Sports Betting Terms: A Glossary For Sports Bettors

Legal sports betting is expanding quickly in the U.S., and bettors are eager to put a couple sawbucks on that first NFL game … or tonight’s Yankees games … or on the Red Wings to win the Stanley Cup … or whatever. But maybe this whole sports betting thing is new to you. TheLines has got you covered.

Here’s a look at some common terms someone new to the wagering game might need to place those bets – and hopefully cash a few tickets.

Action – In the wagering world, this means any money bet on a contest or race. It can also be used in other gambling references. (Ex. I’ve got some action on the fourth horse race today.)

Against the Spread (ATS) – Betting on one side of the point spread. Can be used in reference to how a team does against the spread. (Ex. The Patriots are 7-2 this season against the spread.)

Betting Line or Line – Also known as the odds or point spread.

Bookmaker/Bookie – A sportsbook or person who accepts wagers on games – both legal and illegal. “Book” can also be used for short and also in terms of placing a bet. (Ex. I’ve got three bets booked on Sunday’s NFL games.)

Buying Points – This option allows a bettor to move the point spread for a better chance of a winning bet. However, the payoff for these bets decreases the further you move the line.

Cover – This means that a team wins versus the spread. If the Giants are a 2.5 point favorite (-2.5), and win by 3 points, then they have covered the spread.

Futures Bet – A wager for some future event, such as betting a team before the season to win the Super Bowl or World Series.

In-Play – Also known as live betting, in-play betting involves wagering on a sporting event while the event is still in action. For example, bettors can place a wager on the point spreads, alternative point spreads, moneylines, and totals while odds are constantly changing during the game.

Laying the Points – When a bettor takes the favorite.

Moneyline This is a bet in which a bettor simply has to pick the right team to win. However, payouts are less depending on the odds. Odds are usually posted as such:

  • Dolphins -160 — This means you would have to wager $160 on the Dolphins to win $100.
  • Dolphins +160 — With this bet, you’d get back $160 for a $100 bet if the team wins.
  • (Note that these amounts aren’t required to place a bet. Lower amounts can certainly be bet, but this an easy way for a book to display the odds on these types of wagers.)

Odds – General term for the betting lines or point spreads.

Over/Under (Total) – This is a bet based on the total number of points scored between two teams in a game.

  • If the Cowboys play the Bears, the Over/Under might be listed by the sports book as 45. If a player bets the under and the final score is 27-21, that player would lose the bet as the score went “Over” – 27+21=48.
  • If the game ended at 24-20, “Over” bettors would lose as the total only reached 44. If the score ended at 24-21 (45 points total), the bet would be a push and bettors get their money back.

Parlay A bet in which a person selects more than one outcome that must happen. The payout will be higher based on the number of events, but if one part of the bet does not come through then the entire bet is a loss.

Pick ‘em – A game in which there is no favorite. The two teams are considered equal and bettors must simply pick the winner.

Point Spread This is the margin of victory for a game determined by the oddsmaker. Sportsbooks use this to create action on both teams. The favorite will have to win by more than the margin the oddsmakers set. If the Broncos are favored by 2.5 against the 49ers, they must win by 3 points or more for a win. If they only win by 2, they didn’t cover the spread and those who bet the 49ers will win.

Sportsbooks aren’t in the business of betting themselves against customers, and in theory are just setting point spreads that hopefully even out the action on both teams. In effect, bettors of one team are betting those who took the other team.

How does the casino make money? The sportsbooks take a commission on the total money bet (see vig/juice below). If there is too much action on one team, bookmakers will adjust the line so that more money begins flowing to the other team.

Points Spreads may be posted in the following ways:

  • Broncos -3.5 — This means the team is favored by 3.5 points, spotting the opposing team a 3.5-point lead. Bookmakers often use half-points to avoid a push. If the Broncos win by 4 or more, they have covered the spread.
  • Broncos +3.5 — This means the Broncos are a 3.5-point underdog. If they lose by 3 points or less, a player would cash a winner on them.

Push – A bet that results in a tie. If the Jets are favored by 7 and win 21-14, neither team won and the bets are returned.

Teaser – A type of parlay where a bettor can move the point spread in his or her favor, but results in a lower payout.

Vig or Juice – The commission or percentage of the betting pool that the house (sports book) takes. This is how a sports book profits.

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