For a lot of football fans, there’s a great deal of fun to be found in enjoying the games through personal investment. For many fans, this simply means playing Fantasy Football, which allows you to pick players throughout the league to build your own “team” and compete with friends using real life statistics. But another way to put a personal stake in NFL games and perhaps enjoy the football season even more, is through real money sports betting.

There’s no doubt that it can be thrilling to have some money on the line during a big game. Plus, it’s incredibly satisfying to pick an outcome correctly! But many first-time sports betters are surprised to find that it can be trickier than simply picking a winner. There are applications for this sort of simpler prediction model, such as ESPN’s wildly popular “Streak For The Cash” game, in which users simply try to build winning streaks with correct picks. But true sports betting is a bit more varied and complex.

So here are some tips on how to understand and engage in sports betting online.

    • Find A Reliable Site – You’ll want to find a betting site that you trust with dealing your actual money, as security is important in this regard. Take a look at BetFair as a good example, an international gambling site with a dynamic football section, as well as professional security and government regulation. This site is as secure as they come, and even provides a “responsible gambling” section to help you manage your activity more safely.
    • Understand Point Spreads – A point spread is basically a way of handicapping teams so that it’s less obvious which team to bet for. For example, if the Seahawks and Cardinals are playing, and the Seahawks are clear favorites, they might be a 10 point favorite (which is displayed as “Seahawks -10”). This would mean the Cardinals are listed as “Cardinals +10,” and it results in two betting options: if you pick the Seahawks, they must win by more than 10 points for you to win the bet. If you pick the Cardinals, they must either win, or lose by fewer than 10 points. This way, the underdog has a chance of winning you the bet without winning the game.
    • Understand Fixed Backing Odds – Fixed odds are a bit different, and have to do with how much return you can make on your bet. For example, if the Seahawks are given 1/4 odds on a game, it means for every $4 you bet, you can make $1 if you’re correct. Similarly, 4/1 odds would be more appropriate for an underdog – for each $1 you bet, you stand to make $4 if correct.
    • Do Your Research – Finally, don’t rely on betting lines or the headlines on these sites alone to pick teams and make decisions. No one can predict every outcome, but to give yourself the best chance of winning, do your own research by watching games and reading sporting news.