The sports betting universe is vast and broad, as are the terms and slang associated with it. It’s almost like another language, with various words easily confusable if you aren’t familiar with the terminology. 

Understanding these keywords is crucial for anyone sports betting. It’s important to know what different terms mean in order to wager at your fullest potential. Let’s break down the most common sports betting words and their definitions.

List of Sports Betting Terms and Meaning


The action in sports betting is any bet made by the bettor. When a bettor has ‘action’ on a game or event, that means the bettor has a wager on it. More precisely, action can be defined as ‘money at stake in a bid to earn more.’

Alternate Lines

If a bettor wants to wager on a different spread or point total then what’s given, this is known as an alternate line. If the Pacers are -3.5-point favorites but a bettor would rather take the Pacers at -2.5, then the bettor would be taking an alternate line.


This is another word for ‘hedge betting’ in which a bettor places multiple wagers on all outcomes of an event in order to see a profit. 

Bad Beat

This is one of the most popularly notorious terms in sports betting, so much that Scott Van Pelt has his own segment on bad beats. A bad beat in sports betting is any missed bet in which the wager was lost on the final play or final minutes of a game. 

Let’s say the Eagles are -3.5-point favorites against the Giants and are winning by four points. The Eagles decide to take a safety in order to run out the clock and only win by two points. For Eagles bettors, this is known as a bad beat. 


When a bettor places a ‘buck’ on the game, they are simply wagering $100 on the outcome. A buck basically means a $100 bet. 


This refers to the favorite in any outcome. Many bettors are referred to as ‘chalk bettors’ because they simply bet on the favorite constantly. You might also hear that your March Madness bracket is ‘chalky’ which means you picked all favorites to win. 


The consensus refers to all of the betting action on an event or game, translated into a percentage. Bettors refer to consensus picks to see which outcome is garnering the most attraction. Some bettors bet with the consensus, while others bet against the consensus. 


Any time a team wins the spread, that means the team ‘covered’. If the Mavericks are +4.5-point underdogs to the Lakers and lose the game by three points, then the Mavericks cover the spread. If the Lakers win the game by five or more points, then they would cover the spread. 


Similar to a buck, a dime simply refers to a $1,000 bet. If someone says they have placed a ‘three-dime’ bet, that means the bettor placed a $3,000 bet. 


The dog is just a shortened word for ‘underdog’ or the unlikely outcome of an event. When a team or player is referred to as the dog, they are simply the underdog for the game or event. 

Early Cash Out

Ever seen the show Deal or No Deal? In it, the contestant can either try to win more money on the board or take a deal to quit and walk away. Early cash outs are very similar. This is an option sportsbooks present to a bettor where they can walk away from a bet while still collecting money.

If a bettor needs the Knicks to win in order to profit $100, a sportsbook might offer a $75 cash out in the third quarter if the Knicks are winning the game. This is not an option all sportsbooks offer, however, and shouldn’t be relied upon as a betting strategy. 


Bettors try to find the edge across the board, which simply means trying to find a mismatch in the odds given and the probability of something occurring. If a bettor thinks the Clippers have a great chance of beating the Jazz but find that they are underdogs, this could be referred to as the ‘edge’. The edge is always hindsight, however, with outcomes unknown until the event has ended. 

Flat Betting

This is a highly recommended betting strategy, and promotes responsible gambling. Flat betting means that a bettor is placing the same, low, amount of money on every bet regardless of confidence level. The strategy is used for long-term bettors looking to profit over a large period of time. 

If a bettor is highly confident that the Seahawks will beat the 49ers, they might place more money on the event in hopes of winning a large profit. Flat bettors would do the opposite, betting a small amount on the game even if the conviction for a Seahawks win is high.

Futures Bet

The meaning is in the word. A futures bet is any wager a bettor places in which the outcome won’t occur until some time in the future. Bettors placing a Super Bowl winner bet in April is known as a futures bet. If a bettor wagers on Novak Djokovic to win Wimbledon before it starts, that is known as a futures bet. 

Grand Salami

This is a hockey and baseball betting term, in which a bettor takes the point total (over/under) for all the games played over the course of a day. Most bettors wager on one game’s point total, selecting whether the combined team total points will exceed a given number or not. 

Grand Salami betting combines all the point totals from games in a given day. Although this is possible with any sport that offers more than one game a day/week, this market is very popular with hockey bettors. 


Similar to arbitrage, hedging a betting means a bettor wagers on more than one outcome of a game in order to profit or limit losses. 


Bettors will typically buy a hook, or half of a point, when betting on the spread market. This is very similar to an alternate line. If a bettor sees the Cardinals are -6-point favorites against the Titans but think they will win by at least seven points, the bettor will buy half a point to see the Cardinals spread at -6.5 instead. The half a point purchase is referred to as the hook. 


In layman’s terms, the hold is the probability of all outcomes occurring in an event subtracted by 100. Whatever is leftover is the hold, which is the percentage of money the sportsbook keeps for every dollar wagered on the game. 

In-game Wagers

Any time a bettor wagers on a game that has already started, this is known as an in-game wager or live betting. Odds change throughout the course of an event, allowing bettors to get in on the action even after the game has started. In-game wagering is a common style of betting and recommended for hedge bettors. 

Joint Favorite

This is commonly referred to any event in which the sportsbook chooses one or more favorites. This is very rare, and usually only the case for group or futures betting. The WCC Men’s Basketball Tournament might see 10 schools with futures odds to win, but Gonzaga at -115 and Saint Mary’s at -115 are co-favorites to win the event. That is known as a joint-favorite. 


The juice is simply another word for vig, which is the amount of money a sportsbook makes for taking the bet. The book only collects the juice if the bettor loses the wager, otherwise the bettor wins the money.

Kelly Criterion

This is a math formula some bettors use to help them limit their spendings when wagering on sports. It gives bettors an optimal sum of money that should be invested or wagered based on a bettor’s individual bankroll. 


Even sportsbooks have limits, which is the maximum amount of money a bettor can wager on for a given event or game. If a bettor tries to wager $1,000 on a $500 limit, the sportsbook will only take $500 of the $1,000. Bettors that show continued success against a sportsbook might also be limited over time. 


The moneyline is any given odds for an outcome to occur. Moneylines are price tags, indicating how much a bettor must wager (and win back) on any given bet. If the Braves are -220 favorites to beat the Reds, then the -220 is the moneyline.

Matched Bet

This is another form of hedge betting, as a bettor will place multiple bets on an event in order to win regardless of the outcome. The most popular way to achieve a successful matched bet is through free bet offers given by the sportsbook or live betting situations. 

Novelty Bet

One of the most fun markets to bet on in sports, a novelty bet is any wagered that’s not actually related to a sports-outcome. Huh? The Super Bowl is the best example of a novelty bet, and easily the most popular event for betting this market. 

A novelty bet in the Super Bowl could be the color of the Gatorade dumped on the winning coach’s head or the length of the National Anthem. Any wager that doesn’t correlate with the outcome of the sport is considered a novelty bet. Oscars betting would fall into this category.


Similar to the dime and buck terminology, the ‘nickel’ refers to any $500 wager a bettor places. 


The oddsmaker is the person who actually creates the betting odds and lines for games or events. This is also known as a linesmaker.

Off the Board

Whenever a sportsbook refuses to take bets on a game, they take it ‘off the board’. This can be done for numerous reasons such as unclear rules (typical in celebrity golf/boxing events) or injuries. Sportsbooks don’t have to take bets on any game if they don’t want to, so for events or games in which they aren’t taking action on it is referred to as off the board.


The parlay is any wager a bettor makes that combines more than one bet. If a bettor combines two or more bets into one, that is known as a parlay. The more bets added to a parlay, the more lucrative the payout could be – but it is also harder to win with more bets added. Parlays are often referred to as ‘fool’s gold’. 


Whenever a bet ends in a draw or a tie, it is known as a push. A push is as if the bet never occurred, as the bettor gets their money back. If a bettor wagers on the point total of a given game to go OVER 140 points but the game ends with a 78-62 final score, it is a push. 


If there is no favorite or underdog for a given game, then the spread is referred to as a pick’em. Pick’ems occur when the sportsbooks can’t decide on which side is the favorite or the underdog, so they are given the same odds to win. If they have the same odds to win then there is no spread, which results in a pick’em for bettors to choose. 


The runline is another term for spread betting in baseball. For hockey, this is referred to as the puck line. All spreads in baseball and hockey are typically -1.5/+1.5 because of the large amount of tightly played games. 

If the Yankees are -1.5 against the Blue Jays, then the Yankees have a runline of -1.5. The Blue Jays, as a result, would have a runline at +1.5.

Reverse Line Movement

This occurs when the line is moving further away from a side that the public is betting on heavily. If the Chiefs open as -2.5-point favorites and the public bets on them heavily, the reverse line movement might see the line drop to -2 or -1.5 for the Chiefs. 


Another word for a professional bettor, sharps have a long and successful track record of winning at a high rate. Less than 3% of bettors are considered sharps, as bettors are considered successful for seeing anything over 50% of bets hit. 


It’s not exactly a nice sports betting term, but the square is referred to any inexperienced bettor who can’t think outside the box… or ‘square’. Super Bowl squares are another form of sports betting, but the ‘square’ in gambling typically refers to a rookie or novice bettor.


The steam refers to any sort of jump in the odds or lines based on various factors. Steam occurs because of injury news, late lineup changes or when the public is betting heavily on a certain side. If the Dodgers are -150 favorites but suddenly see odds jump to -205, that is referred to as the steam.

Total Bet

As referred to in Grand Salami betting, the total bet is any wager a bettor places that refers to the amount of points scored between both sides of a contest. The total is set by the sportsbook, which then a total bettor will wager on the combined total going OVER or UNDER the given number. Totals can range from points, goals, runs, games won (tennis), amount of punts in a game, etc… 


This is another style of parlay betting, with the only difference being that a bettor can change the point spread for a game. In turn, the book will lower the payout but it’s basically a parlay with an alternate line bet. 


As mentioned above with ‘dog’, the underdog is simply the player or team that is less likely to win an outcome or event. The underdog is any wager that is less likely to hit. If the Pirates have odds at +205 to beat the Padres, then the Pirates are the underdogs because they are less likely to win the game. 


This market is fun to wager on, especially for golf bettors or motorsport bettors. In wire-to-wire betting, a bettor is wagering on a team or player to lead an event from start to finish. If a bettor thinks the Buccaneers will beat the Falcons and never trail in the game, they might elect to place a wire-to-wire bet.

For golf this is common. A bettor might think Rory McIlroy will not only win a golf tournament, but end each day in first place. If McIlroy leads at the end of each round before winning on Sunday, he is the wire-to-wire winner. 


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