A beginner’s guide to legal sports betting in Tennessee

So you want to learn how to bet on sports, eh? Well, you’ve come to the right place…

As of Sunday, November 1st (AKA midnight on Saturday), sports gambling is now legal in the state of Tennessee. Unlike every other U.S. state in which gambling has been legalized, there will be no brick-and-mortar establishments in Tennessee. All bets will be placed via approved online and mobile sportsbooks.

If you’re new to sports betting and want to learn the basics, or if you’re curious about the rules, regulations and how-to’s of betting legally in Tennessee, this article is for you.

Bookmark this page and use it as a resource anytime you get confused. And you can always hit me up at justin@broadwaysportsmedia.com if you have any specific questions.

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One thing to note before we dive in: gambling addiction is serious. If you or someone you know is in need of help, please don’t hesitate to contact the National Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-522-4700.

What are the sportsbook options?

As of this writing, there are four approved sportsbooks expected to be operational when legal gambling goes live on Sunday. Pick your favorite of the below to start playing, or register with multiple sites to take advantage of various free-play offers and to gauge different lines and odds.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Many books will offer a free credit or deposit bonus to entice new users to try out their platform. Be wary of these offers: they are free play credits, not free money. Sometimes, books can be shady when you win with free play credits; some will require you to wager a certain amount before “unlocking” your funds, so think of these bonuses as a chance to try out some betting strategies before risking your actual money and make sure to read the fine print.

BetMGM

One of the largest sportsbook operators in the world, BegMGM is the online platform associated with Las Vegas’s famous MGM Grand. BetMGM will go live in Tennessee on Sunday as the official sportsbook partner of the Tennessee Titans.

As part of that partnership, BetMGM has a special offer for Sunday’s Titans game: anyone who makes a bet of at least $1 on the match against the Bengals will receive $100 in free betting credit.

BetMGM is also offering a $500 deposit match bonus to new users, meaning the book will match (or double) your first deposit of any amount up to $500 in credits (not actual money). Click here to register for a new BetMGM account and take advantage of these offers.

FanDuel Sportsbook

The famous daily fantasy sports provider has its own sportsbook, separate but still a part of main site, that’s been approved for operation in Tennessee.

FanDuel has a huge free-play offer of up to $1,000 in credits. Click here to register with FanDuel and claim your free bet.

DraftKings Sportsbook

Like its competitor in the DFS space, DraftKings also has a separate sportsbook that’s been approved for Tennessee operation.

DraftKings also has a special offer for Tennessee bettors: anyone who registers for a new account before the November 1st launch date will receive $50 in free betting. DraftKings also has a deposit bonus up to $1,000 with promo code WIN.

Click here to register with DraftKings and claim your credit.

Action247

Unlike the three platforms listed above, Action247 is only operational in the state of Tennessee. From their website: “Action247 launched with the simple idea of creating a world-class sportsbook for the people of Tennessee and having a ton of fun doing it. We’re not a mega-corporation from some far off land. We’re Tennessee owned and operated.”

One advantage of betting on Action247 is you’re less likely to see “juiced up” lines (spreads with lower payouts due to a high volume of wagers) because you’re simply less likely to see a huge volume of wagers overall. Restricting access only to Tennessee patrons might make the space less competitive for new bettors, as you’re less likely to see sharp wagers moving the lines immensely during the week.

Action247 is also offering a free play sign-up bonus, but it’s much lower than their competitors are offering at only $10 (unless you take advantage of Brent Dougherty’s code shown below).

Click here to sign up for Action247 and claim your $10 in free play.

Choosing the best platform for you

How will you decide which of the above platforms is right for you?

My recommendation: don’t pick just one. There’s no harm in simply having an account on multiple sites so you can compare lines across books and take advantage of value when you see it.

I want to reiterate the misleading nature of free-play credits and deposit bonuses. There are usually strings attached to these “free” offers, and it’s not real money they’re giving away. If the free play from FanDuel and DraftKings is steering you away from Action247, I think you’re overvaluing that aspect.

If you’re serious about getting into sports betting, my recommendation is to sign up for all of them. Take advantage of the free credits they offer and test out various aspects — the different site layouts, mechanisms for placing a bet, the types of props and lines offered, withdrawing and depositing funds, etc — before you decide which one you want to be your primary book.

What are the specific state rules and regulations?

There aren’t many rules and regulations you need to know, but we’ll cover the significant ones. First is the legal betting age — unlike most states where you must be 18 or older to wager, Tennessee legislators have set the minimum age in the state at 21.

As I mentioned above, there are no physical locations accepting bets. All wagers must be placed on approved platforms operating online and as mobile applications.

The biggest regulation to know has to do with the sportsbook’s “hold” — the amount of money a book retains after bets are settled each week. Tennessee is the only state in the country with a mandated minimum hold, and the legislature has set it quite high at 10% (it was originally going to be 15%).

There are complicated potential longterm impacts of this decision, but rather than waste time explaining all that, I’m going to focus on what it means for you the bettor.

On average, casinos in the United States are able to maintain around a 7.5% hold (according to this study) with their standard practice over many years. I’ll explain more later about how lines are set, but the thing to note here is that unless this regulation is adjusted after its one-year trial period, the value of betting in Tennessee will be slightly lower than anywhere else in the United States because the books might make their odds less favorable to the bettor in order to meet this higher hold margin.

Types of bets and terms to know

The range of available bets offered will vary from book to book, but in general, each matchup and each season of every sport presents a number of potential wagers, from the specific outcome of any individual contest, players’ statistics, and points scored to season-long records, champions at every level and winners of all kinds.

There is a bit of confusing lingo to be aware of. The “line” is different from the “moneyline.” A “straight” bet is the opposite of picking a team “straight up.” And the odds themselves can be confusing if you’ve never formally gambled at a sportsbook.

Odds are listed are a three-digit number that will always include either a + or .

As an example, below is a typical wager listing (this one from the William Hill US sportsbook, which is not operating in Tennessee but is the biggest sportsbook in the country) for the upcoming Titans game against Cincinnati. Let’s break it down part by part to understand each number and the available bets for this particular game.

Spread

In the left-most column, the visiting team will always be listed above the home team. The next column is the “spread,” also commonly referred to as the game’s “line.”

The “favorite” is always given a negative number — the point spread — which represents how many points the favorite must win by in order to “cover the spread.”

In the above example, the Titans are giving seven points and therefore must win by more than seven for backers to be paid. Conversely, the Bengals are getting seven points. The opposite of the favorite, they are the “underdog.” Cincinnati doesn’t need to win the game, they simply need to cover the spread, or lose by less than seven points.

Often, the spread will be set at a half-number (such as 7.5) so as to avoid a tie. This isn’t the case here though. If the Titans were to win by 7 points exactly, that would be a “push.” The book would refund all bets, as neither side wins.

A bet against the spread (ATS) is referred to as a “straight” bet in a casino. This is the opposite of picking a team to win “straight up,” which means you are not picking against the spread.

Listed under the line itself in the above example are the odds for the bet ATS. The typical odds for a bet ATS are -110 (spoken as “minus one ten”), though these can fluctuate slightly. Let me explain what this -110 number actually means.

Odds with a minus sign in front show how much a bettor must wager in order to win back $100. So for -110 odds, you’d have to bet $110 to win $100.

While bets ATS are meant to be a 50-50 proposition, the book rarely pays even odds. Yes, “even odds” is a normal phrase in gambling. Neither word refers to even or odd numbers. “Even” in this case means equal, a 1:1 payout, usually listed as +100 or EV, where the amount you bet is even with the amount you’d win. Instead of paying even odds, on a -110 bet, the book will payout 90.9% of your wager as winnings.

The 9.1% retained by the book is called the “vig,” which can be thought of as a fee paid to the house for collecting, managing and paying out all bets. Ever heard the phrase “the house always wins”? The sportsbook wants to take in as close to 50% of bets on each side of the spread as possible. By making both sides -110 odds — below an even 1:1 payout — the house ensures they will make a profit no matter which side wins.

Short for “vigorish,” also known as the juice, the cut, the take, the margin, or the house edge, the vig is largely where the “hold” comes from.

I mentioned above that most books are able to maintain around a 7.5% hold using a standard -110 for most 50-50 bets. There is some concern that in order to meet the mandated 10% minimum hold, Tennessee’s books will frequently set odds at -125 instead of -110, taking away the value of betting in state.

Moneyline

Got all that? Good, let’s move on to the next column, the “moneyline.”

When you bet the moneyline, you’re simply betting on who you think will win the game. In this example, the Titans are heavy favorites at -330 (read “minus three thirty”). On the other side, the Bengals are sizable underdogs at +270 (“plus two seventy”).

Where minus (-) odds show the amount you have to risk to win $100, plus (+) odds show the amount of money you would win with a $100 wager. In this example, if you bet $100 on Cincinnati to win the game outright, you would receive $270 (plus your initial bet back) from the book should Cincinnati pull through.

The moneyline can sometimes be much simpler for beginners to understand, but it can also be a turnoff when betting the favorite. For example, if you think the Titans will win but you don’t want to bet on them to cover the seven-point spread, you could bet the Tennessee moneyline for a much lower payout. In this case, you’d have to risk three times as much on the moneyline (-330) as you would against the spread (-110) to win the same amount of money.

If you’re a new bettor looking to wager something like $10 or $20 on a contest, you might not want to risk it on the moneyline for such a low payout. A $10 wager at -330 would only net $3.03 in winnings.

Total Points

Moving on now to the final column shown in this example, the total points.

If you don’t fancy a particular point spread but think you have a good handle on how the game will unfold, you might consider betting the total points. This is exactly what it sounds like: the total points scored by both teams over the course of the game. Like the point spread, this is meant to be a 50-50 proposition which the book typically sets at -110 odds.

The bet you place is on if the game’s total — both teams’ final score added together — will be over or under the number set by the book. It doesn’t matter which team wins, all that matters is how many points they score. In this example, you are betting the game’s total will either go over or under 51 points. If the total is exactly 51, the bet pushes and your wager is refunded.

Just like the point spread, the book is trying to attract 50% of wagers on each side of the line.

More Bets

You may notice one other option in this game listing, which says: “More bets | 138.”

This is how you access the game’s “prop bets,” which include a number of match-specific propositions, such as betting on the first team to a specific score, alternate game lines (a range of point spreads with increasing and decreasing odds), first quarter and first half lines and point totals, how many total punts, sacks, turnovers, touchdowns, etc, will be recorded, and more.

There are also player props, which allow you to bet on specific player statistics, usually over or under a number of yards, receptions, rush attempts, and touchdowns.

If you’re a big fantasy football player, this side of gambling may interest you. Here’s an example of a very small selection of player props from the Titans-Bengals game on William Hill. In this image, you can also see all the different categories of prop bets offered by this particular book. Remember that this one game has 138 individual bets available!

Each book will have a different assortment of props offered for each game. How important prop bets are to you and the selection available at each platform may be a factor that plays into choosing your favorite Tennessee sportsbook.

Other Types of Bets

Beyond betting on the outcome of a single game, there are all kinds of player and team bets you can place based on the end of season results, as well as forms of betting multiple games at a time. Let’s cover those before we get into the do’s and don’ts.

Futures

A bet that is placed based on the outcome of a full season of play is called a “future” bet. Futures include betting on a team to win a division, conference, or championship, or to go over or under a certain number of wins over the course of a season. Futures can be individual player awards like MVP, end of season leaders in various statistical categories, and much more.

Futures can be a fun way to stay engaged with a particular team or player over the course of a season and usually come with an attractive plus-odds payout. Future prices also vary more frequently from book to book than individual game lines.

All that said, you should know that typically, futures are juiced a bit in favor of the house. You’ll never get “true” odds here, which are decidedly incalculable (how would one determine, for example, the legitimate probability of Russell Wilson winning MVP?), and the house usually uses suppressed future odds to help maintain their hold percentage. Offering lower futures payouts could be a way the Tennessee books try to gain an advantage and maintain their 10% minimum hold.

Live Betting

Live betting is exactly what it sounds like: placing wagers live during a game. The books are wired into a feed that is updated almost instantaneously, anywhere from 4-10 seconds ahead of broadcast television depending on the network.

Books will update lines after every single play of a sporting event with a new spread, moneyline, and total as well as bets for the current quarter and half.

Depending on the book, you may also be able to place bets on the outcome of the next play or series, and more. Check out the various books to see all the bets that are offered per contest.

Live betting can provide value if you’re able to take advantage of early deficits if you think a team will come back and win. But you have to act quickly, as the lines will shift before you can finalize your bet if you aren’t fast enough.

I wouldn’t recommend live betting to beginners.

Multiple Bets: Parlays and Teasers

Parlays

One of the more fun types of bets is called a “parlay,” which is where you bet on multiple outcomes — referred to as “legs” — and the bet is only cashed if all legs succeed.

It is not advised to bet parlays with much frequency. They are typically hard to hit and far from a sure thing even when they seem very likely. That said, the compounding of odds from adding multiple matches to one bet can make betting parlays very exciting with huge potential payouts.

If you treat them as a flavorful side dish to your main course, they can add some flair to your betting card. Just be aware that the house wants you to make parlays, and anytime you’re doing what the house wants, you’re going to lose in the long run.

When it comes to what you can parlay, the options are up to you; an over/under total from one game with a moneyline pick from another, and still others against the spread.

For example, let’s say I like Dolphins +3.5, over 48 in Raiders-Browns, and the Steelers moneyline at +180. I could place a three-team or three-leg parlay, meaning all three of these bets would need to hit for me to win. The odds of any parlay are determined by the odds of the various legs. In this random example with -110, -110, and +180 as the odds for these three bets, the parlay would pay +920, or $5 risked to win $46.02 (plus the original $5 wager).

The easiest way to calculate the odds of a parlay is to select the games you want to combine and see what payout the book displays.

One parlay strategy is to combine various bets that feel more certain and have lower odds. For example, Tampa Bay’s moneyline is -700 over the Giants, which is hardly worth betting on its own in case something crazy happens and the Giants pull off a victory. But you could combine the Tampa Bay moneyline with, say, the Green Bay moneyline (-275) for a two-team parlay payout of -179.

The longer the odds that you parlay together, the higher the parlay’s payout will be. If you added an underdog to the above example to make it a three-leg parlay, say the Steelers moneyline at +180 again as an example, it would increase the payout of the parlay from -179 to +336.

Each book will have different restrictions on what kinds of bets you can and cannot parlay together. For example, most books won’t allow you to parlay the moneyline and point spread from the same matchup. Some books don’t allow for futures to be parlayed together, but others do.

There are books that don’t allow for the parlaying of player prop bets, but DraftKings and FanDuel both do. The limit for how many legs your parlay can include will also vary by book, but often the most you can do is a 20-leg parlay.

I’m not sure what the various Tennessee sportsbooks will and won’t allow when it comes to parlays, but it’s definitely worth experimenting to test the limits of the different platforms and find the one you like best.

Teasers

My favorite type of multi-bet wager is called a “teaser.” To tease a line is essentially to accept less favorable odds in exchange for a more favorable spread. Most books will allow you to tease any line by a point or so, usually moving the odds from -110 to -125 or -135 (or thereabouts).

A multi-leg teaser is like a parlay, every bet in the teaser has to hit in order for the wager to cash. However, in a teaser, you choose two or more lines — point spreads or game totals — and tease every line by the same number of points (you can’t include a moneyline bet in a teaser, as there is no point spread to tease).

In my earlier example, we had Dolphins +3.5 and over 48 in LV-Cle. Let’s say I also like the Titans, but the -7 number feels a bit high. That’s where a teaser comes into play.

I can bet a three-team or three-leg teaser, moving each line by the same number of points, usually 4, 6, 7, 10, or 13 — the options will vary by book. A 4-point teaser moves all the lines by 4 points in your favor, a 6-point teaser moves them all by 6, and so on.

So if I did a 6-point teaser with the above bets, my lines would be Titans -1, Dolphins +9.5, and over 42. That seems much more manageable than if I were to parlay these options outright (meaning not teased, so Titans -7, Dolphins +3.5, and over 48). However, in exchange for the better lines, I get worse odds. This teaser would pay +160, whereas the outright parlay would pay +581, almost five times more.

It’s a risk-reward trade off. If you really like the teaser, you could sprinkle a much smaller bet on the parlay and attempt to hit both. If your parlay misses, you have a chance to hit the teaser and still make a profit.

The more legs you add to a teaser, the better your odds become but the more your risk grows. If instead of three legs I included six, a six-point teaser would pay +600. You could reduce risk by taking more than six points, which then lowers your odds. A seven-point, six-leg teaser would pay +450.

Teasers are a fun way to get a little bit of wiggle room to hopefully avoid any fluky “bad beats.” I’ve enjoyed great success betting NFL teasers and would recommend them to anyone who may be intimidated by point spreads and game totals on their own.

Round Robins

A “round robin bet” is a multi-bet format that takes your parlay selections and creates a series of smaller parlays from the full list. Let’s say you’ve picked three teams. You could bet a round-robin parlay, which would be three different two-team parlays (every possible two-team combination from the three teams you selected).

If you had six teams, you could create six different 5-team parlays, 15 different four-team parlays, 20 different three-team parlays, and so on.

The thing is, round robbin bets are hard to make money with. I would not advise this strategy for any beginner. Parlays are much simpler, much more fun, and will cost you less money to place than round robbin bets.

Gambling Advice

Let’s finish this thing up with some do’s and don’ts and basic advice for first-time sports bettors. First, it’s important to understand how the lines are set in the first place.

How Lines Are Set

Each day, sportsbooks use complex models to generate likelihoods for every sporting event. The models are not necessarily intended to accurately project the final outcome. Instead, the books are trying to project how bettors will wager on each side of any given bet.

As I mentioned a few times above, the ultimate goal of every sportsbook is to bring in an even 50% of wagers on both sides of every line. As bets come in on one side or the other, the books will move the line to try to create what appears to be a more favorable bet for the less popular side in an attempt to bring the wager split closer to 50-50.

There are two main factors that influence the “market”: the public and the sharps. The public is the mass of everyday bettors, your average Joe Schmo who gambles as a hobby. The public often makes up the majority of the wagers but the minority of the money on any given contest.

The sharps are professional gamblers. There are fewer of them than the public masses, but they play at such high stakes that often the wagers of a group of sharps can move the market immensely.

For the average NFL game, the line might move anywhere from not at all to a point or a point-and-a-half during the week leading up to kickoff. But sometimes, the line moves by more than that. It can happen when a key player such as a quarterback is injured mid-week after the opening lines are set, or when the public bets heavily on one side of a match.

Multiple games in this Week 8 slate have moved an extreme amount, which makes for a nice example explanation. The Eagles-Cowboys game opened at Philadelphia -3.5 and is now at -11. This is an insane amount of movement. The point totals in both the Packers-Vikings and Raiders-Browns games have come down immensely due to concerns about the weather.

These lines moved because an extreme majority of bets came in on Philadelphia and on the unders. Even as the lines dropped, bets continued to pour in on the more popular side, so much so that the lines are still moving as I type this. Knowing how and why lines are moving allows to take advantage of overinflated spreads and find value in the market.

Do’s and Dont’s for New Gamblers

DO set realistic expectations for yourself as a bettor and know that there will be ups and downs. You can’t expect to win every bet. In fact, you shouldn’t set out with the expectation that you’re going to make money at all. Over the long haul, most players lose. If you think of gambling as an exciting enhancement to your sports viewing experience and nothing more, you should have fun.

DON’T bet more than you can afford to lose. There are no sure things when it comes to gambling, not even the Kansas City Chiefs over the New York Jets. Sadly, injuries are a realistic part of sports. Fluke moments can lead to unexpected results, and upsets happen. You have to be willing to lose any bet you place.

DO your research and place your bets with discipline. Pick your spots wisely and don’t feel the need to bet on every single game. Context matters in every matchup, as do the details. You have to pay attention to injuries, trends, weather, and other external factors that could influence the outcome.

DON’T bet with your heart. If you want to be successful over the long haul, you have to bet without bias. Don’t put too much stock into matchup narratives either. That said, it’s fun to bet on your favorite team. Just be smart about it.

DO fade the public. This is the most important lesson I can leave you with: the house always wins. Not every bet, but over the long haul, the majority of bettors will walk away losers. Therefore, being on the same side as the majority of bettors isn’t a sound strategy. This article does an excellent job explaining why you should fade the public, so I’m going to borrow from its author Josh Appelbaum:

“Why? Public bettors tend to rely on gut instinct, overvalue recent performance and usually gravitate toward favorites, home teams and overs. By taking a more contrarian approach, you’re capitalizing on public bias and taking advantage of artificially inflated numbers. As an added bonus, you also place yourself on the side of the sportsbooks.”

If strategies like this interest you, there is a whole wide world of gambling articles and advice out there. I encourage you to dive in and educate yourself as much as possible if you plan to be one of many new active sports bettors in Tennessee.

Bet smart, and good luck out there!

Let us know if you have any questions about sports betting in the comments below!

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