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Home → Betting Guide → Sports Betting Rules

Sports Betting Rules

At first glance, a sports bet would seem to be a very basic element without much structure. A bettor places a wager on a team and either wins or loses. Most of the time, everything goes as planned when placing a bet. However, there are some unique instances that can develop in a sporting event. Because of this, there are a standard set of sports betting rules and procedures that are followed by most bookmakers. Below is an overview of the main sports betting rules

Length of Game

The main ruling issue in sports betting involves the length of a particular game. In the NFL and NBA, it is very rare for any game to not be completed. Still, there can be some unusual circumstances in a game that might ultimately result in a shortened contest. At most sportsbooks, a football game that lasts at least 55 minutes is considered an official contest.

In the NBA, at least 43 minutes of a game must be played to become official at most sportsbooks. This rule was notably referenced during the 2004-05 season. In an early season matchup between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons, a huge brawl broke out between the two clubs. With some players actually fighting with a few of the fans at the game, the contest was called with 45 seconds left in the fourth quarter. At the time, the Pacers held a 97-82 lead in the game. Because at least 43 minutes had been played, bettors that placed a wager on Indiana were able to collect on the game. However, any total wagers were ruled as no action bets because the entire 48 minutes were not completed. This is one of the rare examples in basketball or football where a complete game might not be played.

Baseball Wagering

For Major League Baseball wagers, some basic sports betting rules are used far more often over the course of a typical season. With many rain-shortened games in a season, it is important for the novice bettor to understand how these outcomes are handled by the bookmaker. In Major League Baseball, an official game must consist of at least five innings. If a game goes at least five frames but not the complete nine, the bookmaker will still pay out on the winning team. However, any over/under or run-line wagers will be ruled as no action bets. For these types of wagers, a full nine innings must be played for the bets to become official. If a tie game is suspended in extra innings, most sportsbooks will stay pay out any winning run-line or total wagers.

There is another unique aspect to baseball wagering that a bettor needs to be aware of. When wagering on a baseball money line, there are two options available to the bettor. First, the bettor can simply have the team listed on his wagering ticket. In this instance, the bettor will have action on that particular team without any regards to that club's starting pitcher. In the other option, the bettor can have the starting pitchers listed on his wagering slip. If one of the starting hurlers were to be scratched from the game, the wager would be a no action bet.

Dates of Wagering

Another common sports betting rule involves the specified date and location of a particular game or event. In most sports, a bookmaker will state that a game must be played on the scheduled date at the specific venue for it to be ruled an official contest for wagering purposes. Again, this stipulation doesn't come into play too often. Still, there are some occasions when this rule is enforced. Every once in awhile, some extreme weather may force a football or basketball game to be moved back a day or two. While a date change might happen a few times over the course of a year, a location change is quite rare. However, there was an instance during the 2010 NFL season when this sports betting rule came into place. Because of the collapse of the Metrodome, the Minnesota Vikings had to play a "home" game in Detroit against the New York Giants. Obviously, the venue of this game had a real impact on the point spread of the matchup.

In the last decade, prop and matchup wagers have really become popular among sports bettors. Bookmakers have had to become quite creative to meet the demand for these types of bets. With so many different kinds of prop bets available, it is vital to check the rules on these events before diving in. Many of these wagers are quite different in structure from the standard point spread and total bets. Most online sportsbooks will provide a comprehensive list of sports betting rules for customers to go over. At the end of the day, the basic sports betting rules aren't too complicated to understand.