The Mechanics of Sports Betting: Wager, Selection, Stake, Return and Odds

Types of Bets

If you’re put off by the terminology and mechanics of sports betting then this is the article for you. Sports betting is actually fairly simple and easy to grasp once the basics are learned.

By the end of this article you will have the information you need to take you from the greenest of novices to the most seasoned of gamblers, or at least enough to fake it. Yes, there is always more to learn when it comes to sports betting, but a solid foundation will always see you through.

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To make a wager is a rather old-fashioned term these days but one which is still in use. The wager is the bet, and every condition the bet contains. To put it another way the wager is the whole bet including the selection, the stake and the odds offered for the bet.


The selection is simply the outcome which you have selected. Win or draw are two different types of selection. If Liverpool are playing Chelsea then the three most basic selections are Liverpool to win, Chelsea to win and a draw. Of course, you may not wish to select anything in this game at all, in which case your selection would comprise of two entirely different teams, perhaps even another sport. In short the selection is your prediction of the outcome of any sporting event.


The stake is the amount you wish to bet on any given selection. Once you have chosen a specific outcome to bet upon your next decision is to decide the value amount you are betting upon it. If you wish to bet £10 then your stake is £10. High stakes betting simply means large cash values. A casino may set stake minimums and maximums for table games, and bookmakers may do the same for sports betting. Generally speaking there is much greater flexibility in what you choose to stake when you bet online.


The return is how much any given bet will pay out. This figure is based upon how much you win (based on the odds), plus the return of your stake. If your selection is wrong, you lose the stake and your return is £0.


Odds are the price you are offered for your selection. It is, in theory, the probability of the event occurring. If your chances of scoring a goal are 5/1 then for every 5 shots you make 1 should find the back of the net. The odds offered by a bookmaker for an event occurring may not be the same as the actual chance of it occurring. In fact, this is where gambling comes into play. If the price offered of an event occurring differs to your belief that it will occur then it is possible you have identified either a good or a bad bet. Generally speaking bookmakers are very good at judging the odds of events and pricing them accordingly.

In practice

If you are offered a price of 1/10 then it means you will need to stake £10 on something simply to win £1. In this case a £10 bet would return £11. This return is comprised of your £10 stake plus the £1 you win.

At 10/1 you would need to bet £1 to win £10. The recovery of your £1 stake plus the £10 would give you a £11 return. In all cases a winning bet returns the stake and the amount won based upon the odds.

Multiples and ACCAs

For some sports events you may wish to make more than a single selection. These bets are called multiples and accumulators. In a multiple selection bet you can calculate your return by treating each bet separately and working them out accordingly.

Let’s assume you stake £10 on two selections. One is priced at odds of 1/10 and another at odds of 10/1. This is your wager.

The first bet is successful and so it returns £11. You are now betting this £11 on the second selection at odds of 10/1 which also wins. £11 x 10 =  £110 + the £11 stake = £121.

In short your £10 stake will return £121 if your wager is successful, or in decimals will payout your stake (£10 in this instance) @ 12.1.

For these types of wager it doesn’t matter whether these events run simultaneously or concurrently, the mathematics works just the same.


Now you understand the components of a sports bet, you’re ready to go. If you want to try a few single bets before you step up to multiples and accumulators that’s okay, but an understanding of these terms and principles will stand you in good stead no matter how ambitious your betting becomes. Good luck!