Understanding Sport Betting Terms

Personal Finance 5While gambling is traditionally frowned upon, it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening and sports betting has been a tradition just about as long as sports have been around. Betting on teams and gambling on the outcome of games can make sporting a whole lot more exciting and has the potential to be quite profitable. However, getting in on the action can be confusing; the world of gambling is filled with special jargon. At first glance, sports betting can seem quite complex, but learning just a bit of the terminology about odds, point spreads, and bookies will make things considerably less daunting. Here’s some sports betting terms everyone needs to know to get started.

Point Spread

This is probably the most common, basic term that every sports better needs to know. It refers to the handicap that is put on a team, for betting purposes, so that both teams have an equal chance of winning in the eyes of the bettors. Without it, everyone would always be betting on the same teams. Take an NFL example from 2007 when the Atlanta Falcons played the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars were clearly superior so the bookies gave them a 10 point favorite, or Jaguars -10, while the Falcons, the underdogs, received a +10. What this meant for bettors was the Jaguars had to win by 11 points to win the bet while Falcons bettors would win not just if the Falcons won the game, but also if they lost by less than 9 points. In the case of exactly a 10 point difference, known in the betting world as a push, all the bets are returned.


According to, parlay is an umbrella bet dependent on winning multiple smaller bets. The bettor puts their money on more than one favorite to cover their spread. For example, if USC and Arizona State are both favorites in games, and both teams do win, the bettor wins the parlay and earns more money in the payout. The catch is, if either team loses, the bettor also loses everything.


The concept of over/under refers to the expected number of points either team will score. In an over/under of 75 points in a Lakers vs. Celtics game, the sum of points for both teams is predicted to equal 75. Betting “under” is hoping the total is less, and “over” is hoping they score more.

Money Line

When you’re not keen on choosing the point differential, and just want to bet on who wins the game, you make a money line bet. The odds are never really 50/50. In a New England vs. Cleveland game, an adjustment might be made in the payout, meaning if NE is favored -140, a bettor needs to place $140 bet to win $100, but someone betting on CLE, the underdog, at +120, only has to bet 100 to win 120.



Hedging is an attempt to remove risk by betting on both sides (albeit not simultaneously). If, for instance, during the football season, someone bets $1,000 on an 8 to 1 chance of winning the Super Bowl. When the team makes it in to the Super Bowl as the favorite, and the opponent is 2 to 1 to win the game, placing a bet on the opponent for $3,000 to win (the hedge bet), means the bettor is guaranteed to make money whatever the outcome.

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