Sports Betting Terminology (Beginner Level)

Backdoor Cover   Popular term for a team that covers a point spread late in a game. The team with the late cover may or may not affect the actual result of the game, just the wager.

Bankroll   Total amount of money a bettor has allocated to place wagers.

Betting Unit   A betting unit is the amount of a typical wager for a given individual. Bettors may have different sized bankrolls and a unit is a way to express how much should be wagered without tying it to a specific dollar amount. For example, a high roller might have a unit size of $10,000 per wager while a recreational bettor might have a unit size of $20 wager per wager.

Chalk   A term for the team that is the favorite in an event, particularly a big favorite.

Circle Game   A game is circled by a sports book resulting in lower betting limits than usual. This most often happens when there are issues such as uncertain injuries, bad weather, a trade rumor, or commonly these days, the possibility of “load management” which might give a player a night off.

Opening Line   The first point spread available for a game.

Closing Line   Where the point spread is when the game begins.

Closing Line Value   Term used by bettors to measure the line they wagered versus the last available line before a game begins.

Consensus   Typically used in sports betting terms to describe the most popular teams bet or the most common line available for a game.

Contrarian   Betting against the trends of the mainstream popular opinions. Bettors usually place contrarian wagers when they feel there is value on the opposite opinion.

Dime   Slang for a $1,000 wager.

Dog   Slang for underdog.

Even Money   A wager that pays the same as was risked (no vigorish). An even-money sports bet is typically listed as +100 or EV.

First Half Wager   A bet that can be placed on a sport that has two halves. Football and basketball are the most popular sports to place a first half wager. The baseball equivalent is called an F5 which is a wager for 5 innings only.

Flat Bet   A betting system where all wagers are for the same amount. The wager is typically either a percentage of the bankroll or a fixed dollar amount.

Handicapper   A person who analyzes sporting events to predict the outcome.

Handle   The amount of money a sportsbook or sportsbooks take from wagers.

Hedge   A betting strategy used to either reduce risk or to guarantee a profit. An example would be a basketball total where you bet the over @ 208 in the morning and came back and bet the Under for part or all of your earlier wager when the total moved to 212.5 in the afternoon.

Hook   Slang for half a point.

Listed Pitcher   This is a baseball bet that is active only if the pitcher listed as the starter throws at least one pitch. Unless Listed, it is called an Action wager and is not dependent upon who starts the game.

Live Betting   Placing a wager on a game while it is in progress.  

Lock   Another way of saying that a team or player will be an easy winner. *Ken’s note: There are NO such things as locks!)

Middle   This occurs when a sports bettor plays different sides of the same game to take advantage of a variance in the line.

Nickel   Slang for a $500 wager.

Odds-on Favorite When a team or person is heavily favored to win a game or event.

Off the Board   When a sportsbook stops taking wagers on an event. (See Circle Game for possible reasons why a game may be off the board).

Parlay A wager where you include multiple teams (2+) into one selection. All teams must win or the parlay loses. Payouts vary, depending on the number of entries and whether the individual teams are point spread entries or include money line entries. The upside for winning all entries is a higher payout. A parlay with 2 teams (referred to as a 2 team parlay) @ -110 will typically pay 2.6 to 1. A 3 team parlay with all 3 teams @ -110 will pay 6 to 1. Note that a parlay may include both sides and totals as well as entries from differing sports

Puck Line   The puck line is typically +/- 1.5 goals and will add or delete 1.5 goals from the final score of the team wagered upon.

Push   When a point spread wager lands exactly on the line offered by the sportsbook.  For example, the Cowboys are -3 over the Giants and they win by exactly 3 points. The wager is considered a push and the bettor gets their original wager back.

Reduced Juice   When a sportsbook lowers the vigorish on a game. For example, a sportsbook might offer -105 for a game instead of -110.

Round Robin   A wager that involves making multiple parlay bets within the same group at the same time.

Run Line   The run line is typically +/- 1.5 runs and will add or delete 1.5 runs from the final score of the team wagered upon. 

Sharp Money   Wagers from sports bettors that a sportsbook respects, typically large wagers placed by professional bettors. It should be noted that not all large wagers are considered Sharp.

Square   A casual and recreational sports bettor. 

Steam   When odds change significantly because of the amount or source of money wagered on a game.

Straight Up   When a team wins or loses an event without consideration of the point spread.

Take the Points   When a sports bettor places a wager on an underdog.

Teaser A multiple team wager where you move the line plus or minus X number of points in order to increase your likelihood of winning. Because you have moved the line you will earn substantially less than you would by combining those same teams in a parlay. Teaser lines vary widely among sports books and you will definitely want to shop around. Teasers can commingle both sides and totals.

Totals   Betting numbers that reflect how many runs, points, goals, etc. are projected to be scored. A bettor can choose Over or Under and the odds may vary for each.

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