Betting glossary

All the terminology you need to know to bet on sports

Updated: September 5, 2013, 11:34 PM ET
By Jeff Gold and Dave Tuley | ESPN Insider

Rio CasinoAP Photo/Las Vegas News Bureau/Brian JonesThe fireworks fly over the Las Vegas skyline.

Action -- Having a wager on a game.

ATS ("Against the Point Spread") -- If a team is 5-2 ATS, it means it has a 5-2 record against the point spread, or more commonly referred to simply as the "spread."

Backdoor cover -- An underdog gets points at the end of the game that doesn't impact the straight-up result, but allows the underdog to cover the spread.

Bad beat -- Losing a bet you should have won. It's especially used when the betting result is decided late in the game to change the side that cashes. Also used in poker, such as when a player way ahead in the expected win percentage loses on the river (last card).

Beard -- Someone who makes bets for another person (aka "runner").

Book -- A legal sports betting establishment where customers can place wagers.

Bookie -- A person who accepts bets illegally and charges vig.

Buying points -- Some bookies will allow customers to alter the set line and then adjust odds. For example, a bettor might decide he wants to have his team as a three-point underdog instead of the set line of 2.5. He has then "bought" half a point, and the odds of his bet will be changed.

Chalk -- The favorite in the game. If a person is said to be a "chalk" bettor, it means he or she typically bets the favorite.

Closing line -- The final line.

Consensus pick -- Derived from data accumulated from a variety of sports books in PickCenter. The percentage and pick provides insight as to what side the public is taking in a game.

Cover -- The betting result on a point-spread wager. For a favorite to cover, they have to win by more than the spread; an underdog covers by winning outright or losing by less points than the spread.

Dime -- Jargon for a $1,000 bet. If you bet "three dimes," that means a $3,000 wager.

Dog -- Short for underdog.

Dollar -- Jargon for a $100 bet. Usually used with bookies, if you bet "5 dollars," that means a $500 wager.

Edge -- An advantage. A sports bettor may feel he has an edge on a book if he thinks their lines aren't accurate.

Even money -- Odds that are considered 50-50. You put up one dollar to win one dollar.

Favorite -- The expected straight-up winner in a game or event. Depending on the sport, the favorite will either lay 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.

Fixed -- A game where players or refs were not on the level. They didn't play honestly or referee fairly because of an undue outside influence.

Future bet -- A long-term wager that typically relates to a team's season-long success. Common future bets include betting a team to win a championship at the outset of a season, or betting whether the team will win or lose more games than a set line at the start of the season.

Halftime bet -- A bet made after the first half and before the second half begins (football and basketball primarily). The oddsmaker generally starts with half of the game side/total and adjusts based on what happened in the first half.

Handicapper -- A person trying to predict the winners of an event.

Handle -- The amount of money taken by a book on an event.

Hedging -- Betting the opposing side of your original bet, to either ensure some profit or minimize potential loss. This is typically done with futures bets, but can also be done on individual games with halftime bets or in-game wagering.

High roller -- A high-stakes gambler.

Hook -- A half-point. If a team is a 7.5-point favorite, they're said to be "laying seven and a hook."

In-game wagering -- A service offered by books in which bettors can place multiple bets in real time, as the game is occurring.

Limit -- The maximum bet taken by a book. If a book has a $10,000 limit, they'll take that bet but the book will then decide if they're going to adjust the line before the bettor can bet again.

Lock -- A guaranteed win in the eyes of the person who made the wager.

Middle -- When a line moves, a bettor can try to "middle" a wager and win both sides with minimal risk. Suppose a bettor bets one team as a 2.5-point favorite, and then the line moves to 3.5 points. He can then bet the opposite team at 3.5 and hope that the favorite wins by three points. He would then win both sides of the bet.

Moneyline -- A bet where your team only needs to win. The point spread is replaced by odds.

Nickel -- Jargon for a $500 bet. Usually used with bookies, if you bet "a nickel," that means a $500 wager.

Oddsmaker (also linemaker) -- The person who sets the odds. Some people use it synonymous with "bookmaker" and often the same person will perform the role at a given book, but it can be separate if they oddsmaker is just setting the lines for the people that will eventually book the bets.

Off the board -- When a book or bookie has taken a bet down and is no longer accepting action on the game. This can happen if there is a late injury in a game or some uncertainty regarding who will be playing.

Over/under -- A term that can be used to describe the total points in a game (the Ravens-Steelers over/under is 40 points) or the number of games a team will win in a season (the Broncos' over/under win total is 11.5). Also used in prop bets.

Parlay -- A wager where multiple teams are bet against the spread or in money line and all of them must cover/win for the bet to pay out. The more teams you bet, the greater the odds.

Pick-em -- A game with no favorite or underdog. The line is zero and the winner of the game is also the spread winner.

Point spread (or just "spread") -- The amount of points that the supposed better team is favored over the underdog. While many novices assume it's the number of points the oddsmaker thinks a team should win by, it's more accurately described as an attempt to theoretically make it a 50/50 wager. If bookmakers can get balanced action, they don't have to have a rooting interest and will profit the vig no matter which side covers.

Proposition (or prop) bet -- A special wager that's not normally on the betting board, such as which team will score first or 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 day.

Push -- When a result lands on the betting number and all wagers are refunded. For example, a 3-point favorite wins by exactly 3 points.

Return on investment (ROI) -- Also known as ROI, in PickCenter this is the amount (according to numberFire) that a bettor should expect to get back on a spread pick.

Runner -- Someone who makes bets for another person (aka "beard").

Sharp -- A professional sports bettor.

Spread -- Short for point spread.

Square -- A casual gambler. Someone who typically isn't using sophisticated reasoning to make a wager.

Steam -- When a line is moving unusually fast. It can be a result of a group or syndicate of bettors all getting their bets in at the same time, when a respected handicapping gives a bet that his followers all jump on, or based on people reacting to news such as an injury or weather conditions.

Straight up -- The expected outright winner of the money line in an event or game, not contingent on the point spread.

Teaser -- Betting multiple teams and adjusting the point spread in all the games. All games have to come in as winners to win the wager.

Total -- The perceived expected point total in a game. For example, in a football game, if the total is 41 points, bettors can bet "over" or "under" on that line.

True odds -- The odds a gambler puts on an outcome as opposed to what the bookmaker is offering. The difference in these two represents value for a gambler.

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 they will win the game outright. For example, if a team is a 2-1 underdog, you can bet $100 dollars that the team will win. If it wins, you win $200.

Vig/vigorish -- The commission the bookie or bookmaker takes. Standard is 10 percent.

Wiseguy -- A professional bettor. Another term for "sharp."

Welch -- To not pay off a losing bet.

Dave Tuley has covered the Las Vegas race and sports book scene since 1998 and runs his own website, ViewFromVegas.com.

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