Sports betting may be new to your state, or you may be new to sports betting, but the activity has been around for as long as there have been sports. Over the years, sports bettors and bookmakers alike have developed their own language when talking about wagering. So if you don't know your money line from your points spread or your bad beat from your backdoor cover, this glossary is for you.
Alphabetical glossary of sports betting terms
Action -- Having a wager on a game.
Alternative line -- Many sportsbooks offer multiple options for point spreads, totals and other markets, with longer or shorter odds based on whether the result is considered more or less likely to occur.
ATS (against the spread) -- If a team is 5-2 ATS, it has a 5-2 record against the point spread.
Backdoor cover -- A team that is not covering scores points at the end of a game to cover the spread unexpectedly.
Bad beat -- Losing a bet that looked likely to win near the end of a game or other time period.
Book -- Short for sportsbook.
Cashout -- An option offered by many sportsbooks in which bettors can accept a payout before a wager reaches its end.
Chalk -- The favorite in the game. People said to be "chalk" bettors typically bet the favorite.
Closing line -- The final line before the game or event begins.
Cover -- The betting result on a point-spread wager. For a favorite to cover, it has to win by more than the spread; an underdog covers by winning outright or losing by less than the spread.
Edge -- An advantage. Sports bettors might feel they have an edge on a sportsbook if they think its lines are not accurately reflecting the range of possible outcomes.
Even money -- Odds that are considered 50-50. You put up $1 to win $1.
Fade -- To go against a team, a player, a handicapper or the public.
Favorite -- The expected straight-up winner in a game or event. Depending on the sport, the favorite will lay either odds or points. For example, in a football game, if a team is a 2.5-point favorite, it will have to win by three points or more to be an ATS winner.
Futures bet -- A long-term wager that typically relates to a team or individual's season-long success. Common futures bets include betting a team to win a championship at the outset of a season, whether the team will win or lose more games than a set line at the start of the season, or a particular player to win a specific award.
Grade -- The certification of wagering results. When the game ends, betting tickets are graded as winners or losers.
Halftime bet -- A bet made after the first half ends and before the second half begins (football and basketball primarily).
Handicapper -- A person trying to predict the winners of an event.
Handle -- The amount of money taken by a sportsbook on an event or the total amount of money wagered.
High roller -- A high-stakes gambler.
Hit rate -- The percentage at which an athlete has exceeded a proposition total -- such as a basketball player's line for combined points, rebounds and assists -- or the winning percentage for an individual bettor.
Hold, vig, juice -- The hold is the difference between what has been taken in by the sportsbook and what has been paid out. Vig (short for "vigorish"), also known as juice, is the premium it charges for taking the bet, such as 10%.
Hook -- A half-point. If a team is a 7.5-point favorite, it is said to be "laying seven and a hook."
In-game wagering -- A service offered by sportsbooks in which bettors can place bets in real time, as the game is occurring.
Laying points -- Betting on a favorite. A wager on a team as a 2.5-point favorite means you are laying 2.5 points, so the team must win by at least three.
Limit -- The maximum bet taken by a sportsbook. If a sportsbook has a $10,000 limit, it will take that bet but will then decide whether it's going to adjust the line before the bettor can bet again.
Line movement -- Changes in a particular betting market before an event occurs.
Live betting -- Another term for in-game wagering.
Lock -- A guaranteed win in the eyes of the person who made the wager.
Money line -- A bet in which the point spread is replaced by odds, so a favorite needs only to win the game, while an underdog must win it outright.
Mush -- a bettor or gambler who is considered to be bad luck.
Odds boost -- An increased payout offered by a sportsbook, typically as a promotion.
Oddsmaker (also linemaker) -- The person who sets the odds.
Odds-on favorite -- A strong favorite that has, or is seen as having, a better-than-even chance to win and thus pays less than even money. For example, a team with -150 odds to win a title entering the playoffs is said to be the odds-on favorite.
Off the board -- When a sportsbook has taken a bet down and is no longer accepting action or wagers on the game. This can happen if there is a late injury or some uncertainty regarding who will be participating.
Over/under -- A term that can be used to describe the total combined points in a game or the number of games a team will win in a season. Also used in prop bets.
Parlay -- A wager in which multiple teams are bet, either against the spread or on the money line. For the wager to win (or pay out), all of them must cover/win.
Pick 'em -- A game with no favorite or underdog. The point spread is zero, and the winner of the game is also the spread winner.
Point spread (or spread) -- The number of points by which the supposed better team is favored over the underdog.
Prop bet -- A broad category of wagers that extend beyond spread/total/money-line bets. For example, a team prop could be offered for which team will score first. A player prop could be offered for how many yards a player will gain. Sometimes called a "game within a game." These are especially popular on major events, with the Super Bowl being the ultimate prop betting event.
Puck line -- A type of market specific to hockey games. It is the equivalent of a spread and is usually set at 1.5.
Push -- When a result lands on the betting number and all wagers are refunded. For example, a 3-point favorite wins by exactly three points.
Run line -- A type of market specific to baseball games. It is the equivalent of a spread and is usually set at 1.5.
Same-game parlay -- A specific type of parlay in which bettors can string together multiple types of bets from the same game. For example, a person could bet on the spread, total and player props.
Sharp -- A professional, sophisticated sports bettor.
Spread -- Short for point spread.
Steam -- When a line is moving unusually fast. It can be a result of a group of bettors all getting their bets in at the same time. It can also occur when a respected handicapper recommends a bet to their followers, or when people react to news such as a key injury or a change in weather.
Straight up -- The expected outright winner of the money line in an event or game, not contingent on the point spread.
Teaser -- A bet that adjusts the point spread in the bettor's favor in exchange for having to pick multiple winners to win the wager. The odds are less favorable than on a parlay.
Total -- Also referred to as "over/under." The perceived expected point, run or goal total in a game. For example, in a football game, if the total is 41 points, bettors can bet "over" or "under" on that perceived total.
Underdog -- The team that is expected to lose straight up. You can either bet that the team will lose by less than the predicted amount (ATS), or get better than even-money odds that it will win the game outright. For example, if a team is a 2-1 underdog, you can bet $10 that the team will win. If it wins, you win $20 and receive your original $10 wager back.
Unit -- The amount risked per wager, such as $10. Some bettors scale up to multiple units when highly confident about a wager or scale down to a fraction of a unit when especially cautious.
Wager -- A bet.
Win total -- A futures line on a team finishing the season with more or fewer than a certain number of victories.