How to Bet on Sports Online - A Beginner's Guide

The internet has transformed many aspects of our lives, and sports betting has changed out of all recognition over the last twenty years. Gone are the days when you had to take a trip to your local betting shop to make a sports bet. Now, thanks to the internet, you can bet on any sport from around the world, without having to leave the comfort of your home. You can even bet via mobile while you’re relaxing by the pool on holiday or heading to work on the train, should you wish.

But the world of online sports betting can be overwhelming for those who are new to it. There are so many bookmakers out there, and the terminology that the industry uses can be confusing. So, to help you learn how to bet on sports online, here is a beginner’s betting guide.

Topics on this page

Top 3 Bookmakers in the UK

  • Live Streaming**
  • Customer Support 24/7
  • Increased odds
£50in free bets Claim Offer
bet365 Review
*Bet £10 & Get £50 in Free Bets for new customers at bet365.Min deposit requirement. Free Bets are paid as Bet Credits and are available for use upon settlement of bets to value of qualifying deposit. Min odds, bet and payment method exclusions apply. Returns exclude Bet Credits stake. Time limits and T&Cs apply. **Geo restrictions apply. Funded account or bet placed 24 hours prior to event required to access, #AD
  • Pre-match statistics
  • Fair Betting Lines
  • Betting Predictions
£30in free bets Claim Offer
888sport Review
  • Betting Exchange
  • Live results
  • Live Streaming
£100in free bets Claim Offer
Betfair Review
*18+ T&Cs Apply!

When you’ve checked out a few online bookmakers, you may get the impression that they are all pretty similar, but this would be a mistake. The first step in online sports betting is to find the bookmaker that suits you, and these are key factors to consider:

Choice of Markets

Most bookmakers will cover the main sports such as football and tennis in reasonable depth, but if you are planning to bet on a more obscure sport, you might have to look a little harder. Some bookmakers will focus on a core of around 15-20 sports, while others offer every sport under the sun from pesapallo to bandy. The number of markets a sportsbook offers is also important. You want to ensure that if you’ve found a good bet, it will be accommodated, so it is a good idea to give priority to bookmakers that offer a wide selection of types of bet.

Safety and Security

One of the biggest worries that newcomers to sports betting have is over security. To help ensure that your online sports betting is safe, check out the licensing and security details which should be displayed on any bookmakers’ site. The best sportsbooks will be licensed by reputable authorities, such as the UK Gambling Commission. They will also employ SSL encryption to protect all customer transactions and will display details of their data protection policies on their site.

Customer Friendly

The other aspect to consider when choosing an online sportsbook is how well it looks after its customers. Look out for sites that provide 24/7 customer support through a number of channels, including email and Live Chat. And check out their banking options. The best sites offer a range of methods for deposits and withdrawals and don’t charge fees for any such transactions. And you should also check out what bonuses and promotions a bookmaker offers, not just for newcomers but also for regular punters. Bookmakers that reward loyal customers with perks, loyalty schemes and other offers are a better bet than those that only focus on drawing in new punters.

Choosing Your Bet

Once you’ve found a bookmaker that suits your needs – and ideally more than one, so that you can compare odds – how do you choose your bet? There are as many methods for betting online as there are online gamblers, and it is outside the scope of this article to go through them all, but one concept that is vital to all sports gamblers is the idea of value.

Essentially, value is all about betting on an outcome that you think is more likely to happen than the odds suggest. For example, if you think Manchester United should be 2/1 to win a game against Barcelona but your bookmaker is offering 3/1, you may have found a value bet. Of course, how you calculate what the price should be is the tricky part, but getting used to estimate what you think the correct odds are and only betting at that price will save you a lot of lost bets in the long run.

Find out more about each betting type

What Type of Bet?

There is a wide array of bet types available in the modern online sports-betting market. Each requires a different approach, and it is worth taking the time to work out which suits you best.

Single Fixed Odds

This is the standard type of online sports bet. A single fixed odds bet will be offered before an event starts and could be anything from the outcome of a football match to the score in a basketball game. Strictly speaking, the odds can change in a fixed odds market, particularly if the market is opened several days before the event in question, and bookmakers may adjust their prices if, for example, a key player picks up an injury on the training ground that will rule him out of the match.

But with a standard single fixed odds bet, you will generally have time to weigh up the possibilities and decide whether you want to take the price on offer. You can also use one of the many odds comparison sites that are available online to help you find the best price on any particular outcome.

Single fixed betting slip

Accas and Others

Accumulators (usually shortened to accas) are another popular sports bet. In fact, before the advent of online betting, accas were the main method of betting on football in the UK. With an acca, you are combining more than one fixed odds bet into a larger bet, with the profits from each bet rolling over to become the stake on the next bet.

The advantage of an acca is that it can produce a big profit for a relatively small stake. The disadvantage is that if one of the bets fails, the whole acca is a loser, although this can be offset if your bookmaker offers ‘acca insurance’, which usually means you will get your stake back if one bet in your acca lets you down.

Accas can include as few as three fixed odds bets, and most bookmakers will make it easy for you to combine bets into an acca. There are also more exotic options available, such as the Yankee, Heinz or Patent, which combine accas and single fixed odds bets in different ways, though each of these bet types has its own advantages and disadvantages, and there are many online sports betting guides available to help you understand how these bets work.

In-Play Sports Betting

In-play betting is increasingly popular in the sports betting world. As the name suggests, when you bet in-play, you are betting on a match as it is ongoing. The bookmaker will update the various markets in real time as the event proceeds, and you can watch the prices change, choosing your moment to step in and bet. This is a type of betting that suits punters who can react quickly and keep a cool head, but just like trading in the stock exchange, it requires preparation and a clear plan. It can be too easy to get carried away when you’re betting in-play, leading to loss-chasing and other mistakes.

One important aspect of live betting is being able to see the event you are betting on. This is why many in-play bettors prefer to bet with bookmakers that offer live streaming and other services such as in-play statistics updates so that you are not betting blind.

William Hill

What makes William Hill one of the best bookmakers in the market?

  • Live Betting
  • Mobile & Tablet App
  • Early Payout / Cash Out
  • Live Streaming
£30in free bets

How does Unibet work compared to other bookmakers? Let's see

  • Live Betting
  • Mobile & Tablet App
  • Early Payout / Cash Out
  • Live Streaming
£40money back

Make Your Bet

Once you’ve chosen your bet, what then? The betting process has come a long way since the days of paper betting slips and bookmakers’ pencils! Most online sportsbooks make it relatively easy to get your bet on. The usual method is to click on the sport and market of your choice, then click on your selection. This will then appear in the online betting slip that pops up on the site.

This virtual betting slip gives you the ability to change your stake size, and make other adjustments, including opting to make an each way bet or to link more than one bet together into an acca. Online betting slips will also show you how much you will win if your bet is successful, and you will be given a final chance to reconsider before pressing to confirm your bet.

Watching sports and betting


Like any aspect of life that involves risking money, you should never bet online lightly. Betting on a sports event can add a degree of fun to watching a live event and a select few, who are prepared to put in the work even manage to become full-time professional gamblers.

The convenience and ease provided by online sports betting have enabled millions of sports fans all over the world to enjoy a sporting bet and to get closer to the action, and whether you are a fan of in-play betting or like to put together a weekly football acca, online sports betting has undoubtedly been a bonus for punters.