How does live betting work? The ultimate guide to in-game betting

How Does Live Betting Work: In-Game Betting Guide

Live betting lets you bet while the game is unfolding. Also called in-play betting, this gives you the chance to take advantage of live odds while you’re watching everything from the Super Bowl to a regular-season Sunday afternoon football game. Sportsbooks release new point spreads, moneylines, props and totals before each period, quarter, half, inning, etc. If there’s a scheduled break during play (other than commercials), you’ll have new live odds.

What is a Live Bet?

Nowadays, you can wager on a game that’s already in play whether it’s the first quarter or the last two minutes. These options come with odds that might look different than you’re used to, and live betting as a whole demands a different mindset than pre-game wagers.

Historically, live betting meant you placed a wager while physically at a game, but developments in betting tech and the interests of consumers have created a massive increase in in-play options.

How Does Live Betting Work?

The opening odds you see before a game begins will change over the course of play depending on the performance of each team. Sportsbooks will change these odds during the game to reflect their real-time value, allowing bettors to evaluate new options and make wagers while watching.

A screen shows different odds for sport betting

As the sports bettor, you can place a live wager whenever the odds are available – this locks in the line you wager on and functions as any other bet would.

How to Place a Live Bet

Depending on your sportsbook of choice, you’ll likely see a dedicated tab for live betting options with a list of games in various sports happening at that very moment. Navigate to one of these live markets and your betting options will be laid out in front of you. Continue as if you’re making any other bet, but keep in mind the lines move quickly and the book will ask you to confirm any change in odds.

If there’s a particular match you’re looking for, you can always use the search function and access it from there. Sportsbooks have started prioritizing live options, so if a game is underway, those in-play bets will be front and center.

What Types of In-Game Bets Can You Make?

Sportsbooks don’t want to limit their potential earnings, so they’ll make sure your options for in-game betting are plentiful. Whether it’s game totals, spreads, moneylines, or player props, you’ll find the usual suspects while betting during play.

Remember that certain props (ex. a goaltender shutout for the NHL) will only be available before a game begins. Make sure you lock these in beforehand!

Can You Build Parlays in Live Betting?

The short answer is yes, you can create live parlays with most major sportsbooks. Whether you’re wagering on multiple games or making a same-game parlay, you can combine live options.

There are a few differences between a pre-game parlay and one you’d create during a game. Notably, you’ll see lines change rapidly – oddsmakers are constantly adjusting for every possible outcome of a match, so if you see an opportunity for value, you need to be quick to bet on multiple lines.

Additionally, you’ll have fewer betting options after a game is already underway; certain lines are only available before a game begins. If you’re just concerned with spreads and money lines though, that’s no cause for concern – these options are constantly accessible.

In-Play Betting on Mobile and Desktop

Mobile betting has experienced a massive surge in popularity in recent years, and for good reason! Placing a wager from your phone can take just a few seconds, a massive benefit for fans looking to place bets while they’re at the game, sports bar, or just chilling on the couch. This offers flexibility, ease of use, and a more casual feel than betting via desktop.

Two people at a bar look at their phones.

That’s not to say desktop in-play betting is a bad option. In fact, you’ll have an easier time processing the information in front of you, with the ability to do research quickly. Thanks to more information displayed on screen, flipping between your research and sportsbook is much quicker when using a desktop.

For both options, you’ll see the odds adjust after a play finishes, albeit with a short delay – this makes it simple to wait for a line you’re comfortable with, even in the middle of a game.

How Live Betting Odds are Calculated?

Before a game, oddsmakers will use sophisticated computer models and statistical research to set an ideal line that represents value for them and the consumer. When it comes to game time, they’ll need to react with more speed and decisiveness, evaluating countless factors in an instant.

Factors that go into odds calculations include the score of the game, a player’s performance, injuries, coaching decisions, even the weather. The sportsbook needs to consider all this and adjust the odds accordingly, always making sure to limit exposure while keeping the lines as accurate as possible.

Odds Shark Betting Tools and Calculators

Need help calculating odds before you place your bet? We offer free sports betting tools and betting calculators that will determine if the odds are in your favor, and help you make the sharp bet. 

How to Read Live Odds

When reading live odds, the most important thing to remember is that lines can change dramatically in a matter of seconds. Be sure you’re locking in the number you originally wanted, reading all the information closely.

As well, bettors tend to get excited about large numbers and the potential for a big payout - it’s easy to fall into this trap with live betting. Putting money on an NFL team at +500 in the fourth quarter might be fun, but remember, that +500 represents their outlook in this game, not the skill matchup on paper. Even if you think they’re the better team, look at their stats and make an informed wager.

What’s The Difference Between Live Betting vs. Pre-Match Betting

While the actual betting options you can decide between will mostly stay the same, the real difference maker between these two options is the velocity of line movements. 

Pre-match, you might see a spread or a moneyline move by a few points – barring a major injury or other development, these will be static, “safer” movements.

Once you’re within play, things can get a little wild. One good play for either team will see the odds change far more drastically than they would pre-game. This comes with a bit of risk, but as illustrated in our benefits section, you’ll see that bettors also earn higher flexibility and upside with these line changes.

When Does Live Betting Make Sense?

Just like a regular wager, live betting makes sense whenever you see a bet you consider to be good value. If you spot an edge, go for it.

Live betting is the most fun when it’s, well, live. If you’re attending a game in-person, you’ll have real time info that can give you an edge against a sportsbook’s line that has yet to update – it’s also just really exciting to bet on a team and watch them work toward that goal.

What Are The Benefits of Live Betting?

Live betting exists for a reason – consumers typically find it more exciting when compared to a typical pre-game bet. They also represent a chance for bettors to put their sports knowledge to the test and analyze outcomes on the fly to earn a satisfying payout.

Odds Updates by the Second

This is the main draw that live betting offers. Odds will change with every play and update during the game, offering massive flexibility compared to static live movement before play begins.

If you’re not a fan of the game’s opening lines, wait to bet for the first five or so minutes. You’ll see the favorite’s odds jump higher and higher for each instant the game remains scoreless. Of course, they can also decrease if the favorite performs well, but that opens the avenue of betting on a new spread or taking increased underdog odds.

The New York Giants went on to win this game... not a bad live odd!

Altogether, line movements will take bets that seemed once unfathomable, and give them an opportunity for great value.

Hedging Potential

Hedging is the act of placing a secondary wager to offset any potential losses of your initial bet, or to guarantee profit.

Let’s say you bet on a +180 underdog moneyline before the game started – at half, they’re leading by a considerable amount, and it looks like your initial bet is going to hit. To hedge this bet, you’d place a live moneyline bet on the original favorite, who’s now become a +250 underdog.

Both of these bets have favorable odds, so you’ve now guaranteed a return in case of either result. Hedging is a fantastic way to capitalize on line movement and find value in any game, no matter the time on the clock.

Second-Screen Experience

Nobody likes waiting for the game to come back on, or being forced to watch the same dramatic car commercials over and over again during the break. Browsing through live odds and making wagers during this downtime gives you an activity to focus on until the action is back, and thanks to those constant adjustments, there’s always a new way to make some money.

Game-by-Game Trends

There are certain players or teams that are always dependable for a safe bet, but sometimes, the script changes. Coaches constantly try new approaches and scripts to confuse the opposing team, which can result in some irregular plays.

For example, the best receiver on the Miami Dolphins is Tyreek Hill. His prop bet for receiving yards before the game started was 80 yards, but you’re not too confident with that line. The first half goes by, and Tyreek has 2 catches and 10 yards – meanwhile, the Dolphins are losing by 20. You know they’ll have to air it out and throw the ball a ton in the second half, so you put a prop bet on Tyreek for 60+ yards.

When the game resumes, your prediction comes true. The Dolphins continue to throw and throw until Tyreek ends the game at 65 yards. Because you capitalized on that game-specific opportunity, you avoided an 80+ yard prop bet that would have never hit and won a smart wager.

Live Betting Drawbacks

Just as live betting can give you a few advantages compared to pre-game options, it also comes with a few cons that will test your patience and risk aversion.

Suspended Odds

The “yin” to the “yang” of having odds that constantly adjust. You’ll need to be on the ball to secure a line you like, as the odds will be frequently unavailable in the heat of the action.

Oddsmakers suspend lines to give themselves a chance to adjust to the course of a game – namely, you’ll see lines disappear during play, injuries, or any other important event. Timeouts and commercial breaks will be your safe haven to browse odds and lock them in.

Tunnel Vision

Unless you have a multi-screen setup, or are watching the game from a sports bar, viewers will typically be focused on one match at a time. Live betting on this particular match can take up a ton of focus from other contests happening at the same time.

For example, there are nine NFL games happening at once on the early Sunday window – you’re tuned into the Broncos vs. Dolphins game and are making a few live bets, trying to find a good spread to put your money on. As you’re trying to find a worthwhile bet, you’ve missed the fact that three underdogs in the other games have pulled into the lead, and it’d be a very good value to bet on the original favorites. 

Try not to get too focused on an individual game, there are a lot of great betting options out there!

Disadvantageous Odds Moves

We touched on this earlier, but there’s never a guaranteed “best” time to place a wager. If the favorite’s spread is too low for your tastes, you might decide to hold off in hopes that it’ll move in your favor, but it’s just as likely that they get off to a hot start and the opportunity for a favorable line passes you by.

It’s impossible to say whether the odds before a game versus during will work in your favor, but that’s the sports betting for you – trust your gut.

Which Sports Can You Bet on In-Game?

With the advancements of modern sportsbooks, you’ll be happy to hear that in-game betting is readily available for almost every market imaginable. Everything from the NFL, NHL, MLB, NBA to smaller markets like tennis and eSports can be wagered on.

Of course, this all depends on which book you bet with, but live betting has become such a focus for bettors that sportsbooks are constantly updating their offerings.

Are Some Sports Better for In-Play Betting? 

Yes and no – this is entirely up a personal preference and comes down to what you’re most comfortable with from a betting perspective. Live betting is a great option for any sports bettor, but the more familiar you are with a particular team or sport, the more it’ll correspond with potential success.

If you want to try in-play betting, start with a relaxed-paced game like baseball or football. These sports have predictable and frequent stoppages, giving you more reaction time to browse odds and get a feel for the line movements. 

What Live Bets Can You Make During a Game?

The options below touch on a small number of in-play options, focusing on the most popular choices. In reality, you’ll find a large selection of props and lines within your sportsbook of choice. Now that you’ve had live betting explained, take some time to get familiar with a list of bets for your favorite markets and hunt for good value.

Football Live Betting

Football, whether it be the NFL or NCAA, is a favorite option for in-game betting thanks to how quickly the tide can turn for a given team or player. Popular bets include player props, betting on the total (over/under), and updated spreads that better reflect a team’s value.

If you want to get specific, you can even bet on the outcome of the following drive – will it be a touchdown, punt, or interception? Is the next play going to be a pass or a run? This is where live betting thrives, in the bettor’s ability to build off a team’s momentum and predict instantaneous outcomes.

Super Bowl Live Betting

The Super Bowl is not only a great game to watch, it’s a live betting extravaganza. In-play betting on the Super Bowl is like being an unsupervised kid in a candy store with your parent’s credit card. Oddsmakers will go all out for the biggest game of the year, taking all the usual prop bets an NFL game would have and cranking them to overdrive.
Unique bets include the length of the national anthem, the color of gatorade poured on the coach at the end of the game and even the Super Bowl Halftime performer’s first song – it’s a ton of fun and certainly worth a bit of your bankroll, even just for novelty’s sake.

Baseball Live Betting

Baseball is a fantastic introduction to live betting thanks to how intuitive the options are. Fan favorite options within the MLB typically come down to the run line (baseball’s version of a spread) and prop bets on player hits, bases reached, strikeouts and more.

There are interesting half-measures within baseball live betting too – you can bet on a team to reach second base within an inning, but scoring a run isn’t necessary for the bet to cash. These flexible options are easy to understand and come with attractive lines if you get them at the right time.

Basketball Live Betting

In terms of live-play options for both the NBA and NCAAB, these fall into the same buckets as the above examples. You’ll have the option to bet on main markets like moneylines and spreads, while selecting specific player props to wager on point totals, assists, rebounds, etc.

You can get granular by betting on quarter-by-quarter props, the margin of victory, an exact basket total, or a race to X number of points.

Hockey Live Betting

The NHL is pretty straightforward when it comes to live betting options, with moneylines, spreads, and totals being the most popular options. There are fewer prop bet options, which makes hockey a straightforward sport to wager on during play – these mostly focus on player points and team totals.

Soccer Live Betting

Typically one of the lower-scoring sports, soccer has a plethora of options to keep your attention on the little parts of the game while you’re waiting for a goal. Moneylines, totals, and the spread are all there, but they’re backed up by player and team props that can make something as simple as a corner kick thrilling.

You won’t necessarily need soccer knowledge to enjoy live betting on The Beautiful Game, but options beyond the big-ticket items you’re used to might be difficult to track without some base knowledge – there are a lot of little differences between similar-looking prop bets.

Is In-Play Betting Legal?

The legality of whether or not a particular type of betting is legal will depend entirely upon the country or state you’re operating from. These regulations dictate whether or not you’ll be free to place live bets.

Please see our guide on the best legal gambling sites for a country-by-country breakdown of gaming laws and the options available to you.

Top 5 Live Betting Strategies and Tips

  • Unlike regular betting odds that remain somewhat the same (minus line movements), in-play odds go fast. If you see action you like, take it before it disappears. There is a limited window for live odds and you have to jump on lines quickly because they don’t last long.
  • If your pre-game bets aren’t hitting, live wagering gives you the chance to middle or hedge your bets. This is a great way to minimize any losses. 
  • Even after a team has all but secured a win, you still have bets to take advantage of. NFL teams with a heavy lead will lean on the run game to avoid interceptions, so you can bet on individual drives. An NBA squad will send their bench players out toward the end of the game, making for some good prop options on underused players.
  • If you see a player heating up you can jump on the train with live betting. While sportsbooks have the help of computer algorithms working for them when they set live lines, they don’t take the human element into consideration. By watching the action closely and seeing which players are getting hot and which ones are cooling down, you can gain an edge and possibly beat the book.
  • Live betting allows you to capitalize on odds you normally wouldn’t consider. If you’re looking for a way to have even more fun while watching sports, consider wagering on live odds. Who knows, you could find yourself on the winning end of some very smart bets.

Thanks to odds and lines constantly changing, live betting is easy to learn but hard to master. It’ll take a few tries to get comfortable with a given sport’s live options, but once you get into a flow, it’s an incredibly entertaining way to make precise choices that come with great paydays. Check out our best live sports betting strategies if you need more context and tips.

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