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A Beginner’s Guide to Athletics Betting

Athletics is an umbrella term for a huge number of very exciting sports. There are a number of track and field events and you can bet on a many of them. This of course means that there are vast amounts of opportunities to win. However, because athletics is such a big field, many people may find betting on it a bit daunting. Don’t worry if you are one of them. In this guide, we will teach you all you need to know to start betting on athletics, including a brief overview of the different disciplines, the types of bets you can place, and how to do your research.

Athletics Basics

As mentioned, athletics covers a huge number of disciplines. There are far too many of them to give a full overview here, but we will cover the basics so that you know what you are looking for.

The vast majority of athletics fall under the category track and field. As the name suggests, these are sports that take place either on a running track or on the field. On the running track, there are races of various different lengths, such as the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m, and so on, as well as events like the hurdles and relay races. On the field are a variety of throwing and jumping events such as the javelin, discus, shotput, high jump, long jump and pole vault. Within each of these, there is a huge amount of variation. For example, there are men’s events and women’s events. As such, the betting opportunities are massive.

In addition to races taking part on the track, there are also road-running races. These, as the name suggests, take place on the open road and they are usually longer distance. Typical races include the 5k, 10k, half marathon and full marathon.

You also have cross-country running, which is long-distance running on natural terrain. Many believe that it is the most gruelling as it will include a mixture of flat and hilly ground, which tests the athletes’ endurance. There are individual and team events. In the individual events, people are judged by time while in the team events there is a point-based scoring system.

The final category to be aware of is race walking. This is a type of race in which one foot must always be in contact with the ground. During the races, there are judges lining the route and they can give an athlete a “yellow paddle” as a caution for bad form or a red card for a severe offense. If an athlete receives three red cards then they are disqualified.

There are many different athletics events that you can bet on. The most famous is the Olympic Games, which take place every four years and they are widely viewed as the most prestigious. There is also the Athletics World Championships as well as the World cup, the Commonwealth Games, the World Indoor Championships, and many more national events. In other words, fans of athletics will never be short of betting opportunities.

Betting on Athletics

With so many different disciplines, the range of betting markets on athletics events can be huge. However, very often, these markets are based upon the same basic principles, and here we will try to explain the most common of them so that you understand exactly what betting opportunities you may have.

Qualification Bet

Many athletics events take place over a number of rounds, particularly the shorter sprints. This betting market allows you to bet on one or many athletes to qualify for the next round. As long as they do, you will win your bet.

Money Line or Winner

No matter what sport or event you are betting on, this is always the most straightforward bet. It is simply a bet on which of the athletes will win the given event, i.e. who will come first. As long as your chosen participant wins, then you will win the bet.

To Win a Medal

Rather than betting on an athlete to come first, you may want to bet on them to win a medal, which means that you are betting on them to finish in the top three (Gold, Silver, Bronze). This is a great way to back an athlete who you think looks strong, but you are not convinced that they will win. In major events, such as the Olympics, you can also bet on which country will top the medal table.

To Set a World Record

The greatest achievement for an athlete is to set a world record. This market will allow you to bet on an athlete to do just that. Occasionally, you may also find markets that allow you to bet on a world record being broken by any of the participants in an event.

Spread or Handicap Betting

Spread or handicap betting can appear confusing. However, the principle is very simple and once you have understood it, it opens up many additional betting opportunities. The idea is to make backing an underdog more attractive. To do this, the favourites in the field are assigned a handicap that they must then overcome.

For example, if there were two participants in the high jump, then the favourite may be assigned a handicap of -3cm while the underdog would be given +3cm. If you were to back the favourite to win, then you would win the bet if the favourite were still the winner after 3cm have been subtracted from their score. If you were to bet on the underdog to win, then you would win the bet if they were the winners once 3cm were added to their score.


Over/Under bets is another form of betting market that provides you with many opportunities. You are essentially betting whether something is going to be more or less than the value given. For example, in the case of the 100m race, you may see something like Over/Under 9.9 seconds. This means that if you think the winner of the race will run it in under 9.9 seconds you bet under and if you think it will be more you bet over. Other examples might be the distance thrown in the javelin, the height achieved in the pole vault, and so on.

Futures and Outrights

Ahead of the start of an event, you may be able to place future or outright bets. For example, you could bet on which runner will win the men’s 100m, or if there will be any world records broken. Normally, if you place a bet at the very start of a major meeting, such as the Olympics, then you will find some very generous odds.

Live Betting

Live betting, also known as in-play betting, is an excellent way to make watching athletics even more exciting. However, due to the very fast nature of some of the events it is not always available. When it is available, it allows you to bet on an event as it happens. Many of the markets discussed above will be offered and the odds are continually updated. It is rare to find live betting offered on athletics, but when it is, it is always worth a close look, as you never know what betting opportunities you may find.

What to Consider When Betting on Athletics

No matter what sport you are betting on, the key to placing a successful bet is always to gather as much information as possible. While there can never be any guarantees, the more data you have to hand, the better your chances will be of winning your bet.

When it comes to athletics, regardless of what event you are interested in, you need to be aware of the form of the participants. The best way to do this is to look at the results from recent athletic meets, even if they were minor ones. This becomes especially important in the build up to a major event such as the Olympics. You also need to keep an eye out for injury news, as this will obviously have a major impact.

Ahead of an important event, such as the Olympics or World Championships, you will often be able to find a great deal of information in the press. This can give you an insight into the athletes’ frame of mind and how their training has been going. You can even go as far as looking them up on social media to see if they have been writing about their current form.

When it comes to the day itself, you can begin to consider factors such as the weather and climate. The top athletes will make sure that they have plenty of time to acclimatise before an event, but if it suddenly starts pouring with rain and the ground is wet, or if there are strong winds, then this can make a big different. In these situations, you should look at historical events to see if you can find any similar conditions.

If you are an athletics fan then you are no doubt already familiar with the big names and will have a great deal of knowledge already. With a bit of careful research, you can then build on this, and this will hopefully help you place many winning bets.

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