Sports Betting Glossary


Sports betting lingo can be intimidating for new bettors – and even experienced bettors can come across terms they don’t recognize. Don’t worry – Kyle’s got you covered.

You’ll see that some words in our definitions are italicized – these are words you’ll be able to find elsewhere in the glossary.

Accumulator – The European term for parlay.

Action – When you’ve made a bet on a line, you’re said to “have action” on that line. Some bets you place may later be considered to have “no action”, and your bet will be refunded.

Added Game – A game that wouldn’t typically appear in a sportsbook that was added for some reason. It may be a game that was rescheduled, or a game that was added to accommodate a whale.

Against the Spread (ATS)  – Making a bet on the point spread, instead of the moneyline or some other line, is called betting against the spread.

Alternate Lines  – Sportsbooks will sometimes offer multiple different point spreads for the same game. These are called alternate lines; generally, the main line will be the one with odds closest to -110.

American Odds – A way of displaying odds, using +/-. Negative odds tell you how much you need to bet to win $100 (-110, for example, requires you to bet $110 to win $100). Positive odds tell you how much you will win if you bet $100 – +120, for example, means you’ll win $120 if you bet $100.

Arbitrage – By betting across multiple sportsbooks, bettors can sometimes find a way to make money no matter what the results of a particular game are. This is called arbitrage.

Asian Handicap – An alternate way of betting on soccer that was started in Asia – it eliminates draws as a possible outcome (draws are pushed, which is atypical in soccer betting). The perceived better team is given a goal handicap, from -.25 to -2. In this way, the Asian Handicap is in some ways similar to point spread betting. 

Backdoor Cover – A term for when an underdog covers the point spread late in the game.  Most often called a backdoor cover when these points don’t affect the outcome of the game. See also frontdoor cover.

Banker – The selection that you’re most confident is going to win in a system or parlay bet – in other words, the bet you’re banking on being successful. Selecting the right banker is an important part of system betting.

Bankroll – The total amount of money you have available to bet. Bankroll management is key to professional sports betting. 

Beard – A person who makes a bet for another person who wishes to remain anonymous.

Betting Exchange – A market in which bettors wager directly against one another instead of against a sportsbook.

Betting Unit – The amount of a typical wager, usually defined as a percentage of a bettor’s bankroll. This allows bettors with vastly different bankrolls to compare results. Typically, you’ll see bets defined as 1U, 2U, etc. The U stands for betting unit.

Bonus – Financial incentives offered by sportsbooks for activities like signing up or placing a certain number of bets. 

Bookmaker – Sometimes called bookies. They’re licensed to make betting lines and take wagers.

Bracket Bet – A bet in which bettors predict the entire bracket of a tournament. Very popular for college basketball betting, specifically for March Madness.

Buying Points – Lowering the payout of a bet in order to change the point spread.

Chalk – The team that’s the heavy favorite. See also favorite.

Circle Game – A game with high levels of variance on which sportsbooks restrict betting. Opening lines are often circled (and will change after the first round of betting). Games with likely injuries or bad weather may also be circled.

Closing Line – The final line offered by a sportsbook as a game begins. 

Closing Line Value – The value of a bet relative to the closing line. For example, if you bet on the Rams at -105, and the closing line is -115, you’ve made a good bet.

Combination Bet/Combi Bet – A bet on multiple independent lines. Parlays and system bets are examples of combination bets.

Consensus – General agreement. 

Contrarian Betting – Betting against the trend. When sharps place large contrarian bets, it can result in reverse line movement.

Cover – When a team matches or beats the point spread, they’re said to have covered.

Dead Heat – A tie.

Decimal Odds – Also known as European odds. Probably the easiest odds to understand – if a line has 1.3 odds, a winning bet is equal to the bet amount x 1.3.

Dime – $1000.

Dime Line – The ten cent difference between a favorite and underdog in most moneylines. A dime line with a -125 favorite will have a +115 underdog.

Dog – See underdog.

Double Chance – Two opportunities to win a bet. Most often used in European sports betting (especially soccer), where a game can have three results – a win, a loss, or a tie.

Double Pop/Doubling Up – Placing twice your usual wager– i.e. 2U instead of 1U (see betting unit).

Draw – See push. May also mean a tie in games like soccer.

Early Cash Out – Taking partial winnings (or partial losses) on a bet. Used to avoid backdoor/frontdoor covers, or to limit losses.

Edge – The advantage that a bettor has – an edge means positive expected value

Even Money – A +100 bet. In other words, the bet pays what was wagered.

Exacta – A bet on which horses will finish first and second.

Exotic Wager – See prop bet.

Expected Value (EV) – How much you expect to make off a particular wager. A positive expected value means a good bet, while a negative expected value means a bad bet. The more data you have, the more accurate your EV calculations will be. For example, with perfect data we know that the EV of infinite rolls of a 6-sided die is 3.5.

Exposure – The amount of money a sportsbook could lose for a given game or event.

Favorite – The team that is most likely to win. 

Field – A term which encompasses all teams and players not available in a prop bet. By betting “the field”, if any player or team that isn’t listed meets the payout requirements, the field bet wins. 

First Half Bet – A bet on the first half of a game. Popular in American football and basketball betting.

Fixed Odds – Refers to odds that don’t change after the bet has been placed. Most odds are fixed odds, with parimutuel betting being the most common exception.

Flat Betting – A betting system in which all wagers made are 1U (see betting unit).

Fractional Odds – Also known as British odds. The amount you can win is equal to the amount of your bet x a fraction. For example, with 6/1 odds, a $10 bet can lead to a $70 payout ($60 profit + the return of the $10 stake).

Frontdoor Cover –  A term for when a favorite covers the point spread late in the game.  Most often called a frontdoor cover when these points don’t affect the outcome of the game. See also backdoor cover.

Future Bet – A bet that occurs well in advance of the actual event. For example, March Madness bracket bets are future bets. 

Grand Salami – An over/under bet on all goals scored by all teams playing on a given day. Popular in hockey and baseball. 

Handicapper – A person who analyzes sports to find the best lines for bettors. Kyle is a handicapper.

Handle – The total money wagered by bettors at a sportsbook for a certain line, event, or over a certain period of time.

Hedging  – Placing bets on two opposite sides of a line. When done in a way that guarantees profits, this is arbitrage.

Home Field Advantage – The advantage that a given team has for playing in their home city. It’s statistically significant (especially in basketball).

Hook – Half a point.

Joint Favorites – When there’s more than one favorite, they’re referred to as joint favorites. Most often used in England.

Juice – The built-in profit margin sportsbooks make if bets are placed evenly on both sides of a line. Books typically offer -110 odds, which means bettors need to win 52.38% of their bets to break even.

Kelly Criterion – A bankroll management technique that’s proven to almost surely lead to better bankroll growth than any other bankroll management strategy.

Key Numbers – The most common margins of victory/defeat. 5 is a key number in NHL over/under betting, while 3 and 7 are key numbers in NFL betting.

Layoff – A technique bookkeepers use to reduce potential losses by placing a wager with a different sportsbook.

Limit – The maximum bet a sportsbook will allow a bettor to place on a single event or line.

Lines – The thing that wagers are placed on. A line will consist of an event, the teams playing that event, the date of the event, and the odds given by the sportsbook for a particular outcome in that event (be it point spread, moneyline, prop betting, or something else).

Listed Pitcher – A way of reducing variance in baseball bets. If the “listed pitcher” option is selected, and one of the projected starters doesn’t throw the first pitch, the bet is deemed no action.

Live Betting – Betting on an event while it is taking place.

Lock – An easy winner. Similar to chalk, though a bet on an underdog can be considered a “lock” if the odds are good. Remember that even locks can end up losing! 

March Madness – The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Margin bet – A bet in which the bettor predicts both the winner and the margin of points by which they will win. For example, if you selected a winner to win by a margin of 3-7 points, and they win by 4, 5, or 6 points, you win. A win by 3 or 7 is a push. Any other result is a loss.

Martingale System – A system in which bettors double their wager after every loss. While this is supposed to be a glossary of terms, and not an advice column, do not use this system. It’s EV is zero (in coin flipping), and it can result in catastrophic losses.

Matched Bet – A technique in which free wagers (see bonus) are placed on opposite sides of a line with two different sportsbooks (or one free wager is placed at one sportsbook, while a matched real money wager is placed at another). Because a win is guaranteed, and at least one wager is free, the EV of matched bets is incredibly high, and in many cases can be considered arbitrage.

Middle/Middling  – Placing money on both sides of a game in a manner which allows you to win both bets. For example, you might place a bet on Team A at +12.5 with one book, and Team B at -9.5 with another. If Team B wins with 10, 11, or 12 points, you win both bets.

Moneyline – A bet you place on a team to win straight-up – you simply choose who you think is going to win. Popular in sports where there are few points scored, like hockey, because it’s hard to make a point spread for these sports.

Nickel – $500.

Novelty Bet – A bet on a non-sports event, like who will be the next President.

Odds-on Favorite – The heavily favored team – see chalk. The moneyline for these teams will typically have a very low payout.

Off the Board – When a line is removed, it’s taken “off the board”. This can follow a circle game.

Opening Line – The first odds offered for a given event. Opening lines will often change after the first wave of betting. 

Over/Under – Also known as totals, this is a bet on the number of points that will be made by both teams in a given event. A total number of points will be given by the sportsbook – bettors choose whether they believe the actual number of points scored will be over or under the total presented by the sportsbook. If the points scored are exactly equal to the total, all over/under bets are pushed.

Parimutuel betting – There are no fixed odds in parimutuel betting – and you’re not betting against a bookkeeper. Instead, all bettors place their money into a pool, and the winners of the bet split the pool. Odds will change as new bettors place wagers

Parlay – A combination bet in which bets are placed on multiple different independent events. You must win every line in a parlay bet to win the whole thing.

Pick ‘Em – A line in which neither team is favored.

Player Props – A prop bet on an individual player. “Who will score first in this NBA game” is an example of a player prop.

Point Spread – A type of bet in which the underdog is given an advantage in order to even out betting across the line. The underdog or favorite must “beat the spread” in order for a bet to be successful. For example, in a -7.5/+7.5 point spread, the favorite would need to win by more than 7.5 points, and the underdog would need to lose by less than 7.5 points, for bets on them to be successful. If the point spread is exactly matched, the bet is pushed.

Power Ranking – The ranking of each team in a given league to make it easier to understand who the favorites and underdogs are in a given matchup.

Prop Bet – A bet on anything other than the final outcome of a game – i.e. not an over/under, moneyline, or point spread bet. 

Puck Line – The point spread in hockey games. Because hockey games are so low scoring, the puck line rarely offers the standard -110 odds, and the spread is usually +1.5 for the underdog and -1.5 for the favorite. See also run line.

Puppy – See underdog.

Push – When a wager falls exactly on the line, the wager is returned to the bettor. This can occur in point spread and over/under betting – some prop bets can also push.

Real Time Odds – Live odds that update as soon as the sportsbook updates their odds.

Reduced Juice – When the built-in profit margin (see juice) offered by a sportsbook is reduced in order to encourage betting. -105, for example, is considered reduced juice.

Return on Investment (ROI) – A way of determining how efficient your betting has been. Best used when you’ve gathered a lot of data on your bets.

Reverse Line Movement – When a betting line moves in a way that contradicts how most people are betting. For example, if most people are betting on a -7.5 point spread favorite, and that line moves to -5.5, it’s a reverse line movement. These movements are caused by sharps.

Round Robin – A multi-team bet (usually between 3 and 10) that is used to create as many two team parlay bets as possible.

Run Line – The point spread in baseball games. The spread is usually +1.5 for the underdog and -1.5 for the favorite. See also puck line.

Runner – See beard.

Sharp – A professional bettor, respected by sportsbooks.

Sharp Money – Sharp money is any bet wagered by a sharp. Sharp money can influence a sportsbook’s decisions (especially if the sharp is wagering large sums). This can cause a reverse line movement

Sportsbook – A place where a gambler can wager on sports. 

Square – A casual bettor. 

Stake – The amount of money risked on a bet.

Steam/Steam Betting – A sudden change to the odds of a given line, especially at major sportsbooks. Reverse line movement is an example of steam. Steam betting occurs when bettors find sportsbooks that haven’t changed the odds of the line yet; this is sometimes called “chasing steam”

Straight Up – A bet on whether a team will win or lose – moneyline bets are an example of straight up bets.

System Bet – A type of combination bet which differs from parlay bets in that not all chosen lines need to win for the bet to pay out. 

Taking the Points – Making a point spread bet on the underdog.

Taking the Price – Making a moneyline bet on the underdog.

Teaser – A type of parlay bet in which you can buy points.

Tissue Price – The initial odds offered by a sportsbook.

TKO – A technical knock-out in combat sports.

Total – See over/under.

Tout – See handicapper.

True Odds – The actual odds of an event happening. Particularly useful to know in parlay betting, as parlay odds sometimes differ from true odds.

Underdog – The animal/person/team who is expected to lose an event. Sometimes called the puppy or dog.

Units – See betting units.

Wager – A sum of money risked on an uncertain event. Can also be used as a verb. 

Whale – Also called high rollers – people who bet large sums of money. They can be sharps or squares.

Wire-to-Wire Bet – A bet that a given team will lead at the end of a given number of quarters. Popular in NBA betting.

With that, we’ve covered just about every bit of slang you’re liable to hear in North American sports betting – we even got some European terms in there for good measure. See a piece of slang we missed? Shoot us an email – we’ll give you an explanation of the term and add it to the glossary.
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