Smart CapperWelcome to Smart Capper! The purpose of this article is to help give the beginning sports bettor the knowledge necessary to understand the basics of sports betting.

Topics covered in this article include: where to wager, reading and understanding odds, basic sports handicapping techniques, and common pitfalls the bettor should avoid.

The most important realization you should have after reading this article is that “getting rich quick” is not possible by betting on sports. Most of the new sports bettors do not understand this. Getting ahead of the game by understanding this will not only save you much headache, but money as well.

Where To Bet

There are currently two legal ways of betting sports in the United States: in Las Vegas or in a foreign country over the internet. Eventhough their are casinos in Biloxi, Tunica, and Tampa, sports betting is not permitted as those locations.

Local bookmakers are common throughout the United States. These operations, however, are illegally booking bets with you. Because of this, these bookmakers are typically unreliable and are shady operations to deal with.

With the advent of large internet sports books, the sports betting market has become more efficient than at any time in the past. It has also become more reputable. Always find a legally licensed sportsbook to do business with.

Reading and Understanding Odds

There are three major odds formats used for calculating the payout of a sports wager: american, decimal, and fractional.

The most common odds format used in the US is american. A 100 base system is used for calculate the payout of american odds. Negative numbers list the amount required to risk in order to win 100. Positive numbers list the amount won when risking 100.

Example: -110 means you must risk 110 to win 100. +120 means when you risk 100 you will win 120.

The second major odds format is decimal odds, also known as European odds. To calculate the payout of decimal odds simply multiply the amount risked by the decimal number and subtract the amount risked.

Example: To calculate the payout of risking 100 at odds listed at 1.9091 perform the following mathematical calculations: multiply 100 by 1.9091 (100 * 1.9091); subtract 100 from the result (190.91 – 100); final result equals 90.91.

The third major odds format is fractional odds, also known as British or UK odds. These fractional odds are fractions such as 10/11. To calculate the payout of fractional odds simply multiply the numerator (top number top) by the amount risked and then divide the result by the denominator (bottom number) of the fraction.

Example: To calculate the payout of risking 100 at odds listed at 10/11 perform the following mathematical calculations: multiply 100 by 10 (100 * 10); divide the result by 11 (1000 / 11); final result equals 90.91.

To calculate the payout for odds in american, decimal, or fractional formats use the payout calculator. To convert between american, decimal, or fractional odds formats use the odds converter.

Once you are able to read odds you must understand what they mean to you, and it’s more than how to calculate the payout.

Understanding the odds you’re playing into is a key component to making a profit in the long term. As an example, the break even percentage for the standard odds listed at -110 is 52.38%. The sportsbook touts spreads and totals as 50% propositions. At standard odds, however, the break even percentage is 52.38%.

As you can see it would make no sense to make a wager on a play that you feel has a 50% chance of winning if it requires you to win at least 52.38% of your wagers to break even.

To get the break even percentage for odds other than the standard -110 use the money line converter.

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Basic Sports Handicapping Techniques

The most common sports handicapping the new sports bettor uses is to use trends. The problem with using trends is that they are not statistically significant. Knowing that a team is 4-0 in a given situation or a team is 7-2 in a given situation does not make it a good reason to risk money on a given side or total.

Sports handicapping in Vegas is tough work. There is no special mathematical formula or trend that will guarantee you a long term profit.

At a basic level, a mathematical prediction should be used to get an idea where the teams in a given game matchup. A mathematical prediction should be the foundation for any solid handicapping regime.

A mathematical prediction alone, however, will only get you into trouble. Statistical models are not in charge of playing the game in question. You must take into account the current psychological and physiological conditions that affect the game, such as scheduling and the current mental health of the team.

Pitfalls To Avoid

Faulty money management is arguably the number one reason why new sports bettors fail to win money. A solid money management system is necessary to win money over the long haul. For more help in this area read the money management guide.

Another trap sports bettors fall into are parlays and teasers. The problem with parlays and teasers is that, in most cases, you a paying a higher price for the parlay or teaser than you are over straight wagers. Parlays and teasers can offer some value. Most sports handicappers, however, do not have the patience or time to properly find value with these wagers. It is best to stay away from them unless you are in the minority that can properly use these wagers.

One final pitfall is the use of second half wagers. The biggest problem with these wagers is the use of emotion by the sports bettor. The bettor must understand that second half adjustments are a big part of every game, and that what happens in the first half does not mean the trend will continue in the second half.


After reading this article you now know where to bet, how to read and understand american, decimal, and fractional odds formats, a few basic sports handicapping techniques, and some common pitfalls to avoid. You should now have a foundation to continue learning more about sports betting and sports handicapping.


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