I know that many of you are eager to make that Toyota money this year, now that sports gambling has been relegated to the states
where it always belonged.
There are a few terms you need to know. ESPN’S Chalk Staff did their own extensive copy and paste of a glossary, but you probably don’t need to know as much as they’ve included. This is for beginners, so let’s take baby steps (I’ve only included the common terms from the Chalk article above that we use or you’re likely to read. I doubt many of you are going to move to Tupelo or Wilmington and become a high roller in just three months):
Action: Having a wager on a game.
ATS (“against the [point] spread”): If a team is 5-2 ATS, it means it has a 5-2 record against the point spread, or more commonly referred to simply as the “spread.”
Backdoor cover: When a team scores points at the end of a game to cover the spread unexpectedly.
Book: Short for sportsbook or bookmaker; person or establishment that takes bets from customers.
Buying points: Some bookies or sportsbooks will allow customers to alter the set line and then adjust odds. For example, a bettor might decide he wants to have his team as a 3-point underdog instead of the set line of 2.5. He has then “bought” half a point, and the odds of his bet will be changed.
Chalk: The favorite in the game. People said to be “chalk” bettors typically bet the favorite.
Closing line: The final line before the game or event begins.
Cover: The betting result on a point-spread wager. For a favorite to cover, it has to win by more than the spread; an underdog covers by winning outright or losing by less than the spread.
’Dog: Short for underdog.
Even money: Odds that are considered 50-50. You put up $1 to win $1.
Exotic/Prop: Any wager other than a straight bet or parlay; can also be called a “prop” or “proposition wager.”
Favorite: The expected straight-up winner in a game or event. Depending on the sport, the favorite will lay either odds or points. For example, in a football game, if a team is a 2.5-point favorite, it will have to win by three points or more to be an ATS winner.
Futures bet: A long-term wager that typically relates to a team’s season-long success. Common futures bets include betting a team to win a championship at the outset of a season, or betting whether the team will win or lose more games than a set line at the start of the season.
Halftime bet: A bet made after the first half ended and before the second half begins (football and basketball primarily). The oddsmaker generally starts with half of the game side/total and adjusts based on what happened in the first half.
Handicapper: A person trying to predict the winners of an event.
Hook: A half-point. If a team is a 7.5-point favorite, it is said to be “laying seven and a hook.”
In-game wagering: A service offered by books in which bettors can place multiple bets in real time, as the game is occurring.
Juice: The commission the bookie or bookmaker takes. Standard is 10 percent. Also called the “vig/vigorish.”
Limit: The maximum bet taken by a book. If a book has a $10,000 limit, it’ll take that bet but the book will then decide whether it’s going to adjust the line before the bettor can bet again.
Lock: A guaranteed win in the eyes of the person who made the wager.
Money line (noun), money-line (modifier): A bet in which your team only needs to win. The point spread is replaced by odds.
Oddsmaker (also linemaker): The person who sets the odds. Some people use it synonymous with “bookmaker” and often the same person will perform the role at a given book, but it can be separate if the oddsmaker is just setting the lines for the people who will eventually book the bets.
Off the board: When a book or bookie has taken a bet down and is no longer accepting action or wagers on the game. This can happen if there is a late injury or some uncertainty regarding who will be participating.
Over/under: A term that can be used to describe the total combined points in a game (the Ravens-Steelers over/under is 40 points) or the number of games a team will win in a season (the Broncos’ over/under win total is 11.5). Also used in prop bets.
Parlay: A wager in which multiple teams are bet, either against the spread or on the money line. For the wager to win (or pay out), all of them must cover/win. The more teams you bet, the greater the odds.
Pick ‘em: A game with no favorite or underdog. The point spread is zero, and the winner of the game is also the spread winner.
Point spread (or just “spread”): The number of points by which the supposed better team is favored over the underdog.
Proposition (or prop) bet: A special or exotic wager that’s not normally on the betting board, such as which team will score first or how many yards a player will gain. Sometimes called a “game within a game.” These are especially popular on major events, with the Super Bowl being the ultimate prop betting event.
Push: When a result lands on the betting number and all wagers are refunded. For example, a 3-point favorite wins by exactly three points. Return on investment (ROI): In PickCenter, ROI is the amount (according to numberFire) that a bettor should expect to get back on a spread pick.
Sharp: A professional, sophisticated sports bettor.
Spread: Short for point spread.
Straight up: The expected outright winner of the money line in an event or game, not contingent on the point spread.
Teaser: Betting multiple teams and adjusting the point spread in all the games in the bettor’s favor. All games have to be picked correctly to win the wager.
Total: The perceived expected point, run or goal total in a game. For example, in a football game, if the total is 41 points, bettors can bet “over” or “under” on that perceived total.
Underdog: The team that is expected to lose straight up. You can either bet that the team will lose by less than the predicted amount (ATS), or get better than even-money odds that it will win the game outright. For example, if a team is a 2-1 underdog, you can bet $100 that the team will win. If it wins, you win $200 plus receive your original $100 wager back.
Wager: A bet.
The mechanics can get esoteric, but overall, the process is fairly easy. For most bets wagers on Team A and Team B:
- You determine what you’re going to bet on (point spread, the money line, the total, a parlay, a prop bet — such as X will throw for under 250 yards, or a futures odds — Alabama will win greater than 11.5 regular season game.
- Then, you decide what your stake or wager will be. For different types of bets, the payout will vary. Most people have a “unit” — a standard amount that they wager for each game.
- Finally, you determine the odds.
As the Las Vegas Visitor’s Gambling Guide for Beginners states (and, seriously, I cannot recommend this highly enough):
The odds can sometimes be the most confusing part for players. In theory, odds are the likelihood that something will occur. For example, if the odds that you will make a free throw are 1 in 20, this means that for every 20 times you shoot a free throw, you will make one. The odds will determine how much the sportsbook will pay you for your wager if you win. Not every bet in the sportsbook is paid one to one, meaning, if you bet $10 you win $10. Actually, most bets are not paid this way. Sportsbooks will pay you based on the likelihood of what you are betting on occurring. The less likely something is to happen, the more you will be paid if you win. The more likely something is to happen, the less you will be paid if you win.
Odds in the casino are usually written as a fraction or as a money line. The money line is a way of writing the odds that is favored for use in the United States. It can be a little confusing if you are new to it, but we will walk you through it. Once players get the hang of it, most tend to like it more.
But, if you are betting the total (over/under points) or a standard point spread, you will very likely be wagering 1:1. As you gain more familiarity, and want to parlay wagers (bet on a group of teams all winning, or a certain team winning by X points with a certain number of total points), or begin buying points (shaving a pointspread from 3.5 to 2.5 points) the process becomes much more comfortable.
In fact, some of the easiest wagers you’ll place may be straight futures odds. For instance, Tua Tagovailoa is a 9/1 favorite to win the Heisman. You are comfortable with that, and wager $100 that at season’s end he’s holding up the trophy in New York. Your payout would be:
(9) x ($100) = $900 - “juice/vig (usually 100% of the amount won) $90 = $890.
A standard wager on point spread is usually a “Straight” bet or a 1:1 wager. Say that Alabama is favored by 25.5 points against Louisville (-25.5) and the total points of both teams combined is 51. You want in on this, and likewise throw a $100 on the outcome. The final score is 52-6 Alabama:
$100 X 1 = $100 - 10% = $90.
Or, with the same Alabama game, you think it will be a defensive struggle. The final score is 52-6, but you bet “under” 51 points. You lost the wager, thus the entire stake of $100. Juice is not paid on losses — only on winnings.
The entire beginners guide to football gambling does an excellent job explaining the mechanics, how odds work, and reputable ways to place wagers online, if that’s your preference.
For an idea of how the odds work in practice, take last Tuesday’s Giving Away Money. There, I provided the point spread, the total, and then gave my best prognostication as to what I thought was likely to happen:
Actual Score: Hawaii 43 Colorado State 34:
What I predicted: (-14 CSU, O/U 58):
“This is also the time of year where offenses are generally in better form than their defensive counterparts, not that either team has a defense that will scare you. I don’t like the number much, but I do like CSU’s talent, the altitude in Fort Collins, and, ultimately, the over....If you must pick one, go over: 41-27 Rams”
In this case, hating the pointspread, I chose to pick the totals, thinking the game would go way over 58 points scored. It did...by a lot. There were 77 total points scored in this game.
The second game was Wyoming - New Mexico State, which I thought would be a lower-scoring one led by the defenses. One side showed, up at least. Though, both defenses did play a pretty sound game
Actual Score: Wyoming 29 New Mexico State 7
What I predicted (-3.5 Wyoming, O/U 46)
“You get the feeling this one will be won by the edge in talent by the Cowboys’ secondary and maybe a late punt return touchdown. A very competitive game that’ll be better than the score (and a helluva lot better than the offenses). Let’s call it a backdoor-ish 24-20 cover by Wyoming.”
In this case, I predicted Wyoming to cover and chose the under. New Mexico State was absolutely smothered, but the Cowboys’ offense didn’t exactly light it up either. If you threw blind faith into an internet rando’s predictions for either (or both) Wyoming covering and doing so in a low-scoring game, you’d have won both bets.
Every Monday through Wednesdayish, depending on when we get the mid-week lines released by Vegas and time permitting, we make these such picks. All of the above is what’s going on. And, if you’re thinking about hopping on to the debauchery train for a fun diversion, this is the language everyone is speaking.
See you tomorrow with Week One Giving Away Money. You could do worse than a 3-and-0 start to your gambling career.
If anyone has tips for newbs or questions, leave them in the comments. This is an area, I suspect, where our pooled community wisdom will greatly assist others.