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Getting started with sports betting

Published on June 22, 2022
Updated on February 5, 2024
Written by Chris

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Getting started with sports betting

Sports betting: Make it fun but wager smartly

There are no guarantees to success in sports betting. Many would be punters will search the internet with queries such as “how to beat the bookies”,  “How to get rich betting on sports” or “How to make money on bets.” Answers to such questions can be unreliable to say the least. There is no guaranteed way to make money in sports betting but there are a number of things you can do to give yourself a greater chance of success and to maximise any potential winnings. 

Check out the best betting sites in the UK with Remember to always gamble responsibly.

Sports betting for beginners: Learn the basics first

A beginner at the start of their sports betting journey should firstly become familiar with all of the basic concepts, and only once they are mastered start to think about potential profits. 

What is sports betting?

Sports betting is effectively a competition between punters and the bookies. A bettor makes their prediction for a sporting event and bets money that this prediction will prove correct. The betting site will  assign odds to this prediction. If the punter is correct he wins his stake amount multiplied by the odds offered.

Bookmaker’s odds may change over time due to the number and size of bets being placed. This does not always mean the likelihood of something happening has changed, it is just the bookmaker always wants to have a balanced book if possible so they will react as bettors place their money.

Sports betting tips for beginners

When starting out in sports betting there are a number of tips and pointers which can help you get the most out of the experience. have gone through a number of these to help new punters understand betting and betting sites.

How to register with a betting site

  1. Navigate to betting site.
  2. Complete registration.
  3. Validate your account.
  4. Make a deposit and claim bonus.
  5. Place your first bet.

Can you win at sports betting?

Of course, you can win betting on sports in the short term, you just need to be lucky. Longer-term the only way to do it is by betting on “value” bets, where the pay out (bookies odds) are higher than the probability that the bet will win. To do this you will need to do your research,study statistics and read expert advice. Good knowledge of sport does not guarantee constant winnings. It is true that nothing guarantees a win every time you place a bet. However, there are a number of principles that can help you make informed choices.

Attitude to betting

Betting should be fun, if you care about losing individual bets then you won’t enjoy gambling. Sports bettors will lose, and you have to be prepared for that.

Only bet what you can afford

Always be aware of your budget. Never bet more than you can afford to lose. Trying to double your stake after a successful bet is often a bad idea, especially if you have not researched things. Chasing losses is an even worse idea and should be avoided. Start keeping track of all bets made, as well as every win and every loss.  It is the best way to analyse your results and control your budget.

Use statistics and data

There are plenty of stats out there and there is plenty of information to read on all major sporting fixtures. You must know the current form and strengths and weaknesses of teams that you want to bet on, situations surrounding the fixture (ie how motivated both teams are to win).

Bet on what you know

It is best to start with the sports, tournaments and types of bets you are interested in and understand. You are more likely to make informed decisions.

Don’t miss out on bonuses and offers

This is important. When you sign-up and are given the option of claiming a welcome bonus, take it with open arms. Reputable bookies will all offer some sort of welcome bonus. This will allow you to place a couple of bets with the freedom of knowing it isn’t necessarily your money on the line. You can sign up with various bookies (no limit to how many you can use), and take advantage of the bonuses.

Verify your account

You cannot, in any circumstances, withdraw your winnings if you have not verified your account.

Selecting bets by odds

Most people start their betting journey with bets on their favourite team or athlete. Letting emotions influence decisions is a common problem for punters. Our next session will help you to understand how odds work and how to get the best value.

Understanding Odds

Understanding odds is an integral part of becoming a successful sports better. Odds represent how likely something is to occur, and they’re used in betting to measure risk.

Sports betting beginners should remember that the bookmaker always has an under round in the odds and therefore an advantage. Of course, there is a small percentage of players who rate events even better than the bookmaker; however, only some of the most experienced bettors can do this consistently.


Bookies rarely advertise the size of the margins, they can vary match to match. You will often need to work it out for yourself.

With the toss of a coin the probability of it landing on heads or tails is the same, a 50% chance for each. And if the bookmaker took bets on this event, if there was no margin then they would give the same odds of Evens (decimal 2) on each. If this was the case then if two people wagered on the outcome, one heads and one tails the winner would take all of the money and the bookie would be left with no profit.

Therefore, in order to operate as a business the bookie set odds for 50/50  events at odds of about 1.91 instead of 2. With two opposite bets of £100, each player would only win £91 profit, and the bookmaker would make £9 profit each time.

In sporting events where the true odds are not obvious this becomes a little more complex. With a margin of 5% you need to be able to analyse 5% more accurately to profit. The nargin varies depending on the bookmaker, the popularity of the event you are betting on, the sport and also between individual lines on the game. It is most convenient to calculate the margin as a percentage.

How to calculate a margin as a percentage?

It is most frequent to have to calculate margins with events which have two or three options to choose from. True odds require the sum of all possible probabilities to add up to 100%. A straightforward Win/Draw/Win market looks like this with the following odds and implied probability:

Team A: 23/10 = 3.30 = 30.3%

Draw: 23/10 = 3.30 = 30.3%

Team B: 6/5 = 2.20 = 45.5%

The sum of the three implied probabilities is 30.3% + 30.3% + 45.5% = 106%

Here, you can see that the sum is over the rounded book figure by 6%. Well, this extra 6% is the overround and, as a general rule, anything below 10% is considered fair.

So, using the example above, for every £100 staked on this market, the bookmaker is guaranteed a profit of £6 whatever the outcome.

Sports betting beginners: Tips on margin

Margins depend on each individual bookmaker how they prioritise their odds and each bookmaker will have its own tactics to attract players. The size of the margin is just one of these tools. 

When choosing a bookmaker, you should always be trying to find main outcomes with a 3% margin and in maybe in some minor betting lines or less mainstream matches, (say, in the number of corners in a League 2 game), you will face a margin instead of nearer 7%.

All bookmakers margins will vary from event to event. A betting site that has generous odds for the Premier League do not guarantee that the same bookie will give good value for boxing or golf. Understanding margins though and using the formula to calculate them, can really help you get greater value. This is one of the reasons why regular punters have accounts with more than one bookmaker.  

Sports betting for beginners: Common novice mistakes to avoid

When starting out in sports betting these are the mistakes to avoid:

Making emotional bets.

The truth is, most humans place a lot of emotions when gambling, due to the adrenaline rush they get from it, and that clouds their judgement.

Betting on random sports and using random features

It is best to stick to what you know in terms of the sports you bet on and the types of bets and betting features you enjoy.

Manage your budget

Many novices do not have a set budget so they end up depositing more funds than they realise.

Value betting

If I have to recommend you to implement one thing when staking money on sport events, that would be value betting. Betting on sports is a class of investments, and you have to approach it as such. If you implement Value Betting, you will only put money if you believe the bookmakers have their odds wrong. Naturally, better judgments can be made if more factors are taken into consideration when using your bet calculator to assess risk.

As a rule of thumb, if the odds on the bet you have placed are dropping, then that is a sign that bookmakers are “admitting their mistake” and hence you have taken advantage of good odds.

Sports betting for beginners: Familiarise yourself with the basics

There are a few other concepts you have to be aware of. I have briefly summarised them here, but you can read more about them in other articles on our website:

Bet Tracker – a very useful tool for both novices and professionals it enables them to identify patterns and take the most advantage of value betting.

Margins – this is what bookmakers charge you for using their platform. You will never see odds of 2.00 for Chelsea to win and 2.00 for Chelsea not to win at the same bookmaker – the odds would likely be 1.83 and 1.95)

Arbitraging – betting on two opposite outcomes, in different bookmakers, with guaranteed profit (e.g. betting on Chelsea to win at Unibet at odds of 2.01 and Chelsea not to win at bet365 at odds of 2.03)

Cashout – an option which has been growing in popularity in recent years. If you have made a wager on a game, you can close the bet and get some money without having to wait until the final whistle. Although that may seem cool, the reality is that you can get more money if you simply bet in another bookmaker.

Kelly Criterion – one of the most sophisticated tools for smart bankroll management. However, to fully utilise its potential, you should also use a betting tracker.

Asian handicap – a rewarding betting option that can get you a bit more money.

Tipster – a person who is providing advisory services on sport events. You should be critically and analytically selective when you choose to invest in subscriptions for such type of consulting. Even if the tipster is profitable, you should still implement some strategies to follow him/her successfully and make good money.

Accumulator/Parlay/Combo – a lucrative option that allows you to combine several betting options across many games and thus boost odds. However, although you can see various stories about people winning millions, I personally do not know any professional investors that use such options.

IBAS – The Independent Betting Adjudication Service. If you experience an issue with a bookmaker, you should consider getting in touch with this organisation (If you are a non-UK citizen – check your local legislation for a similar government body!).

Sports betting for beginners: You need more than one bookmaker

The obvious reason for that is – you will get some great sign-up offers which is one of the ways to make money from betting.

The other argument, which is more important in the long-run, is that you will get access to a lot of different odds providers and truly take advantage of value betting! Fortunately, there are a lot of firms that would enable you to compare odds across different bookmakers for free – thus saving you a lot of hassle.

There are a some scammers in the industry

The betting industry is nowadays rapidly moving into online platforms. Therefore, relying on someone just by looking at his Facebook profile… is not too much to judge on!

Here are some common frauds you have to stay alert for:

People selling “Fixed” games with absurd odds. It highly appeals to people that there is a game out there with pre-determined outcome and odds of 30.00! If you bet 1000 GBP on it and all goes according to plan, you can stop working!

If someone has knowledge of a fixed game (not an unusual occurrence, especially in countries such as Singapore and Albania), it is highly unlikely that this person will go around and shout all around social media about that and sell such information for 20 EUR.

People offering you to send you a game with the condition that you pay “after the match has finished”. Although that seems more legitimate, from my experience it is merely a slightly more sophisticated scam. Essentially, if two people message that fraudster to obtain the precious prediction, he will send the first person the pick Team A to win and to the second person – Team A not to win. Therefore, at least one of the clients will be happy and can send money for more (poor) forecasts.

Unverified track record of tipsters’. That is not necessarily a scam. However, in my perspective, an advisor has to show a strong, third-party verified betting history before you can start trusting him with your own funds and paying that individual a subscription fee. The quality of this person’s previews and the depth of their betting analytics is paramount but the Return on Investment they are generating and the volume of picks they have produced are an even more salient measure of success!

People selling “Premium Picks” on games from top leagues with superficial analysis. Well, you can surely do better by reading sports websites.

Inconsistent staking system from tipsters: This is hard to spot initially and you should firstly read about why tipsters use units. However, some advisors would use staking with 10 units at the beginning, and if they are successful would start sending predictions with 1-2 units. Thus, you would see an impressive return on investment over a large volume of picks and be tricked into investing in a fraudster with no real talent… You have to properly track your tipsters to identify such a scam!

Check out taxes if betting outside the UK

Although gambling is tax-free for the bettors in the UK, in countries like Germany, punters have to pay taxes for profits. Check your local legislation to avoid huge fines.

Best sports betting sites for beginners in the UK

The following betting sites are great for novice bettors:

Well established and trusted bookmaker. Lots of information and a great range of sports.

User friendly, trustworthy and straightforward. Plenty of information without an overload.

Competitive odds for football, great in-play betting platform for less experienced bettors.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Generally the result of a match or an event is the easiest thing to bet on

There is no fool-proof way to bet and win. There are no guarentees of profits. However, you can boost your chances by doing your research, using stats, betting on sports and leagues you understand and by shopping around for odds and offers.

Sports betting is a way to pit your wits against bookmkaers the outcome of sports events, where, if successful you can win money.. To place a bet, you must choose an event to bet on and then decide how much money you want to wager. Once you have placed your bet, if your prediction turns out correct, you will be paid out either in cash or credit, depending on the rules of the bookmaker or online betting site that you are using.

The best sport to bet on depends on your interests and knowledge. It is generally more enjoybale to bet on sports, leagues and events that you know and understand.


Chris is a former athlete and a qualified PE teacher. He is a keen football fan, watching many matches at different levels throughout the season, and enjoys following many different sports. With betting and sports sites, he has a keen eye for detail and can to highlight positives and negatives for users. His experience in sport as a performer, teacher, writer and fan allows him to see things from many different perspectives. Editorial Promise