Sports Betting 101: Placing Your First Online Bet

Navigating the online sports betting world can be difficult, especially if you're a first-time sports punter. This guide helps you learn about online sports betting, including how to select a sports betting site, register a betting account, fund your account and place a bet. Let's dive in and explore to make you a pro punter.

Written by Steven Hubbard
Verified by BettingGuide team
Last updated 22/02/2024

How To Get Started

Over the last decade, the gambling stigma has faded, and online sports betting has gone mainstream. With the rise in betting, more and more punters want to get in on the action. Unfortunately, without an edge in the market, making any positive progress in the betting world can be very difficult. You will need time and a ton of effort to define your edge and manage the money you invest in sports betting.

Selecting Best Betting Sites?

Before we get into the process of setting up a betting account, you need to know which are the best betting sites to work with. You can't register an account with all the available bookmakers, so you have to review and settle on the best of them all.

Although having a wide selection of sites can be a good thing, settling on the right one can be quite confusing. For this reason, we have criteria you can confidently rely on when choosing a sports betting site of your preference. 

Whether you're into football betting, horse racing, greyhound racing, esports, NBA, motorsport, or any other niche-specific sport, the criteria below should help you get the perfect betting platform. 

Licensing and Legislation

The first and most important thing to avoid when choosing a sports betting site is its legality. Since this is your first attempt at betting, you might be worried about the safety of your personal information and your funds. For this reason, punters must ensure they only register accounts on betting sites licensed and regulated by the UK Gambling Commission.

The UKGC is the ultimate benchmark in gambling regulation — it assures customers of a safe and secure betting environment. Sports betting operators licenced and regulated by the UKGC must demonstrate their commitment to responsible gambling practices with robust and secure payment systems. 

Check that your preferred betting platform has a licence under an account with the UKGC. You can confirm the licence on the UKGC website.

Welcome Offer

First-time bettors are always not confident in the platform. As a result, very few punters are willing to risk their money on the first attempt. To boost your confidence in betting, many reliable betting platforms now offer new punters a welcome offer. 

Betting sign-up offers come in different formats — depending on the format, you might get a free bet upon making a first-time deposit or a cash bonus. 

We recommend taking advantage of this welcome bonus, but remember to consider the terms and conditions attached to that offer. Some bookies issue prohibitive terms, making it unfriendly to first-time punters. You'll want to keep an eye on the wagering requirements and the minimum deposit (where necessary) to ensure they're at the minimum.

Where a no deposit welcome bonus is offered, it is highly recommended to take advantage of it.

Promo Codes and Offers

Betting promo codes are unique codes that gamblers can use to claim promotional offers such as free bets or cash bonuses on betting platforms. A few years back, online bookmakers often provided promo codes for customers to secure bonuses, but this trend has quickly been phased out.

The promo codes aren’t preferred now because they aren’t fairly distributed. New customers may not know where to find these promo codes, so we recommend settling on bookmakers who automatically grant bonuses upon fulfilling the qualifying requirements. 

Mobile Experience

The need for comfort and convenience means that most punters undertake betting activities through their mobile phones. Therefore, you should look beyond the desktop betting experience regarding betting sites. Check whether they have a mobile application and how current users rate it. 

User-friendly mobile betting apps should be available for iOS and Android mobile devices. They should also have features such as Touch ID that make placing bets an easy and quick process.

Where a mobile app is unavailable, the betting operator should have a mobile-optimised web browser that gives customers a smooth and reliable betting experience on all devices.

Signing-Up Guide

Now that you can confidently choose a betting site unaided, it is time to learn how to set up a betting account on your preferred site. The process is quite simple and almost identical for all platforms. On average, this process should take about ten minutes, and you'll be set to place your first bet.

  • 1

    Preliminary Steps

    In setting up your betting account, there are a couple of standard details pertaining to your personal information that you will need to provide. Ensure you have the following information ready with you:

    • Full name
    • Date of birth
    • Current physical address
    • Current email address
    • Telephone number
  • 2

    Creating a username

    Depending on the website you've selected, you may be prompted to create a username. Otherwise, you will be provided with a user ID by your sportsbook. When creating a username, stick to something you can easily recall to avoid trouble logging into your account.

  • 3

    Creating a Password

    Another significant step in the account creation process is creating a password. A strong password is necessary to protect your account. This should have at least eight characters and contain both letters and numbers. Besides, save your password so you can easily retrieve it in case you forget it.

  • 4

    Provide Accurate Information

    When providing any information during the account registration process, ensure it is accurate because sportsbooks have made it their mandate to do due diligence on all accounts to prevent fraud. These automated checks are run to check if the information you've provided is accurate.

    If the checks prove that you're under 18 years old or unable to confirm your email address, then your account creation request will be denied. 

    If you don't have an email address, logic dictates that you must create one because it will be required during sign-up. A verification email will be sent to that address, meaning any email you provide must be active.

  • 5

    Identity Verification

    The signing-up procedure is quite straightforward. However, be advised that down the line, the betting operator reserves the right to request identity verification. During this process, you must provide certain documents to verify your identity, age and location. 

    The documents will include one or a combination of the following:

    • ID card 
    • Passport
    • Driver's licence
    • Recent utility bill or bank statement

    The website will generally have a document uploader feature that allows you to provide all the required documents to verify your identity. When uploading your ID, both the front and back must be clearly captured when scanning. 

    Identity verification is an important part of the KYC procedure, which helps the platform prevent money laundering. It also helps to ensure a user only creates a single betting account.

Depositing Funds into Your Betting Account

Now that you've successfully created your account and verified your identity, it is time to fund your account to enable you to start placing some bets. Depositing money into your account successfully relies heavily on the accuracy of the information you've provided so far. 

You'll find that the minimum and maximum deposit amounts will vary from one betting operator to another. However, most sites generally do not have a cap on the maximum deposit you can make; instead, this is guided by the payment method you choose. A variety of deposit methods are accepted by UK sports betting operators, including eWallets, debit cards, bank transfers, pay via phone and cryptocurrencies. 

Credit/ Debit Card

Making deposits via debit or credit cards is one of the most common payment methods, although UK regulations have become somewhat restrictive on some of these payments. These payment methods include:

  • MasterCard
  • VISA
  • VISA Maestro

Where applicable, deposits through debit cards are capped at a minimum of £10 on most betting platforms. These payments are processed instantly, allowing you to access the funds in your account to stake almost immediately. 


Cryptocurrency disruption is sweeping across the financial and gaming industries. As a result, more betting sites are now accepting cryptocurrency as a form of payment, favouring those who are sceptical about giving up their credit or debit card information. 

If you're an expert in crypto payments, you'll fancy a platform that allows you to fund your account using Bitcoins or any other accepted crypto coins. 


Another payment option that you might consider going with is digital wallets. These e-Wallets provide a sense of security, convenience and control over the transfer of funds to your betting account. Widely accepted eWallets include:

  • Skill
  • PayPal
  • Neteller
  • PayCardSafe

If you choose any of these, it is important to remember that not all eWallets are accepted by all UK bookmakers. Additionally, using eWallets might disqualify you from certain deposit offers. 

Wire Transfer

This payment method is usually available at well-established sportsbooks but is not very popular among punters. Wire transfer has the highest minimum deposit amount, which is why many first-time bettors shy away. Fees from the bank are also a discouraging factor, but if you find a sportsbook willing to cover these costs, you're good to go.

How to Place an Online Sports Bet

After creating, verifying and funding your account, it's time to get into the real action of placing a bet. Different assortments of sportsbooks tend to stick to the same basics of a sportsbook layout, so navigation shouldn't be a problem.

You'll find all the sports listed on the left side of the screen, with odds for each event displayed in the middle of the screen. Bet slips can be easily accessed from the right top corner or the bottom tab of the screen. 

Before diving right in, you'll need to understand what each odd means and how to make the most out of it. Therefore, to get us started, let's look at how to read sportsbook betting odds. 

How to Read The Odds

Understanding the betting odds is key to enjoying the online betting experience. As you flick through different betting platforms, you will encounter various gambling odds. 

How do these odds work in football, basketball, tennis, rugby or racing? How can you spot the value in a given event's odds? Whether you're placing single or multiple bets understanding all of these is the pillar to a successful online betting strategy. 

Depending on its local or international stature, a UK sportsbook will display odds in the following three formats; decimal, fractional or America. Generally, there will be a default format with an option to switch to the format you are familiar with. This option is usually a scroll-down feature at the top of your screen. 


The decimal format is the easiest one you'll encounter if you need to calculate your potential winning. All you have to do is multiply the odds against the amount you wish to stake. 

For instance, if you stake £10 on an event with odds of 1.5, your potential payout becomes £15. The £15 payout includes your stake of £10 plus £5 of winnings. Choosing higher odds increases the payout — although the higher the odds, the higher the risk of that outcome. So, you may want to stick to the lesser odds, which indicate a high likelihood of that event happening


Popularly known as moneyline odds in some countries outside the UK, the American format puts all bets relative to £100. This means that if an event has a negative outcome, such as -250, that is the amount you'll need to stake to win £100. For an event with positive odds, such as 250, that is the payout you will receive if you place a bet with £100. 


Although displayed in fractional format, this odds format operates as a ratio and not a fraction. That is to say; a ½ odd event does not have a 50% chance of winning but actually a 66% chance. To best understand the fractional odd format, look at it from the point that the number after the backward slash is the amount you will stake, while the number coming before indicates how much you'll receive with this stake. Simply put, 5/4 odd means that with a £1 stake, you will receive £1.25. Therefore, the higher the payout the less likely the outcome or the riskier the bet while the reverse is true. 

In three-way betting (win-draw-lose), whichever odd format you choose, the team outcome with smaller odds is always the favourite, while the team with the higher odds is the underdog.

Placing A Bet

Everything considered, placing a bet is the easiest and most interesting part of online sports betting. To place a bet, simply follow the steps below:

  • 1

    Step 1: Select the sport

    Assuming you're already logged into your account, simply go to the tab containing the sports available and scroll through to find the sport you would like to bet on. If you have a specific game in mind, use the search feature to type in the team.

  • 2

    Step 2: Select the market

    Once you've found the event you would like to bet on, say a game between Manchester United vs Manchester City, click on it to display the available markets. Football events have lots of markets, so you'll never run out of options. 

    The obvious markets include;

    • Win, Draw or Lose
    • Both teams to score
    • Goals over/under(0.5,1.5,,2.5,,3.5 and so forth)
    • Cards
    • Corners

    Each of these markets will have odds displayed next to it.

  • 3

    Step 3: Select odds

    To choose a specific outcome, simply click on the odds next to the market, and your event will be saved in your bet slip. 

    For the event above(Man U vs Man City);

    Win (2.5) Draw (2.85) Lose (1.75)

    Clicking on 2.5 means that you're choosing to bet on Man United winning and City losing this game, whereas 1.75 means you're betting on Manchester City winning this game and United losing. 

  • 4

    Step 4: Go to the bet slip or continue selecting more matches

    If you wish to only bet on singles, you can end your selection by tapping on the bet slip to complete your bet, or you can use the back arrow to return to the sports section and select another event. Follow step 3 to select an outcome and add it to your bet slip.

  • 5

    Step 5: Enter your wager

    Your wager is the amount of money you wish to stake, which determines how much you'll get as the payout. Bring up the bet slip and go through to confirm your selections. When adding events, the system automatically calculates the total odds, so you should see them at the bottom of the bet slip. 

    Enter the amount you wish to stake, and the system will calculate and display your potential payout.

  • 6

    Step 6: Click on Place Bet

    To finalise your entries, click on the Place bet button to proceed. The system will alert you if you don't have sufficient amounts in your account balance. Also, note when betting on a pre-match event, you will receive an alert if any of your selections have already kicked off. Additionally, some bookies will alert you if the odds change. Ensure you make the necessary changes to proceed.

  • 7

    Step 7: Click on confirm

    Once everything is correct, you will be prompted to confirm your bet by going through all your selections at once. Click on Confirm to place your bet. Note that this process is irreversible for most bookmakers, and once your bet is active, you can only utilise the cash-out feature later.

    For live sports betting, you should start by clicking on the live sports betting tab to display and select live events. All the steps after that are the same as above. There are minor differences, however, in terms of markets. You might find certain markets missing depending on how far the game has progressed.

    It is not uncommon to find online betting sites that allow you to combine both pre-match and live events. However, we recommend you stick to one first until you master all the props of online betting.

Utilising Your Free Bet

As a new user, you will be awarded a bonus bet after successfully making a deposit and placing your first bet. To claim this offer, ensure you stick to the terms and conditions of the welcome bonus. Generally, you're required to:

  • Make a minimum deposit of a given amount, such as £10
  • Place a bet with specified minimum odds, say even odds or odds not less than 2.0 
  • Place a bet and let the event settle without cashing out
  • Ensure you're 18 years and above

Other specific conditions will vary depending on the betting platform. Once qualified, you will receive a free bet bonus of a given amount. In most cases, a £10 deposit attracts a £5,10,15, 20, 25, or even £30 worth of free bet. The free bet must be used as directed and within the specified period — usually 7 days. 

To utilise your free bet, follow the steps outlined below:

Step 1: Select a sport by scrolling through the available events.

Step 2: Choose a specific sport

Step 3: Check the market and select an outcome

Step 4: Click on the bet slip and choose your wager. At this point, you can either stake using your account balance or bonus balance. Click on the bonus balance to see how much you have in terms of free bet and click on this amount. 

Step 5: Place the bet by confirming your selections and the wagered bonus amount. In most cases, you are supposed to use the entire bonus balance, but where applicable, you can choose to use a partial amount and use the rest in a different betting slip. 

Step 6: Confirm your bet.


Steven is responsible for all content on BettingGuide UK. He is an experienced iGaming content writer working in the industry since 2018. If you have any questions regarding online gambling in the UK, don't hesitate to contact him.