Skip to content

Playmaker Betting Guide: Terminology 101

Sports betting has become a popular pastime around the globe. According to Zion Market Research, the global sports betting industry hit $131.1 billion in revenue for 2020. In the US, football gambling is the king. The American Gaming Association (AGA) has reported 45.2 million Americans will be betting on the NFL this season.

For some, betting can be intimidating. That’s why we decided to help ease some of the confusion. The first part of our betting guide series focuses on the terminology and the types of bets. Understanding what terms mean will allow one to understand the betting processes. We even provide some images with more popular terms and examples. So let’s dive in.


Action: Any live wagering option or the total amount wagered on a specific event. Bookmakers accept action on all posted betting odds.

Across the board: Three horse racing bets that cover a horse to win, place, and show.

Added game: Appear on betting boards after main lists are posted. They are common in college football and mainly appear due to public demand. An added game may also be a postponed match, like a rainout in baseball, from the previous day.

AET odds: After extra time (AET) odds are posted primarily on soccer matches when extra time is added at the end of regulation time due to in-game stoppages. AET odds are offered as live betting options.

Alternate lines: Odds that are higher or lower than the main posted line. Common with the point spread and game total betting in basketball and football. It allows the bettors to move the line and adjust point spreads or game totals more towards their perceived favor.

American odds: American odds are in a “big three” group that also includes fractional and decimal odds. American money lines posted at (-110) are the same as 1.91 decimal odds and 10/11 fractional pricing. All three formats return a $100 profit on a winning $110 wager.

Ante-post: Futures odds on horse and greyhound races that are posted at least one day prior to a race. Ante-post odds are common on Triple Crown races like the Kentucky Derby.

Against the spread odds (ATS): Betting spreads that are designed to create equal action on both sides of the competition.

Example: Bettors may have a choice between Pittsburgh Steelers as a -6.5 point ATS favorite at home versus Las Vegas as a +6.5 point underdog on the road.


Backdoor cover: Occurs when a score helps bettors cover a spread bet but doesn’t affect the game-winner. 

Example: If the Dallas Cowboys are up 34-21, as a -7 point favorite, bettors earn a backdoor cover if their opponent, New York Giants, score a late touchdown to make the final score 34-28 in favor of the Cowboys.

Bad Beat: Players experience a bad beat when a wager is on the verge of winning but then becomes a losing ticket. A bad beat will often occur when points are scored late in a game.

Bankroll: Money set aside or deposited into an account, that is used for betting. A player’s bankroll increases with each winning wager and decreases with each losing bet.

Bet: Any wager involving money wagered at a sportsbook, casino, racebook, or poker room.

Betting exchange: A middleman that isn’t a sportsbook or a bettor. An exchange posts bets with two sides and the betting option remains listed until both sides are bet on. Betting exchanges profit by taking a small commission (juice) from winning tickets.

Betting strategy: Various plans that bettors use to get a leg-up on bookmakers. Primary betting strategies should include proper bankroll management and performing extensive research before placing wagers.

Book: Short for a bookmaker or sportsbook that posts odds and accepts bets.

Bookmaker: A licensed individual who sets daily betting odds and accepts bets. Also known as a linemaker or oddsmaker.

Board price: The price available to bettors from bookmakers who operate trackside at horse or greyhound racing.

Buy points: Bettors can buy points, using alternate point spreads and game totals, to gain a more favorable line. If a spread is set at +2.5 points a player can buy one point to move the line up to + 3.5 points. Juice attached to the odds increases with each point purchased.


Canadian line: A combination of Points Spread and Money Line in hockey.

Chalk: Another term for favorite. Milwaukee is the chalk side if the Bucks are a -7 point favorite over the Philadelphia Sixers.

Chalk bettor: A player that bets on favorites with the majority of their wagers

Circled game: Matches that have set betting maximums, which are capped at low amounts. Games are usually circled when bookmakers face unknowns such as player injuries, weather, or rumors that surface prior to a match. Opening odds and prop options are often circled as well.

Closing line: The last available odds offered before a market closes. Bettors who “beat the closing odds” have placed a bet offering a superior return to the final odds offered; consistently beating the closing odds is a sign of a successful bettor.

Co-favorite: Multiple teams/players with identical odds to win. Common with futures odds, bookmakers may post co-favorites to win the NBA Finals championship.

Commission: Another term for vigorish and juice, the commission is the bookmakers take on any bet. It is also the amount a betting exchange takes from winning wagers.

Correct score: Bettors are offered a list of possible final scores on a match. In soccer, players can bet on a match ending as low as 0-0 or as high as 5-0 plus all scores in between. The most likely result is the favorite and the least likely result is the underdog.

Cover/Covering the spread: Any bet where a favorite wins and the final score exceeds the point spread. 

Example: If the Miami Dolphins are a -4 point favorite against the New York Jets. Miami covers the spread if they win by more than 4 points, i.e. 28-23. The Jets would cover the spread if they win by any amount or Miami doesn’t win by more than 4 points. So, the Jets could lose to the Dolphins, 28-25, and they still would be the winning wager. 


Decimal odds: Common in Europe, decimal odds are in a “big three” group that also includes fractional and American odds. A 1.91 decimal line equals -110 in American odds and 10/11 in fractional pricing. All three formats return a $100 profit on a winning $110 wager.

Dog: Short for the underdog, a dog is perceived as the least likely side to win and is tagged with plus pricing. 

Example: Let’s say the money line for a game is the following:

Texas Rangers +185

Chicago White Sox -260

This indicates that the Rangers are the dog in this scenario as the White Sox are favorites to win. 

Double action: Also known as an “If bet” a double action bet automatically takes the stakes and/or winnings from a successful wager and places that amount on a second betting option.

Double bet: A betting amount that is double a bettor’s normal wager. Bettors often double their bet when they feel one side is vastly superior to another.

Double result: A single betting option that combines the score of a game at halftime and the score at the end of the same game.

Draw: Any contest where the final score ends in a tie. In most instances, a draw is graded as a PUSH and original bet amounts are returned. A key exception is three-way lines that offer tie/draw as one of three betting options.

Drift: Betting odds that grow longer after the opening line is posted. A moneyline that moves from +150 to +155 to +160 is said to be drifting.


Each-way: Common in horse racing, each-way betting takes a single amount and splits it on a horse to finish first or second. Both bets pay if the horse finishes first while just one bet pays if the horse finishes second. The return on a first-place win is always higher than the return on a second-place win.

Elo ratings: Invented by Hungarian-born American master-level chess player and physics professor Arpad Elo. A way of comparing the skill levels of players in competitor-versus-competitor games.

Even money: Odds that return the exact amount of the original bet. A $100 bet on Fractional (1/1) American (+100) or Decimal (2.0) odds would return a $100 profit.

Exotic Bet: Betting options beyond point spreads, moneylines, and game totals. Proposition bets, specials, and parlays are the most common types of exotic bets.

Exposure: Amount of money a bettor or bookmaker stands to lose on any given wager.


Favorite: Any side priced with a negative number. 

Example: The Indianapolis Colts (-260) would be the moneyline favorite over Houston Texans (+180) in this hypothetical situation.

First half bet: A wager that focused on the result of the first half in sports like basketball, soccer, and football. The most popular first-half betting odds are spread moneyline and game total options. A variety of team and player props are also offered as first-half bets.

First/Last/Anytime Scorer: Offered on many sports, these are three pre-game prop betting options. In the NHL, all skaters will have odds on whether they score the first and/or last goal, plus whether they score at any point during a game.

Fixed odds: When a wager is placed, and a bookmaker accepts it, the line becomes fixed odds. If a bet is placed on Los Angeles at +5 odds and the line moves down to +4.5 prior to the game, players who purchased the Raiders at +5 retain the previously accepted fixed odds. Also a term for money line odds.

Fractional odds: Common in the UK, fractional odds are in a “big three” group that also includes Decimal and American odds. A fractional line of 10/11 equals -110 in American odds and 1.91 decimal pricing. They each return a $90.91 profit on a winning $100 bet.

Futures bet: A wager placed on an event that will take place in the near or distant future. Betting on the winner of the Super Bowl, Stanley Cup, NBA Finals and World Series are popular futures options. Futures are also offered in soccer, major horse races, plus golf and tennis tournaments.


Game total bet: Over/Under betting on how many goals/points/runs will be scored in a game. If a baseball game total is set at 9.5 runs, bettors need to decide if the combined total runs in that contest will be over or under ten runs.

Graded Bet: A wager that bookmakers officially mark as a winner, a loser, or a push, once a competition has ended. Winnings, or push refunds, are paid out after a bet has been graded.


Half-ball handicap: Soccer betting odds where 0.5 goals, plus or minus, is the point spread.

Half-time bet: Wagers placed on the outcome of just the second half of the competition. Half-time bets can be placed during intermission or as live wagers once the second half begins.

Handicap: Betting odds set by a bookmaker that is designed to level the playing field. New Orleans may have a -3 point handicap, before or during the game, when they play a perceived weaker Carolina squad. If the Saints win by four or more points, they cover the handicap and produce winning wagers.

Handicapper: A bettor who researches matchups and then places a bet. Also applies to tipsters who publish predictions on various sporting events.

Handle: The total amount of money a bookmaker accepts on a single game or event. 

Hedge: Most common with parlay betting and as a risk management tool. Hedging a bet consists of betting on the opposite side of an original wager to set up a guaranteed return. A hedge bet may also be placed to reduce the initial risk on a potential losing wager.

Home field advantage: The perceived benefit a team gains when playing in familiar settings at their home stadium or arena. This is usually built into the odds for a match. For example, many NFL home teams have an implied 2.5 to 3 points in their favor.

Hook: A half-point added to point spreads and game total odds. A hook guarantees a wager will not be graded as a push. One side will win and one side will lose.


If bet: A type of parlay, an If Bet consists of two or more wagers. On a two-team, if bet, a player applies the stake and/or profit of a winning wager as a bet on a second game if the initial wager is successful.

In-play betting: Wagers placed after an event after it has started. Also known as Live betting, bookmakers post multiple in-play betting options throughout most major sporting events.


Joint favorite: Two or more sides posted with the same betting odds on the same event.

Juice: Also known as vigorish, the juice is set by bookmakers and is attached to spread and total betting options. If Green Bay -3.5 (-110) versus Chicago +3.5 (-110) has $110K wagered on both sides, bookmakers earn $10K profit from the juice on the losing bets.


Landing on three/seven: Phrase used to describe the most statistically common final-score differential in NFL.

Laying points: Betting on a favorite. A wager on Dallas, as a -2.5 point favorite over the LA Rams, is laying 2.5 points. The Cowboys need to win by at least three points to cash a winning ticket.

Layoff: Used by bookmakers and players to reduce risk on a certain market. Parlay bettors may have an option to place a layoff wager on both sides of the last open bet on a ticket to set up a guaranteed profit.

Limit: Bookmakers set various high and low wagering limits that vary by sport and betting options. Properly utilizing a personal bankroll management system allows wagerers to set and follow personal betting limits.

Line: Betting odds posted by a bookmaker.

Linemaker: Same as a bookmaker, a person or group that sets daily betting lines and prices.

Listed pitchers: Appear with daily baseball betting odds. If a listed pitcher doesn’t start the game, bets are usually voided and the original stakes are returned.

Live betting: Also known as in-play wagering, live betting is offered once a sporting event begins. Spreads, moneylines, and totals are adjusted and re-posted as a match plays out. Prop options, like next goalscorer and correct final score, are some examples.

Lock: Term often used by tipsters to tempt bettors into buying handicapping advice. Please keep in mind that NOTHING in sports betting is a guarantee. 

Longshot: A perceived inferior side that is also known as an underdog. Longshot prices are always displayed as positive prices. The Jacksonville Jaguars, with a +9.5 point spread, would be a longshot against the Tennesee Titans.


Margin: The implied cost of placing a bet set by the bookmaker. Bookmakers inflate the perceived likelihood of an event – as represented in their odds – suggesting it is more likely than underlying probability.

Match bet: A bet that focuses on the performance of two variables against each other within an event (e.g. which of two horses will finish first).

Middle: Cashing tickets on both sides of a betting option. Bettors have an opportunity to middle when a point spread moves up or down prior to a match.

Moneyline: A straight-up bet, without any point spread, where bettors need to predict the outright winner. Favorites are posted with a negative (-185) odds while underdogs are listed with a positive (+165) price. Matches with both teams have equal or close odds are often referred to as a “pick ’em” game. As in there is no perceived dog or favorite.

Multiple bets: Same as a parlay, multiple bets are a single wager that consists of at least two sides on a single ticket. All sides must win (or push) to cash winning multiple bets.

  • Double: Single parlay ticket with two sides.
  • Treble: Single parlay ticket with three sides.
  • Trixie: Three sides create three double bets and one treble bet.
  • Patent: Three sides create three single bets, three double bets, and one treble bet.
  • Yankee: Four sides create one four-leg parlay, six double bets, and four treble bets.
  • Lucky 15: Four sides create four single bets, one four-leg parlay, six double bets, and four treble bets. 
  • Lucky 31: Five sides create one five-leg parlay, five four-leg parlays, five single bets, ten double bets, and ten treble bets.
  • Bets covering permutations of higher numbers of selections exist such as Canadian (5), Heinz (6), Super Heinz (7), Goliath (8).


Nap: Similar to a lock, a nap is a handicapper’s suggested best bet on a daily betting card.

No action: Betting options canceled by a bookmaker are graded as no action. Original stakes are returned to bettors.

Novelty bets: Prop and special betting options that are wagers beyond standard moneyline, point spread, and game total odds. Team and player propositions are the most common novelty bets. Picking the winner of a reality show is another example. 


Odds: Betting lines set by a bookmaker on a variety of events.

Odds formats: American (+100), Decimal (2.00), and Fractional (1/1) are the three main odds formats.

Where a coin-toss has a 50% probability for heads there are three common ways to represent the odds of the event:

Europe (Decimal) – 2.0

UK (Fractions) – Evens (or 1/1, or even money)

US (American) – +100; a (+) indicates the amount that would be won for every $100 bet placed. (-) indicates how much must be bet to win $100

Oddsmaker: Same as a linemaker, a person or group that sets daily betting lines and prices.

Odds on favorite: One side is viewed as far superior to the other and is priced with odds that offer very little value.

Odds shopping: Reviewing the lines at a variety of sportsbooks to find the best-priced odds.

Off the board: Shortened to OTB, off-the-board games are displayed on betting boards but don’t have odds attached to them. An injury to a star player may cause bookmakers to pull odds off the board.

Outright betting: Predicting the overall winner of a tournament or playoff competition.

Over bet: Opposite of an Under bet on game total options. If the total on a Browns versus Cardinals NFL game is set at 41.5 points, players who place over bets need the combined final score to be 42 points or more.

Overbroke: Term to describe when the betting percentage of a market is less than 100% and therefore providing an advantage to the bettor and the opposite to the bookmaker

Overround: Term to describe when the betting percentage of a market is above 100% and therefore providing an advantage to the bookmaker and the opposite to the bettor.

Over/Under: A number posted on how many runs/goals/points will be scored in a match. Bettors need to determine if the combined scores of both teams will go over or remain under the number. Also known as game total odds.


Parlay: A single bet, also known as an accumulator or multiple, that consists of two or more sides. Each side must win to produce a winning ticket. A selection that ends as “push” is voided from a parlay ticket.

Payout: The amount a bettor collects on a winning wager. When a wager is placed, the possible payout on a betting receipt usually includes the original stake.

Pick ’em: A betting option where the odds are exactly the same on both sides. There is no perceived underdog or favorite by oddsmakers.

Example: Tampa Bay (-110) vs Kansas City (-110) is a pick ’em wager.

Point spread: Odds posted on a match that is designed to level the playing field. Favorites are listed with a negative (-3.5) point spread while the underdog is given a ‘head start” with positive (+3.5) odds.

From the above example, you can think of it in these terms. If you bet on the favorite, the team you wager on starts the game down by 3.5 points/runs. If you bet on the underdog, you start the match up by 3.5 points/runs.

Post time: Scheduled start time of a race. Horses are “at the post” once all of them are loaded into the starting gate.

Proposition bet: Often shortened to prop bet, proposition bets are exotic or special wagers that are offered on most sporting events. 

Example: An over/under that an NFL player reaches a specified amount of yards, receptions, or touchdowns. In European football or American soccer, selecting the first goalscorer, or time of first yellow card.

Proxy: A proxy is an individual, or a group of individuals, who place bets for other people. The term is most commonly associated with people who submit picks for non-Las Vegas residents that are involved in season-long sports pools like the Westgate Las Vegas SuperContest.

Public money: Amount wagered by the general public on any betting option.

Puck line: Point spread pricing in hockey. Before a match, the favorite is normally posted at -1.5 goals while the underdog receives +1.5 goals.

Push: Any wager where the final result is a tie. If a basketball spread is 11 points and the final score is 120-109 spread bets on both teams are graded as a push and original stakes are returned.


Quarter Bet: Any wager placed before or during any quarter of a sporting event. Before an NBA game, Boston may be a -1.5 point favorite to win the first quarter against Philadelphia who would +1.5 underdogs. LIVE betting odds will change often as the first 12 minutes of the games start.


Recreational Bettor: A player that bets infrequently or on major sporting events only. Rec player bets are counted as public money. Opposite of a sharp or professional bettor.

Rotation Number: A number assigned by bookmakers to every betting option on the board. Bettors use the rotation number when placing a bet, rather than team names, at betting windows at land-based sportsbooks.

Round Robin: A specific type of Multiple bet combining three selections in a 10 combination bet; three doubles, one treble, and three up-and-down single stakes about pairs.

Run Line: Point spread pricing in baseball. Beforebeforebefore a game, the favorite is normally posted at -1.5 runs and the underdog odds are listed at +1.5 runs. When live betting, depending on the score of the match, runs lines increase and/or decrease as a game progresses.


Second half bet: Any wager that focuses on the outcome of the second half of any competition. Bettors can place wagers before the second half begins or make live bets once the match resumes.

Sell points: Bettors can sell points by using alternate point spreads and game totals. In football, if a player moves a line from -6.5 to -7.5 they have sold one point. Juice becomes more favorable for the bettor with each point sold.

Special: Similar to prop bets and exotic wagers, special bets are added to a match beyond the more common moneyline, game total, and spread betting options.

Spread betting: Taking or laying points when betting on a competition. Selecting New Orleans at -5 point odds against Seattle (+5) is a spread bet. The Saints need to defeat the Seahawks by at least six points to have a winning wager. Bettors lay the spread with favorites and take the spread with underdogs.

Sportsbook: A free-standing shop, an online source, or in dedicated space at land-based casinos. Sportsbooks accept bets on various US sporting events, plus action from around the globe. 

Stake: The amount of money a bettor risks when placing a bet. Original stakes are returned on all winning wagers and many bets that are graded as a push.

Staking method: The methodology of this process varies depending on the bettor. Some players set maximum stake limits on each bet they place while others use a bankroll percentage as their stake.

Steam: Odds that change quickly are usually due to a large amount of betting action by sharp bettors or syndicates.

Straight bet: A single wager on moneyline, spread, or game total betting options.

Syndicate: A group of bettors that pool funds and use their combined knowledge to bet on events. Syndicates will often wager large amounts to move a line and then place an even larger bet on the new price they helped create.


Taking the points: A bet placed on an underdog side. Bettors who wager on Houston, with a +1.5 run line, are taking points on a baseball bet. Tickets cash is the Astros win outright or lose by one run.

Teaser: A special type of sports parlay which offers adjusted point spreads or totals. The cost of the adjusted spreads/totals (teasing) is reflected in the odds. A teaser requires selecting at least two or more sides.

Teaser Card: A daily list of all games, from one specific sport, where the odds are higher or lower than the prices posted on the main betting board.

Ticket: A receipt issued by a bookmaker to confirm a wager has been accepted.

Tip: Betting advice offered by tipsters and handicappers that suggest the most likely outcome of an event. Tips should never be bet on blindly but can be helpful when used with a proper pregame research plan.

Tipster: A person or group that offers betting advice. Some tipsters offer free sports wagering advice while others charge a fee for their tips.

Three-way odds: Wagering options that have three sides and include ties as a betting option.

Two-way odds: Wagering options that have two sides and do not include ties as a betting option.


Under: Opposite of Over on game total betting. If the total on a Rockets vs. Spurs game is set at 238, players who place under bets need the combined final score to be 237 points or less.

Underdog: Perceived to be the inferior side, underdogs are posted with a positive number. If Minnesota is listed with (+280) odds, in a match against New England, the Vikings are the underdog and must win outright to cash a winning NFL moneyline ticket.


Vigorish: Another term for juice. Standard vigorish pricing is (-110) and bettors need to wager $110 to earn a $100 return.


Wager: Placing a bet on any event offered at a sportsbook, casino, or racebook.

These terms provide a baseline for those that aren’t familiar with gambling vocabulary. This is the first step to understanding how sports betting works. For some, this may be the most important hurdle to overcome or point of confusion that deters them from betting on sports. 

Moving forward, we will provide more in-depth analysis and examples of some of the more popular ways to wager on sports. Plays like teasers, parlays, prop bets, and others will be covered in future content. Please be on the lookout for our Playmaker Betting Guide articles in the upcoming days.  


Join the Discussion