Jargon in sports betting goes well beyond the terms we’ve already discussed. Here is your A-to-Z guide to all the terms you might come across as you begin your career as a sports investor.

The act of placing a bet or having an active wager on a certain sporting event or action. People will often say  “I have action on this game.” or, if they want to sound cool, “Do you want to get in on this sweet action?”

Sports investors are all about getting in on the “action,” but only at the right times and under the right conditions.

American Odds
If you live in the US you probably won’t hear this term very often, but it’s good to be familiar with it anyway.  This is an international term that is used when describing the “moneyline” in America.

The moneyline has odds expressed in terms of money, with $100 being the standard. If the odds are minus (–XXX), then that amount of money must be wagered to win $100. An example would be that –150 means you must bet $150 to win $100.

 If the odds are plus (+), that amount of money would be earned when you win a $100 wager. An example of that would be +150 means you make $150 on a $100 wager. You may also see this sometimes as just 150 without the +. 

Why are they called American odds, you might ask? Because international oddsmakers use the decimal system! Take a look at that below.

When looking at historical data you will often see a category called ATS, which means “against the spread.” This will tell you a team’s record when playing in games where they are giving points or getting points, also known as “the spread.”  A team that has 7 wins and 3 losses ATS will have a 70% ATS. 

Backdoor Cover
This describes winning at the last minute or against seemingly insurmountable odds against your bet, often with a late score in a sporting event whose outcome already seemed to have been decided.

 “I won my bet on a backdoor cover because Joe Blow hit a home run in the 9th inning, even though the game already seemed like it was over.”

Bad Beat
This one hurts. It describes losing despite seemingly incredible odds in your favor, often with a late score in a sporting event whose outcome had already seemed to have been decided. It’s the opposite of a backdoor cover and a good reminder that whenever someone is winning a bet, someone else is losing one.

 “I lost my bet on a bad beat because Joe Blow hit a home run in the 9th inning, even though the game already seemed like it was over.”

Also known as the “sportsbook” or “bookmaker” in a casino setting. This is the person, website, or establishment accepting wagers on sporting events. 

A lot of people tend to look at the book as the adversary or as an evil entity ready to bust some kneecaps, but that’s not necessarily the case. Remember, their system is setup to make money on the juice or vig (see below) so you’re not really trying to bet against them.

Still, successful sports investors will be looking for the blind spots in the sportsbook’s calculations so that they can find increased probabilities of success.

Describes a $100 bet. Also known as a “dollar” or “dolla” bet. I guess gamblers like to sound really cool!

Closing Line
This refers to the final odds on a sporting event before bets stop being accepted. In every game, the line will move up or down, depending on which side of the bet is receiving the most money wagered or in the case of an injury, weather change, or some other type of news that could change the view of the oddsmaker. 

The closing line will almost always differ from the opening line, as a result of those factors. It is vital to monitor where the line is at all times to take advantage of the greatest opportunities.

“Covering” describes a team or bettor’s successful performance against the spread. When you correctly pick the winning side of a point-spread bet you would say “I covered” or, if referring to the team you wagered on, “The Lakers covered.”

Decimal Odds

The contrast to American odds. This system represents odds as a decimal and is used primarily outside of the United States. For example, Everton might be given 5.520 odds of beating Liverpool in a certain matchup.

Calculating the payoff is extremely easy in this system. Simply multiply the decimal by your stake or bet. In this case, let’s say you bet $100 on Everton. Multiple your bet (100) by the decimal odds (5.520) like this.

100 x 5.520 =

The answer is simple: $552.00

Just remember that your stake is also included in the result. So in this case, you’re making $552.00 minus your original bet of $100 for a profit of $452. You still get to keep your $100 bet, too, it’s just not technically part of your profit.

A dime is a $1,000 bet. Remember how gamblers like to sound really cool? It’s still true here (but hey, they’re not wrong).

This is gambling slang for “underdog” or the side not expected to win. Think of the expression “every dog has his day.”

Even Money
This is a 50-50 wager. Neither side has a perceived advantage so there are not any odds. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not an opportunity for investment.

The side of the wager that is expected to win a sporting event. A favorite will have odds that show perceived confidence in the favored team/person.

First-Half Bet
A wager on the first half of a sporting event only.  With this type of bet, the final score does not factor into the final results, only the score at the end of the first half. It’s not that creative a name.

Similar to the stock market, this is wagering on a long-term winner, usually on the winner of the championship, if a team will make the playoffs, a team’s total record at the end of the season, or a certain player’s winning an award at season’s end.  These wagers will have bigger odds. 

Examples: The odds of the Chiefs winning the Super Bowl are 14-1, meaning you could bet $100 and win $1400 if they win. 

The odds of James Harden winning the MVP are 8-1, meaning you could bet $100 and win $800.

Also known as the oddsmaker, this is the person or establishment that decides the odds or betting line of a sporting event. He or she sets the “handicap” or odds of a team winning or losing.

A half-point on a betting spread. (i.e. “10 and a hook” is 10.5 points.)

See Vig below

Laying the Points
This is also known as betting the favorite, in a game that has a point spread, because you are giving points to the other team. 

The maximum wager allowed by an establishment or website. It’s very important to monitor limits, especially as you become a more successful sports investor who is making bigger and bigger wagers.

This is what is used to determine the gambling margin between the favorite and underdog and it comes in the form of either a betting line or odds.

Live betting
This kind of betting is really fun if you can do it.  This involves wagering on sporting events as they are happening, with fluctuating odds in real-time. As gambling becomes more widespread in the United States, this is likely to become more available, especially because the sports leagues (at least the ones that are smart) will facilitate this type of betting to glue more eyes to their product.

A “sure thing” or “can’t miss” bet.

Note: there is no such thing as a lock. But it’s another thing gamblers say to sound cool.

This is an underdog with huge odds against them that will pay off big if they find a way to win.

Hardcore gamblers will often chase longshots, but they hardly ever come in. 

The spread, odds, over/under, or betting line.

You may hear someone say “What’s the number on the Dallas – Miami game?”

Off the Board
A sporting event on which bets are no longer being accepted.  This can happen due to controversy, injury, or oftentimes when the spread is too far apart.

For example, in college football we will sometimes see spreads of 30 points or more. Feeling that it is too hard to predict a game with that big of a spread, oddsmakers may take the game Off the Board so that they do not lose money on it. 

Opening Line
The initial odds on a sporting event. As a general rule, the line will move up or down, depending on which side is receiving the most money wagered or an unforeseen change in the matchup (injury, suspension, etc.). The closing line often differs from the opening line as a result. See that entry for more information.

A bet on the over/under is a bet on the total number of points or goals scored in a sporting event. You will either wager on if there will be more (the over) or fewer (the under) points or goals scored than the number the oddsmaker provides.

Over/under bets can apply in other areas as well. For example, you might bet on a team’s wins across a season. In any case, though, you are always betting on whether the result will be more than (over) or less than (under) the set number.

This involves a series of bets or group of wagers in which a single bet links together two or more individual wagers and is dependent on all of those wagers winning together.

In most cases, all bets must win in order to pay out.  To make it easy, try a parlay calculator.

Parlays are very tempting wagers because while the odds are increasingly unlikely, the payoffs are potentially huge as a result. They aren’t totally of limit for smart sports investors, but everyone needs to follow their system.

Prop Bet
Also known as a proposition or exotic bet, sometimes these bets are hardly even related to the actual sporting event.  For example, Super Bowl prop bets include: how long the national anthem will be sung for, the winner of the coin toss, who scored the first touchdown of the game, how many times an announcer says “wow,” or even the kind of liquid dumped on the winning coach (a tradition throughout sports).

You can also do prop bets with your friends during the game. For example; “I bet you dinner that Brady throws an interception on this drive.”  Prop bets are normally very hard to predict but can have very big odds and very big returns. 

A Sharp
A professional gambler. Not a “shark,” as many mistakenly say.

The Spread
The difference between the two teams determined by the oddsmaker. If Indianapolis is expected to lose to New England by 10 points, that’s the spread. A bettor is able to bet against the spread, so if you expect Indianapolis a close game by fewer than 10 points, you would still be them to “beat” the spread.

The acronym meaning “straight up.” Betting on either a winner or loser, without using a point spread.

For example: “I will bet you Dallas wins. Straight up.” 

Taking the Points
When you bet on the underdog you accept points on the spread, which can result in a gambling win despite an actual on-field loss by the team.

Example: New England lost to New York by 6, but you took the points’ on a 7 point spread and made a huge profit.

Teasers are interesting.  A teaser is a type of bet that allows you to wager on two different games as part of the same bet and also allows you to adjust the number of points you are giving. When doing this you realize a lower return on your investment when you win, but you give yourself an advantage on both games.  Teasers are most commonly used by gamblers in basketball and football.

When playing a teaser, both teams need to win in order for you to get paid.

For example, if this were an NFL Football teaser, each team in the parlay would get +6 points added to their spread total.

If you bet on Green Bay, a +3.5 underdog, they are now underdogs getting +9.5 (+3.5 + 6).

If you bet on Baltimore, a -3.5 favorite, they now become favorites who are actually getting points as they get +2.5 (-3.5 + 6).

Normally, if these bets are played together as a normal parlay without getting the added points, a bettor could win $250 on a $100 bet. (That is just an example, as it really depends on the individual odds of each game.)

 However, with a teaser, the payout is not nearly as good because the bettor was able to move the odds much more in their favor by adding 6 points to each game.   If both of these teams win, this wager would only win $100 on a $110 bet. 

This is slang for the receipt you get of a confirmed wager, either in physical “ticket” form at a casino or as an online confirmation.

The Pythagorean Theorem of Baseball
Created by Bill James, the Pythagorean Theorem of Baseball relates the number of runs a team has scored and surrendered to its actual winning percentage. This theory is based on the idea that the amount of runs scored compared to the amount of runs allowed is a better indicator of a team’s performance in the future, as opposed to using the traditional winning percentage.

Note: There are now Pythagorean Theorems for almost every sport, and they are very handy when trying to find real value in an investment. 

Also known as the Juice

Short for Vigorish, this is the fee charged by bookmakers for accepting a wager.

Fun fact: The term comes via Yiddish slang, which was itself a loanword from the original Russian language.

Wise Guy
A bettor with insider information on the game or influence over a player or referee. This term is often used to describe members of organized crime. 

Be mindful when it comes to your words. A string of some that don’t mean much to you may stick with someone else for a lifetime.

Rachel Wolchin, writer and inspirational speaker