Picking the Right Sportsbook for You

It's easier in person than online, 'cause you can just go by the size of the bar and the number of TVs. (Bally's Las Vegas)

It’s easier in person than online, ’cause you can just go by the size of the bar and the number of TVs. (Bally’s Las Vegas)

Whether you are new to sports betting (in which case you might want to check out our beginners’ guides to betting on baseball, basketball and football) or you have been doing it for a while (in which case you should check out a few of our other articles to brush up on your skills), you are likely well aware that you cannot profit off of your bets without finding a suitable sportsbook. But if your definition of “suitable” is simply any sportsbook at which the lines are still open, then you have a lot to learn.

Fortunately, you are living in an era that has made betting much easier than it once was. You used to be forced to either find a casino with open betting lines (which is admittedly easy if you’re from certain cities such as Vegas), or you had to go to a bookie who may or may not be trustworthy enough for you to hand over your money to him. Now, there are a multitude of sportsbooks available online. This is something of a blessing and a curse, as you have numerous options but may doubt your ability to make the right one.

This can be a challenging task. You might have in-depth knowledge of game statistics, and your predictions for the game might have even been backed up by the plays you received as part of our handicapping consulting services. But there is always a risk associated with placing any wager, and it is easy to fear that you might lose big if you wind up putting your money on the wrong team. How do you pick a sportsbook that helps you to minimize your potential losses, but still offers decent winnings if you place the right bet?

Don’t fret. Picking the right sportsbook is easy if you just look for the following things:

Money Lines and Other Values

Get it? Money line? Okay, so it's a pretty bad pun. But don't bother fishing for an apology. (Shutterstock)

Get it? Money line? Okay, so it’s a pretty bad pun. But don’t bother fishing for an apology. (Shutterstock)

Since you’re trying to earn some bang for your buck, it shouldn’t surprise you that one of the first things you’re going to have to take a look at when trying to find a decent sportsbook is the actual lines at which your wagers are being set. If a sportsbook is taking a lot of juice for betting on favored teams but isn’t setting very high money lines for the underdogs, then you can’t count on making a whole lot of money off of them.

Of course, money lines are mostly relevant to baseball, since you probably won’t be betting them on basketball or football unless you’re betting on the underdog. That said, you also need to take a long, hard look at the spreads on each sportsbook you’re considering. Do they seem a tad unfair? Does it seem impossible for the favored team to cover the spread, no matter how good they are? It helps if you’ve been assessing the stats on each team, but if you have some experience doing this then you might even be able to trust your intuition to a certain extent. If one sportsbook has a much greater spread than some of the others, then you probably don’t want to be placing your money with them. There’s a good chance that they’re inflating their numbers to try and take advantage of bettors.

If you’re betting on baseball, then you might want to take a look at the run line values. These don’t always vary too much from one sportsbook to another, but sometimes they can differ by surprising amounts. You might not find too much variation here, but you will still be able to gain an idea regarding how fair the sportsbook in question is to its bettors. If you can find one that doesn’t make you pay too much juice, then you can maximize your profits in a big way over time.

Finally, you have to look at the values that have been set for prop bets and futures. You might not indulge yourself in prop bets too often, but they can be incredibly profitable when they pay off. The odds will be against you, but the sportsbooks know this and might set the odds pretty high just to lure bettors into making more of these types of wagers. If you find one with a high enough value, then you won’t have as much to lose from putting a little bit of money down as you will have to gain if you are able to win. Not all sportsbooks offer prop bets, but it can definitely be worth your while to find one that does.

If you are taking a good look at all of these values, it should be easy to tell whether a sportsbook is trying to unfairly manipulate its bettors or simply offering odds based on who they think will win the game. It will also become easy to find numbers that you might exploit in the case of prop bets and other wagers that might promise a strong payoff with minimal losses. These values are not the only important factor when choosing a sportsbook, but they certainly matter.

Various Membership Benefits

Much like signing a contract, you’re going to want to read over some things before you get started. (ImgBuddy)

Much like signing a contract, you’re going to want to read over some things before you get started. (ImgBuddy)

The thing about money lines and other values is that they aren’t really unique to online sportsbooks. If you are in a position to place your wagers at a Vegas casino, then feel free to look at some of the same numbers mentioned above. But if you are the type that would prefer to do your betting online, then you are going to need some other incentives in order to help you decide which sportsbook is most appropriate for your needs as a bettor.

This is where membership benefits come into play. Some sportsbooks will offer bonuses just for signing up to use their service. These bonuses often serve to save you money, and potentially even help you make some of it. If you are unfamiliar with online sportsbooks, then free plays and deposit bonuses might be likened to free trials (and you know how much we love free trials). Basically, you are given a certain bonus that can add to your bankroll and either maximize your winnings on a successful play or ensure that no personal funds are lost if your first play is a dud.

Some of these bonuses will offer as much as $50 to $100 just for signing on. And the sign-up bonuses are not the end of it. If you have ever cancelled a subscription, such as to the New York Times or other publication, you may have received an offer for so many months free if you decide not to cancel. There are sportsbooks that will do much the same thing, offering you a bonus that is similar to their sign-up bonus if you choose not to cancel your membership with them. This is good for the sportsbook, because it draws you back in to keep placing wagers. It is good for you, because it basically gives you a couple of free plays.

Deposit bonuses are among the most popular membership benefits offered by most online sportsbooks, but they are not the only ones by any means. Some sportsbooks will offer additional benefits that save you money by charging a few cents less on the juice for bets on favored teams. To those who are new to betting, the difference (which is sometimes only around five cents or so) may look negligible. However, this can certainly add up over time. These reductions, no matter how small, should not be undervalued by any means.

Keep in mind that just because a sportsbook offers certain membership benefits does not always mean they have your best interests in mind. While you are going to want to pick a sportsbook that offers at least some benefits, this should not be your primary concern. You should take these benefits into account while still weighing the value of the other options on this list. Otherwise, you might be drawn in by a sportsbook that offers easy money when in fact their service is lackluster at best. We will cover this in a bit more detail further down.

Depositing and Receiving Funds

As stated above, just because a sportsbook offers great membership benefits does not mean they actually value their members. You can get an idea of just how much they care by taking a look at how easy it is to put money into the site versus how easy it is to take money out. It unfortunately comes as no surprise that some sportsbooks are all too willing to let you make a deposit, but withdrawing money after achieving a high payout on a wager may sometimes take longer than expected.

Of course, depositing isn’t always easy, either. You would think that it would be as simple as entering your credit card information, and for a lot of sportsbooks this is precisely the case. But some may want your full bank information, and it is up to you whether or not you are comfortable giving this up. After all, you do not technically know the people who are running the sportsbook. Just because their website appears to be legitimate does not mean that you are the type of person who will trust complete strangers with your bank account number.

Luckily, there are not too many scams that can be pulled with your bank account information. After all, most banks have systems in place to prevent any type of fraud, and that fraud would then be traceable back to the sportsbook in question. In other words, even if you are not the trusting type, you should be able to trust most sportsbooks that take deposits in the form of credit card payments or bank wires. You can also generally trust any online books that use other reputable and traceable services for moving your money around. Western Union, for instance, can generally be trusted with your funds. No matter what, do not sign up for a sportsbook that requires you to send in hard cash. Most trustworthy sites will not require you to do this.

Once you are feeling assured that the site’s system of depositing funds is trustworthy and secure, then you will want to look at how they manage withdrawals. This is where some bettors may end up feeling as if they have picked the wrong sportsbook, as they may find themselves waiting two or three weeks (sometimes even more) to receive their winnings. This means that even a successful bettor might find their bank account suffering because their money is all tied up while they are stuck waiting for funds. For all they know, those funds might not even arrive.

This means that the best withdrawal options will usually take the form of bank wires. If they take the form of checks, then you will want to find any information you can regarding how and when these checks are sent out. Some sportsbooks might handle all of their withdrawal requests on the same days each week, while others might simply take a set amount of time for processing. Either way, make sure that you are comfortable with this arrangement and that you will not find yourself breaking out into cold sweats while you wonder whether or not your money will ever appear.

User Testimonies and Reviews

Not a bad start, but you're going to want a more detailed review than this. (CJ Dellatore)

Not a bad start, but you’re going to want a more detailed review than this. (CJ Dellatore)

Not every sportsbook is going to provide the above information. While you will likely have no problem getting a feel for their betting lines, that does not mean they will be upfront about whether or not they offer re-signing bonuses or how long it takes them to process withdrawal requests. This means that if you really want to choose a sportsbook that works for you, then you are going to have to depend on someone else’s word.

There are numerous websites that offer sportsbook reviews, and they will usually provide fairly detailed information on withdrawal procedures, membership benefits, and the fairness of betting lines. At least some of the information they give you regarding the sportsbook in question will often have been gleaned from actual users who have encountered either success or various problems with their service. You might be surprised at some of the information that can come to light when reading these reviews. Not only can these reviews be revealing, but they can expose problems that are far from intuitive.

Even if you can’t find reviews, you can sometimes gain an idea regarding how users feel about a site simply by looking for information on how long they have been in business. Obviously, a sportsbook that has been catering to bettors for several years must be doing something right. On the other hand, one that just commenced operations a few months ago is much harder to vouch for unless there are user testimonials and third party reviews talking them up. And you never know—some of the praise being sung in their reviews might not even conform to the issues discussed in this article. For instance, they might be receiving praise for the accessibility of their customer service.

In fact, you are likely to find quite a bit of information regarding a sportsbook’s level of customer care when you are looking through reviews. If someone has an issue receiving their winnings after requesting a withdrawal, they are not going to appreciate feeling as if the website with which they are dealing has stiffed them in terms of service.

When you see these types of issues pop up on forums or other online communities, try to remain objective and take some complaints with a grain of salt. One bettor might not have received their winnings or might have been banned from using the site for reasons that they have portrayed as unreasonable, but you are only seeing one side of the story. And even if their story seems legitimate, bear in mind that you are only reading the account of a single user with a very loud voice. The issue they encountered might be a rarity, and might not reflect on other users’ experiences with the site. Some users are more likely to leave negative reviews when they feel wronged than they are to leave positive reviews for good service, so you have to take this into account.

If a betting service appears to have no reviews at all, whether from users or third party sites that specialize in reviewing the quality of online sportsbooks, then you should probably do your best to avoid them until they have been around long enough to get some reviews. Even if their intentions are good, they might be new to the game and might have some bugs in their service that have not yet been ironed out. You can avoid major disappointment by simply sticking to sites that have been reviewed.

If the reviews are good, the betting lines are fair, a few membership benefits are offered and it looks like it will be easy enough to deposit and withdraw funds, then you should pat yourself on the back. You have officially found a sportsbook worth using. Now, you can focus on handicapping games to your heart’s content, while resting assured that your money is in good hands.