How to start with online betting and make your first bet

How to start with online betting and make your first bet

How do you get started with online betting? What should you bet on? And which sportsbook do you sign up for?

If you feel ready to place a wager on an upcoming game or for your favorite team to win NFL, here is how you get started.

Check what options you have in your state

For those of us who can now bet legally in the U.S., the terms are different depending on where you live. Check out our state-by-state summary of the current situation to see how and where you are able to bet.

If you are in a state that offers online betting, you will be required to open an account, providing age verification details, financial information and confirmation of your location, among other things.

Here is an example from DraftKings:

usbr draftkings signup

Needless to say, it is important that you read and agree to the terms and conditions. This includes the rules around sign-up bonuses, which are not always as attractive as they might appear at first glance.

However, once you have signed up and have deposited some money, you need to consider what you are going to bet on, why you are having the bet and how much you should stake.

What should you bet on?

Just as you wouldn’t go shopping for something without knowing what you want as well as an idea of how much you should pay for it, so the same applies to betting.

Betting on an event simply because it happens to be on TV or is about to start, is usually a sign of an impulsive decision. Whilst these sorts of bets can add to your enjoyment of a game, it is worth being realistic about your long term chances of profitability. Recreational betting is perfectly reasonable if done in moderation.

If, however, you want to maximize your chances of success, it is worth being mindful of the following tips:

Place your first cash bet up to $1,000, and if the bet loses, you will have your wager refunded in Bonus Bets. T&Cs, time limits and exclusions apply. Must be 21+. Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER

Tip #1: Shop around for the best odds

If you are able to access several providers legally, then make sure you select the one that gives you the best return for your money. Odds comparison sites are a good place to aggregate this information. Even the smallest advantage is worth the extra work – every cent counts in this game.

usbr over/under betting

Note how this Miami-Baltimore line has moved two points from its opening quote. Betting into a market early can sometimes give you an advantage as not all the information about the circumstances of a game will have been revealed. The closer to kick off, the more efficient the betting market will become and as a result, it will be harder to beat.

Tip# 2: Research odds and Specialize in a betting niche

It is much easier for an oddsmaker to come up with a points spread for Miami at Baltimore than it is for him to decide on Ryan Fitzpatrick passing yards. If you spend your time researching the stats around player props and other obscure markets then you are likely to have done more work than the oddsmaker, who has an abundance of other sports and markets which need his attention.

Most importantly of all, whatever you are betting on, you should have an idea of what you consider its probability of success should be – whatever methods you use to decide what that probability is. There is no point in betting on something that you consider to be priced correctly, or worse still, which represents worse value than you think it should be.

How much should you stake?

Even though you may consider yourself to be only a recreational bettor, it is worth taking the time to record your bets and determine an appropriate stake size.

Keeping track of what sports and markets that you have bet on can help you understand where and why you are succeeding (or failing!). This includes making a note of the odds you obtained on an event as opposed to the closing odds of that event.  If you consistently beat the closing line you have a realistic expectation of profitability in the long run.

As for how much to stake, much will depend on your personal financial situation but you should never stake an amount that would make you feel uncomfortable – this is a sign that it is money that you can’t afford to lose.

In numerical terms, if you have allocated yourself a bankroll, then typically you would look to stake around 2% of it on any one particular bet. There are many sophisticated staking strategies, some of which we will consider in subsequent articles, but in the early stages of your betting journey, it is a good idea to keep to small, consistently staked wagers until you have built up a pattern of behavior which is working well for you.

Must be 21+ and present in VA. T&Cs apply.


Jonathan has over 25 years’ experience in the sports betting industry, as a senior odds compiler at a number of high profile fixed odds and spread betting firms in the UK. He is the architect of numerous bespoke internal training schemes for sportsbooks around the world, delivers training both online and in person and also builds bespoke trading tools for clients to complement their sportsbook operations.