to the window where you bet the game and give them your ticket. They will scan the ticket and then hand you your winnings in cash. If you won, it's always a good idea to tip the ticket writer. If you leave the casino or have to leave town early, you can always just keep the ticket and then mail it in. There will be an address on the back. The sportsbook will then mail your winnings. '

Once you've placed a few wagers in person, you'll end up loving betting games in person. It's a special experience. The book will become your bettor's paradise. 

The second option to place a bet is through a mobile app on your phone or an online website through a computer or tablet. This has become the most convenient and most popular way to place bets, especially if you're located in a legal state but you can't or don't feel like traveling in person to a physical sportsbook. You can place a bet literally from the comfort of your own home. You first need to create an account with an online sportsbook. This will require filling out some contact information beforehand and then placing money in your account to bet on, also known as funding your account. Once you've created your account, you can then peruse the sportsbook's tabs to locate the games you want to bet on. Many sportsbooks will offer sign up bonuses to new bettors or refer a friend bonuses. 

With more than 20 states offering legal sports betting in America, the betting options are nearly limitless nowadays. Just remember, when you're placing a bet in person or online, be sure to shop for the best odds. There are dozens of different books and many have different numbers and juice prices. Take the time to search the market so you can place your bet at the book that gives you the best number.

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