Sports Betting Terms Explained

Whether you’re brand-new to sports betting or have already earned your stripes, there’s always more you can learn to help you succeed. If, like most of us, you want to win more bets, fully understanding the language of sports betting is the very best place to start.

For those of you who’ve already begun your sports betting journey with our Beginners Guide, you’ll be familiar with some of the sports betting terms listed here—and we hope this glossary can expand your knowledge. If you’re just getting started—even better. We suggest you either read this page from top to bottom or look through the alphabetical list to find the meaning of any specific sports betting terms you aren’t sure of yet. Some of the most common questions punters ask are; How do over / unders works or what is a match handicap, all these and more are covered in detail below.

Sports Betting Terms Guide

Accumulator / Multiple / Parlay

A series of two or more bets in which the original stake plus winnings are wagered on successive bets. All bets must win to be paid out. E.g. Manchester United, Liverpool and Newcastle all to win. More on Multi Bets.

Arbitrage

This involves placing multiple on all possible outcomes of an event at favourable odds—usually across multiple sportsbooks—to ensure a guaranteed profit regardless of the winner.

Against The Spread (ATS)

Betting on the outcome of a match as it relates to the point spread as opposed to the money line. E.g. Stormers – 11.5 points

Banker / Lock

Used by bettors to refer to a “sure thing” bet with a statistically high chance of winning. Tip: There are very few sure things in sports betting!

Bankroll

The total amount of money a player wants to spend on betting over a defined period. Think of a bankroll as your betting budget.

Bet / Wager

To gamble or wager on the outcome of an event within the parameters of odds agreed upon with the bookmaker.

Bet Limit

The maximum bet allowed by a sportsbook. At some sportsbooks, the limits only reach their maximum right before the event starts.

 Bet Slip / Ticket

The receipt of a confirmed bet, either in paper form or online confirmation.

Betting Unit

A Betting Unit is the amount of money you typically wager on a single event. The size of a betting unit should be determined by the size of your bankroll. E.g. 1 unit = R100

 Bonus

Sportsbooks may offer bonuses to customers for a variety of reasons. Bonuses are most often awarded when you sign-up and make your first deposit, but also for being a loyal customer. 

 Build A Bet

A feature which allows you to combine selections from the same event into a single bet, which is usually not allowed. E.g. Juventus to win, Cristiano Ronaldo to score, and 7+ corner kicks in the match.

Buying Points

Taking a handicap bet at less favourable odds where you predict a team won’t cover the standard handicap / point spread but will cover a bigger or smaller number (alternative handicap).

 Cash Out

Cash Out allows you to take out money before an event has finished, regardless of whether the amount is less or more than your initial stake.

 Closing Odds

Where the odds offered by the bookmaker end up right before the event starts.

 Closing Line

Where the point spread offered by the bookmaker ends up right before the event starts.

 Closing Line Value

Used by bettors to measure the value of the odds they got compared to those available right before the event starts.

 Cover the Handicap / Win ATS

To correctly pick the winning side of a handicap / point-spread bet. E.g. South Africa was favoured by 3 points over Australia and they won by 4 or more.

 Decimal Odds

Decimal Odds represent the amount of money you get back for every R1 bet. E.g. If you stake R1.00 @ odds 1.36, your return on a winning bet is equal to R1.36 (the same number).

 Deposit Bonus

Refers to the bonus which sportsbooks give to new players based on the amount they first deposit. E.g. ‘100% sign-up bonus up to R1 000’ means you will get R1 000 in free money if you deposit R1 000 and bet the full amount according to the terms and conditions.

Each-Way Bet

An Each-Way Bet comprises two independent bets, one for your selection to win and another for it to place 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc. The odds on the place part of the bet is calculated as a fraction of the total odds. If your team or player comes 1st, you win both bets.

Edge

Where a bettor has an advantage against the house because of specific knowledge they possess. Having an edge in at least some of your bets is crucial to making a profit long-term.

 Even Money 

Another way of expressing odds of 2.0 where you get double your money back for a winning bet.

 Exotic Bet

Any wager that isn’t a straight bet.

 Favourite

The team or player expected to win an event, generally with odds of 1.90 or less.

 The Field

A bet on or against all the teams or players that are not specifically listed. E.g. If you bet on The Field against Tiger Woods, your bet will pay out if anybody except Tiger wins.

 First-Half Bet

A bet on the first half of a match only, and not the final result. E.g. Sharks -3.5 (Sharks must win by at least 4 points in the first half for the bet to win. The second half is irrelevant.)

 Fractional Odds

Fractional Odds represent the ratio of money you can win to the amount staked. E.g. If you stake R1.00 @ odds 1/5, your return on a winning bet is equal to R0.20 (1 divided by 5) plus your initial stake of R1.00 (Total = R1.20)

 Handicap / Point Spread / Line

Expected points differential between the favourite and underdog. E.g. New Zealand -10 means the bookmaker expects them to win the match by 10 points.

Handicap Betting / Point Spread Betting

To bet on a player or team to either win the match by at least the number of points ( ‘-‘ handicap) or to lose the match by less than the same number of points (‘+’ handicap)

Hedging

Hedging is a strategy used by sports bettors to either reduce the losses incurred by a bet or to lock in a profit. Cash Out is a form of hedging your bets.

Hook

A half-point on the spread. Sometimes you need the hook to win and avoid a push. E.g. You bet on Highlanders +7.5 and the match ends Highlanders 13 – 20 Jaguares (Your bet wins by a half-point).

House

The bookmaker who takes your bet. The house and its margin are what you’re up against whenever you place a bet.

Laying the Points

Betting on the favourite to win by the given handicap / point spread. These bets offer bigger odds than the match odds but are harder to win. E.g. Cheetahs -9 points against the Reds.

 Live Betting / In-Play Betting

Betting on an event already in progress where the odds fluctuate in real-time.

 Longshot

An unlikely winner with improbable odds that will pay off big if it wins. E.g. Watford to beat Manchester City at odds of 15.0

 Margin / Vig / Overround

What the bookmaker charges a sports bettor for placing their bet. Margin ensures the odds are always in their favour and they can make money taking bets long-term even if they lose some.

Match Odds / Moneyline

Betting on the Match Odds is the most common bet type and involves backing either team or player to win, or a draw in the event. In soccer betting, this market is also known as 1X2. E.g. Manchester United to win the match @ odds of 1.80

Middling

Where you play both sides of the same game. These bets are usually placed in anticipation of the handicap / point spread moving. When timed correctly, middling allows bettors to win multiple handicap bets on the same game.

 Odds / Price

Odds represent the likelihood of an event occurring and enable you to work out how much money you will get back if you win. In South Africa, odds are expressed as decimals (1.80) or fractions (4/5).

 Off the Board

An event on which bets are permanently or periodically not being accepted, usually due to injury, controversy or some other unexpected circumstance.

 Opening Odds

The first odds offered by the bookmaker, usually quite far in advance of the event starting.

 Opening Line

The first handicap / point spread offered by the bookmaker, usually quite far in advance of the event starting.

 Outright Bet

Betting on a long-term winner, usually of a tournament or league. E.g. Liverpool to win the 2019-2020 English Premier League.

Over-Under

A bet on the total number of points, goals, tries, runs, etc. scored in a match. Your bet is on whether there will be more (Over) or fewer (Under) the given amount. E.g. Chelsea to score Over 1.5 goals in the match.

 Partial Cash Out

Cash Out allows you to take out your money before an event has finished, whether the amount is less or more than your initial stake. With Partial Cash Out, you can take some money out and leave the rest of your stake to run.

Payout / Winnings

The amount of money you win on any bet. The term ‘Possible / Potential Payout’ as it appears in your Bet Slip refers to the amount of money you will get back if your bet wins.

Payout Limit

The maximum amount of money that you can win in one bet, or 24 hours of betting (rules vary across bookmakers).

 Pick ‘Em

A 50-50 wager where neither side has a perceived advantage. E.g. Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are both odds of 1.90 to win the match.

Pre-Match Betting / Ante-Post Betting

Refers to bets placed before the start of an event.

Push 

When your stake is refunded usually because the final score of a match falls exactly on the handicap / point spread you bet. E.g. You bet on Bulls -5 and the final score is Bulls 20 – 15 Lions. Draw No Bets in Soccer also Push if the match ends in a draw.

 Selling Points

Taking an alternative handicap bet at more favourable odds where you predict a team will more than exceed the standard point spread.

 Sharp

A consistently profitable or professional bettor.

Single Bet

A bet placed on just one selection or market. To win, you will need to correctly predict just one outcome of a single event. E.g. Under 2.5 goals in Norwich City vs Cardiff

 Sportsbook / Bookmaker / Bookie / Book

The website or physical establishment accepting your bets.

Stake

The amount of money you risk by betting on the outcome of a sports event.

 Straight Bet / Money Line Bet

A bet on either team / player to win, or a draw in the event. E.g. Leicester City to win the match.

System Bet

A combination of bets for which the payout is dependent on how many outcomes you predict correctly. Unlike an accumulator bet, it is possible to get a partial payout if one or more selections lose.

Taking the Points

Betting on the underdog to win or not lose by the given handicap / point spread. These bets offer smaller odds than the match odds but are easier to win. E.g. Wales +3.5 points against Ireland.

Underdog

The team or player expected to lose a sporting event, with odds reflecting their small chances.

 Value

A term used to refer to bets taken at bigger odds than they should have been due to a bookmaker overlooking some factors.

Void Bet

Bets are occasionally voided by bookmakers when an event is cancelled, a player retires or a technicality allows the bet to be placed after the outcome has been determined. For voided bets, your full stake is usually returned so you won’t win or lose money.

 Winning Margin

A bet on a team or player to win by a specific number of points, goals, runs, etc. regardless of the handicap / point spread. E.g. England to beat France by 10-14 points. 

Feeling smarter already? We always love to answer your questions, so please fire them away into the comments section below. Also, look out for similar articles on soccer and horse racing markets coming soon!

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