How to Bet on Sports: A Guide For Beginners in New York

By Brian Dermody

The time has finally come, New York sports betting officially kicked off. Whether you're already a player or if you're just interested in trying, you're going to want to educate yourself as much as possible so you know what to expect when you place your bets.

Where Can You Bet on Sports?

How Does Sports Betting Work

If you want to know how to bet on sports, and you're starting from square one, that's cool, we were all there once. At its simplest, you're wagering money on what you think the outcome of a sporting event is. The oddsmakers will set the betting lines based on what they think the probability of certain outcomes are. The lines also tell you what kind of money is coming back to you if you win. And if you don't? That's why they call it gambling.

Reading Betting Lines

If you don't understand how betting lines work, you'll never understand how to bet on sports. In New York, we default to American Odds, which break down this way: If you see a plus sign (+), you're betting the underdog, a minus sign (-) indicates you're wagering on the favorite, and the bigger the number, the stronger the odds and the bigger the payout.

The amount to keep in mind is $100. On a hypothetical $100 wager, the plus sign is the amount of your winnings on top of your stake if you make your bet. The minus sign tells you what you'd have to risk to win a profit of $100.

Experienced sports bettors may want to know that any operator worth it's salt will easily allow you to change American odds to decimal and fractional odds if that's what you prefer.

Wagering Amounts

How much do you want to bet? Depending on where you play, you could risk as little as a dime on a single wager. Not that you should expect a whole lot of return, even if your longest of longshots hit. The bigger the stake, the more payout you can expect if you make your bet. Betting ten cents on a futures bet at +1300 will pay out a massive $1.40, but $250 on a wager of those same odds could bring you back a total of $3,500. We'll get into how that all works shortly.

Choosing Where To Bet In New York

Here's where it can get tricky. It's not just knowing who the favorite is and how much you're comfortable risking. To maximize your enjoyment of sports betting, you'll need to figure out where to play. Why? Since you asked...

When legal sports betting kicks off in New York in January, with four operators (Caesars, FanDuel, Draftkings & BetRivers) will be trying to get your action. The hope is by February of 2022 that all nine operators will be vying for your action. That means they'll be offering sign-up deals, bonus codes, and other bells and whistles to try to convince you to play there.

Consider what part of the sports betting experience is most important to you. Do you want free bet credits on your first deposit like FanDuel? Do you find the lines in your favorite betting markets are more competitive on BetMGM or Caesars? Does a rewards package like the one offered by DraftKings give you enough incentive to keep coming back?

Types of Sports Bets

There are many ways to increase the excitement around your favorite games by betting on sports. And the operators are always looking for more ways to play, because they know that if you aren't finding the action you want, it'll be easy to take your business elsewhere. To help you figure out what kind of bets sound like fun to you, here's a rundown on the most popular ways to play.

Moneyline

The moneyline is about as simple as it gets. All you're doing is a straight-up bet on who wins the game outright. As noted above, the lines are going to tell you who the favorite and the underdog are and by how much.

If you see a moneyline that gives Buffalo (-195) vs New Orleans (+165), obviously that means the oddsmakers think Buffalo takes the win pretty handily. For sports betting purposes, that means staking $195 on Buffalo means you'd take home $295 on a win (Your $195, and $100 in winnings). But if you were to bet $100 on New Orleans and saw that bet come in, that's worth $265 to you (Your $100 + $165 for the win).

Live Betting

One piece of the action that sets online sports betting apart from ways to play is the option of live betting, which is just what it sounds like. You have the opportunity to bet on certain aspects of a game as it's happening, even as a play is in progress. Most sportsbooks have an easy-to-find hub where you can see what games are in progress, and you'll be able to see the lines adjust as the situations on the field of play change. Depending on the operator, during an NYCFC match, you can wager on which team or player will score the next goal or even if there will be a score in a certain five-minute segment.

Parlays

A parlay is a series of bets on two or more games or results where every wager, commonly referred to as a "leg", has to hit for the bet to qualify as a win. You can parlay on the moneylines that the Rangers will lose and the Islanders will win. Why do this? Each leg increases the risk of losing your stake, but it also ups the winnings if the whole thing hits.

If you laid down $50 each on two separate underdogs at (+500) they'd pay off a total of $600 on winning, which, granted, isn't bad. But parlaying two bets at (+500) moves the odds to (+3500). And if you've been paying attention, you know by now that a $100 wager on a (+3500) parlay is a potential payout of $3,600.

Point Spreads

The point spread (or puck line, goal line, run line) is what the oddsmakers think the difference in the final score will be when the contest is over. To make this bet, the team you pick has to "cover the spread". That means that if you're given a spread on the Jets at +2.5 against Houston, you can win betting on the Jets... as long as they don't lose by 3 points or more. Or bet on Houston on a -2.5 spread, but they'd have to win by 3 or more for you to get you anywhere. Most point spread bets themselves come with (-110) odds and not a whole lot of movement off that in either direction. You're unlikely to get dead even odds on the spreads because that's one of the places the betting operators take their cut.

Totals Betting or Over/Unders

The total line is a bet on the total of the final number of points scored by the teams combined (including any overtime), and sports bettors can wager over or under the expected total. If the over/under for total runs in a game between the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs is set at 8, the total number of runs scored must be 9 to win the over, and maxes out at 7 to cash in the under. 8 on the nose would cancel the bets and return the stakes to the bettors, which is why you see over/unders often set at, say, 7.5 runs instead of 8.

Futures

Futures markets allow you to place bets on event that's further down the road than the next week or so. A common example of this is choosing a team from the field who you'd wager will win the championship, before the season gets underway. So if you like the Yankees to go all the way before the Winter Meetings even get underway, the futures bets are for you.

Prop Bets

A proposition bet, better known as a prop bet, is a way to lay down money on a piece of action that isn't based on the final result. Many betting sites offer prop bets for all kinds of sports, including live props around in-game situations (which soccer team will score last) and specific to certain athletes (who will win the current set of an in-progress tennis match).

Most Popular Sports to Bet On

The good news about legalized sports betting in New York is that, in all statistical probability, new bettors will have the chance to lay wagers on their favorite sports and most of their hometown teams. And when you know how to bet on sports, you'll find the biggest games and the teams you back are that much more exciting when you have a stake in the action. Check out some of the most popular sports you'll be able to bet on in New York soon.

  • NFL

    In the United States, the NFL is the biggest betting sport out there, and it's second only to soccer in the rest of the world. It's only going to be that much bigger in New York, where three teams that represent the state. And you should expect to see some big sign-up offers for new players come February, since the operators are anticipating being ready to take those first legal bets for that big game at the end of pro football season.

  • NBA

    The NBA provides sports bettors with relentless opportunities for action. The season and post-season run for most of the year, and there are games nearly every night during the season. NBA bettors and bookmakers are both able to take advantage of the fast-moving, high-scoring action through live in-game betting.

  • MLB

    New York has a long and storied history with America's pastime, and novice gamblers can teach themselves the basics of how to bet on sports while enjoying a game with a relaxed pace and fewer moving parts to keep track of. This includes futures bets, since if the major operators want to launch in February, there's only so much to wager on before pitchers and catchers report.

  • NHL

    Just like the NFL, the NHL sends three New York based teams onto the ice. And it's true that hockey doesn't bring in the volume of bets that football does, but many an expert picks hockey as a sport that lends itself to strategy and live bets. And let's face it, the only way to make playoff hockey more exciting is to have a little cash on it.

  • College Football

    Football, as you know, is a massively popular sport. But betting on college football can give you a whole host of options you can't get betting on the pros. The volume of teams gives sports bettors more options than the pro teams, and some operators will have other ways to play than the ever-popular point spreads, totals and moneylines. However: There's a important rule to keep in mind around college sports. No legal betting site in New York will be able to take wagers on a New York college team, including the Syracuse Orange, the Buffalo Bulls and the Army Black Knights.

  • College Basketball

    Betting on college basketball doesn't have to just be the brackets in March, and what good are bragging rights when there's nobody in the office to brag to anyway? Sure, you can still run your pool, but you can make it more interesting now and put some money on your alma mater, even if you never get out of regionals. Of course, the earlier caveat about New York college teams applies here as well, so don't expect to be able to bet on Syracuse or St. Johns when March comes around.

  • Other Sports To Bet On

    That's just the tip of the iceberg. Different operators run different betting markets (another reason to shop around and find the one you like). Any place you'd hope to bet would have those listed above, plus heavy hitters like boxing, golf, mixed martial arts, motorsports, soccer and tennis. But keep your eyes open for some sports that aren't necessarily as popular here in the states. If you know where to look, you can find action on rugby, handball, cricket, pool and snooker. Keep an open mind and you might accidentally find a new favorite sport. Seriously, if you're used to college football and the NFL, Aussie rules football is NUTS.

Teams In New York To Bet On

Are you looking to bet on hometown teams? With New York being a sports capital of the world, you're in luck. The Bills have given their fans a lot to cheer about this season, but if you prefer the Jets or the Giants, a few well-placed wagers could put you in a position where you're having a better year than they are. Knicks and Nets fans can take advantage of the high-volume action in the NBA. The season is still young in the NHL, and should be heating up when the sports betting apps open for business to fans of the Rangers, Sabres and Islanders. And while it's futures bet season for Yankees and Mets fans, there'll be plenty of ways to play when Spring rolls around.

The Legality of Online Sports Betting in New York

You'll also want to compare how the markets and betting lines compare. We're watching closely and have up-to-date reviews, but every player is different and you're the best one to decide what works for you.

Betting Lines & Odds

As exciting as it can be to make your wagers at the retail sportsbooks, you're limited to the sports markets, the bets, and the odds they give you. Don't get us wrong, it's not bad, and it can be a lot of fun.

But when it comes to finding favorable odds, you'll probably prefer the online experience. If for no other reason, the betting lines themselves are going to vary from operator to operator, especially when you get into odds boosts and other promotions.

Why bet a moneyline at (-135) when you can get the same bet at (-110)? Even a difference of a point or two can add up if you're playing shrewdly. Shopping around is just logical, and it's a hell of a lot more convenient to navigate between a couple of apps than it is to drive from the sportsbook in Schenectady to the one in Chittenango.

Betting Bonuses

You've no doubt seen ads for operators offering all sorts of signup bonuses. But what are they really offering and are the promo codes worth what you need to do to get the most of the bonuses? Check out what you can expect from the big names coming to a phone near you based on what kinds of deals are in place in other states.

🎰 Caesars New York$1,001 First Bet Match
🎰 BetMGM New York$1,000 Risk-Free Bet
🎰 DraftKings New York20% First Deposit Bonus
🎰 BetRivers New York$250 First Deposit Match
🎰 FanDuel New York$1,000 Risk-Free Bet
🎰 PointsBet New York$2,000 Risk First Bet Match
🎰 WynnBET New York$1,000 Risk-Free Bet
🎰 Bally Bet New York$550 Risk-Free Bet
🎰 Resorts World New York$250 Risk-Free Bet

Sports Betting Apps

Any of the operators we've just mentioned should have the tech to place bets through a secure mobile app. One of the best things about the sportsbook apps is that it's simply another option that allows to play your way. The more choices you have the better, and having the ability to play in the palm of your hand is unmatched, especially if you're a fan of live in-game betting. You're not even stuck in the home office you had to build in your basement last year.

Variety of Deposits & Withdrawal

It will come as no surprise that the operators give you plenty of options to move money into your account. Most places prefer linking your user account to your online banking system for the fastest deposit and withdrawal options, but depending on where you play, you can also use most major credit and debit cards, e-checks, prepaid gift cards, PayPal and more. Almost all of the available deposit options will hit your account immediately, and electronic withdrawals generally take in the neighborhood of 3-5 business days.

Customer Support Options

The legalization and regulation of online gambling in New York provides for a closely monitored system that promises a fair game to bettors across the state. But bad things can happen, and that's where the customer support options come into play. All of the operators licensed in New York have a customer support option, and you'll find several ways to get your situation addressed. Most have a pretty comprehensive FAQ file, but if that doesn't cut it, usually there are support reps available by email and phone, including a callback option. You can also get live chat support from some operators.

New York Sports Betting Tips and Strategies

So how do you get started? Carefully. Gambling is fun, but it's more fun when you win. The more thoroughly you understand what you're doing, the better you maximize your chance of bringing in some winnings. Off the bat, we recommend using one of the above-listed operators. That way, at the minimum, you know you're getting odds and payoffs regulated by the state.

You'll also want to compare how the markets and betting lines compare. We're watching closely and have up to date reviews, but every player is different and you're the best one to decide what works for you.

βœ”οΈ Register at Multiple Sportsbooks

Give yourself some options. You may find that your favorite sport isn't well-served by your favorite betting operator. If you're getting good odds boosts in one place and like the rewards plan of another, go where it makes sense to play when it makes sense to play there. They're not going to take it personally.

βœ”οΈ Shop the Betting Lines

It seems obvious, but not every place plays the same. Take a close look at the lines before you lay any money down. Maybe you have three sportsbooks you like and consistently get better hockey odds at one while another tracks as a better place to bet on basketball. Maybe the third only really comes into play when their bonuses are in markets you play anyway. Do your research and get your best payouts.

βœ”οΈ Find & Stick to A Betting System

Make a plan that works for you. If you can set and stick to some rules around what you will and won't bet on, you can take emotion out of the action. For instance, you may decide you always bet on your favorite football team at home and listed as 7 point favorites. Or you won't bet on them at all in weather below freezing. Draw a line in the sand and you can keep yourself from going in too deep on something you logically know is a longshot. Adjust your system before you play, sure, but stick to the plan when the games are going.

βœ”οΈ Start With Simple Straight Bets

Keep it simple, especially at the beginning. A parlay across eight football games on Sunday can look tempting, but it's important to get the basics down first. Give the spread a try, a moneyline later, an over/under after that. See what kind of bets you're comfortable weighing in on before you decide to make things trickier for yourself.

βœ”οΈ Bet The Smaller Sports Markets

We've already covered that football is the biggest betting market in the American sportsbook world, followed by basketball. A smaller market, or less popular betting sport, can be a way to exploit your knowledge of a contest that won't have as many eyes on it. Betting on the next Conor McGregor fight is sure to do huge business, but if you're a cagey fight fan, you may see something more enticing on the undercard of a PFL event. You probably don't know more than the oddsmakers do about the NFL, but you can really score if you're a rabid fan of Handboldligaen (that's the #1 men's professional handball league in Denmark, as if we had to tell you).

βœ”οΈ Start With Small Wagers

American odds give you easy-to-digest math based on $100 bets. There's nothing in the rules that says every bet should be $100. Frankly, you probably don't want to get near that number as you're getting started. You should always bet responsibly, and never wager more than you can afford to lose. You're going to find every place has a minimum bet that they'll take, but it can be as low as 10 cents. You're not going to get much return from a dime, but ten-cent bets can be educational - a cheap way to figure out of you're as good at this as you think you are.

βœ”οΈ Live Bet on New York Sports

It's hard to wholeheartedly encourage new bettors to get mixed up in live bets. As you're getting your feet wet, it's more prudent to stick to small wagers on straight bets that live inside of your system. That said, live bets can be a lot of fun, and are definitely recommended when you've found a sportsbook you like. As you teach yourself to bet on sports, it's worth keeping an eye on the live bets to see how the lines move during your games. Just know that it'll be hard to resist the in-game action before long.

How to Bet in New York FAQ

Legal online sportsbooks launched in January 2022. You can also bet in person at the retail sportsbooks in the casinos across New York State.

At minimum, you want a secure, regulated experience from any of the operators licensed by the New York State Gaming Commission to ensure you're not going to get ripped off by a shady operation. After that, you should look for a gaming experience that's fun. This is supposed to be fun, don't forget.

This is a matter of personal preference, and largely depends on what you're looking for. DraftKings has a great initial deposit bonus and tons of markets. Caesars has a deep rewards program that serves in person gamblers to a great degree. PointsBet has a proprietary type of game that you can't get anywhere else. Try a few and see what you like.

The one you're most comfortable with. Point spreads are popular for a reason, but you might just dislike them. That's fine, online sportsbooks give you all kinds of options to wager on. If you want to get action on every basketball game in a night and never think about the moneylines, that can be done.

Simply, the plus sign (+) is the underdog, the minus sign (-) is the favorite. The larger the number is, the bigger the odds go in that direction.

Contributors

Brian Dermody @BrianDermody

Contributor since November 2021

Brian Dermody relentlessly tests and reviews all the top sports betting apps available in the US to ensure bettors know exactly what they are getting into when they sign up with a new online bookie.