Book it! The sports book newbie’s guide


Tables like these can be intimidating for first-timers.

So, you call yourself a sports expert , but you don’t know where to start at the sports book?

It can be intimidating stepping into a sports book for the first time, with all the numbers and terminology being thrown around. Fortunately, MGM Race and Sports Book Director Jay Rood was able to share some advice with us for book first-timers.

The first idea to take note of is that odds are the same across sports books within the same group: You don’t have to shop around for the best odds.

“It’s not like if you play at MGM, there’s an advantage over playing at New York-New York,” said Rood.

With that in mind, pick a sports book with an ambiance you feel most comfortable with. Are you more comfortable palling around with a pack of jersey-wearing buddies or are you part of the top hats-and-monocles crowd? Do a little research on our race and sports book list and find a place that sounds like your idea of fun.

“You want to pick the environment that’s more conducive to your personality. Sports books have their own personality… certain ones are more exciting than others,” Rood said.”

“Let’s say, Bellagio – not quite as raucous as here at the Mirage. You have smaller, more intimate places like New York-New York and Monte Carlo. If you want the coolest, neatest and nicest surroundings with kind of a lounge effect, obviously you go Aria.”

And as with anything in Vegas, you can opt for the higher-end experience with sports books too.

“[MGM Grand has] a unique product with the Skybox. If you’re with a group of guys, a bachelor party, or something like that, that would be a cool place to hang out, sit with your buddies and watch a game.”

Once you’ve selected your betting habitat, you can actually place a bet. There are all sorts of funky betting options, wagering types and complicated-sounding terminology to give seasoned bettors different challenges.

But you’re a newcomer, right? You know the teams, but all this mumbo-jumbo is still new to you. Rood suggests you keep it simple.

“There are a lot of different things, but if you’re just starting out and coming into the book, you want to stick to the basics: Bet on the team you think is going to win. Unless the point spread is over ten points… just let the spread take care of itself,” he said.

Futures are another kind of basic bet, where you place a bet on the outcome of an event in the (of course) relatively distant future. Usually, this means betting on the outcome of a season instead of the outcome of a game.

“If you’re here from out of town and you’re a big fan of your hometown team, and think they’re going to win… you can make your wager and it’ll be in action the whole season,” Rood said.

Futures are available for most of the major sports leagues, including college basketball, BCS championship, Premiere League and more, so you can wager within your favorite league. Or you can go for something a bit more novel as some people do, just to have a ticket that says you could win $10,000 for a $5 futures bet on the worst team.

Hey, you might get lucky!

Once you’ve acclimated yourself a bit more to the sports book setting, you can consider going beyond the basic wagers. If you do want to spice it up a bit, there are options that go beyond “which team wins” without requiring an encyclopedia of betting terms or proper alignment of the stars (or is that, scores?) for a parlay ticket to work out.

“On Sunday and Monday nights, we put a out a proposition sheet on those games and you can pick which player you think will score the first touchdown, and there’s a catch-all field bet where if none of the players listed score, then the field gets paid out,” Rood said.

“Or if you’re not sure how the team is going to perform, you can bet on just the points of one of the teams [on Sunday or Monday night games.]”

Once you’ve placed a few basic wagers and you feel ready to step up your game a bit – perhaps crunching some numbers beyond your favored league and team, visit our sports betting guide and keep in mind the most important advice of all:

“It’s about having fun, coming in and not going overboard with it until you understand exactly what’s going on,” Rood said.

“It’s meant to be fun and recreational and meant to make watching the game a little more exciting.”