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Sports Betting Glossary: Breaking Down Sports Betting Terms

<p>AP Photos</p>

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The most important part of becoming a successful sports bettor is education. Learning about the process is crucial to beating the sportsbooks and securing yourself a long-term profit.

There are certainly a number of terms and phrases that can make learning about sports betting challenging at first. Fortunately, we’ve got you covered with a glossary of key terms that can give you a head start to becoming a profitable sports bettor!

If you still want more, be sure to check out our Betting Education hub, our YouTube channel and follow OddsJam co-founder Alex Monahan on Twitter.

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Against The Spread

Spread bets are incredibly popular in the sports betting world, especially when one team is significantly favored or another. For example, if the Kansas City Chiefs are -300 to win the game, a $300 risk only wins $100.

The spread, however, may by Chiefs -6.5, at -110 odds ($110 risk wins $100). That is a much lower risk for the same profit.

In this instance, the Chiefs would need to win by 7 points to cover this spread and win the bet.


Arbitrage is when you find a gap in two different sportsbook lines and bet on both sides to guarantee a profit. It’s usually a small amount of money, but doing a large number of these can generate some risk-free cash.

Backdoor Cover

A backdoor cover is either the worst or best feeling in sports betting. Say you are tailing an underdog spread at +10 and they are losing by 14 with a minute or two left in the game. The game is over in terms of the result (who will win and who will lose), but your bet is not and a “garbage time” score could be the deciding outcome for spread bettors.

Bad Beat

A bad beat has happened to every sports bettor. There are compilations of them online and they typically involve a really gut-punching loss, usually from some freak play. Perhaps a poor referee call gives the team you bet against unfair life and they go on to win the game. The possibilities are unfortunately endless on bad beats.


Your bankroll is the maximum amount of money to set aside for sports betting. It should be the most you are willing to lose while still being able to live your life normally if you lose all of it. Managing your bankroll is key to long-term success as a sports bettor.

Cash Out

While we typically won’t advise doing this, as it favors the sportsbooks, cashing out is bailing on your bet early, usually if you feel it is starting to go south. Sportsbooks will offer a portion of your winnings throughout the game, whether losing or winning.

Closing Line Value

Sportsbook odds are always changing and it can often be very profitable to place bets when the markets first open. For example, betting on NFL games on a Monday for the ensuing Sunday can lead to profitable lines.

If you place a bet at -4 odds and that line is up to -5.5 by the end of the week, you got solid closing line value of 1.5 points.


A team or player to cover is related to spread bets. For a favorite to cover, they need to win by a higher point total than the spread was set at. A -5.5 bet needs to win by six or more to cash, while that underdog can win the game or lose by less than five points to cover their spread.


Betting with an edge is one of the key principles of OddsJam. Finding a sportsbook line that has better odds than every other book is considered a positive expected value bet, which is betting with an edge.

Simply put, betting with an edge is having a higher probability of a bet hitting than the odds you placed the bet at.

Positive Expected Value (+EV)

As mentioned above, positive expected value is finding a bet that has better odds than the implied probability of the bet happening. For example, if a bet has an implied -120 odds of happening, but one sportsbook is offering the bet at -105, that is a +EV bet. Click here to learn more about OddsJam’s Positive Expected Value Tool.


Fading a team or a bet is simply betting against it, or rather on the other team. If everyone is betting on the Patriots but you take the Jets, you are fading the Patriots.

Future Bets

Future bets are profitable bets that don’t cash right away. Common future bets are Super Bowl winner bets or division winners that are placed in advance — hence “future” bets. There are also bets of this kind for player awards before the season, such as the winner of MVP, or rookie of the year.


Handicapping is someone who predicts the outcome of games and usually has people following them in doing so. There are slang terms for this you’ll find online, often calling someone a capper.


Hedging is when sports bettors bet against themselves to ensure a profit regardless of the outcome. For example, if you have a three-leg parlay and it is going into the third and final leg for a large payout, you could bet on the opposite result of that last leg to ensure you walk away with some profit.


The sportsbook juice, or vig, is essentially a fee charged to place a bet. The best example of this is spread/totals bets that are listed at -110. These types of bets mathematically have a 50% chance of happening, but the bet isn’t $100 to win $100 like those odds would indicate. There’s a $10 juice at those -110 odds to place the bet. Be sure to use OddsJam’s No-Vig Fair Odds Calculator to understand what the fair odds of your bets will be.

OddsJam’s best-in-class suite of betting tools give you the edge as a sports bettor to find the best odds and profitable betting opportunities in real time.


The moneyline is simply a bet on which team will win the game. There is no spread involved here, just the winner of the game.


The oddsmakers are employees of the sportsbook who set lines according to the probability of happening, and of course to secure themselves a balanced book for long-term profit.


Over bets are very popular and they involve more points being scored than what the total is set at. For example, betting on over 50 points means both teams need to combine for 51 or more points for that bet to cash.


A parlay is a series of two or more bets (called legs) for exponentially increased payout depending on the number of legs and the odds of each leg. A two-leg parlay features two bets that must both happen for the bet to cash. If one bet hits and the other doesn’t, there is no payout.


A pick’em bet is when the sportsbook has both teams at the same odds to win, usually both -110. This means the book believes there is an even probability for each team to win.

Player Prop

Player props are bets that involve a specific player’s performance in a game or event. You can bet on things like point total, yardage total or other individual stats. For example, a player to score a touchdown is a common player prop bet, as is an NBA player to have over/under a set number of points in a game.

Point Spread

The point spread is the set line that each team must cover for a bet to cash. Underdogs must win the game or lose by less than the spread total, while favorites must win the game by more than the spread to cash.

Puck Line

The puck line is the hockey term for the spread. If the line is set at -1.5, that hockey team must win by two or more goals for that bet to cash.

Prop Bet

A prop bet is a different type of bet that often involves fun wagers that have no correlation to the outcome of the game. For example, bettors can wager on what color the Gatorade will be for the Super Bowl celebration or who will cover the spread for the first half of a football game.


A push is when your stake is returned, but you do not win any money. This is essentially a refund, which can happen if the outcome is the exact spread. For example, a -7 wager that wins by exactly seven would result in a push.

Run Line

The run line is the term for the spread in baseball, similar to how puck line is the term used for hockey.


A sharp is a sports bettor who is profitable long term and both experienced and knowledgeable about betting. If you’re looking for a sharp bettor to follow, OddsJam co-founder Alex Monahan is your guy!

Taking the Points

This term is associated with betting on the underdog spread. For example, a sports bettor would be taking the points with the underdog Jaguars at +7.


A teaser is a type of sports bet that is essentially a parlay with higher-probability spread bets. For example, you could tease two seven-point favorites and have them each to win by three points, instead. Both would need to win for the teaser to hit.

Totals Bets

Totals bets are most commonly referred to as the over/under. If the total is set at 45.5 for a football game, bettors can choose whether the game will have less than 45 points or more.


As mentioned, the under is taking the number of points in the game to be less than the set total. In our example above, the game would need to have fewer than 45 combined points for the under to cash.


The underdog is the team that is mathematically likely to lose and is not expected to win in a game. The underdog winning would lead to an upset and a larger payout for those who risked on the moneyline for that team.


This is just another term for a bet.


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