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Ian Bruce

In this guide, we’ll explain all you need to know about how to place a bet online. It’s much easier than many people imagine, and we can summarise the steps you need to take as follows:

  1. Choose a Safe Betting Site
  2. Open an Online Betting Account
  3. Make Your First Deposit
  4. Find the Sport You Want to Bet On
  5. Put a Bet On

Now let’s go through each of these steps in turn so that you know exactly what’s involved and how to go about it. We’ll then give you some additional information that will also be useful to you, including why it’s essential to practice the principles of responsible gambling.

1 – Choose a Safe Betting Site

Your first task should be to choose a safe betting site. And the key word here is safe. You need to make sure that any site you place a bet online with is properly licensed and regulated to operate in the UK. Fortunately, that’s why we exist in the first place. We’ve provided our own carefully curated list of the best betting sites in the UK, all of which are licensed and regulated by the UK Gambling Commission. Take your pick from any of the sites recommended on that page and you’ll be able to bet with complete confidence that they are safe and trustworthy.

Of course, some bookmakers are better than others when it comes to betting on particular sports. For that reason, we also have dedicated pages that will tell you about those. Click on any sport listed in our sports betting menu and you’ll be taken to the page that deals with it. For example, click on Darts and you’ll be presented with our page about the best darts betting sites. If you already know what sport you’re most interested in betting on, it makes sense to choose a bookmaker who gives it full coverage.

2 - Open an Online Betting Account

When you’ve chosen a safe betting site that you think will suit your needs, the next step is to open an account with it. This is a quick and painless process, but we’ll run you through it here so that you know exactly what to do.

  1. Look at the home page of the betting site and you’ll see that there will be at least one button or banner that invites you to Join, Register or Sign Up. These all mean the same thing, so hit whatever button is available and you’ll be taken to an account registration page.
  2. Complete the registration fields as instructed. You’ll be asked to provide your name, date of birth, email address, residential address and other personal details. All of this information must be accurate because your identity will need to be verified. When you have checked over the details to ensure their accuracy, submit the form and the new account will be opened.
  3. Before you can place a bet online with your account, you will be asked to provide documents that verify your identity. For example, you might be asked for a photo of your passport or driving license, as well as a copy of a recent utility bill to provide your address. ID verification only needs to be carried out once with each bookmaker, so the sooner you get it done, the sooner you will be able to make a bet.

3 – Make Your First Deposit

Once you’ve verified your identity your account will be ready for use. But before you can place a bet online, you need to have some cash online to bet with. That’s why your next step is to make your first deposit.

Log into your new betting site account and head to the banking area. Click deposit and you will be shown which payment methods you can choose from. UK law doesn’t allow anyone in this country to make deposits to betting sites via credit card, but there will still be plenty of other options available. Common options include debit cards and e-wallets such as PayPal.

Select an available method that you’d like to use and enter its details. Then enter the sum of money that you want to deposit. Assuming that all of the usual security checks go through (you might need to approve the transaction on your phone, for example) your deposit should be completed within a matter of seconds.

4 – Find the Sport You Want to Bet On

Most online betting sites cover a variety of sports. Those that tend to be most popular with the betting public, such as football and horse racing, are usually featured quite prominently, so they’re difficult to miss. Others, however, are often tucked away, so you’ll need to go to the menu area to find them.

Sports A Z

Navigating your way around a modern betting site is usually a simple matter of clicking tabs and links. If the main menu isn’t shown by default on the left of the screen, look for an icon showing three horizontal bars at the top left of the screen. Click it and the menu will open for you.

At some betting sites, all of the available sports are listed in alphabetical order in the main menu. But some have a separate menu item labelled Sports A-Z or similar, so you may need to open that to see the full range available. It normally only takes a minute or two to find your way around, so once you’ve reached this stage you’ll be good to go.

Click on the sport that you want to place online bets on and you’ll be taken to a new page that shows you the various events that are scheduled to take place. Each event normally has at least a handful of different betting markets associated with it. For example, a single football match will have markets for the match result, correct score, half-time/full-time result, number of goals scored, first goalscorer and more.

5 – Put a Bet On

Go to the betting market that you’re interested in and you’ll see the outcomes that you can bet on. For example, the match result market for a football match will allow you to plan an online bet on the home win, the draw, or the away win. Each of those outcomes will be presented with the odds that the bookmaker will give you if you make a bet.

Match Result Market

Click the outcome that you want to bet on and it will automatically be added to your virtual betslip. The slip will show the match, the outcome you’ve selected, and the odds being offered. Check all of those details, and don’t panic if you ever find you’ve added the wrong outcome to the betslip by mistake. You can easily clear the slip and start again with a simple click of your mouse button.


If everything looks good, enter the amount of money that you want to bet. Check the betslip again, just in case you’ve added one or two extra zeros that you hadn’t intended to. When you’re happy that the match, the outcome, the odds and the stake of your bet are all as they should be, click to confirm the bet and your stake will be taken from your account balance.

How Online Bets are Settled

As we’ve just said, when you make a sports bet online your stake is taken from your account straight away. This is exactly as it is in a traditional betting shop, where you pay for the bet when you hand your betting slip over the counter.

Your bet will be normally settled within a matter of minutes of your event reaching its conclusion. If your bet loses, the bookmaker will keep your stake and you’ll have to hope for a better result next time. If it wins, the total of your profit and your returned stake will be credited back to your online betting account. All of this happens automatically, so you won’t need to be logged in after your bet has been made for your winnings to be added to your account.

Important Online Betting Rules

You might be wondering what happens if a horse is declared a non-runner or a football match is called off or postponed. Well, you’ll be pleased to hear that every licensed bookmaker works to a published set of rules so that customers who place a bet know exactly what will happen in any given situation.

You’ll find a link to the full set of rules at the bottom of the homes page at most betting sites. We’ll let you read through those at your leisure. In the meantime, here are some of the most important rules that govern online betting. Note that these are fairly standard rules, and bookmakers are at liberty to tweak them, so be sure to check the situation before you place a bet online.

Ante Post Betting

The majority of online betting sites accept Ante-Post horse racing wagers on the basis that they will stand, irrespective of whether or not your selection happens to run.

Each-Way Betting in Horse Racing

Most bookmakers do not allow each-way betting on races of less than 5 runners. Races of 5, 6 or 7 runners, pat 1/4 the odds for the first 2 places. Races of 8 or more runners pay 1/5 the odds for the first 3 places. Handicap races of 12 to 15 runners pay 1/4 the odds for the first 3 places. Handicaps of 16 or more runners pay 1/4 the odds for the first 4 places.


When a horse is withdrawn from a race that hasn’t come under starter’s orders, any money that you have bet on that horse (be it a win bet, an each-way bet or a place-only bet) will be refunded. A winning bet on any other runner in the race will then be subject to Rule 4 deductions.

Postponed and Abandoned Football Matches

When a match is postponed, bets will normally stand if a rescheduled match will be played within five days. Otherwise, bets will be refunded. When a match is abandoned, any bet still running will be declared void. The only bets that can stand in this situation are those that have already won or lost, such as bets on the first goalscorer.

Maximum Winnings

Most bookies will state the maximum sum that you can win in a given period. That sum can vary between different sports, and also between different markets, so this is something that you should always check before betting for the first time.

Withdrawing Your Winnings

Let’s face it, the only reason we learn how to bet on football or any other sport is because we quite like the idea of winning. Should you have a run of good results, you will probably want to withdraw some of your winnings from your account so that you can enjoy them elsewhere. Fortunately, this is normally just as easy as making a deposit.

To make a withdrawal, head to the banking area. Click the withdrawal button, enter the sum of money that you want to withdraw and confirm the request. As long as you have sufficient funds in your account the withdrawal will be processed within a few days. If you have previously made a deposit using a method that can’t also be used for withdrawals, you will need to select a different method that can.

Online Betting Tips for Beginners

Having now covered the mechanics of how to bet online you’re all set to get started. But before you do, here are a few online betting tips that should prove useful:

  1. Remember It’s Real Money

    When you visit a high street bookmaker and hand over a crisp £10 or £20 note with your bet slip, it’s very apparent that you’re putting real money at risk. Unfortunately, you never actually see any money when betting online, just numbers. If you aren’t careful, that can make you less aware of the risk you’re taking with each bet. For that reason, our first tip is to be mindful when betting, and always remember that it’s real money that you’re playing with.
  2. Be Selective

    An online betting site will offer more betting markets than anyone will ever need. While you might be able to spot hundreds of great betting opportunities, you shouldn’t even consider taking advantage of all of them. Instead, be selective. Focus on the very best opportunities according to your own assessment of what’s important or appealing, and leave the rest. If you don’t do this, you’ll spread yourself too thin, and your betting won’t be as effective as it could be.
  3. Bet Strategically

    If you aren’t sure how to assess betting opportunities, or you find it a bit overwhelming having so many markets to choose from, consider adopting a betting strategy or two. This will help you to bet with more purpose and direction than you might otherwise. Take a look at our guide to Betting Strategies for a complete introduction to this topic.
  4. Join Multiple Betting Sites

    While you only need to sign up with a single online betting site to place a bet, it can be useful to sign up with several. That’s because different bookies offer slightly different odds. If you only have an account with one bookie, you’ll have to take the odds that are being offered there. However, if you join multiple betting sites, you’ll be able to compare the odds available at each for a particular outcome. You can then place your online bet with the betting site that is offering the best price.
  5. Be Patient

    Achieving success in online betting is much like achieving success in any other hobby. It’s something that takes time. The more experience you have under your belt, the better. This being the case, don’t expect to become a betting superstar overnight. Instead, be patient. Learn as much as you can about the hobby (our collection of betting guides will help you there) and focus on applying what you learn so that you benefit from the knowledge you acquire.

Responsible Gambling

Online betting is an entertaining hobby that should be fun. But it also involves real financial risk. It’s essential to bet responsibly so that your gambling doesn’t become problematic. You can learn all about Responsible Gambling here, and we urge you to do so. In the meantime, we’d advise you to stick rigidly to the following principles:

✅Only place a bet online with money that you can afford to lose. If you need the money you’re betting with for any other purpose, you shouldn’t be betting with it.

✅Make good use of Responsible Gambling tools provided by your chosen betting site. These will let you set deposit and loss limits, give yourself time-out periods, and more.

✅Have other hobbies that don’t involve gambling. Go for a hike, read a good book, watch a movie, do some gardening, learn a new language, or just socialise with friends. This will help you to maintain a healthy perspective and view sports betting as just one of the many things you do to have fun.

⚠️Never view sports betting as a legitimate way to make an income. It isn’t. It’s a form of entertainment in which you’re sure to have losing bets.

⚠️If you ever feel as if your betting has stopped being fun, take a break for a few days or weeks. If your betting is making you feel stressed, miserable, angry or sad, reach out to GamCare or one of the other organisations listed on our Responsible Gambling page.

Placing a Bet Online Vs High Street Bookie

It’s now time for us to bring our online betting guide to an end by making a comparison between placing a bet online and betting in person with a High Street bookmaker. We’ve set things out in a table below so that you can see how things stand at a glance:

Online Betting High Street Bookie
✅You can place online bets from anywhere. ❌You have to visit the bookie in person.
✅Accessible at any time of day or night. ❌Must bet during shop opening hours.
✅Scores of betting sites to choose from. ❌Restricted to a handful of local betting shops.
✅Access to a vast range of betting markets. ❌Focus on main markets and sports.
✅No need to handle physical cash. ❌Cash wagers only with most shops.
✅You can bet privately with no distractions. ❌Betting shops can be very noisy at times.
✅Make your bet instantly. ❌Stand in a queue and wait your turn.

Based on the above, we think that online betting is the clear winner. We’re not against traditional betting shops by any means, but we think that online betting sites have a lot more to offer.

Time to Put a Bet On!

Now that you know how to place a bet online, the only thing remaining is for you to put your new knowledge to good use. When you’ve set yourself up with an online betting site and made your first bet, you’ll appreciate just how easy it is. Enjoy your sports betting and good luck!


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Ian Bruce

Ian Bruce joined Safest Betting Sites in 2024 as Senior Sports Editor to oversee the quality and usefulness of its gambling content. He originally developed an interest in betting after landing a winning Yankee on his first attempt. He then spent years figuring out how to replicate that success. Along the way, he became one of the UK’s leading writers on the topic of betting and gaming. Ian’s career has now spanned more than three decades, and his enthusiasm for systematic and responsible betting hasn’t waned one bit. However, his preferred approach to winning these days is Dutching, for the simple reason that “It’s a lot easier than landing Yankees.”