Sports Betting Glossary

Understanding sports betting language can be a confusing, mind-boggling experience — especially for those who are new to sports betting. New bettors can take their first step into the wagering world by understanding some of the expressions, terms and phrases used most by sportsbooks, oddsmakers and gamblers and gain an advantage in the market as a result!

With so many terms to understand before choosing a sports bet, an easy-to-follow glossary makes the process of placing that first wager less daunting and more accessible.

Sports Betting Terms


To make a bet of any kind on a sports game. Action means a bettor will have a monetary investment in a sporting event or match. It also refers to the list of games that are taking place on a particular day or week.

American Odds

A term used by US sportsbooks to offer moneyline bets. American odds express how much a bettor needs to wager to win $100. For example, odds of -120 for the favorite means a player risks $120 to win $100 from the bookmaker.

Asian Handicap

A bet that handicaps the stronger team in a sporting contest by giving the underdog a goals or points bias to the weaker team. Odds for the underdog may be shown as +7, meaning they have a seven-point head start on the favorite.

ATS (Against the Spread)

A team’s record as it relates to their performance covering the spread either as the favorite or underdog.

Backdoor Cover

When a team scores late in a game to cover the spread. This event usually has very little to do with the game’s outcome.

Bad Beat

Losing a bet that looked like a guaranteed win; often used when a wager is lost late in an event on a freak occurrence or player apathy. This term was borrowed from the poker world.

Betting Exchange

A betting exchange is an online platform that matches bettors, who want to see a range of odds, with layers, people or organizations who offer odds. A betting exchange does not accept wagers but takes a commission from winning bets instead.


Many sportsbooks offer players regular bonuses, often in the form of free bets or financial incentives, to keep long-term bettors and to invite new signups to use their platform.


Also sometimes referred to as bookies; an organization, company or individual who offer odds and accept bets on the outcome of sports matches, tournaments and other non-sporting events.

Buying Points

Bettors will sometimes want to change the lines and alter the odds for a particular game. Some bookmakers allow customers to buy half a point to change the odds available. For example, if a team is as a 3-point underdog, a bettor could buy half a point to change the spread to +3.5, which would result in a win instead of a push for the bettor if their side lost by three points.


Another term for the favorite in sports betting. A Chalk bettor also refers to a bettor who always bets on the teams or individuals most likely to win.

Circled Game

Sportsbooks occasionally lower the amount players can bet on a game, often in response to an injury to a key player involved or if the weather will affect the play.


Making a bet that will beat or match the point spread offered by the bookmaker. Underdogs beat the spread by winning or by losing by less than the given point spread.


A reference used when the juice, or the commission taken by a bookmaker on a bet, is 10 percent. A 10 percent cut is taken by sportsbooks when the moneyline odds between the favorite and the underdog differ by 10 cents.


An abbreviated term for the underdog: the team or individual that is more likely to lose a match based on the points spread or moneyline odds.


When a bettor feels they can take advantage of the inaccurate lines offered by sportsbooks. The term often refers to professional bettors rather than casual sports gamblers.

Even Money

When there is no outright favorite for a match, and the odds are split 50/50 for each team. Even money bets return what a player bet, for example, a winning $50 bet would return $50 of profit.


The team or individual player who is favored on the spread or moneyline and considered the most likely to win a match or contest outright.


The odds a bettor receives from a sportsbook at the time they make their bet. Fixed odds are predetermined and do not fluctuate before a match or event.


Bets that are made well in advance of an event. Bettors often make future bets on outright winners of competitions and leagues rather than singular matches.

Halftime Betting

Sportsbooks will offer odds for the second half during half time of a game. Bookmakers alter their lines depending on what happened in the first half.


A bettor who tries to make an informed decision on the outcome of a match based on the research of recent stats and trends of players, teams and games.


After a player has placed their first bet, they will hedge their bets by placing a second wager that opposes their initial bet. Bettors usually place hedge bets if they are unsure of the outcome of a game or they assume their initial bet will lose. This is similar to an insurance bet in blackjack.


A half-point (0.5) added by bookmakers to a whole number in a spread or total.

In-Game Bet

Bets made while the game is live. Bookmakers will change their odds during breaks in play in response to events happening on the field, such as, injuries, coaching decisions or who is defending or attacking more frequently.

Juice (or Vig)

A cut the sportsbook takes once the bettor has placed their wager. Bookies need to cover their profits on bets to make money, which is why they take a cut regardless of the outcome of a match or bet. Also known as a rake.


The maximum amount a bettor can wager on a game or event. Sportsbooks sometimes limit the amount a player can bet depending on a few factors but limits are usually imposed for elections and entertainment events like TV shows and movies. Limits can fluctuate up or down leading up to a game or event in response to team news, player form and injuries.


Another term for points spread. Bettors can wager on the final margin of victory or loss for the favorite or underdog rather than just the outright winner or loser.


A person who sets the latest betting lines and totals for a sportsbook to use based on statistical analysis and historical trends. Also known as an oddsmaker.


A term used by a bettor to refer to a perceived sure winner in a sporting contest. A lock is not a certainty, it is subjective based on a punter’s individual opinion.


A type of bet that involves picking both the winning team and the correct point margin in a match. Bettors can select a narrow or wide winning margin, often ranging from one point to 40 points.


When a bettor places a wager on both sides of a contest based on changing point spreads leading up to a match. Chances to middle occur in the days and weeks leading up to a sporting event with opportunities to middle also arising in-game.


Betting on a specific team or individual to win a match or contest outright instead of wagering on the point spread. Sportsbooks present the favorites and underdogs through odds rather than points spreads for moneyline bets.

No Action

A term used by sportsbooks when they have cancelled all bets on a line with no loss or profit to the bookmaker or the bettor. Bookmakers make no action calls in response to game cancellations or if a key player is likely to miss a match.


The probability of a team winning a match or event. Odds show the ratio between how much a player places on a bet and what their returns will be.

Off the Board

When bookmakers stop taking bets on a particular event or match, usually as a result of an injury or other event that will drastically alter odds or lines.


A bet on the combined total score being over or under a certain amount. For example, a bookmaker could set the Over/Under at 50 in an NFL match. The bettor can then bet on whether the combined points total will be over or under this amount.


When a bettor makes at least two or more wagers on a combined bet. All bets need to win on a parlay to payout. If one loses, the entire bet is void.


The amount a bettor will receive from the sportsbook if their wager is successful.


A match without a favorite or underdog. As there is no clear favorite, the points spread is zero, and the moneylines stay the same for each side. As a result, bettors can only wager on the winner or loser of the contest.

Point Spread

A wager where a team must either win by a set number of points or goals in a match or not lose by a set number of points or goals. The favorite is handicapped by minus points, and the underdog has an advantage by a positive points margin.

Proposition Bet

A bet made on an individual player’s performance or a specific event happening in a game rather than wagering on the outright winner or the points spread. Sometimes referred to as an “exotic wager”.

Puck Line

Ice Hockey’s version of a point spread bet. Bettors can bet on the number of goals a team will win or lose the game by. NHL underdogs often start with a +1.5-puck line and the favorites will usually begin with -1.5 as hockey is a low scoring sport.


When a point spread or Over/Under number is the same as the final outcome. For example, if the Over/Under for an NFL game was 60 points and it finished 47-13, the bettor would receive a refund of their original stake.

Run Line

Baseball’s version of a point spread bet. Bettors can wager on the number of runs a team wins by. Underdogs in an MLB match may have a run line of +1 while the favorites could start with -1.


The total amount of money a bettor places on the outcome of a match or event.

Straight Bet

Betting on a single outcome in a match or event, such as the point spread, Over/Under, moneyline or total points scored. Bettors can also place a straight bet on the actions of an individual player or statistics in a match.


When punters place big bets on a particular game, sportsbooks may change the odds as a result. Other bettors will then “follow the steam” and place more bets due to the increase in market activity.


Compiling multiple spread or totals bets with boosted lines at a reduced payout. The most common type of teaser is a 6-point teaser in football. In this example bettors would receive six extra points on each of their selected sides. If they selected Buffalo -3, Miami +3.5 and Los Angeles-New York OVER 49, those lines would move to +3, +9.5 and 43, respectively, giving the bettor an increased winning margin.


Another term for making a bet. A player places a certain amount of money on the outcome of a sporting event or match to make a profit.