Sports Betting Glossary

Before we get started if you’re interested in seeing these glossary terms in action feel free to visit these sports betting strategy pages. In these guides, we’ll share our expert tips and tricks for understanding and effectively using these different terms.


Action: This is when you have a bet on a game, match, race, or season.

Against the Spread (ATS): This is a statistic that tells you how well a team does against the spread. If a team has covered the spread (outperformed the sportsbook’s expectations) in five games, you would say they are 5-0 ATS.

Backdoor Cover: This is when you think you’re certain to lose a bet, but something wild happens at the end of the game, getting you to cover the point spread and win your bet.

Bad Beat: This is when you lose a bet that you feel like you should have won. Most likely, you will hear this term when something happens in the game unexpectedly to cause you to lose almost a certain bet. For example, if a team fumbles the ball while kneeling down to win, and the other team scores to make you lose your bet, that’s a bad beat.

Beard: This is someone who places a bet for another person. Sportsbooks will often not take action from very sharp (good) bettors, which forces them to use beards (also known as runners) to place their bets for them.

Book: This is an abbreviated term for sportsbook.

Bookie: This is a person who illegally accepts bets. Basically, it’s someone who operates as their own sportsbook.

Buying Points: This is when a sportsbook allows you to shift a spread by giving up some payout odds. For example, if the point spread is +4, but you want it to be +5, you can do this at some sportsbooks. But since your bet is becoming more likely to win, you won’t be paid out as well.

Chalk: This refers to the favorite in a particular game, match, or race. If you bet on the chalk, you are picking the favorite who is expected to win.

Circle Game: This is a game where the sportsbook has lowered the wagering limits due to injuries, weather, or other conditions that have made things more difficult on the linemakers.

Closing Line: This is what the odds are when the sportsbook stops taking action.

Cover: This is the term used when a team outperforms the spread betting line. For example, if a team is +3 (3-point underdogs), and they end up losing the game by 2 points, it is said that they covered. It does not matter if they win the game or not; they only have to outperform the spread line.

Dime: This is a term for $1,000. If you say that you bet five dimes on a game, you bet $5,000.

Dog: This is an abbreviation for the underdog, the team that is expected to lose. If you bet on the dog, you should expect to get paid better than even money.

Double Bet: This is a wager twice the size of someone’s normal bet. For example, if you normally bet $20 on games, a double bet would be a $40 bet. This is popular when people have a strong prediction on a game or when they’re trying to chase their losses.

Edge: This is an advantage in a bet. When you place a bet that you think has value, you are betting that you have an edge.

Even Money: This is when the odds are 50-50, and you stand to win the exact same amount of money you bet. For example, if you bet $20 at even money, your profit for a correct pick would be $20.

Exposure: This is the amount of money a sportsbook stands to lose on a particular game, match, or race. Sportsbooks manipulate lines to try and limit their exposure as much as possible.

Exotic: This is any other bet outside of a straight bet or a parlay. It is another term for prop bets.

Favorite: This is the team that is expected to win a game, match, or race. If you bet on a favorite, you should expect to get paid out worse than even money.

Fire: This is a slang term for making a bet. You can say that you’re going to “fire on the Cowboys” if you’re going to make a bet on the Cowboys.

First Half Bet: This is a wager that you make only on the first half of the game. The end result of the game does not matter. The only thing that matters is the result after the first half of play.

Fixed: This is the term to refer to a game where someone has cheated. Basically, if the “fix is in,” the game has been set to have a certain outcome. This is what happens during sports betting cheating scandals.

Futures Bet: This is a bet on something that is going to occur in the future and is not going to be determined by just one game. For example, if you bet on the champion, division winner, or tournament winner, that would be a futures bet. The team would have to win multiple games to win this bet.

Getting Down: This is a slang term for making a bet.

Grand Salami: This is the total goals scored by every hockey team in a particular day or runs scored by every baseball team.

Halftime Bet: This is a wager that is made at the halfway mark of a game. Many sportsbooks will offer updated odds on the second half of a game. These lines are not put out until the first half is complete and are reflective of how the first half of play went.

Handicapper: This is someone who bets on sports.

Hedging: This is when you place a wager against yourself on the other side of the contest to lock up profit or minimize your potential loss. Hedges are most popular with futures bets but can be done with in-game betting as well.

High Roller: This is the term given to someone who bets large amounts on games.

Hot Game: This is a game that is taking a lot of action from skilled/sharp sports bettors.

Hook: This is a slang term for a half point on a point spread. For example, if the spread is -3.5, you might say that they are laying three and a hook.

In-Game Betting: This is the ability to bet on a game while it is going on. This has become much more popular with online sports betting thanks to technology.

Juice: This is a term for the commission that the sportsbook is taking on each bet that they take. It can also be used to refer to interest on a loan with a bookie.

Laying the Points: This is when you take the favorite in a point spread bet.

Layoff: This is the money bet by a sportsbook with another sportsbook to cover an imbalance in action.

Limit: This is the maximum that a sportsbook will allow you to bet on a particular sporting event. This is not a per-bet limit. For example, if the limit on a game is $5,000, the most you can bet on that game is $5,000. You can’t make multiple $5,000 bets, as it’s not a per-bet limit but a total limit.

Lines: This is another term for the odds. If you say you are going to check the lines, you are looking for the odds or spreads that are put out by the sportsbook.

Line Shopping: This is a term for comparing the lines at multiple sportsbooks to find the best odds possible. It is very common for different sportsbooks to have different odds on the exact same bet due to the action that they are receiving from their customer base. This is a must-do for serious sports bettors who care about their profits.

Lock: This is a term given to a sports bet that is said to be a sure thing. Contrary to popular belief, there are no such things as sure things in sports betting.

Longshot: This is a term for the team or contestant that has very little chance of winning a particular contest. This term is very popular in racing where you have multiple people or animals vying for a win.

Middle: This is when a sports bettor attempts to take advantage of a line movement to potentially win two sides of a bet. For example, let’s say that a team is +3 to win a bet. If that line moves to +5, they sports bettor can bet the other team. Now, if the game ends with the first team losing by exactly 4 points, the sports bettor will win both bets. If it goes one way or the other, the sports bettor will break close to even minus the juice on the bet.

Moneyline: This is a sports bet where you only need your team to win the game to win. It does not matter by how many points or in what manner they win.

Mush: This is a slang term given to a sports bettor who is bad luck.

Nickel: This is a slang term that means $500. If you say that you bet a nickel on a game, you bet $500.

Oddsmaker: This is a person who works for the sportsbook and sets the lines on the games.

Off the Board: This is when a bet is taken down, and the sportsbook is no longer taking action on it.

Over/Under Bet: This is a wager on either side of a totals number. For example, if the sportsbook thinks 45 points will be scored in a game, you can bet if there will be over that many points or under that many points. If you are correct, you win your over/under bet (sometimes referred to as a totals bet).

Parlay: This is when you link two or more individual bets together into one single wager. You must win all of your individual bets for you to win your parlay. One incorrect selection means you lose the entire ticket. Parlays pay out a high win amount for a smaller monetary investment.

Pick ‘Em: This is a game with no favorite or underdog. Basically, the sportsbook is saying that each team has an equal chance to win the game. The point spread is zero points.

Pleaser: This is when you wager several games (in a parlay-style format), except all of the point spreads are shifted by usually 6, 6.5, or 7 points in the sportsbook’s favor. So, if a team is usually -3, they are now -9 on your ticket. These are used in situations where you see several lines that are extremely off. As you might expect, pleasers pay out extremely well but are very tough to win.

Point Spread: This is the number of points that the sportsbook determines a particular team will either win or lose the game by.

Press: This is a term that means to bet more than you usually do. Usually, bettors press when they are on a good run and looking to capitalize or when they are losing and looking to find a way to get even.

Proposition Bet: This is a bet (sometimes known as a special or exotic) that involves betting on whether or not something proposed will happen during a sporting contest. For example, betting on what the coin toss will be or if a certain player will score the first touchdown are prop bets. These are sometimes offered on events and sometimes not depending on where and what you are betting. The most popular prop bet event is the Super Bowl.

Push: This is a fancy word for a tie. If you push your sports bet, your money is returned to you.

Runner: This is someone who makes bets on behalf of someone else. Sharp sports bettors often have their action refused, so they have to use runners to make their bets for them.

Sharp: This is the term given to a sports bettor who is very good and knows how to win. Your ideal goal in sports betting should be to become a sharp.

Spread: This is an abbreviated term for point spread.

Square: This is the term given to casual bettors who are not using extensive research or predictive models/formulas to make their wagers.

Steam: This is when a sports betting line moves unusually fast. A lot of times, this is a result of several big bets (maybe from a betting syndicate) coming in at once or a heavily-followed bettor publishing their pick and their followers jumping on it all at once.

Straight Up: This is a slang term for taking the moneyline bet where the point spread does not matter. If you say you are taking a team straight up, it means you took them on the moneyline, and all you need them to do is win the game. You do not care by how many points or in what fashion they win.

Teaser: This is a parlay-style bet similar to a pleaser except all the lines shift 6, 6.5, or 7 points in your favor. For example, if one of the teams on your teaser is normally +4, you now have them at +10. These are much easier to hit than parlays or pleasers, so expect not to be paid out as handsomely.

Ticket: This is another term for a sports betting wager. When you bet in a brick-and-mortar location, they print you out a “ticket,” which is a slip of paper with your betting information on it. This is what you turn in to collect your winnings. Online, tickets are digital.

Total: This is the number of points the sportsbook expects each team or both teams to score in a particular game. While it can be used for each team individually, it’s commonly used for both teams combined in a game. For example, if you say the total is 42 in the Patriots and Giants game, this means that they expect 42 points to be scored cumulatively. It does not matter which team scores the points. They can all be scored by one team or be scored equally by both teams.

Tout: This is a person or group that sells or gives away their sports betting picks.

Underdog: This is the team or player that is expected to lose a particular sporting contest.

Vig: This is a word for the percentage the sportsbook (or house) takes from each bet as their commission for facilitating each bet. It can also be used to refer to interest on a sports betting loan.

Wager: This is another word for a bet.

Welch: This is when someone refuses to pay on a bet that they knowingly lost. You can say that someone welched on a bet, or you can also say that someone is a welcher. This is something you never want to be and never want to have to deal with.

Wiseguy: This is another slang term for a sharp bettor who knows what they are doing.

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