The legalization of sports betting continues to spread rapidly across North America, with more and more states being added to the pool every year. Soon, we can expect most of the country to allow gambling on sports in some fashion, with many states allowing you to wager via online sportsbooks from the location of your choice.
With how popular the industry has become, any sports fan who is considering getting in on the action should start to familiarize themselves with the many different gambling terms that they’ll come across on these sportsbook applications. To have a chance to earn profits, you need to understand the vernacular of the industry and instantly know how that could potentially impact you as a bettor.
Below, we’ve laid out many of the most popular betting terms that are useful to know before beginning any foray into sports gambling.
Sports Gambling Glossary | Key Terms For Betting On Sports
Action: Bets or wagers being placed at a sportsbook. This will cover all money placed on any sports bet. (Ex: DraftKings has taken more action on NFL odds during Week 1 than the entire NHL season.)
Against The Spread (ATS): Term used to describe the result of the game including the point spread. It’s possible for a team to have an ATS record that varies from its normal win/loss record. Some teams perform better against the spread than others, and you don’t need to be a winning team to do well ATS.
Alternate Line: Most sportsbooks will have point spreads for games that differ from the normal spread with the typical -110 odds. Ex: You can bet the Bucs at -3.5 with -220 odds at DraftKings instead of the defaut -8 spread with -110 odds.
Back Door: Used to describe an underdog trailing by more than the spread and getting late points to cover the number. Often results in bad beats for the other side.
Bad Beat: A bet that looks like (and probably should be) a win that winds up losing at the end. These are quite common in basketball as teams chew out the clock and allow easy baskets on the other end that mean nothing in the actual game.
Chalk: A term used to describe the favorite. It doesn’t necessarily only mean favorite in the game, but also the chalk pick for sports bettors if a spread for one team is very popular.
Cover: A term used when a team wins against the spread for the game. Ex: The Saints just kicked a late field goal to go up 31-21 and cover the 8.5-point spread against the Panthers.
Edge: Finding bets with implied odds or probabilities that are better than the odds you’re getting for a game. This is quite hard to do in today’s sports betting with so many analytics that go into it, but it’s still possible depending on the public’s bets. Ex: Jon Rahm has a 3.2 percent chance to win the Masters, but DraftKings’ odds are giving him just a 2.8 percent chance.
Even: A term that means there is no juice in the wager because of even odds. If you bet 100 dollars, you would win 100 dollars back. This sometimes happens when a spread may favor one team a bit more than the other, resulting in even odds for one team and -120 or -130 for the other.
Favorite: A simple term that means the same as it does in regular sports commentary. The team that is expected to win the game is the favorite. You could also have favorites specifically in the sports betting space and not necessarily in the regular sports world.
Fade: Means to bet against a certain team, person or even the general public. You’ll often hear this in DFS when not using a particular player in any of your lineups. Some popular sports analysts are often faded when they are known for making bad picks. Many wealthy sports bettors will fade the public in some cases.
Futures: Any bet that is made toward a market that is further down the line than the current games being played. Examples would be betting on the Super Bowl winner, the NBA Rookie of the Year, or the winner of the Masters.
Hedge: A bet placed that actually goes against your original bet. It’s meant to reduce the risk and secure a profit no matter the result of the game. This is typically a live bet placed once your original bet is now expected to win. Betting on the other side with longer odds can guarantee a profit.
Hook: Means a half-point in the spread or over/under for sports betting. Tends to show up most in football where oddsmakers place a half-point on spreads to make it a tougher choice. You can also buy a “hook” in the spread to make your odds worse but create a better spread. (Ex: I bought a “hook” in the Eagles game to get them -6.5 at -125 instead of -7 at -110)
Juice: This is a tax placed on bets by sportsbooks to ensure the house always takes its cut in the end. You can recognize the juice by that -110 line that is always sitting next to the spread or total, though the exact juice can vary.
Line Movement: Used to describe any change in the odds. If a moneyline was -150 and now it’s -200, there was movement to get the odds from one point to the next point. Line movement takes place constantly from the time odds are released until a game begins.
Live Bet: Wagering on sports after the game has already begun. Oddsmakers modify odds for moneylines, spreads, totals, and props as the action takes place, and bettors can wager until deep into the final half/quarter/period.
Moneyline: Probably the simplest way to wager on sports for new bettors. It’s simply a bet on who will win the game/match/tournament. Favorites have a negative symbol and the moneyline is the amount one must risk to win $100. Underdogs have a positive sign and the moneyline is what you can win with a $100 wager.
Odds Board: A reference to the slate of games for a particular sport. Ex: The board just dropped for next week’s NFL games on Monday morning. These will usually contain just the spreads and over/unders at the start.
Odds Boost: A new term for U.S. bettors that actually puts the edge toward the public thanks to promotions from sportsbooks. These are typically bets that are limited to around 50 dollars in profit for bettors and give enhanced odds to allow for a better profit or less risk.
Opening Line: Simply the first point spread and over/under put out by oddsmakers for a game. The opening line typically moves throughout the day or week depending on how the money comes in from the public.
Over/Under: Instead of betting on a team, you can bet on the amount of points scored in a game. Also referred to as totals, this is a very different style of betting for many, but it’s still popular and offers a different way to analyze games, especially if you’re struggling with the matchup.
Pick’em: A game with no favorite or underdog. Imagine the spread is 0, and it’s virtually a moneyline bet with typically -105 to -110 odds on both sides.
Parlay: A bet that combines multiple games for a higher payout. The more games, the higher the risk but the greater the payout. In order for the parlay to win, each game must win or push (tie). If any of the games lose, the entire wager loses. This is a very risky and generally not a profitable way to wager on sports, but the high payouts can be attractive if you don’t wager too much money.
Props: A bet on anything that is not directly tied to the outcome of the game. For example, it can be the first team or the first player to score in a game. (Ex: LeBron James – O/U 26.5 points for the game.)
Puck Line: Hockey’s version of a point spread. The favorite is always -1.5 and the underdog +1.5. The juice that accompanies the puck line will vary to account for the difference in quality between the two teams. Similar to a run line in baseball.
Push: The margin of victory for the favorite is the exact amount of the point spread. Original bets are returned to both sides, as neither team covered the spread to result in a win or loss for either side. This can also happen with totals. (Ex: The O/U was set at 48 and the Bucs beat the Cowboys 27-21.)
Reverse Line Movement: Occurs when the majority of bets are on one side, but the odds change in the opposite direction. This can be an indication that the professional bettors are opposing the masses in a specific situation.
Risk-Free Bet: A popular type of sportsbook bonus that involves mitigating risk for your very first wager on the site. If you first bet loses, you’ll be eligible for a refund in site credit up to a certain amount, with the amount of each risk-free bet being dependent on the site.
Round Robin: A type of parlay that involves breaking the larger bet down into several smaller bets. For example, a three-leg parlay could also be wagered on as three different two-leg wagers. The more teams in the parlay, the more round robin bets are available.
Run Line: Baseball’s version of the point spread. The favorite is always -1.5 runs while the underdog is consistently +1.5 runs, and the juice is changed depending on the quality of the teams. Comparable to the puck line in hockey.
Same Game Parlay: A type of wager that is growing in popularity at multiple sportsbooks. Allows bettors to combine multiple selections from the same game into one bet. Can include moneylines, spreads, totals, and various props. Exact options depend on the site.
Sharp: A ‘sharp’ professional sports bettor who tends to wager large amounts of money. When there’s a ‘sharp’ line move, that indicates the pros are responsible for the odds change. Sharps can often make the money action heavily on one side despite more wagers placed on the other side because of the public. The term can also be used to refer to the type of actuion coming in on a game (Ex: Sharp movement pushed the Rams from -2.5 to -3.5 on the spread.)
Spread: A predetermined figure set by oddsmakers to represent the projected margin of victory for the favorite in a given game. Oddsmakers create spreads to even out the game for bettors. Favorites must win by more than the spread, while underdogs must lose by less than the spread. (Ex: If the Cowboys are +4.5, they are the underdog and can still ‘cover’ by losing by four or less)
Sportsbook Bonus: A welcome offer presented to new bettors from online sportsbooks that is usually awarded in the form of a risk-free bet or deposit match bonus.These typically have rollover requirements, which means you must wager a certain amount of money on the site to be able to withdraw the money associated with your bonus.
Steam: Used to describe a rapid line change due to heavy action on one side or another, most often from ‘sharp’ bettors. This can often accompany injury news or something else that changes the perception of the game’s outcome.
Teaser: This is virtually a parlay of alternate lines. Can move spreads or totals a certain amount for multiple games in exchange for updated odds.This can be a safer way to make parlays with a solid chance to earn profits, but the line will depend on how many sides are included and how many points are included in the teaser.
Underdog: The team that isn’t favored to win the game and is less likely to win according to the line set by oddsmakers. You can bet underdogs with the moneyline for high risk/high reward wagers or with the point spread to even the odds.
Wager: Another word for a bet. Any bet placed with a sportsbook is a wager.
Vig: Another word for juice on your bets. This is the tax that goes to the sportsbook. The -110 next to that spread is the vig. It is usually in the +100 to -125 range for spreads and over-unders.