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How to bet on college football: your crash course to sports betting

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Want to make a bet on the Badgers but don’t know how? Let me help.

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March Madness Viewing Party At The Westgate Las Vegas Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

If you or someone you know might have a gambling problem, call or text the National Problem Gambling Hotline confidentially at 1-800-522-4700. Odds and figures based on August 27, 2019, for current odds visit The Action Network.

Each week I write a betting preview on the Badger game analyzing the spread and over/under. In addition, I write a weekly column of five games that I like on my personal site that has done pretty well over the past two seasons. Betting is easy lingo to me, but I realized that in these posts not everyone know’s what these terms mean. If you’re new to the sports betting world, it can be daunting. Walking into a sports book and seeing all the numbers can be intimidating. But fear not, I have some tips and tricks to help you out!

Where to place a bet?

This is a question that will depend on where you live, or are presently located. It’s the golden age for sports betting currently, and many more states are legalizing it. Iowa, Indiana and Illinois have all made it legal and will be taking bets next week. If you live in one of those states like myself, you’re good to go to any casino and make a bet of your choosing. Just find the number, and go to the counter. Simple.

Hooters Casino Hotel In Las Vegas To Be Rebranded By OYO Hotels
This is Las Vegas, which is often confused for Indiana.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Unfortunately for Wisconsin, sports betting doesn’t appear to be legal there anytime soon. It’s a welcome sign to have states around it doing so, but the Badger State is well behind. If you are in Wisconsin, you can drive across the border or turn to an offshore online website of your choosing. Just be careful and look for trusted sites.

What to bet on?

There are hundreds of bets you can make each week from the standard spread, to props, futures etc. I’ll give a rundown on the basics to get you started. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Each bet has different odds, which is a plus or minus value given to each side, set by the casino’s oddsmakers. Understanding that part is crucial out of the gate.

Moneyline: This one is the easiest to understand. You pick the team you think will win and that’s all they have to do. However, the moneyline odds are often not as profitable in football. Sure you can win the bet, but you don’t make a ton of money unless you pick teams with good odds. For example, the Badgers are -550 against South Florida. That means a $100 bet on the moneyline would win you $18.18. Risking $100, just to win under $20 isn’t sensible. Now if you wanted to pick an outright upset, you could do that and turn a nice profit. South Florida is +375, so that same $100 bet would win you $375 if the Bulls pulled off the upset. Sounds nice on paper, but much harder for it to happen.

Spread: Because moneyline bets are so juiced to either side, football mostly uses the spread. The spread is a plus or minus point value given to each team. In each contest, you have an underdog (+) and a favorite (-). As an underdog, you have to either win the game or loss by less than the spread. If you are a favorite, you have to win the game AND win by more than the spread. Also called: covering the spread.

For example, the Badgers are -13.5 against South Florida. That means, if you want to bet the Badgers, they need to win by 14 points or more in order for you to win your bet. With the odds being -110, a 100 dollar bet would net you $90.91. Much more profitable in the long run than the moneyline.

South Florida is +13.5 in this scenario, meaning they can lose the game outright but still cover the spread if they lose by less than 14 points. The odds are the same, so your $100 bet would still bring home $90.91. This allows you to play a favorite and make more money should they cover, or play an underdog and have the flexibility to lose the game but still win the bet.

Over/Under: Say you’re in a situation where you don’t like either side of the spread but still want some action on the game. No problem, just turn to the total. The total means the amount of points scored by both teams combined. Oddsmakers set the number, with odds, and you choose whether the score will equal more than that, or less.

For example, Wisconsin @ South Florida’s total is set at 58. If you want to play the under, you’ll hope that the combined score is less than 58 points. If it’s 59, you lose and the over wins. If its 57, you win. If its 58 you push, meaning each side gets their bet back. A tie essentially.

The total allows you to watch the game without having to root for one particular team. Most people love overs, as that generally means a lot of points. For example Hawaii-Arizona’s total was set at 71. A 45-38 game covered that over easily. I personally love the opposite, and play a lot of unders. Especially in the Big Ten. (Editor’s note: punts, baby!)

Advice?

That should be enough to get you started. However, if you’re new to sports betting take a few tips from Ol’ Uncle Tyler to help you avoid some of the bumps and bruises you get when first starting out.

Take it slow: There is such a thing as beginner’s luck, and it grabs you. You’re winning bets and you think wow this is easy. You bet more games, every game you can find, and keep winning. But slowly it catches up. If you’re betting every single game, next thing you know you’re down money from where you started. It’s a sucky feeling. So take it slow, and find the bets that you really like. If you lose, fine! Try again next time. Don’t double down on the game after just because you want to get back to even. Often times you’ll end up doing more harm than good.

Relax: When you’re on a win streak, things can be fun. BUT, when you’re on a losing streak things can get bleak. Understand that these happen all the time. A bettor only has to win 54% of the time to break a profit. Good bettors, also known as sharps, win only 59-64% of the time and would consider that a great season. I hit at 62% last year and was ecstatic. There will be ups and downs. Don’t let it get to you.

Be responsible: Betting is supposed to be fun. The best piece of advice I can give is to only bet money you’re comfortable losing. If you’re worried about next month’s rent, don’t throw down $200 bets. Throw a $20, or a $10, or a $5 if that’s all you’re comfortable with. Nobody cares what you win or lose, as long as it isn’t stressing you in your outside life.

So be smart, have fun, and make some cash this fall. Oh, and lastly, don’t pay for “expert” picks. All the research and numbers you need are out there for free, you can do it yourself if you’re willing to put the time in. I give out my picks free to prove that point. The so called experts are just trying to get your money. Save it, or bet it!