Our Top-3 Legitimate and Safe Online Sportsbooks with Great Odds.
Best Online Sportsbooks in 2017 – When rating sportsbooks, we consider safety the most important part of our reviews (because why bet on real-money games unless you can safely withdraw your potential winnings?).
To get a recommendation from us, a sports gambling website must have a strong history of delivering payouts. And if a site has had some problems (nearly all long-running sites have), how were they solved?
If a sportsbook passes our safety requirements, the next most important factors are odds, bet selection, customer service and promotions. We believe the following sites achieve better ratings in all of these categories than any other site on the planet.
Our Top Recommended Betting Sites
|Bovada review||Bet NowBovada|| 50% bonus up to $250|
|Sportsbetting.ag review||Bet NowSportsBetting.ag|| 75% bonus up to $1,000|
|BetOnline review||Bet NowBetOnline|| 50% bonus up to $2,500|
|TopBet review||Bet NowTopBet|| 100% bonus up to $1,000|
It’s difficult to get a realistic idea of a site’s track record unless you’ve been around the online gambling industry for a while. That’s where our team comes in – we have the experience (personally, over a decade of experience in the online gambling industry) and we keep ourselves up-to-date on the latest developments.
A Positive Example
In 2008, Bovada got into trouble with the US government: $24 million were seized from bank accounts linked to Bodog, causing liquidity problems which lead to delayed payouts.
The key difference between Bovada and many others in the business was how fast Bovada solved the problem: payouts were delayed only by a matter of weeks and then, within a couple of months, returned to normal.
Every site will have problems once in a while; how they solve the problems is what matters.
To succeed at running any kind of an online gambling business is simple: be reliable, helpful and reasonable. In other words: deliver customer payouts on-time, do your best to help customers when they have problems, and offer customers reasonable chances of winning.
Everything else is just a bonus.
Even though it sounds simple, only few online betting sites can fulfill the criteria. This is especially true for US-friendly online sportsbooks, out of which I can only say good things about a few.
There are more sites to choose from outside of the US. Numerous stock-listed sportsbooks, for example, have to operate in a certain way under the eye of the public and the shareholders. Any significant problems would undoubtedly lead to bad results in the stock market.
Non-US sites often have licenses from more reputable gaming jurisdictions as well, although none of the licenses are 100% safe. Heck, even brick & mortar betting shops licensed within the US have scammed their customers and gotten away with it without a scratch.
What Makes a Sportsbook Good?
Once we’ve determined a gambling site to be safe and trustworthy, here are some of the details we’ve looked at to determine if the site is good for sports betting:
- How many betting markets are covered?
- How many propositions are available?
- How good are the betting lines for each market?
- How are skilled bettors treated?
- What kind of betting limits are in place?
- What kind of promotions does the sports gambling website offer?
- Is the sportsbook client easy to use?
- Are there any live video feeds available?
Logically, every US-friendly sportsbook covers the most popular sports in the US, but to what extent? For example, most sports gambling sites provide odds only for the biggest fights, leaving the less popular fights unnoticed (especially if the fight is not on the pay-per-view card).
I just checked BetOnline and Bovada to see which fights they offer for UFC 190 (taking place in four days from this moment). Incredibly, BetOnline only offers one fight to bet on (the main fight, obviously) while Bovada offers all of the event’s 13 fights. Both are involved in the MMA betting market, yes, but to a quite different extent.
“Propositions,” as in, “different ways to bet on a game,” is a big part of the entertainment factor. It’s worth remembering that more uncommon bets are rarely good bets because the betting websites will likely use bigger safety margins than with regular bet propositions.
Betting Limits and Dual Lines
The biggest US online sportsbook, Bovada, is well-known for using dual lines, which means their betting lines change depending on the skills of the customer. Educated bettors get worse lines than recreational bettors.
Online sports gambling sites outside of the US rarely implement dual lines into their software (in fact, the only other US sportsbook doing that is BetUS, to my knowledge) but many will enforce betting limits on skilled bettors – for example, if you’re tagged as a skilled bettor at Bet365, you may only be able to place the maximum bet of $5.
The more of everything a bookie has, the worse the lines in general. Why? Because they’re spending money on calculating odds for additional markets, extra propositions, providing live feeds, offer better promotions, etc. All of this costs money and someone has to pay for it. The online bookie would obviously prefer if that someone was you.
Promotions are a lot of fun, though. Getting to watch certain games on live video feeds, for example, should be valued for something in case you’d be unable to see the game otherwise. And when you combine that with an opportunity to bet on different types of outcomes during the game? Fun.
Before answering any of the questions, it’s important to consider your approach to sports wagering. Are you betting for entertainment or purely for profit (yes, everyone’s looking to make money, but there’s a difference).
The more fun you’re looking to get out of it, the better a site with lots of betting markets and propositions suits you. On the other hand, if your desire is to become a profitable bettor, you should primarily care about the quality of betting lines.
The sites consistently offering the best odds don’t necessarily offer the most markets, propositions or promotions (or the most “fun” in general). They give you the best run for your money, though.
How Online Betting Sites Make Money
An online sportsbook must turn profit just like any other business. It takes loads of personnel in departments such as customer support, betting analysts, marketing, etc. On top of paying everyone’s wages, they need to make money for the shareholders.
How do they do it?
It’s easily explained via the concept of coin-flipping. Let’s say you bet $100 on Tails – now, if you were to get “fair odds,” you would receive $100 in case it comes tails. However, a sportsbook wants $110 from getting Tails and is willing to give you only $100 for getting meaning the bookie wins in the long run.
Reduced Juice Bets
Certain online betting site like 5Dimes (US-friendly) and Pinnacle Sports (non-US) offer Reduced Juice bets on a selected group of games. Instead of giving you a proposition where you can win $100 by betting $110, you may get a chance to win $100 by betting $105.
Also see the Sports Betting Glossary.
The same logic applies to sports betting. For sportsbooks, they determine their point spread wagers to be 50/50 outcomes (just like coin-flips), however, you generally have to bet $110 to win $100. If you win, you get $100; if you lose, they get $110. Suggesting they’re right about the 50/50 proposition, you lose money in the long run.
In other words, sports betting sites determine what a 50/50 proposition is and then add a safety margin (it’s difficult to be exactly right) and a profit margin (they have to turn profit) on top of that, also known as “Vig” or “juice”. If they’re anywhere close to right about the outcome, they make money.
How to Win at Sports Betting
While there are plenty of more specific tips, tactics and strategies for beating sports gambling sites, it all comes down to this: there are mainly two ways to do it, both easy to understand and simple in principle but difficult to identify (otherwise sports bookies would be out of business):
- Know better than the sportsbook. If you’re knowledgeable enough (requires lots of research and experience), you may find betting lines where the sportsbook is far off with their analysis of the game. Remember though: the sportsbooks still have a safety+profit margin included in the bet so they have to be quite a bit off to make it a profitable bet for you.
- Find arbitrage opportunities. The other way is to find situations where two online bookmakers have big enough disperencies between their lines that you can turn profit by betting on the other outcome at Sportsbook A and the other outcome at Sportsbook B.
Sharp Sports Betting
Stanford Wong’s Sharp Sports Betting is perhaps the best introduction to the basics of winning at sports wagering.
Weighing the Odds
King Yao’s Weighing the Odds in Sports Betting is a must-read after you’re done with Wong’s Sharp Sports Betting.
Fooled by Randomness
Talem Kalib’s Fooled by Randomness helps you understand risk, luck and randomness on a different level.
Winning in the long run is difficult. Some people have done it in a big way, such as Billy Walters (ESPN article), but the amount of expertise and research required is too much for most of us.
To make matters worse, many online sportsbooks have the habit of enforcing betting limits on the customers they consider more educated than average, or even using dual lines (offering different betting lines depending on the skill level of the customer).
It’s up to how much you’re willing to work at it. Consistently winning at sports betting is possible as proven by others, so it’s up to you and how dedicated you’re willing to be.
Why to Trust Our Rankings
I would never try to convince you to blindly trust any informational website’s recommendations. Easily over 90% of sites are completely influenced by advertising income and even the ones that only recommend legitimate sites can make mistakes.
With that said, I’m proud of our list of recommended sportsbooks, which is based on decades of experience and tons of research.
We consider these sites as good as they get.
Online Betting FAQ
Here are answers to the most common questions we receive about betting sports online.
How do I find a safe and trustworthy sportsbook?
We may be biased, but the fastest and easiest way to find a safe and trustworthy sportsbook is to follow our recommendations for the best betting sites. You’ll find our top picks at the top of this page.
But maybe you already have an account at those books, or, perhaps, none of those appeal to you. In that case you’ll have to do some research.
Hands down, the fastest way to find a legit betting site is to make sure it’s not on any rogue, scam or blacklists. These websites should be avoided at all costs.
Pro Tip: Make sure you know who owns and operates the sports betting sites you’re thinking about joining. Then make sure their parent company, or any sister companies, aren’t on any blacklists, too.
Other than that you’ll probably get the best feel for a sportsbook by joining one of the dozens of betting forums online. The most popular is probably Sportsbook Review (SBR), though I’d recommend avoiding them because of the bias they’ve shown in the past.
The 2+2 Forums is another (and much better) recommendation.
Other than that you can read our reviews. Just make sure that whatever sportsbook you join, they’ve been in business for several years, have a positive reputation with customers and have a reputation for paying their customers.
What’s the minimum I can bet online?
This depends on the betting site, but most books offer a $1 minimum.
What’s the max I can bet online?
This depends on several things:
- The sportsbook.
- The market.
- The specific bet.
It might also depend on whether the sportsbook has you pegged as a square or recreational bettor, or a sharp – a professional or skilled bettor.
You’ll find that you can bet several hundred dollars on up to a couple thousand at most books. One that comes to mind that fits this description is Bovada.
On the other hand there are books that will let you bet thousands of dollars, even tens or hundreds of thousands. Bookmaker fits this description.
From there it’ll just depend on the market. You’ll be able to bet more on football and basketball than you will tennis or e-gaming. And, you’ll be able to bet more on events like the Super Bowl, Pro Bowl or NBA Finals than a regular exhibition game.
The best way to know what betting limits a sports betting site has is to read our reviews. You can also find a betting limits section or page on most books’ websites.
What are proposition bets?
These are also known as prop bets. These are different from other bets in that they’re usually odd, unique or different from normal bets, like straight bets to win or over/unders. They’re usually more entertaining.
Wikipedia calls them ‘novelty’ bets. Some examples of prop bets include:
- The duration of the word ‘brave’ in the pregame performance of the national anthem.
- The color of the Gatorade or other sports drink dumped on the winning team’s coach.
They can also be slightly more boring. For example:
- Betting on who scores first in a match.
- Betting on the number of balls or strikes thrown by a pitcher.
- Which team will end with the worst record?
Prop bets can vary wildly from one book to another. Some may not even have (many of) them. The best way to know for sure is to visit different sportsbooks and see what they have listed on their site.
What’s the difference between sportsbooks?
There are many differences. For example:
- If they take US customers or not.
- If they focus on only US or international markets (or not).
- If they’re pro-friendly or not.
- If they offer dual lines or not.
- What markets and sub-markets they offer action on.
- When they post their lines.
- If they offer live betting.
- The types of promotions they offer.
And so on.
To give you an example. Above we talked about the difference between BetOnline and Bovada. For UFC 190, BetOnline offered only one fight to bet on whereas Bovada covered all 13.
If you’re a fight fan, that’s a HUGE difference. It’s something you want to look for when reviewing and joining sportsbooks.
What is juice?
Juice is another way of saying commission. It’s also called vig or vigorish. This is the money bookmakers earn from the difference of their lines.
For example, say you’re flipping heads and tails with a friend. You could both put in $100 to make a $200 pot. The pot goes to the winner.
But when you include a bookmaker, they’ll add a nominal amount to each wager (Wikipedia says about 2%). They may set one side at -110 and the other at +100. The losing bettor loses his $110. The winning bettor wins his $110 back + another $100. This leaves $10 commission – or vig or juice – for the bookie.
What are sports picks?
Sports picks are ‘tips’ for who someone – called a handicapper – thinks will win or lose a match. Some handicappers offer free picks, while others will charge per pick, play or season.
Handicappers often specialize in one or two sports. They (should) know these sports, players and history inside and out.
You need to be careful buying picks. Many handicappers will cook their stats (wins/losses), only show you the best parts of their record, or only show you specific seasons in attempt to fool you.
So it’s important to look at their volume/quantity of bets and how long they’ve been betting. The longer they’ve been betting – while at a profit – the better.
What’s a good win-rate for sports betting?
You need to do a bit better than 51-52% just to break even (because of the vig). Experts bettors have told me that 53-54% is doable, while 55% or higher will place you among the elite bettors in the world.
53% may not sound like much, but in all actuality, it is. A 53% win-rate would mean you’re beating the bookie for a profit.
If you’re betting $1, or even $5, this amounts to pennies, nickels and dimes. Hardly exciting.
But what if you’re betting $500, $1,000 or $10,000. This is where a half a percent or 1 percent difference can make a difference in your bottom line.
Can you make a living through sports betting?
You can. But it’s not easy. You’ll need experience, first and foremost, plus a handle on your math, a savings account and a bankroll.
To put this into perspective – you’ll need to be good enough to beat the book by a bit more than 52% of the time to overcome the house edge. And you’ll need a large enough bankroll that when you do, you’ll earn enough money to not only pocket some profit (you know, to pay the bills), but to also build your bankroll.
You’ll also need extra money to weather the times when you lose. Because it’ll happen nearly 50% of the time in the long run, and possibly even more in the short run – on any given day or even throughout an entire season.
What’s the difference between pre-match betting and live betting?
When you make a pre-match bet, you’re making bets BEFORE a match has started. Live or in-play betting is the opposite – you’re making bets on matches in real time, as the game is progressing. This means lines are changing, the types of bets you can make are changing, and more.
What kinds of sports can I bet on?
This depends on where you have an account. But here’s a general idea based on what Bookmaker.eu offers action on:
Keep in mind that, at most betting sites, many sports will drill down further into specific levels or leagues. For example, basketball will drill down to the NBA, NCAA and WNBA. Football will drill down to include the NFL, NCAA and CFL. And so on.
How old do I need to be to bet sports online?
At most websites you’ll need to be 18. Others are 21, which is also the case when you bet sports in Las Vegas sportsbooks.
What’s the most popular sport to bet on?
The most popular sports to watch – American football, soccer, basketball. This depends on the area you’re betting from/in too, though.
Can you only bet on sports?
No, many places now offer betting on e-gaming, which is professional video gaming. Many betting websites also have an entertainment section, which may include lines for TV shows, awards shows (Emmys) or even the presidential election.
What kind of bankroll do I need to bet sports? How much should I bet?
You can get started online for as little as the minimum deposit. But there’s no telling how long $20 or $50 will last you between bad bets and variance.
A good rule of thumb is to size your bets relative to your bankroll – around 1-2%. That means if you want to bet the minimum at most books — $1 – you should have a $50 bankroll minimum, and preferably closer to $100. The larger you want each unit (bet) to be, the larger your bankroll should be.
Of course, you can bet however much you want and keep however much you want online if you’re prepared to reload your account if/when you deplete your bankroll.
What is line shopping?
Line shopping means to compare lines at different betting sites to find the best price for the markets you want to bet.
For example, if you find that Sportsbook A is offering +110 on a specific match, but Sportsbook B is offering +105, it makes more sense to place your bet at Sportsbook B. You’re getting a better deal.
That might not seem like much of a savings, but it adds up overtime. And considering pro bettors beat the house by as little as half a percent, that small difference in vig can mean the difference between losing and breaking even, or breaking even and winning.
Should I have multiple betting site accounts?
Yes, for a couple reasons.
One, so you can line shop between the two. Two, bookmakers are different in the markets they offer action on. And three, each book offers different promos and deals.
The bottom line – the more accounts you have, the more options you will have. The better deals you can get.
Are there any good books on sports betting?
Not many. You see, experts don’t have much incentive in sharing information with newbies. Because all they do is affect the prices/odds they can get.
The books that have been recommended to me include:
- Weighing the Odds in Sports Betting (King Yao)
- Sharp Sports Betting (Stanford Wong)
Can I make free sports bets online?
One of the benefits to gambling online is that you can play most games for free. This is the case with both online casino games and poker. Sometimes you can even win real money, which is the case with online poker.
However, I’ve not seen an online betting site that lets you make bets for free.
Why do different sportsbooks have different odds?
Each bookmaker will set the odds however they see fit based on trends, their experience, public perception (who is most popular), other books’ lines, and so on.
Have a question we you’d like us to answer? Send us an email and let us know.