Sports Betting Terms – Betting Terms Explained

To become a successful bettor, you need to familiarize yourself with key sports betting terms. Understanding what they are and how they work is essential and, in this article, we’ve looked at a range of terms that you’re going to come across on a daily basis and included an analysis of what each of them means.

List of Sports Betting Terms

A


Accumulator

An accumulator is a bet that includes two or more selections to make one single bet. This is usually referred to as a parlay bet in the US. Odds are compiled by multiplying each individual price by the next to create a single price. These can be some of the most lucrative bets in the industry.

Across the Board

This bet is linked to horse racing and includes three separate parts. These are for the horse to win, place, and show. The bet is split between each result, and you will get paid depending on where the horse finishes. If it wins, all three bets will cover, if it comes second then the win and place will win, and if it comes third just the show bet will win.

Alternative Betting Lines

Alternative betting lines are those that are additional to main markets such as totals and spread. It allows the punter to choose different lines set and the odds will be reflective of this. For example, if the points spread in an NBA game is set at 6.5 at odds of -110 then alternative lines may include anything from 1.5 through to 10.5.

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American Odds

American odds are a format of expressing the price of an event. They are the same as fractional and decimal, but they are written in different ways. You get either a positive or negative number with American odds, with the positive showing the amount you win per $100 wagered and the negative showing how much you need to wager to make a $100 profit.

Ante-Post

Ante-post is a market that allows you to bet on horse racing markets up to 24 hours before the start of the race. These are often referred to as futures but have different rules to an outright winner market. For example, if you place an ante-post bet and your horse is a non-runner, your bet will lose, whereas if you placed this on the main market, the bet would be refunded. The advantage of ante-post betting is that the odds are generally higher than that of the day of the race.

Asian Handicap

The Asian Handicap is a market that removes a draw or tie from the result. To do this they have fractional increments of the handicap applied. This bet is most used in soccer betting and has a wide range of possible handicaps starting from as little as 0.25 up to 5, for the most part.

Against the Spread (ATS)

Against the Spread (ATS) is where you can bet on the points line instead of the outright winner (moneyline). Each game will have a spread to create a level playing field for both teams. The bigger the gulf in class, the larger the spread. When a player bets on the spread, it’s referred to as betting against the spread.

Arbitrage

Arbitrage betting is where all results on a game are locked in terms of returns. Ideally, this would be where you place two or more bets that guarantee a profit on all results, but it’s possible to “Arb” a bet that can break even or even limit a loss on one or more results.

B


Bankroll

A bankroll is the amount of money that a player can wager. This can be fluid, depending on the player and the ability to refill the bankroll where necessary. All winnings should go back into the bankroll covers for any potential losses down the line.

Bankroll Management

Bankroll management is a system that is used to determine how much you wager on each bet. Most players use a percentage of their bankroll per bet or use a points system based on the quality of the bet. The more value a bet potentially has, the more points can be wagered. A good bankroll management system is a key betting strategy for professional bettors to allow them to absorb any losses.

Bet

A bet is a wager that is made involving money. Every wager that you make with a bookmaker is a bet.

Betting Strategy

A betting strategy is a process that is used to try and maximize the frequency that you win bets. This will range from sports to sport, but it’s always used to make the most profitable decisions for each bet. Popular strategies include the Kelly Criterion, bankroll management, pre-game research, hedge betting, and arbitrage.

Bookmaker (Bookie)

A bookmaker is someone who sets the odds for an upcoming sporting event. A sportsbook is also known as a bookmaker. The odds were traditionally referred to as a “book”, hence the name.

Buy Points

Bettors can buy points to take alternative lines in the market such as the spread. For example, if the line is at +3.5 then they can “buy a point” to take an alternative line of +4.5. The odds will reflect the change in line as it gives the side more of an advantage or disadvantage over the initial line.

C


Chalk

The chalk is an alternative name to the favorite for the market. For example, if the Miami Dolphins are priced at -150 on the moneyline to beat the New York Jets priced at +250, then they are deemed the favorite and, in this case, the chalk.

Commission

The commission is the money earned by the sportsbook for each market they offer. All bets have a commission attached, which is sometimes referred to as vigorish or juice. For example, a coin toss would be priced at -110 on heads or tails, giving a 52.4% implied probability of each result. This makes a total of 104.8%, meaning that the commission for this bet would be 4.8%.

Cover the Spread

A team covers the spread when the favorite wins and the final score is larger than the points spread. For example, if you backed the Miami Heat at -9.5 and the final score was 110 – 100, then they would win a bet and effectively cover the spread. If they won the game 109 – 100 then they would not cover the spread and the bet would lose.

D


Decimal Odds

Decimal odds make up one of the three (decimal, fractional, and American) most common ways to represent the price of a bet. As the name would suggest, the odds are displayed as decimals, where -110 would be 1.91, +250 would be 3.5, and so on. This is most used within European sportsbooks.

Draw

The draw is another word used for a tie, usually associated with European sports such as soccer, rugby, and cricket. In US sports, a draw (tie) will be deemed a push, but there are exceptions to this such as three-way betting markets, such as the outright winner in a soccer match.

Drift

When odds drift, they lengthen based on the original odds posted by the sportsbooks. For example, if the price went from +200, to +250 to +300 before the start of the game/race, then the odds would be said to have drifted.

E


Each Way

Each way betting is made up of two separate bets combined into one, most used in horse racing. The first bet is on the horse to win and the second is on the horse to place. If the horse wins, then both parts of the bet are paid and if the horse finished within the set number of places (ranges depending on the sportsbooks terms and number of runners) but fails to win, then only the place bet will be paid. The place bet is calculated as a fraction of the original odds taken for the horse to win.

Edge

An edge is deemed where the bettor can get an advantage based on research or knowledge about the possible outcome of the bet. For example, if someone was betting on horse racing and knew a horse had trained incredibly well in the lead-up to the race, they would have an edge over the everyday punter.

Even Money

Even money is a bet where you get paid the exact amount that you wager in profit should the bet win. In American odds, this is represented as +100 and if you were to place a $100 wager at these odds, you would make a $100 profit from an even money bet. In terms of implied probability, an even money bet is set at a 50% chance of winning.

Exotic

An exotic bet is referred to as any bet that isn’t a moneyline, spread, or total bet. These are usually bets that aren’t part of wagers linked to the result of the game but can include parlay bets for example, which can include any betting market.

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Exposure

Exposure is the amount of money a punter or sportsbook can lose on any given bet. For a bettor, this would be the total amount staked. For a sportsbook, this would be the money that they could lose overall on that market. Sportsbooks try and limit exposure where possible to guarantee a profit on all results, but this is not always possible.

F


Fade

Fading is simply doing the opposite of the crowd, trying to find value when one team or player is over bet by others. Read what does fade mean in betting for a full explanation and examples.

Favorite

The favorite is the most likely winner of the market and comes with the shortest odds. For example, if you had a horse race with three horses priced at +200, +300, and +400, then the horse priced at +200 would be deemed the favorite for that race.

Field

The field is a bet where you can bet on all results that are not listed. For example, you can bet on the Superbowl winner that includes just 4 options, with three being the lowest priced favorites and then the “field” which includes any other team to win.

Fixed Odds

Fixed odds are where a punter places a bet and once the bet is accepted, those odds are then fixed for the purpose of that bet. This is important as betting lines and odds can move prior to the start of an event and regardless of those odds, the fixed odds taken at the point of confirmation will remain the same. For example, if you take a bet at +300 and by the time the game starts the odds are +200, you will be paid out at the fixed odds of +300.

Fractional Odds

Fractional odds are a way of displaying odds that is popular in the UK. They include two numbers as a fraction, such as 9/4, with the left number signifying how much you win if you wager the left number. In this example, you would win $9 for every $4 wagered. In American odds, this would be +225.

Futures

Futures are bets that are placed up to 24 hours before the start of the event but can be as long as months or even years before the event starts. An example would be betting on a team to win the Superbowl in June.

H


Handicap (Handicapping)

A handicap is applied to even the advantage that one team has over the other. The favorite will have points removed from their handicap and the underdog will have points added. The role of the handicapper is to set a points line that makes it a fair fight, getting as close to even money (+100) as possible. To win, teams must cover the handicap. An example would be New England Patriots -7.5 v Green Bay Packers +7.5 priced at -110.

Hedge

A hedge is where you’re able to back all results to lock in a profit or limit losses. This is a strong betting strategy and requires the punter to be able to react as the odds change to cover all possible results. It’s mostly used in parlay bets that may have one result left to come in where the punter can back the alternative outcome to that final game to guarantee a profit on all results.

Home Field Advantage

Home-field advantage is where the team at home benefits from playing in front of their own fans to gain an advantage over the opposition.

Hook

A hook refers to a half-point added to a point spread or total, typically to avoid a push or tie. It creates a clear winner by eliminating the possibility of a tie game, forcing bettors to choose either the over or under or the favorite or underdog.

I


In-Play Betting

In-play betting, also known as live betting, is a form of sports betting where wagers are placed during an ongoing event. It allows bettors to place bets on various aspects of the game or match as it unfolds, taking advantage of real-time information and adjusting their strategies accordingly.

J


Juice

Juice refers to the commission or fee that a sportsbook charges for accepting a wager. It is also known as vigorish or vig. The juice is typically included in the odds and represents the sportsbook’s profit margin on a particular bet.

L


Laying Points

Laying points refers to placing a wager on a favorite where you give up points to the opposing team. It means you are betting on the favorite to win by a margin greater than the point spread set by the sportsbook to win the bet.

Limit

Limits are set by both bookmakers and punters. For the punter, a limit is the maximum amount of money that can be wagered based on a proper bankroll management strategy. For the betting site, a limit comes in the form of the max bet a punter can place on a specific market. This limit will vary based on the sport and market type, usually determined by how much exposure the bookmaker has.

Line

The line is another term used to highlight the betting odds by the bookmaker.

Live Betting

Live betting, also known as in-play betting, is a form of sports betting where wagers are placed during an ongoing event. It allows bettors to react and place bets based on real-time information and the current state of the game or match, providing opportunities to adjust strategies and take advantage of changing odds.

Lock

A lock refers to a bet that is considered extremely likely to be successful and almost guaranteed to win. It is often used to describe a highly confident and seemingly foolproof wager.

Longshot

A longshot refers to a wager that has a low probability of winning but offers high potential payouts. It typically involves betting on an underdog or an unlikely outcome in a game or event. While longshots may offer attractive odds, they are generally considered risky bets.

M


March Madness

March Madness refers to the annual National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Men’s basketball tournament held in March and April. It features a knockout format with 68 college basketball teams competing to become the national champion. The tournament is known for its unpredictability, upsets, and intense excitement, hence the name “March Madness”.

Moneyline

A moneyline bet is a type of wager where you bet on which team or individual will win a game or match, regardless of the point spread. The odds are presented as positive or negative numbers, indicating the favorite and underdog. Positive odds indicate potential winnings on a successful bet based on a $100 bet, while negative odds indicate the amount you need to wager to make a $100 profit.

N


Nap

A NAP refers to a selection or tip that is the strongest or most confident bet of the day by a particular tipster or bettor. It represents their best bet or top recommendation for a particular event, typically backed by thorough analysis and research. A NAP is commonly used throughout horse racing tips.

Novelty Bets

Novelty bets, also known as a novelty or special wagers, refer to unconventional betting options that go beyond traditional sports or events. These bets involve predicting outcomes in non-sporting events such as entertainment awards, politics, or even unusual occurrences like alien encounters.

O


Odds

Betting odds are numerical representations of the likelihood of a particular outcome in a betting event. They are used to determine the potential payout or return that a bettor can expect if their bet is successful. Betting odds can be expressed in different formats, such as decimal, fractional, or American. In general, lower odds indicate a higher probability of the outcome occurring, while higher odds suggest a lower probability.

Odds-on Favorite

An odds-on favorite refers to a participant or team with a higher probability of winning, as indicated by the odds assigned by bookmakers. The odds-on favorite is denoted by a lower numerical value, such as 1/2, where the potential payout is less than the original stake. It implies that the favored outcome is more likely, reducing the potential winnings for successful bets.

Outright Betting

An outright betting market is a type of wager where the objective is to predict the overall winner of a competition or event, rather than the outcome of individual matches or games.

Over/Under Betting

The over/under betting market, also known as totals betting, involves predicting whether the total combined score or statistic in a game or event will be above or below a predetermined number set by the bookmaker. Bettors can wager on whether the actual outcome will surpass (over) or fall short (under) of the given benchmark, regardless of the specific outcome of the game or event.

P


Parlay

A parlay bet, also known as an accumulator or combo bet, is a type of wager that involves combining multiple individual bets into a single bet. The appeal of a parlay is the potential for higher payouts since the odds of each individual bet are multiplied together. However, the entire parlay bet is lost if any of the individual bets within it are unsuccessful.

Payout

The term “payout” refers to the amount of money a bettor receives if their bet is successful. It represents the total return on a winning bet, including the original stake and any winnings.

Point Spread

The point spread is a margin of victory or defeat assigned by the bookmaker to even out the perceived skill levels between two competing teams or participants. It is designed to create a more balanced betting market. The favorite team is assigned a negative point spread, indicating they need to win by a certain number of points to cover the spread and be considered a winning bet. Conversely, the underdog is assigned a positive point spread, meaning they can either win the game outright or lose by a specified number of points and still cover the spread.

Power Rankings

Power rankings refer to a subjective ranking system that evaluates and ranks teams or individuals based on their perceived strength, performance, or overall quality. These rankings are typically compiled by sports analysts, journalists, or experts who consider various factors such as win-loss records, strength of schedule, player performance, and other subjective assessments.

Price

Price refers to the odds or the betting line associated with a particular wager. It represents the amount of money that can be won in relation to the stake placed on a bet.

Proposition Bet

A proposition bet, often referred to as a prop bet, is a type of wager in which bettors can place bets on specific events or outcomes within a game or event that are not directly related to the result. These bets can involve individual player performances, specific statistics, or even non-athletic elements like halftime show performances or coin toss results.

Puck Line

The puck line is a type of betting option primarily used in ice hockey. Like the point spread in other sports, the puck line assigns a point spread to the favored team, usually -1.5 goals, while the underdog is given a +1.5 goal advantage. Betting on the puck line means that not only does the team need to win, but they must also win by more than the assigned point spread to cover the bet. Conversely, betting on the underdog means they can either win the game outright or lose by less than the assigned point spread to cover the bet.

Push

A push, also known as a tie or a draw, occurs in sports betting when the result of a bet lands exactly on the point spread or the total line set by the bookmaker. As a result, neither the bettor nor the sportsbook wins or loses the bet. Instead, the wager is considered a “push” and the original stake is returned to the bettor.

Q


Quarter Bet

A quarter bet, also known as a quarter-line bet, is a type of wager commonly found in sports such as basketball or American football. It involves placing a bet specifically on the outcome of a particular quarter or period within a game, rather than the result.

R


Recreational Bettor

A recreational bettor refers to an individual who engages in sports betting primarily for entertainment purposes rather than as a professional or serious pursuit.

ROI

ROI stands for Return on Investment, and it is a metric used in sports betting to measure the profitability of betting activities. ROI represents the percentage of profit or loss relative to the amount of money invested or wagered. It is calculated by dividing the net profit (or loss) by the total amount wagered and multiplying by 100 to express it as a percentage. A positive ROI indicates a profitable betting endeavor, while a negative ROI suggests a loss.

Run Line

The run line is a type of betting option primarily used in baseball. It is like the point spread in other sports, but in baseball, the run line is fixed at 1.5 runs to either be added (underdog) or removed (favorite).

S


Sharp

A “sharp” refers to a professional bettor or a knowledgeable individual who is considered to have an edge and expertise in the field of sports gambling.

Spread Betting

Rather than betting on a fixed outcome, spread betting involves predicting whether the actual result will be higher or lower than the spread determined by the bookmaker. Profits or losses are determined by the accuracy of the bet, with potential winnings or losses magnified based on the stake and the distance from the spread.

Stake

A stake refers to the amount of money that a bettor wagers on a particular bet or outcome. It represents the financial investment placed on a bet.

T


Teaser

A teaser is a type of bet in sports betting that allows bettors to adjust the point spread or total line in their favor for multiple games. The bettor can combine two or more wagers and adjust the point spread or total line by a predetermined number of points in their chosen direction. This adjustment, known as “teasing,” increases the bettor’s chances of winning the bet but also reduces the potential payout.

Tipster

A tipster refers to an individual or service that provides predictions, tips, or advice on upcoming sporting events to bettors.

U


Underdog

The underdog refers to the participant or team that is considered less likely to win in a given matchup. They are priced higher than the favorite and will produce a higher ROI if that bet were to win.

Units

Units are used as a standardized measurement to represent the size of a bet or wager. Rather than referring to specific monetary amounts, units are a way to express the relative value or percentage of a bettor’s bankroll. The size of a unit can vary based on an individual’s bankroll and risk tolerance, but it is common for bettors to define a unit as a certain percentage (e.g., 1% or 2%) of their total bankroll.

V


Vigorish

Vigorish, commonly known as “vig” or “juice,” refers to the commission or fee charged by bookmakers or sportsbooks for accepting and handling wagers. It represents the bookmaker’s profit margin. The vigorish is typically built into the odds or the betting lines offered by the bookmaker, ensuring that they have a financial advantage regardless of the outcome of the bet.

W


Wager

A wager refers to the act of placing a bet or making a monetary risk on the outcome of a sporting event. When a bettor places a wager, they are staking a certain amount of money on a specific outcome, such as the winner of a game, the total score, or other available betting options.

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FAQs

What are the terms used in betting?

What is a moneyline bet in sports betting?

What does the point spread mean in sports betting?

What is an over/under bet?

What are odds and how do they work?

What is a parlay bet?

What is a teaser bet?

What does the term “vig” or “juice” mean?

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Jonathan Askew
Sports Betting and Casino Expert
Jonathan Askew
Sports Betting and Casino Expert

Jonathan is a freelance writer working with Techopedia. He has been working within the gambling sector for over 15 years and has been fortunate enough to work with brands that include Gambling.com, CheekyPunter.com, BasketballInsiders.com and Betfair. He specializes in US and UK-based sports and casino content for Techopedia.