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Analyzing a trend I was not sure is good for the sport...

I got a lot of clarity by speaking with an expert.


By Rich Neher

My article about betting on tennis was often promised and twice delayed. Guilty as charged. It took me a long time to find an expert to give me some insights and pointers on the topic. A big thank you to Michael Leboff, Editor for the Action Network (not to be mistaken for the Active Network which many of our readers are well familiar with) who made himself available to answer my questions. One thing Michael made clear right from the start: the Action Network is not a bookmaker. You can't place bets on their website. They are basically a media company.


TCB Reader Survey
We had asked our readers in March to give us their opinion on that topic. The question was: "Betting in tennis - do you like it? What is your experience?" Unfortunately, only 37 of our 10,000 readers responded. Although that number can't really be representative of the tennis-teaching population, I have a feeling it comes pretty close to the sentiment on the courts. A whopping 91.9% of all participants voted NO. Ouch. Here are some of the comments voters left:


  • I disagree with any betting in general but betting on sports...that's really bad

  • I have not bet. For some people it makes the sport more appealing. For me it distracts from the sport.

  • I do not bet

  • Never did it

  • I think gambling on Tennis is the worst thing to happen to Tennis. The players get threatened, the ITF shuts down, the money behind it is so corrupting you can almost hear it in the broadcast, sometimes you don’t even know who Coco is playing against. It has tainted our game.

  • Never placed any money on tennis

  • No, never, can't even think of damaging the sport which I love the most


  • I bet $5 per match. It's really fun and gets me to rune into smaller events, earlier rounds, adn matches that I wouldn't pay attention to. My friends and I text almost daily about tennis betting. I've placed over $3,000 in bets since it became legal to bet via app in my state. I am up $140 according to my DraftKings lifetime account summary. Half of that comes from betting $40 Dominic Thiem in the US Open down 2 sets to 0...

  • Lost more than I made but like doing it.

I asked Michael how to get started in betting on tennis. What's the best way to get into it? His answer took me a little by surprise because his company has this big educational section where you get advice on just about anything related to betting in sports. He said, "Start by asking a friend who's already in it. Get his/her advice so you know what they experienced." I assume there are all sorts of mistakes rookies can make trying to get into sports betting to make a quick buck. Then he mentioned the Action Network as a good online source to educate yourself. He said, "Online gambling is similar to the stock market. You got to educate yourself to avoid rookie mistakes and to see how sophisticated it really is."

Online gambling is similar to the stock market. You got to educate yourself to avoid rookie mistakes and to see how sophisticated it really is.

Tennis Betting Do’s & Don’ts

The New York Post published an interesting guide about those do's and don'ts. Here's it in a nutshell:



  • Stay up to date with tennis news: There’s ample media attention surrounding tennis, especially the Grand Slams. This means you’ll always be able to find out any news surrounding upcoming tournaments and matches that may affect your tennis bets. 

  • Take advantage of underdog opportunities: Whilst not easy to spot, there are plenty of upsets in the world of tennis. Keep a look out for underdog opportunities, and make sure you capitalize. 

  • Parlay your bets: Many tennis matches will often have heavy favorites, and parlaying your bets is a great way to return a bigger profit. You can combine legs to create one large bet at increased odds. Parlay betting is available at most of the best online sportsbooks and is a fantastic method of betting.


  • Bet with Emotion: It’s easy to become a fan of a certain player, but don’t always back them just because they’re your favorite. They don’t always win, believe me. 

  • Always back the favorite: Tennis odds are very difficult to set. It is not uncommon to see favorites lose during Grand Slams and even the smaller tournaments. Check out the underdogs, and look for opportunities. 

  • Get carried away with live betting: Many of the best tennis betting sites will offer live betting on every point, and it’s easy to get sucked into backing the winner of every point during the game. Take your time, and pick your moments, or you’ll lose your bankroll very quickly. 

Online gambling in the U.S.

Thirty states plus the District of Columbia have legalized online gambling in the past few years. Those states are:

Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina,  Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming,

New Mexico and Florida (kind of legal but not really. It's complicated)

If you live in a state like California, where they are forever talking about legalizing gambling but it's not through yet, you have to go to an offshore betting site like or 


But, it is not risk free. "California Penal Code § 330 PC prohibits gambling (“gaming”) through the use of a “banking or percentage game.” Illegal gaming is a misdemeanor carrying up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1000." Ouch.

Why Tennis?

Action Network: "It may not be considered a mainstream sport in the U.S., but tennis is wildly popular among bettors around the world.That’s because the tennis calendar is set up in a way that there are matches being played almost every day. The ATP and WTA Tours travel around the world, so the matches are played at all different times — including during the workday in the U.S. Another great thing about betting on tennis is that the sport’s governing bodies have made a lot of data & metrics publicly available. Tennis is considered to be one of the more progressive sports in that regard."

Another great thing about betting on tennis is that the sport’s governing bodies have made a lot of data & metrics publicly available. Tennis is considered to be one of the more progressive sports in that regard."

Types of Tennis Bets

The main types of tennis bets are moneyline bets, over/under (or total) bets on the number of games, the game spread bets and futures. 

Moneyline Bets

The most simple bet in sports, the most popular and easy way to bet on tennis, is by betting the moneyline. This essentially is just betting on which player you think will win the match. Rafael Nadal is playing Novak Djokovic at the US Open. Nadal is +120 on the moneyline, and Djokovic is -200. Apparently, Djokovic is considered the heavy favorite on hard court. You would have to risk $200 to win $100 if he won. If you had bet $100 on Rafa to win, you would get $120.

When it’s an even matchup, both players may be slightly minus on the moneyline. For example, the “favorite” is listed at -118, and the “underdog” at -114.  American odds are based on $100, so if that -118 favorite was Novak Djokovic you would have to risk $118 to win $100 if he won.

Tennis Point Spreads writes, "With 0-15-30-40-Game, it can be a little hard to keep track of the individual points. Fortunately, tennis spread bets aren’t about the total points or point spread. Instead, it’s based on games. During the four majors, the men play best-of-five sets.

The sets are win by two, so if it’s 6-5 the player has to win the next game to avoid a 6-6 tiebreak (or extra games up to 12-12 in the final set at Wimbledon). Tiebreaks turn a 6-6 set score into 7-6. The same rules apply for women’s tennis, but it’s best two out of three. In non-major tournaments on a weekly basis, the men play two out of three as well. 

For example, if Novak Djokovic is playing a weaker opponent in an early round, the game spread may be something like Djokovic -6.5. If Djokovic wins the match in four sets 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, the total margin adding up those games is 22 (6+6+4+6) to 15 (3+4+6+2), which is a difference of seven, meaning he would cover the -6.5.

Point spreads are made to be fairly even odds on each side, so it’s likely the prices of both the -6.5 and +6.5 on the opposing player would be about -110. Of course, you could select an alternate point spread like -4.5 that would come at a steeper price."

Tennis Over/Unders or Totals

Totals in tennis are also based on games. According to, total games in tennis can have a wide range. If a player wins in straight sets 6-0, 6-0, 6-0, there are only 18 total games. On the other hand, if it’s an insanely close match that goes five highly contested sets, it could be 7-5, 6-7, 7-6, 4-6, 7-5. 

In this match, there would be 60 total games. Unlike other sports where the margin of victory is fairly irrelevant to the total going over or under (an NFL team can win 35-0 and have the game stay under), tennis matches that are more of a blowout than expected will stay under. 

Matches that are unexpectedly close will go over because the maximum amount of sets is needed. If the game total is 20 and it ends in two sets 6-3, 6-3, it would stay under the total at 18. If it was 7-5, 6-3, it would go over the total at 21. If it was 6-4, 6-4, it would be exactly 20 and the bet would be a push, meaning it would be refunded as if it was never even placed. 

Tennis Futures

A tennis future bet is betting on tournaments, such as the Grand Slams, weeks or even months in advance. Betting a future on a player to win a tournament can be a fun way to follow the tournament and track their road through the bracket. 

Education is King

Michael kept reminding me of the importance of education when it comes to sports betting. Yes, always betting on the underdog is enticing because of the allure of big winnings, they provide more value. But experienced gamblers know it's a losing strategy and will cost you all your money. Watch the news, watch the players, look at the odds, and get as much information about them as possible.

He suggests first picking a match, just thinking about a bet, and watching that match. See how it went for the players and for your strategy. Go with a reputable bookmaker and start small. You will probably lose a bunch of bets in the beginning, so don't use too much of your money. Risk more when a) you can afford it and b) you've done your research.

"Educate yourself, and understand the process on a deeper level. This is a sophisticated hobby for those who take it seriously. Betting is not for everyone, like drinking or smoking cigarettes."

Educate yourself, and understand the process on a deeper level. This is a sophisticated hobby for those who take it seriously. Betting is not for everyone, like drinking or smoking cigarettes.

My question about abuse, throwing matches, and cheating, left Michael with a shoulder shrug. "Every sport, in fact every facet of life has bad actors. They don't represent the community they think they're part of." An interesting look at that topic. I think we should put it all in perspective. How many of those thousands of matches every year are really thrown? Probably an insignificant number.

Final question: Is betting good for tennis?

I must admit I went into this conversation with a somewhat negative opinion about betting in our sport.

But after listening to some of the points that make sense I have changed my stance a little. Here are some of the considerations Michael brought to the forefront.

Consider this...

The fact is that tennis is losing fans. Participants are getting older and young people are not coming into our sport fast enough. Fact is also that the younger generations like to gamble online. Betting on tennis means you are devoting time to the sport. That's a good thing.​ It gets younger fans invested in tennis.

Or, consider this...

People that bet on tennis put dollars in tennis's pockets. They are watching matches, and paying for ESPN, the Tennis Channel, and other streaming platforms. They watch advertising. It's like buying merchandise at the BNP Paribas Open, spending a hundred dollars for a shirt at their pro shop.

Tennis needs betting

The above arguments point toward a situation where tennis seems to need betting as well as sports betting seems to need tennis and its myriad of opportunities for online action. Gamifying our sport may be the reason to get the young generation interested and invested in tennis. I think if you're against betting on tennis, you can't really complain about the sport losing fans and young people not being interested in it.

My take: If you care deeply about tennis, you may want to soften your stance on betting a little. You can't stop betting from becoming mainstream in our sport. After all, it is fun and it could make you some money. What's not to like?


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