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Learn about the rules of sports betting for beginners

Sportsbook operators come with a range of rules. There are many reasons for this, but primarily due to the unpredictability of sports and the need to protect themselves when things don’t go as expected. In this article, bestsoccertips will guide you through some rules of sports betting that you must familiarize yourself with before betting online.

Learn about the rules of sports betting for beginners
Learn about the rules of sports betting for beginners

General Sports Betting Rules

Each sport at leading sportsbooks will have specific rules, which we will expand on later in this guide, but any sport not mentioned falls under the category of “general” rules. This section will cover most of the general sports betting rules, explaining how they work and what they mean.

Settling Bets

  • All bets are settled based on the final result of the governing body of the sport. This includes the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball (MLB), and NHL, along with other professional leagues. The NTRA oversees all horse racing in the United States, and their final results will be binding.
  • Once results are confirmed, any disqualification or modification after this confirmation will be ignored. Bets will not be settled in a “look-back” situation.
  • In markets without a draw or tie, dead-heat rules will apply when necessary.
  • Rule 4 can apply to all sports where one of the participants has withdrawn. This rule is not designed solely for horse racing.
  • For incomplete events (canceled, postponed, etc.), all confirmed bets will be classified as void, and stakes will be refunded. This will not apply to markets that have been settled after the event starts but before it is completed.

Dead Heat Rule

The dead heat rule applies to events where two or more participants finish in the same position. These rules state that for each participant in that position, the stake will be divided by that number.

For example, if a horse race is considered a dead heat with two horses finishing simultaneously, the bettor’s stake will be halved to determine the payout amount. So, if you bet $100 on a horse at 10/1 odds, the dead heat rule will reduce your stake to $50 and pay out accordingly. Note that you will not receive a refund for the voided part of your stake.

Venue Changes

In rare instances of venue changes, all bets will remain valid. The only time bets will be voided is if the home team becomes the away team. This condition will still apply even if the change is to a neutral venue.

Related Contingencies

Related contingencies occur when a bet has more than one selection directly affecting another bet. For example, if you bet on a draw in a football match and also bet on the exact score being 1-1. Most legal and international sportsbooks will not allow you to place these bets, but if they have been accepted, it is considered the sportsbook’s error, and the bet will be voided.

Unwritten rules of sports betting: Related Contingencies
Unwritten rules of sports betting: Related Contingencies

This also applies to multiple bets including the same team—e.g., a treble bet on a football team winning in three different linked competitions. However, this does not apply to bets made as part of a same-game parlay in a designated section of the sportsbook. This is because these sections account for related contingencies, and the odds are adjusted accordingly.

Ante-Post Betting

Ante-post betting differs from regular betting markets in that any bet you place on an ante-post wager will be settled regardless of whether the selection takes part or not.

For example, if you place a bet on a horse to win the Kentucky Derby in January, and by the time the race occurs, the horse is withdrawn for some reason, this bet will be considered a loss.

There are some exceptions, but the bookmaker must clearly state that the market is “Non-Runner, No Bet.” When this happens, any non-participating bets will be considered void, and your stake will be refunded.

Cash-Out Bets

Most online international sportsbooks have a cash-out function where you can close your bet before the market closes. Several rules apply to these bets, which we have outlined below.

  • Bets can be cashed out when the sportsbook offers this feature. Each bet will have a direct cash-out value that can be claimed.
  • Bets are “cashed out” after the sportsbook confirms. In most cases, this happens instantly, but it may take a few seconds for live or in-play markets.
  • When a bet is cashed out, this is the bettor’s acceptance that the bet has been settled. The bet will then be subject to any sports betting rules that apply to settled bets with the sportsbook.
  • Live bets that are cashed out will experience a delay when betting in-play.
  • Any bet cashed out incorrectly can be reversed if there is an error on the part of the sportsbook. For example, if an incorrect cash-out value was advertised or mispriced.
  • Cashing out is not available for all sports and markets.
  • Cashing out cannot be used to settle free bets and most bonus/promotional funds.
  • The sportsbook has the right to suspend or remove cash-out offers at any time.


As a general rule, non-runners are classified as “all bets stand”; therefore, if any team or horse is deemed a non-runner, that bet will be lost. Exceptions to this rule include if a tournament/event is canceled, the venue is changed, or a tournament/event is postponed and takes place more than 72 hours after the original start time.

If these bets form part of a multiple, such as a parlay bet, those legs will be removed from the bet, and the remaining selections will continue to run. For example, if you bet on three horses to win their races and one is a non-runner, that leg will be removed, and the remaining two horses will form a double.


Errors are more common than you might think when betting online, and sportsbooks make every effort to ensure they do not lose money if an error occurs. Common errors include:

  • Technical issues.
  • Betting on events that have finished.
  • Placing bets on markets with incorrect participants.
  • Displaying incorrect odds.
  • Incorrect settlement.
  • Incorrect allocation of free bets.
Rules of sports betting: Errors
Rules of sports betting: Errors

In most cases, the sportsbook will contact the customer to inform them that the bet will be considered void. However, some sportsbooks will correct the error and settle the bet according to the correct terms. For example, if incorrect odds were displayed, they may settle according to the correct odds instead of voiding the entire bet.

Suspicious Betting

When suspicious betting patterns emerge, sportsbooks have several actions they can take. Suspicious betting actions include, but are not limited to:

  • Excessive betting frequency in a short period.
  • Unusual betting patterns.
  • The integrity of an event being questioned.
  • Reasonable grounds to suspect that a series of bets were placed automatically or semi-automatically.
  • Bettors influencing the outcome through external factors.
  • Bettors acting on behalf of others.
  • Using the sportsbook from a location or device different from the bettor’s actual location (e.g., using a VPN from a restricted area).

If any of the above suspicions arise, the following actions may be taken:

  • Requesting additional information.
  • Suspending the involved accounts.
  • Withholding stakes.
  • Withholding winnings.
  • Canceling withdrawal requests.
  • Canceling bets.
  • Imposing limits on winnings.
  • Terminating accounts.
  • Seeking to recover funds from the player.
  • Contacting authorities if criminal activity is suspected.

Maximum Payout

All sportsbooks have a maximum amount that can be won from a single bet. These limits will vary depending on the sportsbook and the sport/market the bettor has wagered on.

Generally, major professional sports leagues, such as the NFL, NBA, NHL, soccer, and tennis, have higher maximum payouts compared to less popular sports. It is the customer’s responsibility to know these limits and stay within them.

The sportsbook will accept bets with payouts higher than the maximum but will only pay out the maximum amount. For example, if a sportsbook has a $100,000 payout limit for the NBA and a bettor places a $50,000 bet at +500 odds and wins, the bet will be accepted, but the payout will be capped at $100,000.

Account Corrections

Sportsbooks have the right to correct account balances in case of payment errors. For example, if you win a $10,000 bet but are mistakenly paid $20,000, the sportsbook will correct this amount in your account by deducting the $10,000 overpayment.

Examples of errors include incorrect pricing and incorrectly entered results. These errors will lead to account corrections.

Void Bets

When a bet is voided, the sportsbook will refund the original stake. This applies regardless of the sport or market you are betting on and according to gambling rules.

If a void bet is part of a multiple, such as a parlay bet, the voided bet will be removed, and the stake will be transferred to the remaining selections to continue the bet. For example, if you have a five-team parlay and one match is voided, that bet will be removed, and your parlay will continue with four teams, with the odds adjusted accordingly.

Multiple Accounts

Having more than one account with a single sportsbook is strictly prohibited. Sportsbooks do not take this lightly, and you risk losing your account. This rule does not apply to creating accounts with different betting sites but rather having multiple accounts with the same sportsbook.

Unwritten rules of sports betting: Multiple Accounts
Unwritten rules of sports betting: Multiple Accounts

Typically, the sportsbook will suspend the second account that was created and conduct an investigation. If the second account was created in good faith and was a mistake (such as forgetting a password), this account will be suspended and eventually deleted.

However, if they believe that both accounts are active and the player is trying to gain an advantage by using multiple accounts, the sportsbook will confiscate any winnings, withhold funds, delete both accounts, and ban the user.

Specific Regulations for Sports Betting

Each sportsbook will have different rules regarding how to handle certain betting situations. In this section, we have highlighted some of the best betting sites on the market and included notable betting rules that may differ from the general rules outlined in this guide.

BetOnline Regulations

General Rules

  • Only players aged 18/21 and above can place bets at BetOnline.
  • Payment processing and withdrawals may take from one to five days to complete security checks.
  • Players are not allowed to place bets on behalf of anyone else.
  • In case of an obvious payment error, BetOnline may settle the bet at the correct adjusted odds or cancel the bet and refund the stake to the bettor. This includes bets on known outcomes and odds that are significantly different from competitors.
  • BetOnline will set minimum/maximum betting limits for all markets on the site.
  • Once a bet is placed, it cannot be manually canceled or changed unless decided by management and within 15 minutes of placing the bet.
  • Players may be required to provide identification if the payout amount exceeds the maximum threshold (depending on their state of residence).
  • Bets cannot be canceled once the market has started.

General Rules

  • Players must be 18 or older, or 21 or older, to play betting.
  • In the event that selections are removed from the market after the event starts due to virus or other illness, the bet will be considered void, and the stake will be refunded.
  • All-in markets will be settled regardless of whether the selection starts or participates in the market. Bets placed before the start will be settled regardless.
  • Player markets are only valid if all players listed in that group are active in the game. If one or more players are inactive, the bet will be void.
  • Any errors caused by human or technical factors occurring in the market will result in the bet being void.
  • Non-participants will have their bets canceled unless otherwise stated.


Understanding the rules of sports betting is crucial for anyone looking to engage in this activity, whether casually or professionally. These rules help ensure fair play, maintain the integrity of sports, and protect both the bettors and the sportsbooks. From handling suspicious betting patterns and managing multiple accounts to specific sportsbook regulations and the importance of staying informed about maximum payouts and account corrections, bettors must be aware of the various guidelines in place. Adhering to these rules not only enhances the betting experience but also minimizes the risks associated with sports betting. Always make sure to familiarize yourself with the specific rules of the sportsbook you choose to use, as they can vary significantly across different platforms.

See more: How to win at sports betting? Strategy for success