One of the biggest barriers to entry for anyone trying to get into the action in online sports betting is all the unfamiliar lingo and terminology.
Even when the concepts are simple, the use of specialized language to describe aspects of the online sports betting world makes those concepts less accessible to people who don’t know those terms.
This Sports Shield Guide to Sports Betting Lingo will explain all these terms in an easy-to-understand manner, as they relate to more general concepts in sports betting.
Before a player can get into sports betting, there are some basic terms that may need clarification.
A bet — also known as a wager or action — is the most basic concept and generally refers to money wagered on the results of a contest, like a football match or hockey game.
The amount of a bet is often referred to as the stake. The bet itself is often referred to as a ticket.
Bets come in several broad types (Money line, Handicap, and Totals), and there are various kinds of bets within each broad type (such as straight bets or accumulators). Betting types and kinds of bets are discussed in greater detail in their own section below.
Bettors are often divided into two categories — sharps, who are seen as smart money or experienced bettors, and squares, who are seen as recreational bettors.
Every bettor has a bankroll, which is the total amount of money they are willing to bet with. A given bankroll is usually composed of deposits and wins, minus losses. Bankrolls may be viewed as specific to certain sports or sites, or general across all betting activities.
A related term is Return on Investment (ROI). This refers to the amount a bettor wins or loses on a given bet and is usually expressed as a percentage based on winnings minus wager divided by wager. A positive ROI means the bettor made money, while a negative ROI means they lost money on the bet.
Some sites use the idea of a betting unit to level the playing field among bettors with different sized bankrolls. Betting units are defined by the players and one betting unit could refer to $20 or $20,000. Using betting units instead of monetary values makes it harder to tell the difference between large bets and small ones.
A tip is a prediction on some betting outcome from someone with assumed or perceived knowledge, called the Tipster. The Tipster would typically be someone who has an edge in the specific area of the prediction in question, based on their perceived knowledge, such as someone who works in the industry.
The Bookmaker, alternately known as the book, the sportsbook, or the bookie, simply refers to the entity that is laying odds and taking bets on the outcome of events. The bookie can be an individual or an organization, and is usually, but not exclusively, devoted to sports events. The Bookmaker Terms section below discusses some of the terms related to the bookmaking business.
One of the most basic concepts in betting is the idea of odds. In short, odds are a representation of how likely any given outcome is for a certain contest.
Odds can be represented in a variety of ways, and are often represented in specific ways in specific regions. For example, in Europe and Asia, odds are often shown as decimal or fractional values, whereas in the United States, odds are usually shown as a whole number deviation from 100. More details on various kinds of odds and odds-related terms are in the Odds/Lines/Spreads section below.
Basic Betting Types
The most basic concept in sports betting involves the different type of bets users can place. Sports bets generally fall into three basic betting types:
- Money Line, also known as 1X2
- Handicap, also known as spread betting
- Totals, also known as Over/Under
Money Line Bets
Money Line bets, which are also referred to as 1X2, are the most basic form of sports betting. The bet is made on the outcome of a match or game based on pre-determined odds accepted when the bet is placed.
The odds set are sometimes referred to as the line or the price. When a bettor makes a Money Line bet at the set odds, they are often said to Take the Price.
The odds can be expressed in a variety of different ways, and are often region-based. In the US, odds are often expressed as a +/- line, while in Europe, odds are more commonly expressed as decimal odds or fractional odds. Specific kinds of odds are discussed in more detail in the Odds/Lines/Spreads section below.
Totals bets are based on the outcome of certain game variables, rather than the final result. A common example is the total number of goals scored in a hockey game by both teams. In this example, the bettor would wager on whether that total would be over or under a posted value.
Often referred to as Over/Under bets, the total is set by the bookmaker, who then places odds on each outcome. A bettor’s ROI will be determined by odds given for their bet choice, with the odds based on the bookies’ take on how likely each outcome is.
Handicap bets are a modified form of money line bets in that the bet is placed on the outcome of a match or game. However, in handicap betting, the participants in a contest are handicapped based on their perceived skill and chances.
The handicap is often expressed in the form of a goal/point differential, also known as the point spread or spread. A team or favorite is said to cover the spread when they win by more than the posted point spread. When this happens near the end of the contest, it is sometimes called backdoor cover.
Kinds of Bets
There are two broad kinds of bets, generally divided between single bets, or straight bets, and multiple bets. As the name suggest, single bets are standalone bets on a contest that fall into one of the three basic betting types. Bettors win single bets when the individual result matches their prediction.
Multiple bets come in a variety of types but generally rely on all the bets in the multiple winning, in order for the whole multiple bet to win. Multiple betting types come with names like Accumulator, Parlay, Round Robin, and Exacta.
Also known as a a parlay or just as a basic multiple, accumulator bets are a combination of bets where all bets have to win for the accumulator to win overall. For example, a bettor may make an accumulator bet on the outcome of three baseball games on a given day. To win the accumulator, all three bets would have to win — a single loss in any of the three bets means the whole accumulator loses.
The main advantage to this is increased payouts when a bet wins. In the above example of three baseball games at even odds or even money (that is, neither team is favored to win), a $10 single bet could earn the bettor $20 for a win. As part of an accumulator of three bets however, if the bettor wins all three, the return on a $10 bet is $80. At even odds, the accumulator should win 12.5% of the time, which means an 8:1 ROI profits over the long term.
Two common multiple bets are doubles and trebles. As the names imply, a double involves two bets where both have to win in order for the double to win, while a treble is three bets combined into a single result. There are a number of other specific combinations of dependent bets.
||One bet involving two dependent selections
||One bet involving three dependent selections
||One bet involving four dependent selections
||Four bets made up of limited permutations of one treble and three doubles
||Seven bets composed of all permutations of one treble, three doubles, and three singles
||One bet that combines three doubles, one treble, and three up-and-down single stakes about (SSA) pairs
||11 bets made up of limited permutations of one four-timer, four trebles, and six doubles
||15 bets made up of all permutations of one four-timer, four trebles, six doubles, and four singles
||31 bets made up of all permutations of five singles, ten doubles, ten trebles, five four-timers, and one five-timer
||One bet involving five dependent selections (also a five-timer)
||One bet involving six dependent selections
||One bet involving seven dependent selections
||One bet involving eight dependent selections
Sometimes, a parlay or multiple bet will offer adjusted odds on the dependent bets. This is often called a teaser.
A binary bet combines fixed-odds betting with spread betting to create two clear outcomes. The bet is struck based on a bid or offer somewhere in the middle.
Also knowns as a double pop or doubling up, a double bet refers to a bettor playing twice their usual bet size. This would normally be in response to a perceived good spot where the bettor feels they have a better than normal chance of winning.
This is the most common form of betting offered at most sportsbooks, with the odds of a bet set at the time the wager is placed. This is generally the case with most sports betting, but there are cases where the odds are fluid as events progress.
An if bet is another term for conditional betting. With if bets, the entire bet depends on the outcome of a sequence of events. If any component of the if bet loses, the entire bet loses. In the case of two bets, this is sometimes called double action.
Most of the time, betting odds are finalized when a particular contest begins. However, there are some cases where odds stay open while the contest is ongoing.
With live betting or in-game betting, betting action stays open throughout the event. Odds for the contest change as results come in, so live betting gives a more dynamic experience to the bettor.
A match bet is a bet that picks one side of a comparison of two contest-specific variables. An example of a match bet might be betting on which of two horses will win a specific horse race.
Exotic bets, also known as novelty bets, prop bets, or special bets, are bets taken on any non-traditional contest or element. Each concept refers to a slightly different kind of non-traditional bet.
Exotic or special bets are any bet which does not fall into one of the three basic betting types listed above. A novelty bet refers to a bet on an event that falls outside the normal range of handicapped sports contests. Examples of a novelty bet might be betting on the winner of a certain season of Big Brother, or on who might win the Best Actress Oscar.
Prop bets generally refer to an event that can be easily handicapped, but to an element of the game outside the normal betting values. For example, a prop bet on a football game might be who will score the first touchdown.
Some of the most opaque terms come from the area of odds. Odds, also known as the line, are a representation of how likely a given outcome is. The outcome may be the outright winner of a contest or making a point spread, depending on the kind of bet in question.
Odds are most commonly represented in one of three different ways.
- American Odds — American odds are, as the name implies, the most common way of showing odds in the United States. Starting with a base value of 100, American odds display a deviation from that baseline and either show how much a bettor would win from a $100 bet (+ odds) or how much a bettor has to lay to win $100 (- odds). An example of +115/-105 indicates that the +115 team is the favorite, and bettors will win $115 for a $100 winning bet, while the -105 team is the underdog with a bettor spending $105 to win $100 on a winning selection.
- Decimal Odds — Decimal odds are more common in Europe and show the odds as a basic decimal multiplier. For example, decimal odds of 4.0 indicate that a winning bet will return four times the initial bet.
- Fractional Odds — Fractional odds are most common in the UK and Ireland and reference odds through fractional notation. For example, the 4.0 decimal odds above would be represented as 1/3 in fractional odds or +300 in American odds.
While there are usually standard odds applied to all contests, sometimes there are additional lines on events offered at a higher or lower price. These are called alternate odds or alternate lines and can differ in both the cost to place a bet and in the return on a successful bet.
The Asian handicap is a special form of handicapping that uses a point/goal handicap in a two-way market. This serves to both lessen the perceived bias between competitors and eliminate the possibility of a tie.
A circled game is an event where betting is limited due to a number of possible factors. A game might get circled when it is first posted, for specials, or in cases where bad weather or an injury changes predictions.
Also known as closing odds, the closing line is the last available odds before a market closes. A bettor is said to beat the closing line when their placed bet has a better return than the closing line. It is generally seen as a sign of successful betting to beat the closing odds consistently.
These terms refer to bets related to the popular opinion on a certain contest. Contrarian bets are bets against the popular line, while the consensus represents the most commonly expressed opinion.
Odds are said to drift when an event becomes less likely to occur. As the event becomes more and more unlikely, the odds are said to be drifting or to be on the drift.
Simply put, expected value refers to the amount a bettor can expect to win or lose on a specific bet over time. It is calculated by chance of winning times the amount to be won minus the chance of losing times the amount that could be lost.
A handicapper is someone who engages in handicapping — the forecasting of outcomes using math-based models of prediction. The handicapper forecasts results, while a linemaker or oddsmaker sets the odds or spread for any given event, ways to measure perceived differences of skill in a contest.
Lock is a term used to refer to selection with a high probability of winning. Also referred to as a banker, a jolly, or a chalk, a lock is often used as part of a multiple or conditional bet to nearly guarantee at least one part of the multiple.
Favorite, or odds-on favorite, is another possible term for a lock, though sometimes more than one result can be referred to as a favorite. Joint favorites refer to two selections with a high chance of winning, while co-favorites refers to situations where three or more selections are favored.
A form of special betting, outright betting is also known as a future bet, and is a bet placed on the outcome of a larger event well in the future. Examples might be betting on the winner of the Stanley Cup in hockey or on the Superbowl in football at the beginning of the season.
An ante-post is a form of outright betting where the bet is made before a definitive list of participants is available.
Over and under are terms related to totals betting. In totals betting, the bookmaker sets a certain line and bettors bet on whether the result will be over or under that line.
These terms refer to how much of a market is currently being bet. Overbroke refers to a market where the betting percentage is below 100% and therefore tends to favor the bettors, while overround refers to the reverse, a bookie-favoring state where betting percentage is above 100%.
Also called a pick 'em, a pick refers to a zero handicap with neither side in a contest favored. This is also sometimes referred to as even money.
Steam refers to a situation when betting odds move rapidly due to a high volume of bets in a short time. Steam does not necessarily reflect sharp money and, more often, reflects inherent biases toward favorites and the herd instinct.
Established sports bettors generally have some form of betting strategy, which is generally defined as a system for placing bets designed to give the bettor an edge. This section will discuss a few of the most common systems as well as terms related to betting strategy. This is also sometimes called a staking method.
The Kelly Criterion is a betting system used to calculate how much to bet at any given time. With Kelly, bets are set based on a bettor’s perceived edge on the bet, proportional to the bettor’s bankroll. Wagering a specific portion of bankroll is also known as proportional betting.
The Martingale System is another betting system for working out bet sizings. A bettor using Martingale would double their bet after a loss to make up the previous loss. A modified version of Martingale is Fibonacci where the next bet is calculated via a Fibonacci sequence based on the previous loss.
The fixed wager system is the simplest betting system, as the wager placed is always the same. The chosen size of the wager is often proportional to the bettor’s bankroll, but crucially, in a fixed wager system, the bettor never alters their bet size, win or lose. This is also sometimes called flat betting.
A power-ranking is a system of ratings used by a bettor to make predictions, usually based on historical data.
Arbitrage and hedging are terms for a strategy that looks to mitigate losses by backing a variety of choices in a given contest. Done across multiple bookmakers, this can exploit price differences and guarantee a winning result overall.
The bookmaker will often use terms specific to their business to describe certain conditions or practices. This includes terms to describe internal practices as well as interactions with bettors.
Bookmakers charge a commission to make a profit on bets. Also known as vigorish or vig, juice, or margin, the commission is typically added into the odds at the time of the bet.
In American terms, this is often referred to as the dime line as a 10 point line is a common margin in American odds, represented by -125/+115. True odds are the true reflection of the probability of an event, and the bookie adds their margin to that. Sometimes a bookie might offer reduced juice, which is simply a lower commission for a specific event, thereby raising the bettor’s potential ROI.
A bonus is an enticement offered by a bookmaker to new or existing clients, conditional on betting activity. Types of bonuses can include first-time deposit bonuses as well as reload bonuses that match funds to a certain level.
Bonuses are conditional on making a certain amount of bets, with the bonus funds being unlocked as the player bets more. Bonus-chasing is the practice of creating new accounts to exploit specific bonus offers.
A betting exchange is a kind of betting site that doesn’t accept bets directly. Instead, the exchange matches backers, or bettors, with layers, or entities offering odds, and takes a commission on winning bets.
The inherent advantage that a bookmaker holds within a given market.
An added game is a game not part of the normal Las Vegas rotation. A bookmaker might choose to offer odds on a contest after a request from a bettor.
The handle refers to the total volume of bets taken by the bookie for a specific event or contest.
The term public money refers to how bets made close to the start of an event, or post time, influence the market. These bets are usually from recreational punters and often follow the consensus.
Off the Board
A game is said to be off the board once the bookmaker stops taking bets on it.
A numbering system commonly used in Las Vegas to order bets. Bookies use these rotation numbers to assign unique IDs to markets.
There are many terms in sports betting that are related to specific games or contests. In some cases, these terms are specific to one sport, like horse racing, American football, or ice hockey, but in other cases, the terms are specific to kinds of games, like multi-competitor races or head-to-head matches between teams.
Home Field Advantage
Sometimes abbreviated as HFA, this term refers to the perceived edge teams or players have playing in front of familiar or friendly fans, in a familiar setting.
In some games, it is possible for the contest to end with no winner, such as soccer. Alternately, some bets with certain kinds of odds can also end with neither side winning the bet, but neither side losing it either. This is most often called a draw or a tie, but is also referred to as a push or a dead heat.
The Grand Salami is a term that refers to a specific kind of bet on contests where competitors score goals or points, such as soccer or ice hockey. A grand salami bet is a kind of over/under totals bet where the bettor wagers on the total number of goals or points scored across all contests in a given day. For example, a grand salami bet might be made on the total number of goals scored by all teams in action on a given day in the National Hockey League.
Expected goals is another term relating to contests where goals or points are scored and refers to the number of goals a certain team would be expected to score. It is generally calculated by assigning a probability to shots on goal with the number of shots, shot location, in-game situation, and defender situation factored in.
This is a special kind of futures bet where the bettor is wagering on which player will emerge as the most valuable player over a season, series, or tournament. It is usually related to team games such as soccer, ice hockey, American football, or basketball.
A non-runner is a player or selection that will not participate in a given event. For example, a player forced to sit out due to injury would be referred to as a non-runner.
Post time is a term that originally comes from horse racing, and stands for the start of a competition. It has expanded to include the start of any contest in modern parlance, though terms like game time and start time are also used. Post time is still commonly used in horse racing.
First/Last Goal Scorer
This is a kind of special bet that wagers on who will score the first and/or last goal in a given contest.
Quarter and Half Bets
In games where the action is divided into quarters, halves, or periods, bets can be made on the outcomes of one or all the various divisions. Quarter bets are wagers on the outcome of specific quarters or periods of a game, while first half, second half, and half-time bets relate to game halves.
A similar kind of bet is called a double result. This is a conditional bet that combines results at half-time in a game with the results at the end, and bettors have to predict both outcomes correctly.
Landing on Three/Seven
This is a term specifically related to American football where games often end with a final score differential of three or seven points. This is because American football scores seven points for a converted touchdown and three points for a field goal, so these values tend to be the most common game differentials.
TKO is an abbreviation for technical knockout used in fighting, most often as a way for a boxing contest to end.
Most often used in relation to basketball, wire-to-wire refers to a wager that a certain team will lead through all stages of a game, or for a specific number of quarters or periods.
Terms Specific to Soccer
- After Extra Time (AET): Refers to the additional time added to a soccer match in the event of a tie. AET would refer to the full final result after extra time, as opposed to the draw at the end of regulation time.
- Correct Score: A soccer-specific bet where the bettor correctly predicts both, the winner and the final score.
Terms Specific to Racing
- Board Price: Refers to the price available to bettors for horse or greyhound racing. The board price is set by bookmakers operating trackside.
- Each-Way: Two independent bets on a single selection. One bet is for the selection to win, while the second is for the selection to place (i.e., come second or third).
- SP: An abbreviation for starting price, this refers to the official odds in UK horse and dog racing.
- Listed Pitchers: Specific to baseball, this refers to a wager that is conditional on named pitchers starting a game. If the named pitchers do not start, the bet is void.
- Run Line: A term used to describe the point spread in a baseball game. The run line relates to the expected number of runs in a game.
- Double-header: This is a term that describes two high-profile games on the same day. Double-headers aren’t exclusive to baseball but are most common in that game.
Ice Hockey-Related Terms
- Canadian Line: Specifically used in ice hockey, the Canadian line is a combination of point spread and money line odds to handicap hockey games.
- Puck line: A term for point spread specifically related to ice hockey. Since hockey tends to be a low-scoring game, the puck line is often set at +1.5.
Also known as a beard, a runner is someone who places bets on behalf of another party. This is often used to disguise the true source of a bet.
These terms are common slang for different bet sizes or amounts of money. A dime refers to $1,000 while a nickel refers to $500.
Also known as a dog, a puppy, a rag, or a longshot, the underdog is the team or competitor that is not favored to win. Dogs will often have favorable odds which means successful bets get a high ROI, but the chances of a successful bet are generally low when betting a rag.
An edge is a perceived skill or advantage in a given contest or bet. Sharp bettors are often said to have an edge, but a team or a player in a competition could also be said to have an edge if they are favored to win.
Exposure is a measure of the potential losses a bookie or bettor might suffer in a given situation.
Holding Your Own
Similar to the concept of a draw or push, holding your own refers to the bettor rather than the contest. A bettor who holds their own neither wins nor loses money over a specific period. Also referred to as breaking even.
Similar to hedging and arbitrage, layoff refers to a sportsbook or bettor limiting liability by covering bets through other means. This could be a bookie covering bets through other bookmakers or a bettor playing more than one side of a market.
Similar to a lock, a nap is the most confident prediction coming from a tipster. A nap would often correspond to a lock, but it may also be a pick that is less obvious to the market than a lock typically is.
This refers to a bet that is voided for any reason. There will be no win or loss, and bettors will receive their wager back.
Another term for the winnings from a bet.
Scalping refers to the act of exploiting price or bonus differences between sportsbooks for profit. Bonus-chasers might also be said to be scalping.
This is a guide price set very early as a tentative guess. This price is likely to change quickly and is generally just an early guess.
Similar to a tipster, a tout is someone who sells betting tips for their own or someone else’s profit.
A wise guy is similar to a sharp and is considered a well-informed or knowledgeable handicapper or bettor.
The hook is a slang term for the half of a point that is often added to point spreads. A spread of 3.5 points might be referred to as three and a hook.
Generally related to bonuses, matched bets are when a bettor uses free wagers from a sportsbook to increase profits.