Beginner's Guide


Sports betting is a form of gambling whereby you place a wager (bet), on the outcome of a sporting event. The primary intent of sports betting is to win money. With the exception of spread betting, a bet will have two possible outcomes. Either you win a multiple of money based on your original wager, or you lose your wager.

Sporting wagers can be on tournament results, match results or on events that take place during a match. For example, in a football game, possible bets include one side to beat another, one side to win 2-1, one side to be leading at half-time, or a particular player to score a goal.

A company that provides sports betting services can be called a bookmaker, bookie or betting agency. A service that provides a marketplace in which odds are set is called a betting exchange. A customer who places bets can be called a punter.

When you place a bet on an outcome, you are backing that outcome. With bookmakers you can only back an outcome, while betting exchanges enable you to bet both for and against outcomes. A bet against an outcome is called a lay bet. For example you could lay a bet against Australia to win a football tournament. Your lay bet wins if anyone except Australia wins, and loses if Australia does win the tournament.

Sports betting differs from casino gambling as the probabilities of winning are not known with sports betting. A bookmaker estimates the outcome of an event, whereas a casino knows their position with certainty. This allows punters, via careful analysis and modelling, to capitalise on sports results.


As Australians, sports betting is an important part of our history.

Gambling was brought to Australia with the new settlers and quickly became a popular leisure activity among all social groups. The pronounced British influence of early gambling such as card games, two-up and horseracing was complemented during the nineteenth century by games with Asian and European influences. Many of the original forms of gambling were initially prohibited. They were later legalised and are now accessible to adult Australians on a daily basis.

Horseracing was the first form of organised gambling in Australia. By the late nineteenth century, horseracing had become a popular form of entertainment with racetracks in every major town. Greyhound and harness racing also attracted enthusiastic supporters but never attained the same popularity as horseracing. Betting activity was associated with the development of racing, initially with local bookmakers. By the 1890s the totalisator had been introduced to racecourses in several states, increasing both track attendance and interest in betting.
The introduction of PubTAB, FootyTAB and satellite telecasting through the SKY Channel encouraged market growth during the 1980s and 1990s. From its inception as a largely community-based leisure activity, racing and betting have become a multimillion dollar industry. However, competition from other forms of gambling, notably casinos and gaming machines, eroded the market share of racing during the 1990s.


1809-10 First organised race meet in Australia (New South Wales)
1861 First Melbourne Cup run in Victoria
1879-80 Tote first introduced in Australia (South Australia)
1915-16 First automatic totalisator machine installed in Australia (Western Australia)
1920-21 Golden Casket lotteries established in Queensland as the first government-run lottery in Australia
1930-40 'SP' bookies flourish in most Australian states
1942-45 Race meeting and lotteries restricted due to the Second World War
1955-56 Poker machines legalised in licensed clubs in New South Wales
1960-61 Victoria the first state to legalise TAB off-course betting
1965-66 South Australia the last state to introduce state-run lotteries following a referendum
1972-73 First casino in Australia opened (Tasmania) Minor gaming introduced in South Australia
1973-74 Lotto introduced in South Australia Minor gaming introduced in Tasmania
1974-75 Pools introduced in Victoria TAB introduced in Tasmania
1975-76 Pools introduced in New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania
1976-77 Lotteries, lotto and gaming machines introduced in the Australian Capital Territory
1977-78 Minor gaming introduced in Victoria Off-course bookmakers phased out in Tasmania
1978-79 Instant lotteries introduced in South Australia Lotto introduced in Western Australia, Northern Territory On-course/Off-course bookmakers, Lotteries, pools and minor gaming introduced in Northern Territory
1979-80 Lotto introduced in New South Wales Pools introduced in the Australian Capital Territory On-course totalisator and instant lotteries introduced in Northern Territory First casino opened in the Northern Territory
1980-81 Pools introduced in South Australia Lotteries re-introduced in Tasmania
1981-82 Lotto introduced in Queensland Instant lotteries introduced in Victoria, Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory
1982-83 Instant lotteries introduced in New South Wales, Western Australia
1984-85 Instant lotteries introduced in Queensland Pools introduced in Western Australia

*Source - Australian Gaming Council -

Betting Types

In Australia, the system in which all bets of a particular type are placed is known as the Tote, after the totalisator which calculates and displays bets already placed. With the Tote a bookmaker displays the approximate odds that they believe you will receive. This approximation is based on the quantities of bets received to that point. These odds will change, depending on how much additional money is placed on each outcome. For this reason you don't know the actual odds you will get until bets are no longer accepted and the event has commenced. Typically the bookmaker will remove 10% from the pool as their take.

In contrast, fixed odds betting is a form of wagering where the punter knows the exact odds they will receive when they place a bet. Not all punters who bet on the same outcome will receive the same odds. This is because the odds can shift over time based on the quantities wagered on each outcome. The bookmaker will actively price and adjust the odds such that it will make a profit regardless of the outcome. This is achieved by calibrating the odds so that the sum of their implied probabilities (discussed in the next section) exceeds 100%. In a two-outcome bet, if punters bet heavily on outcome A the bookmaker will reduce the odds on outcome A and increase the odds on outcome B, while keeping the margin relatively stable. This shift in odds will induce more betting on outcome B, which will enable the bookmaker to balance the book. Note that the bookmaker doesn't necessarily need punters to place equal wagers on each outcome, it actually needs punters to place wagers in inverse proportion to the odds on offer.

Fixed odds betting is more risky for the bookmaker than the Tote, because the profit margin is not guaranteed and the bookmaker's profit will not be the same for every outcome.


The 'Win' bet is picking the outright winner in a given horse racing event. This bet type can also be referred to as betting 'on the nose'.


The 'Place' bet is picking the runner up, or third place finish, in a given horse racing event. The bet also pays out if the horse wins the race. This bet pays less than a win bet.

Each Way Bet

An 'each way bet' combines a win and a place on the same selection. The place odds are derived from the win odds - as opposed to a 'Win & Place' bet, where the place odds can be set independently of the win odds.

The stake is applied to each 'line' (for the win portion and the place portion). If the selection wins, then both the win and the place dividends are paid. If the selection places, then only the place dividend will be paid.


The 'Trifecta' bet is picking the exact winner, second place finisher AND third place finisher in a given race. One can only bet the Trifecta in one race. Unlike other bets, the Trifecta pays out well if you can pick the right horses. The pay-out also depends on the odds facing each horse in the race.

Types include the 'Box Trifecta' which is the first three horses in any order, and the 'Standout Trifecta' - Picking the winner and then the next two horses in any order


The "Exacta" bet is picking both the winner and second place horses, in order, in a given horse racing event. The fact that the horse bettor must correctly predict the order in which the horses finish yields a higher pay-out.


The 'Quinella' bet is picking 2 horses, either of which can be the race winner or second place finisher. Unlike the Exacta bet, the order in which horses finish doesn't matter. So, if you feel Horse A and Horse B could be the top two, but you don't know which one will "exactly" win the race, you bet the Quinella instead. This bet does not pay-out as much as the Exacta, because the order in which the horses finish doesn't matter.

Daily Double

The 'Daily Double' bet is picking the winners of any two horse races. For example, if you feel that Horse 1 will win Race 1, and Horse 2 will win Race 5, you can bet the Daily Double and get an increased pay-out for both winners.

Running Double

The 'Running Double' is similar to a daily double, however you need to select winners in two consecutive races.


The 'Quadrella' bet is picking the winners of four consecutive horse races. The manner in which you bet is similar to the 'Daily double', except you are betting on 4 horses in 4 consecutive races. The cost of the bet rises exponentially depending on the number of horses you include.

Straight Six

The 'Straight Six' involves selecting the winners of six consecutive pre-nominated races.


A 'Multibet' is a bet built from the multiplication of two or more individual bets.

Boxed Multibet

A 'Multibet' consisting of all possible bet combinations. It involves up to 12 selections in different events.

Line betting

A 'Line bet' is a handicap system where punters concede or receive a start. Also known as 'spread', 'handicap', 'points' or 'point-spread'. For example in a game between the Blues and Stormers, the line odds could be: Blues (-6.5), Stormers (+6.5) with each team having odds of 1.92. This bet could apply to a specific period of the game (e.g. first half in rugby, 3rd quarter in basketball) or to the full-time result.

Exotic bet

An 'Exotic bet' is a bet that doesn't directly concern the final score line. Examples include the first goal scorer in the fixture, or the first stoppage in play. This term can also be used to describe bets on entertainment, finance, and other non-sporting results.

Margin bet

A 'Margin bet' is a bet on the amount of points (or goals) that one competitor finishes an event in front of another competitor. For a rugby game between the Blues and Stormers, a margin bet could be on the Blues to win by between 1 and 12 points. This bet could apply to a specific period of the game (e.g. first half in rugby, 3rd quarter in basketball) or to the full-time result.

Spread betting

'Spread betting' is high risk betting where the win or loss is proportional to the accuracy of the wager. This contrasts with standard bets that either result in a loss of your wager or a payout based on the wager odds. The spread is a range of outcomes, and the bet is whether the outcome will be above or below this spread.


'Arbitrage' in a sports betting context it is a scenario where, due to a disparity in bookmaker odds, a punter can guarantee a net profit by backing multiple outcomes.

Race Types


For horses who have not yet won a race, th e top races being the Maiden Special Weight races.

Claiming races

A race in which every horse can be bought, or 'claimed' out of the race. The punter must put in a request prior to the race and afterwards they are the new owner. This is risky as the previous owner will claim the prize money and pass the horse on even if the horse gets injured in the race or even if it dies.

Allowance races

Horses in these races are not for sale however the pay-outs are normally much higher. There are set conditions and specific weights the horses must carry. This type of race is typically held for horses who are non-winners in majority of their races.

Stakes races

The best of all horse races which is restricted only for the top horses. These races produce the largest pay outs and can be either local or major races. The top stake races are graded from 1 to 3 with 1 being the best races e.g. Melbourne Cup. There are no restrictions on these races apart from age and sex.


A race specifically held for 3 year old fillies.


Only 3 year olds may race in a Derby.

Sprint race

A race under one mile in length.

Betting Considerations


What class are they in? For example, metropolitan meetings are generally a higher class than country meetings.


How far has the horse been running? What distances has the horse been successful at?


Has the horse run at the track before?

Track Conditions

Tracks can be rated, Wet, Good, Dead, Good and Fast. What conditions does the horse prefers.


How much additional weight has the horse been carrying? This can be important for handicapped events.


Some horses have better records running clockwise around a track and some anticlockwise.

Running Style

There are three main running styles: front runner, stalker and closer. A front runner is a horse who runs in the lead or in 2 lengths of the leader. A stalker rarely makes the lead but often gains momentum to overtake tired front runners. A closer stays towards the back of the field and sprints home towards the finish.


Who is the trainer? Have they had much success previously?


How much experience do they have? How do they handle their horses?

Present Form

How are the horse's fitness levels? Are there any injuries?


Analyse the horse's past track record? Do they normally place quite high or does the horse's placing fluctuate?