What is a Straight Bet? The Complete Guide to Straight Betting Markets

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A straight bet is one of the most common – and easiest – bets to place with any online betting site. It covers multiple markets and can be applied to all sports in some form. We’ll explain what a straight bet is and how to place one, showing how the bet type works with examples across several sports. We’ll also include a straight bet strategy to help you increase profitability.

What is a Straight Bet?

A straight bet is a single bet that is usually linked to a game or an event’s outcome. You can use a wide range of betting types to make a straight bet, including moneyline, points spread, and totals.

Straight bets work differently to exotics, teasers, and parlays. These bets can be customized to include more than one selection within the bet.

For example, a parlay will have two or more selections that both must win for the bet to pay out. If we compare this to a moneyline bet, all you’re doing is betting on the game’s outcome with a straight selection.

This is the ideal market to start with if you’re new to sports betting. It’s easy to learn how it works, and payouts are simple to calculate based on the betting lines set by the sportsbook.

Below, we’ve expanded on how the three most popular straight bets work: the moneyline, points spread, and totals markets.

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Moneyline Straight Bet

The moneyline bet is the most common straight bet. For this market, you’re simply betting on the outcome of a game or match. There are no handicaps applied, and the team or player that’s deemed the winner in the end is the winner of this market.

Each sportsbook will assign moneyline odds, which is the percentage chance each selection has of winning, but in odds form. To go a little deeper, these odds are implied probabilities that the team will win, converted to betting odds to place a bet.

Odds are assigned in American style for most offshore sportsbooks. This format displays odds as positive or negative numbers.

Positive numbers represent the money you will win if you place a $100 wager. Negative odds are the amount you need to stake to make a $100 profit. Generally, positive represents the underdog, and negative represents the favorite, although this can vary based on the game.

straight bet example

To run through a quick example, we’ve got an NFL game between the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots. The moneyline bet is in the middle column.

This shows the Colts are priced at -129 (favorite) to win outright and the Patriots at +109 (underdog). Again, no handicaps are applied to this market, and the winner of the game is the winner of this straight bet.

A $100 bet and a win for the Patriots would return a $108 profit, and a $100 bet on the Colts and a win would return a $77.52 profit.

Points Spread Straight Bet

The points spread is designed to even the playing field for both teams by applying a handicap. Points are added to underdog teams and subtracted for the favorites.

Each sportsbook will have a handicapper whose job is to set the points so the bet is as even as possible. Where a moneyline is priced based on ability, the goal for the spread is to get as close to even money as possible, creating a much fairer fight. The larger the gap in ability, the bigger the points spread.

points spread bet example

We’ve jumped across the NBA for a game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Boston Celtics to highlight how this works. Before we look at the points spread market, take note of the moneyline odds.

The Celtics are huge favorites for the game, priced at -700 to win. This means a $100 bet would make just $14.29 profit.

We can see two positive and negative numbers if we move back to the spread. The number is the points added or subtracted from the final score. So, the Celtics will have 12 points removed from their total, and the Nets will have 12 points added, depending on which bet you place.

Let’s assume we place $100 on the Nets at +12. This means our bet will be settled as a winner if they are within 11 points of the Celtics’ score or win the game outright. If the game were to finish 110 to 101 to the Celtics, our spread bet would be settled as a winner because the adjusted score would be 110 to 113, which includes our +12 handicap.

The only thing to note with this market is that scores can still be tied even after the handicap has been applied. For example, if the final score were 110 to 98, the Nets would have an adjusted score of 110, making it a tie. If this happens, the bet is deemed a “push,” and the stake will be returned.

Totals Straight Bet

Totals are another easy-to-use straight bet that works based on the total number of points, goals, or runs scored in a game. All you need to do for this market is choose the over or under on the line set by the sportsbook.

It is similar to a handicap in that the sportsbook is trying to create an even line for the game to get near even money. It’s worth noting that the score is cumulative for both teams. So, for the NFL, it would be the total number of points scored by both teams as a combined number.

totals bet example

Above, we’ve used an example from the NHL to show how this works. It’s worth noting that for hockey, most people refer to the totals bet as the puck line.

The game we’ve chosen is between the Philadelphia Flyers and Anaheim Ducks. The total market for the game is set at over/under 6.5 goals. Using half points for this bet means there can be no ties, so a result will always occur. However, some bets will have whole numbers with the same principal as spread bets in that ties will be counted as a push and stakes refunded.

If we were to bet on the over 6.5 goals, we would need seven or more in the game from both teams for the bet to win. If we bet on the under, we need six or fewer goals.

You might notice that the odds aren’t the same for each team. This is because it may still slightly favor one line over the other. Following up on the game above, the sportsbook suggests that a “true” line for equal odds would be slightly more in favor of the under bet, meaning it would be around 6.3 goals. But for the sake of betting, it makes no difference to how the result is formed, so instead, they adjust the odds.

Real-World Straight Bet Examples

To further help us explain what a straight bet is, we’ve included some real-world examples from a series of sports. Where possible, we’ve used markets different from the moneyline, spread, and total bet to showcase how other markets work.

NFL

For an NFL betting example, we’ve used a game between the Denver Broncos and the Buffalo Bills. The market that we’ve chosen is the team points per game.

NFL bet example

As you can see, this market is split into two, allowing bettors to wager on the total number of points scored by each team. It differs from the main totals market, as that’s a combination of points by both teams for the whole game.

The market allows you to target either team’s total points, but the principle stays the same. We only have two options so this bet would be classed as a straight bet.

You will notice that the line is different for each team. Given that the Bills are strong favorites to win the game on the moneyline, it makes sense that their line will be higher. Bettors would be required to bet on the over or under 27.5 points for the market. If you bet the under, you need 27 or less, and the over is 28 or more.

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NBA

The NBA is one of the biggest and most popular sports to bet on, mainly because of the sheer volume of games and markets each season. This straight bet is taken from the points race, with the bet being a wager on which team, from a basketball game between the New York Knicks and the Boston Celtics, will be the first to get to 10 points.

NBA bet example

The market covers all scores equal to and above 10 points. For example, let’s assume that the Celtics have nine points and score a three to get to 12. This would count as it includes 10 or more points. Odds work in the same way as they would for any other market, with positive being the underdog and negative the favorite.

NHL

We’ve jumped back to the main straight bets for NHL betting and used a spread bet from a game between the New York Islanders and the Edmonton Oilers. We’ve done this because, as you can see from the image below, the spread is called the puck line for hockey.

NHL straight bet example

The only thing you need to note about the puck line is that the name differs. The traditional name for the spread is the points spread, but in ice hockey, they score goals, not points. So, the name change is more relatable to the sport.

Hockey is also unique because the puck line is set at +/-1.5 goals for all games. This is the base puck line, and the odds are adjusted from this. You can access alternative lines with most sportsbooks found in the prop bet section.

For this example, you can see that 1.5 goals will be added to the Islanders’ score and 1.5 removed from the Oilers’ score.

Soccer

Soccer creates confusion around a straight bet, probably more than any other sport. The reason for this is that you’re able to bet on the draw (tie) as part of the moneyline bet. The draw is not an option for US-based sports, but with soccer betting, it’s a common result.

The fact is that, even though the draw is still included, this does constitute a straight bet, even with three possible outcomes for the market. Remember, the definition of a straight bet is any single bet, so all we need is a bet that has one selection and one winning outcome.

soccer straight bet example

We’ve included a Premier League game between Manchester City and Liverpool to highlight how this works. As you can see above, we still have a spread, moneyline, and total betting market.

Let’s assume that we place our bet on the moneyline market and bet on the draw. This means the game, after 90 minutes, has to end with the same score. For example, 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, etc.

At odds of +345, a $100 bet would return a profit of $345.

We want to talk quickly about how the spread works here concerning the line set. As you can see, the line is +/-0.75. When spreads are not whole or half numbers (0.5, 1.5, etc), bets are split.

In this example, +0.75 for Liverpool means:

  • The bet wins if the team wins.
  • The bet wins if the team draws.
  • The bet pays half if they lose by one.
  • The bet loses if they lose by two.

The -0.75 bet on Manchester City means:

  • The bet wins if they win by two or more.
  • The bet pays half if they win by exactly one.
  • The bet will lose if the score is a result or loss.

Tennis

Tennis has one of the biggest ranges of straight bets in any sport. As the game is played on 1v1 for the most part, there are no team, group, or pool bets that include multiple possible outcomes. Instead, there are tons of single bets that populate sportsbooks.

tennis straight bet example

The example above is from a game between Alexander Zverev and Carlos Alcaraz. As you can see, we have a range of spread, moneyline, and totals bets, just as you would see from most team sports.

Markets for the bets work a little differently than most sports. The spread is based on the total number of games the player wins. So, in this example, the line is at +/-2.5 games, meaning Alcaraz has to win by three or more games, and Zverev does not lose by three or more.

The totals bet is also taken from the game market. This is the combined number of games played by both players. For example, a game that finishes 6-4, 6-4 will have 20 games in total (6+4+6+4 = 20).

Horse Racing

If tennis has one of the biggest ranges of straight bets, horse racing has one of the smallest. Three are classed as straight betting markets: win, place, and show.

The win bet is the most popular. This is where you place a bet for a single horse to cross the line first.

The place is an expansion of the bet where you choose one horse to finish first or second. The show is where you choose one horse to finish first, second, or third.

horse racing straight bet example

We’ve taken an example (above) from a meeting at Parx Racing Racecourse. This is the race card, and at the top is a section where you choose “straight” with a series of exotics next to it, such as exacta, trifecta, superfecta, and the daily double.

Next to each horse you can see boxes for each of the markets. To place the bet, enter your stake into the correct box for the horse you want to bet on.

How to Place a Straight Bet

In this section, we will walk you through the process of placing a straight bet. The sportsbook we will use for this example is BetOnline, but it will work the same way regardless of which site you use.

1. Create an account

betonline straight bet

Before you place a bet, you need an account. Click on the ‘Join’ button at the top of the page to get started. You will be asked to complete a couple of forms regarding your account, and it should take no more than a couple of minutes to do all this.

2. Make a deposit

cashier for betonline

Once your account has been set up, log in and head to the cashier. Here, you will be greeted with a range of payment options. Choose the one best suited to you for your account.

3. Choose a sport

betonline sportsbook straight bet

Go to the sportsbook and choose from the many options to place your first bet. The best thing about the straight bet is that it applies to at least one market for all sports.

4. Add to betslip

betonline place a bet

To add a bet to your bet slip, click on the odds. Once they are added, the odds will be highlighted. You don’t need to place the bet immediately and can continue moving about the sportsbook once your selection has been made.

5. Place the bet

betonline straight bet bet slip

The bet slip will include a ‘Stake’ box where you enter how much you want to wager. Before you confirm your bet, take a second to double-check that the selection, market, and odds are correct. Once you enter your stake, the bet slip will highlight the potential reruns. Confirm it by clicking ‘Place Bet’ (or similar) at the bottom.

How to Calculate Odds and Payouts for a Straight Bet

Most of the best online sportsbooks in the US use American-style betting odds. It’s worth noting that they will allow you to switch between decimal and fractional if you choose, but the default will be American.

The odds will be displayed as positive and negative numbers. Generally, the positive (+) is the underdog, and the negative (-) is the favorite, but there will be times when both/all selections are positive or negative.

Positive odds are the amount of the profit you make from a $100 bet. Negative odds are the amount you need to wager to make a $100 profit.

straight bet odds and payouts

For example, the image above includes odds from an NBA game between the Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors. The middle column is the moneyline market, and we can see that the betting odds of the Wizards winning is +345 and for the Raptors to win is -425.

Given that one is positive and one negative, we can see that the Raptors (negative) are huge favorites to win the game straight up, with the Wizards a firm outsider. A $100 bet on each would return the following:

  • Washington Wizards to win: $100 on +345 = $345 profit.
  • Toronto Raptors to win: $100 on -425 = $23.53 profit.

As you can see, we make a lot more money per $100 staked on a Wizards win over a Raptors win.

Calculating Odds and Payouts for Straight Horse Racing Bets

Straight bets are commonly associated with horse racing, and this is the bet where you choose a horse to win. It’s the most popular and the easiest bet to get started with.

Horse racing odds work differently than most sports as they use a parimutuel betting system. This is a pool-based payout, where all bets enter the pool and are paid on a dividend based on the number of winners and the amount in the pool.

Most racecards for domestic races in the US will include a morning line price. The handicapper sets this price for the sportsbook as soon as the card is produced. It gives you the odds of each horse winning the race based on how the handicap has been applied.

It’s imperative to note that this will not be the returns you get for your bet. It might be close and even be right, but with parimutuel betting, the exact payout is not known until the race has started and all bets have been counted.

Let’s run through a quick example of how this works. Let’s assume we bet on a race with six horses and a total amount wagered into the pool of $50,000. The first thing that happens is that the racebook takes its cut, anywhere from 10% to 20%. For this example, we’ve set it at 10%.

  • Total amount wagered – 10%
  • $50,000 – 10% = $45,000

The remaining $45,000 is what’s paid to the bettors. Here is how that amount has been wagered across the race’s six horses:

  • Horse 1 = $10,000
  • Horse 2 = $5,000
  • Horse 3 = $15,000
  • Horse 4 = $2,000
  • Horse 5 = $5,000
  • Horse 6 = $8,000

Let’s assume that Horse 5 is the winner of the race. To get a dividend, we must divide the winning stake by the total pool.

  • $45,000 (total pool) / $5,000 (amount wagered on Horse 5) = $9

This means that for every $1 wagered on Horse 5 to win the race, the bet would pay $9. If you were to place a bet of $50, you would win $450.

Alternative Bets to Straight Bets

Exotics and parlays are two key bet types that offer alternatives to a straight bet. Below, we’ve included a look at how they work and differ.

Parlays

A parlay is a bet comprizing multiple selections to create a single bet. The rules state that a parlay must have all the selections win to pay out.

Odds are calculated by multiplying each by the next using the decimal odds layout. This creates a single price that the bettor then wagers on.

parlay bet example (1)

Let’s look at an example using the image above. It’s worth noting that we’ve used BetOnline for the bet and converted the odds from American to decimal.

You can, of course, place these bets with American-style odds, and the sportsbook will do the calculations for you, but for this example, we’ve converted them to highlight how parlay betting works.

Our selections are as follows:

  • Steelers +4 = 1.91
  • Cardinals +4 = 1.91
  • Chargers -3 = 1.87
  • Giants +10 = 1.88

To get the odds for the bet, we multiply each of the odds, which looks like this:

  • 91*1.91*1.87*1.88 = 12.83 = +1183 (American style)

A $100 bet at these odds would return a profit of $1,183. Don’t forget that you need all of the selections to win for the bet to pay. If they don’t, the whole bet will be a loss.

Exotics

Exotic bets are prominently linked to horse racing and are bets where you include multiple selections for the same race or selections across multiple races.

They are extremely flexible, and the inclusion of boxed and wheeled options means you can create unique bets, as opposed to straight bets, which are fixed.

Payouts for exotics work the same as straight bets in that you’re betting into a pool using a parimutuel betting system. The option to be creative with picks and place bets covering multiple races means that these are highly volatile, but the flip side is that the returns can be huge. Some of the biggest paying bets in history have come from exotics.

Below is a list and a short description of popular exotic bets linked to horse racing.

  • Exacta: An exacta bet is where you need to pick two horses in the race to finish first and second in the correct order.
  • Quinella: This requires the bettor to pick two horses in the race to finish first or second in any order.
  • Trifecta: A trifecta is an extension of the exacta, but you must pick three instead of two horses. Again, they must be in the correct order to win.
  • Superfecta: You must pick the first four horses to cross the line in the correct order for a superfecta bet. This is one of the toughest exotic bets on the market.
  • Daily Double: Pick the winner of the first two races at a meeting.
  • Pick 3/4/5: Pick the winner of a fixed number of races at a meeting. The number in the title is the number of races you pick from in a row.

Do you want access to a huge range of exotics and parlay bets? Head to BetOnline today.

What’s the Difference Between a Straight and Straight Up Bet?

A straight bet and a straight-up bet are commonly considered the same type. But this is not the case.

A straight-up bet is a wager placed on the game’s outcome without any handicaps or totals being applied. It’s essentially a moneyline wager where you bet on the straight-up outcome of the game.

This is a two-way market for sports like the NFL and NBA, but for sports like soccer, where the draw is a possible result, this is a three-way market.

Straight Bet Strategy

Straight bets can be one of the best sports betting markets to make a profit on continuously. In this section, we will walk you through a series of strategies you can apply to increase this profitability.

We’ve started with a section on finding value, which can be applied to all bets and markets. We’ve then added a strategy for the three main straight bet types of the moneyline, spreads, and totals, so we can show more specific ways of finding value.

How to Find Value in the Straight Bet

All profitable sports bettors start with finding value, and this market is no different. We need to find odds higher than our perceived chance of that result. As a quick example, this would be on a bet with odds at +400, but we think it should be nearer +300, thus creating value.

The easiest way to do this is to convert odds into implied probability. All odds are representative of implied probability, which means the chance the bet has of winning.

straight bet betting strategy

Let’s use this NFL game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens, looking specifically at the moneyline market. As you can see, the Bengals are priced at +165 and the Ravens at -190. The implied probability of this bet would be as follows:

  • Cincinnati Bengals @ +165 = 37.7%
  • Baltimore Ravens @ -190 = 65.5%

You will notice that this doesn’t add up to 100% and, instead, 103.2%. This is because an overground (a sportsbook’s profit margin on the market) is applied to all bets. It’s unavoidable from a bettor’s perspective, but it must be noted. In this case, the overground or juice/vig is 3.2% (any number over 100%).

We don’t need to worry too much about this to find value and instead apply a solid betting strategy. The form guide shows that both teams are playing well and are tipped to make the playoffs this season, so it should be a close game.

However, the Bengals have beaten the Ravens just once in the last five games between the two teams in Baltimore. Even though the Ravens got beat last time, their 7-3 record is still one of the best in the NFL this season and looks extremely strong.

There are a lot of factors that you need to apply to find value, but for this example, we’re going to create an implied probability of our own to see if either bet is worth betting on.

  • Cincinnati Bengals = 30% = +233
  • Baltimore Ravens = 70% = -233

All we do now is see which odds offer a better return. In this case, the Bengal’s price of +165 is too low (ours is +233), so this doesn’t offer value. The Ravens’ price of -190 is too high (ours is -233), so this offers value, which would be the bet we place.

Moneyline Straight Bet Strategy

The moneyline is the most popular straight bet and can offer significant value if done correctly. Here’s how to target this betting market.

Popular Teams are Shorter Than They Should be

As a general rule, popular teams are shorter than they should be simply down to the volume of bets wagered. Bookmakers will adjust and move lines continuously until the start of a game, and one of the biggest factors is how much is wagered.

The more money wagered on one team over the other, the more exposed the sportsbook becomes, and the more they lower the odds to discourage people from betting on that team.

For example, the LA Lakers are the most popular team in the NBA. They probably see more bets placed on them to win than most teams, even though they haven’t been that successful over the last couple of years.

This means that the true odds for the LA Lakers, especially when playing at home, are likely much higher than the ones listed. As the game gets nearer tip-off, the odds will likely fall even more due to casual bettors placing late bets.

The value comes from opposing these teams, especially when playing at home. Using markets like the spread is a good way to mitigate some risk.

Play the Long Game with Moneyline Bets

The moneyline market is unique in that you can lose way more bets than you win and still make a good profit. Unlike the spread, moneyline odds can range anywhere from +/-500, meaning that you could lose multiple bets in a row, and one win could put you back in profit.

You need to get comfortable with losing the odd bet. Finding value is hard, but it’s out there. Mentally, losing is seen as a huge negative in sports betting, but with this market, you need to be okay with it.

Take the time to create tracking for your bets in profit and loss accountability. This will let you see the types of bets you are winning and where you’re losing. Once you’re able to see this, you can then hone a strategy based on data. It will also highlight that some losers aren’t all that bad, making a profit off higher priced bets instead of grinding even money shouts.

Points Spread Betting Strategy

The points spread is a market that applies a handicap to both teams in the form of points added or subtracted from the final score. It uses the moneyline to determine the initial odds, and then from there, it can determine an appropriate handicap to get both bets to around -110.

Track Line Movements

Line movements on the point spread work differently than the moneyline. With the moneyline, the odds move, but with the points spread, the points move and the odds stay the same.

You’re looking for markets that offer you an extra or even half point. How much additional value a half point will serve shouldn’t be underestimated, and the key is to find markets that have drifted on the spread.

straight bet line movements

Take the above game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs as an example. The line is currently set at 2.5 points, which means the Chiefs need to win by three or more points. The Eagles need to win the game outright or not lose by two or more.

Let’s say the line moves to three points. The game scenarios would change drastically for a half-point movement. It would mean that the Eagles can lose by three points and get a push or two points for a win. The Chiefs need to win by four points or a push by three.

These are key numbers as they allow a single field goal to decide the game, which is common in close NFL matchups.

Tracking line movements from when they go live to kickoff is a great way to find value. Remember that with points spreads, the odds will stay the same or very close, and the line is the one that alters, unlike moneyline bets.

Create Your Own Points Spread

This strategy requires the bettor to become their own bookmaker. Use whatever process you want to establish a possible scoreline for the game before looking at the odds. Once you’ve done this, you can compare your spread to the sportsbook and see if it offers value.

Implementing a process like this means you’re not influenced by the line originally set by the sportsbook. You go in blind, which is important as it allows you to spot value quickly.

It’s worth noting that this method can create value in multiple markets. Once you’ve got a plausible scoreline or margin of victory, you can look at both moneyline and total bets to see if there are better betting opportunities here based on your research.

Totals Straight Bet Strategy

Totals betting is all about choosing the over or under line for the total number of points scored in the game. It’s one the easiest markets to use and a very popular straight bet accessed across multiple sports.

Utilize Alternative Totals for Value

Most sports come with alternative totals markets. This means you can choose the total line you want to bet on, with the odds adjusted accordingly. The initial line set by the bookmaker is the one that gets as close to even money as possible for both results.

Alternative lines have odds adjusted based on how far away from the main line it is. The image below shows a series of alternative totals bets from an NBA game between the Atlanta Hawks and the Detroit Pistons.

totals straight bet strategy

So, how do you apply this to a betting strategy?

Let’s say, for example, that the under is the play on the main market, with the line set to 225.5 points. We think a better line would be nearer 223.5 points based on our research. As you can see from the table, the odds on under 223 points are +115.

So, instead of taking a bet of -110, you can use the alternative totals market to get odds of +115 for the line you want to use. The downside is that it gives you less wiggle room, but the plus side is that you’re getting more value from research that shows this to be a more likely outcome.

To convert this into monetary terms, if the bet won, you would make $28.04 more in profit for every $100 wagered, which is a huge amount.

Shop for the Best Lines

Line shopping is one of the easiest betting strategies to apply and can increase profitability more than any other. This is where you compare multiple sportsbooks to get the best lines or odds for the same bet.

You don’t need to check all betting sites, but if you have a portfolio of four to six sites that you can quickly access and check, you’re giving yourself every chance of making more money for the same bet.

There are two key things to note. First is the line that the sportsbook is offering for the totals. For example, one might offer -110, and the other might be at -105. This might not seem very much, but it returns $4.33 for every $100 wagered. Over the course of a year, this could be the difference between profit and loss.

The second thing to note is the total line. For example, one sportsbook may be set at O/U 223.5 and the other at 224. This half point, again, might not seem much. However, depending on which side you’re betting on, it gives the potential for a push and an extra point in your favor.

We’ve included an example below from an NBA game above between the Indiana Pacers and the Philadelphia 76ers on BetOnline and Bovada.

line shopping straight bets

best odds for straight betting

BetOnline has set the line at O/U 240 with odds of -110 for both bets. Bovada has the same line, but odds of -115 for the over and -105 for the under.

If you were looking to place a bet on the over, you would make more money betting with Bovada as its price is -110 compared to Bovada’s price of -105. If you want to bet on the under, you would bet with Bovada, as it is priced at -105 compared to -110.

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FAQs

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Jonathan Askew
Sports Betting and Casino Expert
Jonathan Askew
Sports Betting and Casino Expert

Jonathan is a freelance writer working with Techopedia. He has been working within the gambling sector for over 15 years and has been fortunate enough to work with brands that include Gambling.com, CheekyPunter.com, BasketballInsiders.com and Betfair. He specializes in US and UK-based sports and casino content for Techopedia.