So you want to bet on a sporting event but what is all this talk of point spreads, odds and bookies? The sports betting world can seem intimidating at first but going in with some basic knowledge can make a huge difference. Historically, sports gambling has been around since the 1800s with horse racing, cockfighting and fighting between fellow men. Today, you can bet on a variety of sports like horse racing, rugby, football, cricket, tennis, golf, boxing, greyhound racing, badminton, casino games and more. Sports betting is legal in the UK and is a small contributor to its economy with an increasing interest of the international gaming sector and the National Lottery. Gambling debts remain unenforceable under English law. In countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Sweden and Canada, legal bookies are state owned and operated. Canada, for example, has Sport Select, which is part of its lottery program. In the UK, reputable bookies are members of the Independent Betting Adjudication Service (IBAS), a third-party organization that settles disputes between bookies and customers. In the UK, few bookies are still on the track at events marking up odds and using tic-tac (a form of sign language used by bookies) or mobile phones to communicate the odds between staff and other bookies. Instead, online and high street gambling have reached an all-time high due to new laws. There are more than 8,000 betting shops in the UK but the four major players are William Hill, Ladbrokes, Coral and state-owned ToteSport. Those increasing in popularity are Sky Bet, Bet 24, Betfred, Bet365, Sportingbet, Victor Chandler, Stan James and Mansion. Here are a few basic terms to know before betting on your first sporting event: Bet: a single wager. You win or you lose. It is the simplest form of gambling. Trade: two or three bets covering all possible outcomes on both, or all three, outcomes of the event. A profit is obtained through the use of price differences. Arbitrage: or arb, is two bets covering both possible outcomes of the event using price differences on separate books at the same time. Bookmaker: a person or group that takes bets on sporting events at previously agreed upon odds, also known as a bookie. Punter: a person who places a bet. Point Spread: a handicap placed on the expected winner, simple as that. The purpose of the spread is to help the bookies balance their books. For example, on a team favoured to win, punters may be required to wager £11 to win £10. Balanced action guarantees the bookie a profit regardless of who wins. Odds: the amount a bookie will pay out on bets. There are two formats you should be familiar with—decimal odds (European) and fractional odds (UK). Decimal odds are the ratio of the full payout to the stake. 2.00 is an even bet. Fractional odds are the ratio of the amount won to the stake. 1/1 is an even bet. Here are two conversion formulas to know: Decimal to Fractional = Decimal-1, then convert to fraction Fractional to Decimal = Divide fraction, then add 1 Push: a bet result in which neither side wins, wagers are returned to the punters. To avoid pushes and ensure a commission on losing wagers, bookmakers often set point spreads that include a half-point. Parlay: a single bet that links together multiple individual wagers and is dependent on all of the wagers winning together. The benefit is that there are much higher payoffs than in individual bets. However, if any of the bets in the parlay loses, the entire parlay loses. Teaser: a bet that allows the punters to combine bets on two different games. The punter can adjust the point spreads for the two games but gets a lower return in the event of a win. Sports betting can be a dangerous game. It can lead to addiction and serious problems. Managing your money is the most important thing to remember. Bet what you can afford to lose. Stick to your bankroll, or budget, no matter the outcome or temptation to try again. Betting in general is a marathon, not a sprint. If you lose a big one, you are more likely to try to make that money back quick, or chase your losses. Spreading your bankroll among a few small bets is better in the long run. Never gamble under the influence of alcohol. Toss down those free drinks in moderation. Be smart about your picks. Do your homework, research and check the odds. Read up on statistics, team trends, game analyses and so forth. Finding the best line, or spread, is important. Be wary of parlays and teasers. Leading up to an event, the time to place your bet is crucial. For an underdog, bet as late as possible when much action is on the favorite. For a favorite, bet as early as possible because professionals are putting a lot of money on the points. If all else fails, go for the home team. Teams play inspired in front of a home crowd and are likely to play through to the end, sometimes covering the spread. Sports betting has an 80-10-10 theory. 80% of punters lose, 10% break even and the last 10% actually make money. These tips will help you reach that last 10%.