Basic Sportbetting Terms Every Beginner Needs to Know

Sports betting is an exhilarating way to enhance your gambling experience, but the terminology involved with the hobby can be overwhelming to beginners. The following guide covers several sports betting terms you’re likely to see on any online sportsbook.

The Spread

To truly understand many of the sportsbetting terms, first you need to have knowledge of what “The Spread” is.

This term is used to describe the difference in expected scores from the two teams in a game. If the Chicago Bulls are playing the Miami Heat and are expected to win by 10 points, the spread is 10. The spread is a figure always determined before the game begins.

score different

In some pre-specified cases, a book will determine the winner of a game based on whether the underdog team “covered the spread.” In the example given above, the Miami Heat were expected to lose by 10. So if they lose by less than 10, they are still considered the winner because they “covered the spread.” If the favored team manages to “cover the spread,” that means they won by more than the expected amount and kept the underdog team from covering.


The sports betting term for betting activity placed on a game.

“Do you have any action on this match?”

Backdoor Cover

A scoring event late in a game that results in one of the teams “covering the spread” but does not change the actual winner of the game.

Bookmaker (Also “Book” or “Bookie”)

The entity that accepts bets for a sporting event. Traditionally, a bookmaker was a person or storefront you had to physically visit to place bets. Land-based bookmakers still exist, but nowadays many sports bettors choose to use online sportsbooks because they can do it from the comfort of their own homes.

Buy/Sell Points

“Selling points” is when a bettor increases their potential winnings in exchange for making the criteria of their bet more difficult to meet. For example, a bettor might choose to sell points by increasing the spread for the game they are betting on. This makes the bet harder to win, but it also means they will get more money if they do win.

“Buying points” is the opposite: making the bet easier to win in exchange for lowering the potential winnings.

Decimal Odds

odds decimal

In parts of Europe, they use a decimal system for representing a bet’s odds of success. The number represents the amount one wins for every unit wagered. Note that the number represents the amount one plus the initial bet, not just the profit. For example, if RB Leipzig has a 1.67 projected chance of winning against Hertha BSC, that means they are 1.5x as likely to win as BSC is. A winning bet on Leipzig will yield the original bet (1) plus 2/3 of the bet as winnings (0.67).


The underdog in any given sporting event.

Dollar Bet (Also “Buck”)

A bet of 100 USD.

Even Money

A bet that is 50/50. In other words, both outcomes have an equal chance of coming to pass.

“That’s an even money bet.”

Fractional Odds

Sometimes, odds are represented as how large the profit from a winning bet will be compared to the initial stake. For example, if Manchester United has 2:3 odds against Liverpool, it means Manchester is 1.5x as likely as Liverpool to win because the potential winnings are two-thirds as big as the stake.

Futures Bet

A long-term bet that will only be resolved by events far in the future.


A half-point in the spread of a bet. This is sometimes added to the spread to prevent pushes.

“The spread for the match is twelve and a hook in favor of A.S. Roma.”


A general term for the betting odds and parameters specified by a bookmaker before an event. Oftentimes, the line for a bet will change between the time the bet is originally posted (the “opening line”) and the time the bet is closed to any further takers (the “closing line”). These changes occur because of unforeseen events like injuries or rescheduling.

“What’s the line on the Vikings-Rays game?”

Live Betting

betting mobile

Betting that occurs while a match is still going on. Some bookkeepers don’t allow live betting.

Money Line (Also “American Odds”)

A system of expressing odds originally developed in America that shows how many units the bettor would have to bet to win 100 units. If AS Monaco has -150 odds against Lille OSC, that means Monaco is 1.5x as likely as Lille to win, because a bettor would have to bet 150 to win 100 on the bet. In this case, Lille has +150 odds.


A multi-part bet where each winning part feeds into the next. In other words, you might make a “parlay bet” that the New York Jets quarterback throws for 200 yards total and that the Jets will cover the 10-point spread. If the quarterback breaks 200 yards thrown during the game, that leg of the parlay is won and the winnings are instantly placed on the next leg of the parlay. If any of the legs is lost, the bettor will lose all of their money.


In a parlay bet, each criterion that needs to be met is referred to as a “leg.”


man betting

When the bettor bets on whether the total number of goals or points scored in a game will be over or under a specific number. This type of bet allows the bettor to cheer for both teams, as even score counts towards their goal.

Pick ‘Em

The bettor’s pick in an even money bet.

Prop Bet

A bet on something that is only circumstantially related to the sporting event, such as whether the coach will be wearing sunglasses or who will win the opening coin flip.


When a team covers the spread but does not exceed it. Different bookmakers have different policies for what happens on a push.


The money bet on a sporting event.

“I have a $250 stake on the Eintracht Frankfurt game.”

Straight Up (Also “SU”)

A bet for winner or loser without point spreads or any other factors as parameters.


ticket betting

The receipt of confirmation for a bet of any type placed on a sporting event. Sports betting sites will send you a digital ticket via email.

Vigorish (Also “Vig” or “Juice”)

The added fee bookmakers generally charge when taking a bet. The vig is often expressed as a percentage of the bet.

“What’s the vig on an FC Barcelona win?”

There are also lots of sportsbetting terms that are specific to certain sports, like “Asian handicap” for soccer, “superfecta” for horse racing, or “run line odds” for baseball. The terms below should get you off the ground no matter what sport you choose to bet on, but you should supplement them with independent research to take your terminology to the next level

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