Tennis Betting Basics: Types of Bets

Online bookmakers have grown quite sophisticated when it comes to breaking down a single tennis match into individual components in order to offer a wide array of bets. The first time you visit a tennis betting site, you may be surprised to see dozens of markets open for just a single match and hundreds of options for an entire tournament.

This page introduces the most common and some of the not-so-common types of tennis bets you are likely to encounter online. We will provide plenty of examples as well so you’ll know what to look for when you head out on your own.

Types of Tennis Bets

Assuming you have an understanding of how the different types of odds formats work, it is now time to learn how the different types of tennis bets work. All of the following bets may be presented using any of the major odds formats. In fact, the vast majority of online bookmakers allow you to quickly switch between different formats with a simple click of a button.

Match Winner

Match winner bets involve picking the winner of an individual match. If we have Roger Federer versus Rafael Nadal, for example, you would be attempting to pick who will emerge victorious in that match.

There are two different types of match winner bets: point spreads and moneylines.

Moneylines

The term “moneyline” is an American term but an increasing number of tennis betting sites use this term as well now. The moneyline bet is the simplest way to pick the match winner. Your bookmaker presents both players, displays the odds for each and you choose the player you want to back to win.

Here’s an example of a bet that was offered at a tennis bookmaker recently:

  • Tomas Berdych: 4/1
  • Roger Federer: 1/6

In this example, Roger Federer is the favourite at odds of 1/6 while Tomas Berdych is the underdog at odds of 4/1.

If you bet £100 on Roger Federer in this example, you will be paid a total of £116.66 for a profit of £16.66 if he wins the match.

If you bet £100 on Tomas Berdych at 4/1 in this example, you will be paid a total of £500 for a profit of £400 if he wins the match.

Your potential return for betting on Roger Federer in this case is lower because he is perceived as the player most likely to win (i.e. he is the favourite).

Likewise, the potential return for betting on Tomas Berdych is higher because he is perceived as the player less likely to win (i.e. he is the underdog).

Online bookmakers set the odds based on two factors. They open the odds at first based on their own estimation of how likely each player is to win the match. Then as bets start coming in, the bookmaker may adjust the odds in order to get an equal amount of action on both sides of the bet.

The bookmaker’s goal is to balance the books in such a way that they can lock in a small profit no matter who wins the match. Ideally, the bookmaker will pay the winners using money collected from the losers, plus a little profit leftover for themselves.

Spread Bets / Handicaps

Spread bets, also known as handicaps, work like moneylines in that you are attempting to bet on the winner of the match. The difference is that instead of adjusting the payout odds to account for skill disparities between the players, the bookmaker implements a handicap and leaves the odds for both players at roughly even money.

The handicap specifies that the favoured player must win by X number of games. If that player does not win by at least that many games, the bet is lost. The underdog can lose the match by up to X number of games and your bet will still be considered a winner.

Here’s an example of a spread bet from that same matchup between Federer and Berdych:

  • Tomas Berdych (+5.5): 17/20
  • Roger Federer (-5.5): 17/20

In this example, both players are priced at 17/20. A £100 bet on either player will return £185.

The handicap shows that Roger Federer must win his match by at least 5.5 games (which means in reality he needs to win by 6 or more). Your bet on Federer only wins if he wins by at least 5.5 games. If he loses the match outright or only wins by 5 games, your bet is a loser.

Tomas Berdych has a little more leeway in that he can lose the game by up to 5.5 matches for your bet on him to pay. Berdych results in a payout if he wins outright or only loses by up to 5 games. If Berdych loses by 6 or more games, your bet is lost.

Quick Tip: One simple way to view these bets is to imagine the handicap adds to or subtracts from that player’s final score. If you bet on Federer, just subtract 5.5 from his score and see if he’s still up against Berdych’s real score. If so, your bet is a winner. If you bet on Berdych, add 5.5 games to his final score and see if he’s ahead of Federer’s real score.

Set Totals and Game Totals

Set and game totals do not involve predicting the winner either way. Instead, you are attempting to predict the length of the match in terms of sets or games. These are also sometimes called “over/under” bets.

Most totals are published as 2-way totals. They list one total and you simply predict whether the game will involve more than or fewer than that total number of sets or games. 3-way totals allow you to predict within a range of total sets or games.

Here’s an example of a set total games market:

O/U 1st Set Total Games
Over 7.5: 1/100 Under 7.5: 17/2
Over 8.5: 2/17 Under 8.5: 15/4
Over 9.5: 20/39 Under 9.5: 13/10
Over 10.5: 7/5 Under 10.5: 10/21
Over 12.5: 39/20 Under 12.5: 10/31

In this example, you have several totals to choose from with varying odds. At the low end, you can bet that the first set will involve more than or fewer than 7.5 games. If you go with over 7.5, you’ll be paying a big premium with odds of /100. If you believe the set will be over quickly, you can bet that it will be done within 7.5 games at odds of 17/2.

That is a pretty low total, so the odds are fairly extreme on both sides. You can also go with a different total at odds that aren’t quite as extreme in each direction. For example, one option in this market allows you to bet on over 10.5 games at 7/5 or fewer than 10.5 games at 10/21.

The above example does not include any 3-way totals, but you will sometimes find 3-way totals that give you three ranges to choose from. A 3-way total involving total games across an entire match would look something like this:

Under 34: 11/8 Between 34 and 39: 7/2 Over 39: 11/10

This market would allow you to wager that the match will involve fewer than 34 games at odds of 11/8, that it will involve 34 to 39 games at 7/2 or that it will involve more than 39 at 11/10.

You can see that the odds are the best for betting on the middle range of between 34 and 39 sets. That’s because this is a fairly specific prediction compared to the other two options.

Outrights / Futures

Outrights, also known as futures, are simple bets in which you attempt to predict the winner of an upcoming tennis tournament. These are easy bets to understand, but they are difficult to win because you only get paid if your player wins the entire tournament. The advantage is outrights are some of the highest-paying bets in tennis.

Here’s an example of an outright market offered recently at a tennis betting site:

Roger Federer: 8/5 Rafael Nadal: 11/4 Alexander Zverev: 9/2 Marin Cilic: 14/1
Grigor Dimitrov: 14/1 Dominic Thiem: 22/1 Juan Martin Del Potro: 28/1 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: 40/1
Tomas Berdych: 50/1 John Isner: 50/1 Kevin Anderson: 66/1 Gael Monfils: 80/1
Sam Querrey: 80/1 Steve Johnson: 100/1 Lucas Pouille: 100/1 Giles Muller: 125/1
Denis Shapovalov: 125/1 David Goffin: 150/1 Roberto Bautista-Agut: 150/1 Kyle Edmund: 175/1

One thing to watch out for with outrights is the way fan-favourites tend to be underpriced. Roger Federer may be a great player, but can you justify backing him at just 8/5 to win the entire tournament? He would have to win this tournament nearly 40% of the time for that bet to make sense over the long run.

Each-Way Bets

Each-way bets are similar to outrights but consist of two wagers in one. Half of an each-way bet is just a normal outright paid at the stated odds. The other half of the wager pays out additional places (such as 1st, 2nd and 3rd) but at smaller odds.

You can place an each-way bet by visiting the outrights area and selecting your player just as you would if you were placing an outright. If your bookmaker offers each-way bets, the betting slip will display an option you can tick to make your outright an each-way bet.

Here’s an example from a recent tournament:

  • Rafael Nadal: 8/1
  • Each Way 1-2: 1/2

Here I have selected Rafael Nadal at odds of 8/1 with a wager of £100. I then added the each-way option, which increased my total bet size to £200. You can also see that my each-way wager pays at ½ (half) odds for places 1 and 2.

What this means is £100 of my wager is on Nadal to win at odds of 8/1 – just like a normal outright. The other £100 is on Nadal finishing in first OR second at half odds, which are 4/1 in this case.

This bet can play out in one of three ways:

  1. Nadal falls out of the tournament before reaching the final: My entire bet is lost and I’m out £200.
  2. Nadal wins the tournament: Half my bet is paid at 8/1 odds for a return of £900 and half my bet is paid at 4/1 odds for a return of £500. This results in a grand total return of £1400 and a net profit of £1200.
  3. Nadal finishes in second place: Half my bet is lost (the outright portion) but I still get paid on the other half at 4/1. My total return would be £500 for a net profit of £300.

Accumulators / Parlays

Tennis accumulators wrap multiple bets into one and offer higher payouts than if you were to place each bet separately. You can build accumulators manually at most betting sites by simply selecting multiple bets and then using the betting slip to wrap them all into one accumulator. These types of tennis bets are also sometimes referred to as parlays.

You can make a lot of money by rolling up multiple bets into one, but the catch is that all of your selections must win. If just one leg of an accumulator is unsuccessful, the entire bet is lost and you get nothing.

You can add as many selections as you want to an accumulator. The more selections in your accumulator, the greater the potential reward. More selections also make your accumulators more difficult to win because every selection must win, no exceptions.

Double Result

A double result bet is a wager which only wins if two different criteria are met. Most commonly, this involves betting on the 1st set and the outcome of the match. You can bet that one of the players will win the first set and win the match or that the player will lose the first set but still win the match anyways.

Here’s an example of what a double result market might look like at a tennis bookmaker:

Yuichi Sugita to win 1st set and WIN match: 11/10 Yuichi Sugita to win 1st set and LOSE match: 11/2
Leonardo Mayer to win 1st set and WIN match: 7/4 Leonardo Mayer to win 1st set and LOSE match: 5/1

Double results are useful for getting better odds than you would otherwise just betting on your player to win the match. In this case, Yuichi Sugita might be priced at 4/6 to win the match straight up. A £100 bet at those odds would return £166.66

You can increase the odds to 11/10 by taking the double result option which would require Sugita to win the 1st set AND win the match. In this example, that same £100 bet would return £210.

You could raise those odds even further by betting on Sugita to lose the first set and still win the match. That outcome would pay 5/1 (it’s the bottom-right selection in the above example which has Mayer winning the first set and losing the match).

Like accumulators, double results increase the potential reward in return for also increasing the potential risk. Both outcomes in your wager must be correct for you to win the bet.

A time when you might want to choose a double result would be if you have a player in mind but know he or she tends to start slowly. Or perhaps your pick is up against a strong server. In that case, you could take the double result that your pick loses the first set but still wins the match. This would boost your odds considerably at the cost of adding one more condition that must be met for your wager to win.

Set Exact Score / Set Scorecast

Set exact score markets allow you to predict the exact score of the first, second or third set along with the winner. These wagers can offer some very high-paying odds due to their difficulty.

Here’s a real example that was offered by one of my favourite bookmakers recently:

1st Set Scorecast
David Goffin 6-0: 28/1 Guido Pella 6-0: 60/1
David Goffin 6-1: 9/1 Guido Pella 6-1: 33/1
David Goffin 6-2: 6/1 Guido Pella 6-2: 20/1
David Goffin 6-3: 4/1 Guido Pella 6-3: 10/1
David Goffin 6-4: 4/1 Guido Pella 6-4: 17/2
David Goffin 7-5: 12/1 Guido Pella 7-5: 20/1
David Goffin 7-6: 7/1 Guido Pella 7-6: 10/1

By picking any one of these outcomes, you are predicting both the winner and the exact score of the first set. This is another example of a tennis bet that offers higher payouts along with greater risk.

Prop Bets

Prop bets can generally be defined as wagers involving anything other than who will win an upcoming match or tournament. There is no universally-accepted definition of what a prop bet is, but in tennis they may cover a variety of outcomes such as how many games a match will last or who will win the first set.

Different tennis bookmakers classify their wagers differently. Some don’t even use the term “props” while others classify even spread bets as props. Again, there is simply no single definition of prop bets so your experience with props will vary from one bookmaker to the next.

The main thing to know about props is they generally revolve around questions that do not pertain to who will win a match or tournament. Prop bets across all sports have a bit of a perception as being sucker bets due to their popularity among casual gamblers and also because props oftentimes deal with pure-luck events such as who will win the coin-flip before the big game.

However, many prop bets do involve some skill and it is possible to find advantageous spots when betting on tennis props. For example, refer back to our discussion above involving double results. One leg of a double-result bet in tennis has you predict the winner of the first set. This could be considered a prop bet, but there is still some element of skill in determining which player is more likely to get off to a fast start.

The point is not all tennis props are sucker bets. Really, any type of tennis bet can be a sucker bet if you don’t do your research. The key in all forms of tennis betting is to do your research and to only place bets for which you have a specific rationale.

In-Play Tennis Betting

Everything we have discussed up to this point on this page has involved traditional, pre-match betting markets. In-play tennis betting was made possible with the rise of online betting and now it is the fastest-growing segment of tennis betting.

While pre-match betting is nice, it has nothing on the intensity and excitement provided by betting on tennis matches in real time. As you watch the game progress in real time, you can stay involved and place a stream of bets that are constantly updated based on the on-court happenings.

In-play tennis betting differs from traditional betting because rather than placing your bets ahead of the match and then sitting back idly hoping your bets win, you can place short-term bets at constantly-updated odds.

If your favourite player gets off to a bad start but you still have faith, you can place a bet during the match at odds that are much more lucrative. Likewise, you can switch sides halfway through the match if the player you believed in before the match appears to have lost his mojo.

In-play tennis bets can also involve short-term propositions such as who will score the next point or who will win the next set. The possibilities are endless and they are always changing. The best in-play tennis betting sites also provide a constant stream of information that you can use to make your decisions.

These real-time feeds include information such as the current score, who is serving, the break point conversion percentage for each player and much more.

Tennis bookmakers also provide live video feeds from time to time. This allows you to not only bet online in real time, but also to watch the match unfold in real time.

The main thing to be wary of when betting on tennis in-play is getting so sucked into the game that you begin placing bets without taking the time to properly asses your decisions. In-play tennis betting moves quickly and it is all too easy to find yourself making spur-of-the-moment bets that are no better than coin flips.

We’ll dive into in-play betting strategy another day, but a basic starting point is to plan ahead for any live events you plan to bet on. Do your research before the match begins and get to know each player. Understand how each player reacts under pressure, how often they tend to score when serving, how well they tend to defend, how they play under various weather conditions and so on. Doing so will make it easier for you to make smart decisions when the match is live and time to think is limited.

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