Sports Betting Terms and Definitions

Like any hobby, sports betting has a massive library of jargon and terms that new bettors may not know. If you’re a novice sportsbook customer, reading through this list of the most commonly-used sports betting terms, along with their dictionary definitions, will help you ease your way into the world of gambling on sporting events.

Accountant

This is a euphemism for “bookie,” used by some gamblers on message boards and in email as a kind of secret code. For example: “My accountant offered me a half-point at a decent price, so I took it.”

Action

This word refers to a valid and active wager. It’s opposite, “no action,” refers to bets that have been invalidated, either because of a rain-out, postponement, or other suspension of game play. The word is also used to refer to the complete amount of bets a gambler places at a time: if you place 20 bets of $10 apiece, your total action is $200.

Arbitrage

Arbs, as they’re sometimes called, are differences between odds at different books that allow players to wager on both sides for a guaranteed win. Arbitrage can make sports betting a positive expectation gamble.

Buck

This slang word refers to a $100 wager. Sometimes called a one dollar bet, the term probably originated in the early days after the passage of the Federal Wire Act to disguise how much money was actually being bet.

Buying Points

Sometimes a bookie will let you change the point spread or the over/under on a game that you think will give you an advantage. Sports bettors buy points one half-point at a time. Generally, each half-point costs the gambler an extra 10% in juice.

Dime

Another slang term originally used to disguise gambler’s bets; a dime actually means a wager of $1,000. You’ll still hear people use the term “dime” or “dime bet,” though these colorful slang terms are not as common at online books.

Fifty Cents

Yet another bet size slang word, a wager of fifty cents is actually a bet of $50.

Futures

This term refers to any bet you make on a sporting event in the future. The most common Futures bet in the Western world are wagers placed on who will win the Super Bowl before the NFL season even starts. The idea behind a future wager is to get a better line now than after the season starts and your team’s performance means the bookmaker shifts the odds. Placing futures bets is all about finding high-value wagers at the cheapest prices.

Hedge

This gambling term has made it into the common parlance; to hedge your bet means to wager the opposite side of a wager you’ve already placed in order to limit your potential losses. Placing hedge bets is a way to shield your bankroll from exposure.

Juice

This word refers to the bookmaker’s commission. A common example is the 110/100 lines offered on straight bets on football games. Juice goes by many names, including vigorish and vig. A sportsbook’s juice is the cash amount that actually gives the bookmaker an advantage against the sports bettor.

Line

This generic gambling term refers to the totality of all posted odds, points, money lines, and point spreads for a sporting event.

Money Line

When a gambler’s odds are shown in terms of dollar signs, they’re looking at a money line. The money line tells you how much you have to risk to win $100 if you bet on a favorite, or the amount a gambler will win based on a wager of $100 if they bet on the underdog. There are no point spreads in money line odds; rather the gambler only has to pick the winner, not worry about how much they win by.

Newspaper Line

Odds that appear in your daily newspaper. The least-trustworthy lines you can find, usually given for entertainment purposes only.

No Action

A “No Action” game is a game that’s either already in progress or has been re-scheduled. All sporting events that are played at a different time than the original schedule are ineligible for wagers.

Off the Board

Any game that your bookmaker won’t accept bets on is considered “off the board.”

Over/Under Wager

This is a type of bet on the combined total of points scored by two teams competing against each other. Over/Under bets let the gambler decide whether the final points total will be more or less than the number put out by the bookmaker.

Point Spread

The point spread is the number of points a bookmaker will give to an underdog, the predicted difference in two team’s final scores. If the point spread reads Dallas +5 at New York, a gambler who lays his money on Dallas will win if the Cowboys win OR lose by less than 5 points.

Rundown

When the sportsbook reads all the available lines to a customer, this is referred to as the “rundown.” Sometimes the board on which odds and prices are listed is called the “rundown” as well.

Running Bad / Running Good

If a player is on a losing streak, he’s said to be “running bad.” When on a winning streak, he’s said to be “running good.”

Scratch

A slang term describing the withdrawal or cancellation of a bet.

Sharp

A term of endearment for smart professional gamblers, usually guys that are expert handicappers or know how to calculate positive expectation wagers.

Square

The opposite of a sharp, a square is a novice or totally ignorant sports bettor.

Teaser

A teaser is a wager on two or more teams in which the line on each bet is adjusted slightly in favor of the gambler. A gambler has to pick each game on the teaser to win the payoff, which gets bigger the more teams you wager on.

Tout

A gambler or sports betting expert that sells or otherwise gives away his picks on sporting events. Some touts hand out their info for free, while other charge fees for their “inside information.” Most touts that charge for their picks are probably not worth the investment, especially if you know how to shop for lines and handicap games yourself. Free picks from touts that don’t charge anything can often help a gambler, but should not be considered a guaranteed winner.