Sports Betting Vocabulary

Getting into sports betting for a beginner can be difficult. You need to worry about the money that you are betting with and about which sports you should focus on. There are a large multitude of things you need to understand before trying to make bets on sports, at least with real money. The most important thing is to first learn the basics, which we will go through in this article. 

Reading the Odds

This is arguably the first thing that a new bettor should know how to do. There are currently three different ways of displaying odds for bets. There are British, European and American odds formats. In this section, we will focus on the American odds format.

American odds are obviously what you will use the most in the United States and are quite simple to understand. American odds are written out with a plus or minus in front of a number. If the number has a plus in front, that means for every correctly placed $100 you wager you will return this number.

For example: Baltimore Orioles (+220); you bet $100 and you return $220 if the Orioles win. Betting $50 would return $110 and so on. Typically, a plus sign indicates an underdog in the game. This A negative sign in front of the odds means that you need to bet that amount in order to win $100.

This is used for favored teams. For example: New York Yankees (-360); So, if you were to bet $360 on the Yankees and they win, you would receive $100 in return. $180 returns $50 and so on.

Sports Betting Terms


A sportsbook is the person who is offering bets for you to wager on. This can be a single person, a group of people, or even a company such as a casino. Sportsbooks can have offices or take bets solely online. Always make sure that the bookmaker you are using is legally registered.

Dog Bettor 

This is a player who almost exclusively bets on the underdog. A simple strategy for some, this is not highly advised unless the player understands where the value lies and how to spot.


The opposite of the underdog, this is the team that is expected, or favored to win. Some betters will also employ strategies where they only place bets on the favorite; a little safer than the previous strategy yet still not advised. To determine the chances of any favourite or underdog to win, simply use an odds probability calculator. 


This is when the bet is essentially a draw and you neither win nor lose. This happens because the bet falls directly on the spread. Often, this will end with you getting refunded what you bet. Some sportsbooks will include decimals in their spreads to eliminate the possibility of a push.


This is a margin of points that either team must either win or lose by in order for you to win your bet. Sometimes known as an equalizer or a handicap, the spread will be placed in an effort to equalize the differences in quality between the teams for the game. 

If the New England Patriots are playing a weaker team, they may be given a spread of -7 for example. This means that the Patriots must win by more than seven so that you can win a bet with them. The easiest way to figure out the result is to subtract the seven from the Patriots after the game ends. If they still win with seven subtracted, you will win your bet.

Prop Bet

A bet on anything other than just the outcome of the game. There are a lot of betting options available, and although the outcome is the most popular, everyone needs to find the type of bets that work well for them. These bets have a wide range and can include number of strikeouts, touchdowns thrown, totals bets, who will score first etc. 

Futures Bet 

This is a bet made quite a while before the result will be known. Common futures bets include betting on the champion of a specific league before the season even starts. However, depending on the league and sportsbook there can be a lot available, such as betting on who will win individual awards like Rookie of the Year, MVP, etc. 


A parlay is not for the faint of heart, but is exciting, nonetheless. Making a parlay bet means that in order for you to win your bet, more than one thing must happen. You can pick as many options as you want. The more options you need the riskier the bet but the odds you receive will also be higher. If even one of the outcomes in your parlay bet fails to come true, then your whole wager will be lost. 

Total Bet (over/under) 

This is a great type of bet for a game where you understand the potential of both teams playing. Or for when you can quickly pick up the flow of a game. For a player to win a total bet, he must correctly determine whether the final number of one statistic will be higher or lower than the number the bookmaker gives.

So, for example, if the sportsbook’s number is 187 for a Knicks- Lakers game and you bet over, then the combined score of both teams at the end of the game needs to be higher than 187 for you to win. The most common statistic used is the score, but totals can be used for many statistics including total number of corner kicks, free throws, interceptions, etc.

Vig or Margin 

This is the sportsbook's guaranteed cut of the action. This is instilled to make sure that the bookmaker will always profit no matter which side wins. This normally sits around five percent, but can be higher or lower depending on the sports betting site.This can also be known as "the vig" or "the juice". One of the greatest advantages in using a Betting Exchange is the absence of the vigorish.