Sports Betting 101: Terms Explained

Gambling Terms for New Bettors

Our team’s got you covered with a handy collection of sports betting terms. If you’re stepping into the casino or trying out an operator for the first time, it’s okay to feel a bit lost. But fear not, I’ve crafted a personalized glossary just for you.

Ever heard of “point spread” or “moneyline bet” and felt a bit puzzled? No problem – this guide breaks it down. Whether you’re a novice or unsure about terms like “handicap,” which means something different in sports betting, I’m here to demystify it.

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Take a peek at the vocabulary list below for quick reference. Armed with this guide, you’ll be confidently navigating the dynamic world of sports betting in no time! Ready to give it a try?

Responsible Betting

Betting can be exciting, but it’s important to keep it enjoyable and within reasonable limits.

Set a budget that aligns with your financial situation and stick to it. Avoid chasing losses by betting more than you can afford. Treat gambling as a form of entertainment rather than a way to make money. Remember, outcomes are unpredictable.

Take breaks during your betting sessions to maintain a healthy balance. Don’t let emotions drive your decisions, and avoid betting under the influence of substances. Recognize signs of potential gambling-related issues, such as spending more time or money than intended.

Utilize responsible gambling tools offered by platforms, like deposit limits or self-exclusion options, to stay in control. If you ever feel overwhelmed, consider seeking support from friends, family, or helplines dedicated to responsible gambling.

In the world of sports betting, responsible habits ensure that the experience remains enjoyable and doesn’t negatively impact your life. Wager wisely, keeping both the excitement and responsibility in mind.



Accumulator: A parlay bet unique to North America. An accumulator wager consists of two or more selections, and each side must win or push to create a winning ticket.

Action: A sports wager of any kind; a bet. If you hear someone say, “I’ve got action on the World Series tonight,” it means they’ve placed a bet (or multiple bets) on the game itself.

Added Game: A game that is not part of the typical “menu” of wager offerings, often posted as an accommodation to specific patrons.

Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW): This is how sportsbooks operate. You must have funds in your account to cover the cost of the wager before the wager is placed. If you lose, they don’t have to send someone to look for you if you can’t pay up.

Against The Spread Odds (ATS): The process of betting on the point spread in a particular matchup, as opposed to the money line or another type of wager.

Alternate Lines: Odds higher or lower than the main posted line.

American Odds: Posted as -110 (versus decimal odds or fractional pricing). A wager like this would return a $100 profit on a $110 winning wager.


Backdoor Cover: An occurrence where a late score helps bettors cover a spread bet but doesn’t ultimately impact the winner of a game.

If Team A is up 35-23 as a twelve-point favorite, Team B bettors can earn a backdoor cover if a late touchdown is scored by Team B. This would be referred to as a bad beat if you’re a Team A bettor.

Bad Beat: A wager that looks like a winning one that unexpectedly loses.

A situation like this might occur in an NBA game where you’ve taken Team A to beat Team B by at least 11 points (10.5-point spread), and Team A is winning by 12 points with 5 seconds left. But Team B hits an otherwise meaningless last-second three-point shot. As a result, Team A only wins by 9 points. This doesn’t impact the actual result of the game (Team A wins, Team B loses), but it would be considered a bad beat for you as a bettor.

Bankroll: Money set aside or deposited into an account, explicitly used for betting.

Bet: A wager of any kind; action.

Betting Exchange: A middleman service that isn’t a sportsbook or a bettor. An exchange will post bets with two sides, remaining listed until both sides are bet on. Betting exchanges profit from taking a small commission (juice) from winning tickets.

Book: An establishment that accepts bets on the outcome of sporting events.

Bookie: Short for bookmaker. It is usually associated in the United States with illegal betting as a person who facilitates gambling.

Bookmaker: A licensed individual who sets daily betting odds and accepts bets. Also known as a linemaker.

Buying Points: The process of paying an additional price (i.e., laying more money) to receive a half-point or more in your favor on a point-spread game.


Canadian Line: A hockey wager – a combination of a point spread and a money line.

Chalk: A significant favorite.

You might be wondering why it’s called “chalk” – the origin is from when horse tracks didn’t have computer screens or tickers. This is when an oddsmaker would write the odds on a chalkboard. Bettors take the favorites more often, so those odds got more frequently updated on the chalkboard. As a result of this, the horse’s name that kept drawing action was covered in chalk dust.

Chalk Player: A bettor who usually plays the chalk. Often referred to in jest as a “chalk eater.”

Closing Line: The final betting odds are posted prior to the start of a competition.

Co-Favorite: Two or more sides with identical odds to win.

Commission: Another term for “vigorish” or “juice,” the commission is the bookmaker’s take on any bet. Also, the amount a betting exchange takes from winning wagers.

Correct Score: Betting on the list of possible final scores of a match.

Cover / Covering the Spread: Winning by more than the point spread.


Decimal Odds: A 1.91 decimal line equals -110 in American odds and returns a $100 profit on a $110 winning wager.

Dime: A $1,000 sports wager. With a rise in mobile sports betting options, you don’t hear this as much anymore, but occasionally you’ll hear it at a retail shop or casino.

Dime Line: A line where the “juice” is 10%.

Dog: The team or player perceived by the masses as most likely to lose. Short for “underdog.”

In the “David versus Goliath” example, David would’ve been considered a dog, and Goliath would’ve been considered the Chalk.

Dog Player: A bettor who generally bets on the underdog. This is the bettor who’ll tell you when they win but rarely when they lose.

Double Action: An “if bet” that is processed when the precedent bet wins, ties, or cancels.

This bet allows you to connect between two to six bets together (like a parlay). The only difference is that the bets are placed conditionally in stages – so that the next bet is dependent on the previous bet resulting in a winning outcome.

Double Bet: A betting amount that is double a bettor’s standard wager.

Double Result: A single betting option that combines the score of a game at halftime and the score at the end of the same game.

Draw: Any contest where the final score ends in a tie. In most circumstances, a draw is graded as a PUSH, and the original bet amounts are returned. In rare cases where a three-way line offers tie/draw as an option, a draw may result in a loss for the bettor.

Drift: Betting odds that grow longer after the opening line is posted.


Edge: A person’s advantage when it comes to sports betting. You’ve likely heard this term before – “This player has the edge over the competition.”

Even Money: A wager where neither side lays any odds or vigorish. The bettor stands to lose or win the same amount of money. This is also known as 50-50.

Exotic Bet: Betting options beyond your common point spreads, money lines and game totals. It can feature as prop bets, specials and parlays.

Exposure: The maximum amount of money a sportsbook can lose on a game.


Favorite: I’d hope this is self-explanatory – but the favorite is the team or player most likely to win their event.

First Half Bet: A bet placed only on the first half of a game or event.

First/Last/Anytime Scorer: These are three pre-game prop betting options. Using the NHL as an example, all skaters will have odds on whether they score the first and/or last goal, plus whether they score at any point in the game.

Fixed Odds: Whenever a wager is placed, and a bookmaker accepts it, those odds (the line) become fixed. Also, fixed odds is a term for money line odds.

Fractional Odds: More typical in the UK, fractional odds equate to a line of 10/11 (which would be -110 in American odds). You’re unlikely to see fractional odds when dealing with US-based sportsbooks.

Futures / Future Bet: A wager placed on an event typically far in the future.

For example, at the date of this article being written (November 3rd, 2022), a Futures Bet on Unibet might be the winner of the Super Bowl (NFL) or Australian Open (ATP, WTA).

Future Odds: Odds posted well in advance on the winner of a major sporting event. For example, the NBA Finals or NHL Stanley Cup Finals.


Game Total Bet: Over/under betting on how many goals/points/runs will be scored in a game.

Graded Bet: A wager that bookmakers mark as a winner, loss or push after a competition has ended.

Grand Salami: One of the best-named phrases in sports betting, a grand salami is the total of goals scored in all the hockey games on any given day. It can be wagered to go Over(O)/Under(U).


Handicapper: A person trying to predict the winners of an event. It can technically refer to anyone who wagers (a bettor) but is more commonly used to describe professionals that bet for a living.

Handicapping: Attempting to predict the result of an event using known or acquired information.

Halftime Bet: A bet placed on the score of the second half of a game, including all overtime periods.

Handle: The amount of money in wagers accepted.

Hedging: Betting the opposing side of your initial bet to ensure a profit or minimize potential loss.

For example: If a bettor had wagered $10 to win $100,000 on a ten-leg parlay and he was waiting for the tenth-leg result, he might be inclined to wager big on the opposition of the final game to ensure that he makes a profit no matter what.

High Roller: A high-stakes gambler. If you’re a novice bettor, don’t be this guy. Remember always to set yourself an entertainment budget and stick to it. Online Gamblers encourages all players to maintain healthy gambling habits by using RG tools.

Holding your own: A bettor who is on a streak that isn’t winning or losing, merely breaking even on a series of bets.

Home Field Advantage: The perceived notion that a team benefits from playing in the familiar confines of their home stadium with a home crowd.

Hook: A half-point. The hook describes the half point on a point spread or total. For example, if a point spread is 6.5, the hook is . 5. If the point spread is 7 points, there is no hook.

Hot Game: A game drawing considerable action on one side, likely from experienced handicappers.


In-Play betting: Wagers placed after an event has started. They are also known as live betting and in-game betting. Bookmakers post multiple in-play betting options throughout sporting events. It’s only possible to place these bets live during match time.


Juice: The bookmaker’s commission, more commonly the -110 bettors, lay on straight point spread wagers. Also known as “vigorish” or “vig.”


Laying the Points: Betting the favorite by giving up points.

Laying the Price: Betting the favorite by laying money odds.

Layoff: Used by bookmakers and players to reduce risk in a certain market.

Limits: The maximum amounts accepted by the house before the odds and/or point spread are adjusted accordingly.

Line: The current odds or point spread on a particular event.

Linemaker: The person who establishes betting lines. Also known as an “Oddsmaker.”

Listed Pitchers: Specifically relevant for MLB / baseball games, a baseball bet is placed only if both pitchers are scheduled to start a game, well, start. If not, the bet is deemed “No Action,” and the bet is refunded to the bettor.

Live Betting: Also known as in-play wagering or micro-betting, live betting is offered once a sporting event begins. B2B sports betting product development company Simplebet is considered one of the pioneers of live betting in the American sports betting space.

Lock: An exceptionally strong favorite. Word of the wise: There’s no such thing as a true lock. Upsets are always a risk to happen.

Longshot: A team perceived as unlikely to pull off the victory. Look above to lock. Longshots do win, occasionally.


Middle: To win both sides of a game; wagering on the underdog at one point spread and the favorite at a different point spread and winning both sides.

For example: if a bettor wagering on the NFL bets on the Dolphins versus Patriots game, he might bet on the underdog at +7.5 and the favorite at -5.5. If the favorite wins by 6 points, the player has “meddled” the book and won both bets.

Money line: The money line represents the odds of a team winning the game outright, without using the point spread. The money line is expressed as a three-digit number.

For example, -150 means a bettor must wager $150 for every $100 they wish to win. Or +140 means a bettor will win $140 for each $100 bet they place.

Multiple Bets: Like a parlay, multiple bets are a single wager with at least two ticket options. All sides must win (or push) to cash the multiple winning bets.

You might hear about a double, treble, Trixie, Patent, Yankee or even a lucky 15. If you’re a beginner, I advise avoiding options like this.


Nap: Similar to a lock – a handicappers, recommended best bet on a daily betting card.

No Action: A wager in which no money is lost or won due to extenuating circumstances, and the original bet amount is refunded to the bettor.

Novelty Bets: Prop or unique betting options that are wagers beyond the standard money line, point spread and game totals.


Odds: Betting lines for a variety of events.

Odds Formats: American odds (+100), Decimal Odds (2.00) and Fractional Odds (1/1) are the three main odds formats.

Oddsmaker: Same as a linemaker, someone who sets daily betting lines or prices.

Odds on a favorite: One side is viewed as vastly superior to the other.

Odds shopping: The act of reviewing lines at several different sportsbooks to find the best price.

Off the Board: A game in which no bets are being accepted, usually due to an injury to a star player.

Opening Line: The earliest line posted for a particular event or game.

Outright betting: Predicting the overall win of a tournament or playoff.

Over: A sports bet in which the player wagers that the combined point total of the two competing teams will be more than the specified total.

For example: “I took the over in the Packers game. No way the two teams combined for under 40.5 points.”

Over/Under: A number posted on how many runs/goals/points will be scored. Bettors then determine that the combined scores of both teams will go over or under that number.


Parlay: A single bet that links together two or more wagers. To win the parlay, the bettor must win all the wagers. If the bettor loses even a single wager from the parlay, the entire parlay is lost. However, if the bettor wins all the wagers in the parlay, they win a higher payoff than if they had placed the bets as individual wagers. The parlay odds are multiplied to give you a larger potential payout.

Parlay Banker: A banker is a favorite side to which non-favorite sides are added on a parlay.

An example of this would be betting on a favorite (-160) and two slight underdogs (+120) & (+125).

Payout: The amount a bettor collects on a winning wager.

Pick / Pick ‘em: A game in which neither team is favored.

Point Spread: One of the most popular sports betting options is the point spread, often referred to as just “the spread.” The spread represents the margin of points in which the favored team must win to “cover.”

Price: The odds or point spread.

Proposition Bets / Prop Bets: Prop bets focus on the outcome of events, within a given event.  “Which team will score the first pint” is an example of a prop bet, also referred to as an “exotic bet.”

Proxy: An individual or group who places bets for other people.

Let’s say you live in a state where sports betting isn’t currently legal. There have been occasions where friends are then used as a proxy to place bets in a state where sports betting is allowed. Please note that it’s illegal to place bets in unregulated states. We encourage players to only bet from their own accounts on US-legal sites and not use friends or family. This is simply to explain the term Proxy.

Public Money: Amount wagered by the general public on any betting option.

Puck Line: Specific to NHL / hockey, a spread used instead of a traditional money line.

Push: When a contest ends with no winner/loser for betting purposes – effectively a tie.


Round Robin: A series of parlays.


Quarter Bet: Any wager placed before or during any quarter of a sporting event.


Recreational / Rec Bettor: A person who bets infrequently or on major sporting events only. Rec bettor wagers are counted as public money, also known as a casual bettor.

Run Down: All the lines for a specific date, sport, or time.

Run Line: Specific to MLB / baseball, a spread is used instead of the money line.


Scouts / Sports Player: A person or people who wait for what they believe to be an aberration wager (unusually strong).

Second Half Bet: Any wager that focuses on the outcome of the event’s second half.

Sell Points: Bettors can sell points by using alternate point spreads and game totals. With each point sold, the “juice” becomes increasingly favorable for the bettor.

Sides: The two teams playing – the underdog and the favorite.

Sharp: A sophisticated or professional gambler. If you’re reading this guide, odds are you’re not a sharp.

Spread Betting: Taking or laying points when betting on an event.

Sportsbook: A physical location that accepts sports bets.

Square: A novice when it comes to sports betting. If you’re reading this guide, odds are you’re a square.

Stake: The amount of money a bettor risks when placing a bet.

Staking Method: This differs with each unique bettor. Some players will set a maximum stake limit on each bet that they place; others will use a bankroll percentage as their stake.

Steam: When a line starts to move rapidly, usually for no easily identifiable reason.

Store: A bookie or sports betting establishment.

Straight Bet: An individual wager or a game or event determined by one of the more popular sports betting options (point spread, total or money line).

Syndicate: A group of bettors that pool funds and use their combined knowledge to bet on events. Syndicates often wager large amounts to move a line, then place an even larger bet on the new price they intentionally created.


Taking the Points: Betting the underdog and its advantage in the point spread.

Taking the Price: Betting the underdog and accepting money odds.

Teaser: A type of parlay in which the point spread and/or total of each individual play is adjusted. The price of moving the point spread (teasing) is lower payoff odds on winning wagers.

Ticket: A wager or bet.

Tip / Tipster: A tip is betting advice offered by a tipster. A tipster is a person or group that offers that betting advice – sometimes free of charge, sometimes with a fee.

Tie: A wager in which no money is won or lost because the teams’ scores were equal to the number of points in the point spread or total.

Total: The combined number of runs, points, or goals scored by both teams during the game itself (including overtime).

Totals Bet: A prop bet in which the bettor speculates that the total score by the combined teams in a game will be more or less than the line posted by a sportsbook.

Tout: Someone who sells their expertise on the art of sports wagering.


Under: A bettor will wager that the total points scored by two teams will be less than a decided amount.

Underdog: The team perceived to be most likely to lose. Also known as the “dog.”


Value: Getting the best odds on a betting proposition or the highest feasible edge.

Vigorish / Vig: The bookmaker’s commission, also known as the “juice.”


Wager: A bet placed on any event offered at a sportsbook or casino (or app).

Wiseguy: Not to be confused with a wiseass, a wiseguy is a well-informed handicapper or bettor.


Is there a betting word out there that I missed in this guide? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us on social media; we will add it here for you! We at Online Gamblers strive to always deliver educational and helpful tips to our community. 


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Liga Tarasova has a history of quality assurance and leading teams in an outsourcing company. Currently, she is working remotely as an Editor in Chief for She stands for fair and safe gambling for people in the USA. Not long ago, she lived in Malta, the global iGaming hub, and worked at an iGaming company offering cloud-based product and platform services to B2B partners. Liga’s passion is visual arts and interior design.