The amount of bespoke language, slang and jargon that is deeply ingrained in the world of sports betting can seem alarmingly high to the newcomer. The gambling community does not have a secret ploy to alienate the uninitiated and make them feel out of their depth. Sneering and snickering as they flounder and suffer. It is merely the way that language in any specific field or area evolves over time. There are details and elements of any complex subject that are unique to it and cannot be described using non-technical language. Go to a meeting with a bunch of engineers or professional guitar players and you’ll wonder if they’re speaking a different language.
Clearly then, it is really useful/essential to understand what these words and phrases mean. Whether you are embarking upon your own gambling odyssey (see our in-depth article – How to bet on NBA games) or just dipping a cautious toe into the shark-ridden waters, it pays to have some understanding of what all the terms mean.
The team here at The Jump Hub have put our heads together and created a glossary of sports betting terms. There is a definite slant towards NBA betting. That’s because we like to bet on the NBA.
And this is a website for NBA content. So sue us.
Click here to read Paolo Banchero's NBA diary as the Magic rookie talks about his first year in the NBA.
GLOSSARY OF BETTING TERMS:
ACTION (ALSO SEE ‘SKIN IN THE GAME’):
When you have any kind of bet riding on the outcome of a specific game or race.
“I’ve got a bit of action in this race.”
ACCUMULATOR BET (ALSO SEE ‘TEASER’, ‘PARLAY’, ’IF WAGERS’ OR ‘MULTIPLE BET’):
A wager is made up of at least two selections that might not be made on the same event or even the same sport. Wagers like this grant rewards (albeit large ones) only if all the individual selections are proven to be correct.
AGAINST THE SPREAD (ATS):
ATS refers to a team’s performance when compared against the recent point spread odds they have been given. We might say that the Pelicans are 3-2 against the spread. This means that they have covered the spread in three games and did not cover it in two games.
ARBITRAGE BETTING (ARB):
Arbitrage betting is possible when the discrepancies between odds at different bookmakers can be taken advantage of to create a guaranteed payout. When odds are given that represent every potential outcome of a contest, it is possible to cover all eventualities. This is provided that it is mathematically possible to achieve and still win money. The sum of the probabilities would need to come to less than 1 for this to be the case. Gamblers who take advantage of arbitrage situations are known as ‘arbers’.
A backdoor cover is when a team comes back from the dead and covers the spread from nowhere at the end of the game.
“The Celtics pulled of a crazy backdoor cover when they hit a 30-yard buzzer-beater.”
Losing a bet that you feel you should have won. It is generally used in a situation where a comeback or upset throws the result on its head in the last minutes or seconds of a game.
Banker is a term used when describing a selection that has attracted a lot of betting action.
A bettor’s bankroll is the amount that they have put to one side for the sole purposes of gambling.
BET (ALSO SEE ‘WAGER’):
To risk a specific amount of money (stake) against a certain event occurring. The money his lost if the event fails to occur and is returned with extra money if it does happen.
The amount returned is based on the odds that were given when the bet was made. Can be used as a verb or noun.
A pre-planned way of placing your bets that you believe will help you gain an edge over the bookmaker and maximise your returns. See our in-depth article on how to make an NBA betting strategy for a detailed view.
BETTOR (ALSO SEE ‘PUNTER’):
A person who makes bets.
An incentive offered by bookmakers to attract more action from gamblers. Also refers to a special offer to entice new gamblers to an online sportsbook.
Short for sportsbook or bookmaker.
“I am shopping around for the best book to use.”
BOOK / BOOKIE / BOOKMAKER (ALSO SEE ‘SPORTSBOOK’):
A person or company who accepts bets from the general public.
“I’m heading to the bookie’s today because I reckon the Lakers are going to pound the Knickerbockers this weekend.”
A bet the value of which stands at $100.
Some sportsbooks allowc clients to make adjustments to the offered line. This results in different odds. This tactic might be used when closely studying the form and performances of one particular team. If your findings tell you that the Magic have been shipping points in the last quarter of games when they have been on the road for more than 3 consecutive games, then the line might not give you something to reject that. You can ‘buy’ your preferred line but will accept greater risk.
If bookmakers think that a wager you have made is likely to win then they may offer you an instant, lesser amount to cash-out early. You lose the potential extra windfall that waiting for the end result will bring (if your ticket is still a winner by then). On the other hand, the risk is over and you walk away with guaranteed profit and don’t have to bite your nails all the way until the end of the game.
“The hawks were up by 15 with 10 minutes to go. I stood to win $275 if they could hold onto the lead but they were flagging. The bookies offered me $125 to cash-out so I took their offer”
The most probable, hence most popular betting option. People who typically bet the favorite are sometimes referred to as ‘chalk bettors’. This is not said in a complimentary fashion.
“A lot of people are turning to the chalk in this game.”
COMMISSION (ALSO SEE ‘VIG’, ‘MARGIN’, OR ‘JUICE’):
The percentage of the bet taken by the bookmaker as the cost of making the wager.
The result of a point spread bet.
For the favorite to cover, they have to beat the spread and score more than the handicap they were given. For the underdog to cover, they have to win the game outright.
A bet the value of which is $1.000
When odds are lengthening (getting higher), the chances of a certain event occurring are adjudged to be diminishing. This is known as drift.
In US betting this is represented as +100.
That means you must put up $100 to win the same amount back. The principle is valid for any amount.
You put up $5 and win back an extra $5.
It is a ratio of 1:1
EXOTIC (ALSO SEE ‘PROP BET’):
An exotic bet is one that focuses on elements of play other than results. In NBA betting, it is common to place an exotic bet on the number of rebounds, points, or assists that an individual player gets.
The amount of money you should expect to win at some point in the future. Especially if following a successful betting strategy.
The potential losses when making a stake or going for a specific market.
The anticipated winner of an event or contest.
A bet with a value of $50.
FIRST HALF BETTING:
Betting only on the first half of the match.
The odds that are agreed upon placing any bets are fixed from that point onwards and cannot be altered by either party.
FRACTIONAL ODDS (UK):
Predominantly used in the UK, the odds are represented through fractions.
For example – 100/1 means that for a stake of £1, £100 would be returned.
The second number always represents the stake.
A long-term wager where gamblers make predictions on events that typically play out over the course of a season. Placing a bet on a team to win the NBA Finals at the start of the season would be a ‘futures bet’.
“I put a futures bet on Utah Jazz to finish top of the Western Conference this season.”
GRAND (UK) (ALSO SEE ‘DIME’):
“I put 2 grand on red at the roulette wheel in Vegas”
A wager made during half-time.
The events of the second half are now the subject of any bet when you wager this way.
A person who tries to predict what side is going to win and what isn’t.
The amount of money taken by a sportsbook or bookie on any given event.
“The handle on NCAA March Madness this year eclipsed all previous years.”
A punter who bets prolifically and tends to risk more substantial amounts of money.
HOLDING YOUR OWN (ALSO SEE ‘BREAK EVEN’):
A term used to say that you are breaking even (neither losing nor winning)
A half-point in a points spread line is utilized in order to guarantee a winner and a loser. A tie cannot occur.
IF WAGERS (ALSO SEE ‘ACCUMULATOR’, ‘MULTIPLE BET’, ‘TEASER’, OR ‘PARLAY’):
A wager made up of at least two selections that are put together. The overall success of the wager relies upon all the elements that make it up being successful.
IN-GAME WAGERING (ALSO SEE ‘IN-PLAY BETTING’ OR ‘LIVE BETTING’):
Gambling on a result while the event is live is a fast-paced, exciting way to bet. Odds change constantly as events unfold.
IN-PLAY BETTING (ALSO SEE ‘IN-GAME WAGERING’ OR ‘LIVE BETTING’):
Betting while the game is in play.
JINX (ALSO SEE ‘MUSH’):
When a bettor believes that they or some outside factor are unlucky and will cause the bet to be a losing one.
“Don’t ask Jon for advice, he’s such a jinx”
JUICE (ALSO SEE ‘COMMISSION’, ‘VIG’, OR ‘MARGIN’):
The charge that a bookmaker levies in order to accept the wager. The standard rate is 10 % but can vary.
“The sportsbooks in Atlanta take more juice than the ones in Las Vegas.”
KELLY CRITERION (KELLY STRATEGY / KELLY BET):
A popular staking method that uses probability theory to determine the optimal theoretical size for a bet based on the perceived edge.
LETTING IT RIDE (ALSO SEE ‘ROLLOVER’):
The principle behind accumulator and parlay bets where the winnings from one bet become the stake for the next. This phrase can often be heard at roulette wheels or craps tables in Las Vegas when a gambler wins a sum on one number or outcome and decides to risk the winnings that it will happen again.
The highest stake that you are allowed to make.
LINE (ALSO SEE ‘ODDS’ OR ‘PRICE’):
The line is another term that describes the odds the bookie offers on a specific event.
LINE BETTING (ALSO SEE POINTS SPREAD):
Line betting is a form of sports betting whereby the bookmaker handicaps the favourite team by a variable margin, effectively making the game equal. This margin is referred to as the line. Line Betting is only available for events where there are only two possible outcomes.
LIVE BETTING (ALSO SEE ‘IN-PLAY BETTING’ OR ‘IN-GAME WAGERING’):
Betting during the game and reacting as events unfold.
LOCK (ALSO SEE ‘SURE THING’):
A selection that you are totally confident will come in.
Otherwise known as a ‘sure thing’*
*Please note – sure things are fictional and do not exist.
MARGIN (ALSO SEE ‘JUICE’, ‘VIG’, OR ‘COMMISSION’):
The commission the bookmaker takes for accepting your bet.
This is the simplest kind of bet.
One team is chosen to win against another.
There is no point spread.
“I placed a money-line wager on the Jaguars to upset the Patriots in the AFC Championship game last season.”
The standard odds format encountered when wagering on the NBA. The principle revolves around the amount you need to stake in order to win $100.
For example, +250 means if you bet $100, you win $250
-250 means if you bet $100, you win $40
MONKEY (UK) (ALSO SEE ‘NICKEL’):
MULTIPLE BET (ALSO SEE ‘IF BETS’, ACCUMULATOR’ OR ‘PARLAY’):
Another term that refers to accumulator-style bets.
MUSH (ALSO SEE ‘JINX’):
Someone who considers themselves to be bad luck.
“The 76ers were a lock to beat the Nets and they still lost. What a mush!”
A $500 bet.
A bet which is cancelled. All stakes are returned.
ODDS (ALSO SEE ‘LINE’ OR ‘PRICE’):
The odds that you are offered on any bet reflect the probability that the bookmaker (using a series of complex algorithms) has decided that you are right. Odds are displayed in a variety of ways Please see our in-depth article – How to read NBA odds for a much clearer idea.
The odds against are odds that are higher than even money,. This means that any returns will be higher than the original stake itself. For example – a bet of $100 might return $125, plus the original stake = $225 total.
Odds on are shorter than even money. This means that any payout will be smaller in comparison with the amount staked.
For example – a bet of $100 might return $30, plus the original stake = $130 total.
If a game is off the board, the bookie will not accept stakes on it for whatever reason. In most cases, OTB simply means that the line for the game isn’t yet available. A few days later the line will generally appear.
Sportsbooks will sometimes pull games and take down the odds temporarily as they figure out a new line. This is usually the case when last-minute injuries or uncertainty make predictions difficult.
A wager that attempts to predict the total points scored during a particular game. The aim of the game is to bet ‘over’ or ‘under’ that amount and be proven right in order to win.
“I took the over in the Heat vs Thunder game”
Overround describes the profit that bookmakers make.
PARLAY (ALSO SEE ‘ACCUMULATOR’, ‘MULTIPLE BET’, ‘TEASER’, OR ‘IF WAGERS’):
A wager in which multiple bets must come to fruition for the overall bet to succeed. The payouts can be very large as each time a bet is successful within the parlay, the winnings roll over and become the stake for the next section of the bet. The odds are very much against this type of bet but it is a popular choice for weekend gamblers or groups who want to risk a small amount that has the potential to turn into a huge jackpot.
Bets within the parlay do not need to have any connection at all and can even be from different sports.
The financial returns that a winning bet provide.
Also seen as ‘PK’, it means that the two sides are effectively equal. There is no favourite or underdog. In this case, picking the outright winner is little more than a guess.
“The game is a pick ‘em.”
POINTS SPREAD (ALSO SEE ‘LINE BETTING’):
In point spread betting, the spread represents the number of points that a sportsbook believes one team will win by. The underdog will be given extra points and the favourite will be deducted points in order to create a more level playing field (see ‘handicap’).
To cover the spread, the favourites need to win by more than the number of points that have been deducted.
The underdogs need to lose by less than the extra amount they have been awarded.
“The point spread favours the Timberwolves over the Pistons.”
When you press, you make a more sizeable amount than you would normally do.
PRICE (ALSO SEE ‘ODDS’ OR ‘LINE’):
Price is yet another term used to describe the odds of something happening. Effectively, the price that the sportsbook will offer you, or the ‘line’.
PROP BETS (ALSO SEE ‘EXOTIC WAGERS’):
Prop (proposition) bets involve betting on events that the punter believes might occur throughout the course of the match. This outcome is separate from the bigger picture of the game itself and is not related to the result.
If the result of a competition is inconclusive and can be considered neither a win nor a loss then that is described as a push. The original stake is returned and it is as if the bet never happened. In order to to avoid push bets, bookmakers will almost always give the line a value that ends in .5 so that a tie is not possible. This is known as the hook.
A situation where the winnings from one bet are automatically put up against the next one. This is seen in accumulator or parlay bets. If the first bet on the ticket is a winner then the money gained rolls over and becomes the stake for the next bet. It is the equivalent of ‘letting it ride’ in Vegas.
In horse racing, a runner is a competitor. Alternatively, ‘runner’ is used to describe people who make stakes on other gamblers’ behalf.
SECOND HALF BETTING:
Betting only on the second half of a game.
A professional sports bettor.
SKIN IN THE GAME (TO HAVE):
See ‘Action’ – any situation where you have risked a financial stake and stand to win or lose depending on the outcome of the wager. This terminology has seeped into other areas of common parlance and is sometimes used to describe bias in situations that are not gambling-related. For example – the stake might be an emotional one as a loved one or friend is participating in an event that you wish to see be successful.
“I’ve got skin in the game”
SPORTSBOOK (ALSO SEE ‘BOOKIE/BOOKMAKER’):
A person or company that accepts wagers from the public.
A casual gambler. The opposite of a sharp.
The amount of money that is risked in an attempt to win more back in any bet or wager.
A formula for calculating the amount of money you should risk as a stake in order to optimise the chances of profit.
A bet that delusional gamblers believe cannot lose.
TEASER (ALSO SEE ‘PARLAY’, ‘ACCUMULATOR’, ‘MULTIPLE BET’ OR ‘IF WAGER’):
A bet that requires multiple results to come in for a win. If it does the dividends can be very large.
People who give gambling tips and predict outcomes.
A type of betting that involves deciding whether the total number of points that will be scored during the match will be more or less than those which the bookie has posted.
A person purporting to be an expert that sells their picks and tips.
The actual probability that an event will happen before the bookmaker has added their commission (see ‘juice’ or ‘vig’).
The team seen as less likely to win in any encounter.
VIG OR VIGORISH (ALSO SEE ‘JUICE’, ‘MARGIN’ OR ‘COMMISSION’):
The commission a bookmaker charges for accepting your bet.
“I like the Hawks over the Bulls this week but the vig is killing the value.”
WAGER (ALSO SEE ‘BET’):
Used as a verb – to wager means to place bets.
Can also be used s a noun.
“Would you care to place a wager on that?”
WISEGUY (ALSO SEE ‘SHARP’):
A less formal way to describe a professional gambler.
There you have it. All the terms we could think of.
If you’re new to the game, clearly you don’t need to understand them all.
The most important thing to do is to experiment with your bets. Find what excites you and that you feel you have the best understanding for. Implement any strategies you have been working on and NEVER break your bankroll rules. For a better understanding of what that means – check out our in-depth article on the importance of protecting your bankroll.
Above all – enjoy it and learn to recognise when gambling is becoming a problem.
When the fun stops. Stop