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What essential sports betting terminology should every bettor know? 


Sports betting is something which lots of people all over the world love to get involved with and which has certainly taken off around the US recently. Since the Supreme Court’s historic 2018 ruling on the subject, many states have legalized sports betting and set up their own regulated markets for this activity. 

Pennsylvania is one example of a state which now allows legal sports gambling and has a thriving sports betting scene. This is not only due to the best sportsbook promos in Pennsylvania for gamblers to enjoy using but also the sheer number of safe, fun betting sites the state has available to sign up with. This is also true for other US states which have followed Pennsylvania’s lead and set up their own regulated sports betting markets. 

If you live where gambling on sports is legal and are interested in trying it out, knowing more about it first can help you get the most from it. The terminology used in sports betting is certainly worth delving into and getting up to speed on. 

The terminology of bettors and gamblers

All industries and sectors have their own unique terminology that people active in them use. This can be seen in any list of common IT terms, the lingo people in music production use or how those who enjoy casino gaming speak. 

Terminology is something which is central to sports betting as well. It not only gives sports gamblers a quick way of describing certain events but also a shorthand to use when talking about bets with others. Sports betting terminology also helps give the industry its own character and distinct flavor. 

Knowing the most important sports betting terms is crucial to ensure you always know what is being discussed and can bet from a position of knowledge. If you log onto a sportsbook online and see an offer being run on parlay bets, it is hard to take advantage of it if you do not know what a parlay is!

With this in mind, here are some of the most common terms sports bettors should know: 

Also ran

This refers to a team, athlete or horse which finishes outside the paying positions in a race or game. 


This term is specific to greyhound and horse racing betting. If you plan to get involved with wagering on these sports, it is worth learning about. This simply refers to future odds being given for races which are at least one day away. 

This enables bettors to back their selection for larger odds if they already have decided on it, rather than waiting until race day when the odds could drop. Ante-post odds are usually available on the biggest races, such as the Kentucky Derby. 

Bad beat

If you are familiar with casino gambling, then this piece of sports betting terminology may sound familiar. People experience a bad beat when they have a winning bet that eventually ends up as a losing one due to events that occur late in a game or race. 

If you placed a bet that the Patriots would score under 30 points in an NFL game for example and they were on 28 until the last 10 seconds when a field goal took them to 31, this would be a bad beat.


This is money which is deposited into your sportsbook account to bet with. Each winning bet leads to it growing larger, while each losing one causes it to diminish in size. 


Also known as juice or vigorish, this is the cut which bookmakers take on any bets placed. If you use a betting exchange, then it is also the cut they take from any winning bets. Commission is how sportsbooks make money and they will always set the odds with this in mind. 

Covering the spread 

Spread betting is a popular form of wagering on sports such as football, basketball, baseball and hockey. Covering the spread is when a wager is made on the final score going past the point spread and the favorite winning. 

If for example the Heat beat the Raptors 35-20 and were favorites for the game with a -10 spread, this wager would have covered the spread. If the Heat had only won 24-20 though, the margin of victory would not result in the spread being covered. 


Short for underdog and used to describe the team, runner or athlete who is not expected to win. 

Draw no bet

This wager results in sports bettors having their stake returned if the final outcome is a tie. They still get paid out as per the original odds if their selection wins though.


These are odds which grow longer after an opening line is set by bookies. The name comes from how odds which go gradually longer appear to be drifting out. If you see a moneyline on a game which starts at +200 but then goes to +250 and then +350, these are odds which are drifting. 


This is another term which is mainly reserved for horse racing gambling. Each-way bets are essentially made up of two separate wagers — one on your choice to win and one on it to place. If your selection wins then both the win and place bet are paid out. If your choice doesn’t win but finishes in the places, only your place bet pays. 


This is when bettors gain an advantage through comprehensive research into sports they wager on or deeper insights that are not public knowledge.


This type of bet which requires you to predict who will finish first and second in the correct order. This wager is most commonly seen on horse and greyhound races. 

Futures bets 

This is a wager which is placed on an event which will happen in the future. Although it can be in the near future, these bets are more commonly seen on predicting longer term events, such as Super Bowl winners or Stanley Cup winners at the start of each season. 


The team, horse or athlete who is considered most likely to win. 

Grand salami 

Just as reading about the legal rights of HOA community homeowners may include some terms you may not have heard of before, sports betting can also include some phrases which seem baffling. 

Grand salami is certainly one and is a type of over/under bet which bookies offer on total points/goals/runs scored in all games in a specific league on a set day. If there are five MLS games happening on Saturday for example, a sportsbook may offer the chance to bet that over 10 goals will be scored across all the games. 

Handicap betting 

These are odds which are set by bookies that level the playing field. If the Dodgers have a -3.5 handicap when playing the Orioles for example, this means they are considered the stronger team and start with a -3.5 handicap pre-game to level the playing field. They must then win by 4 runs or more for the bet to be successful. 


Hedging your bets is essentially placing a wager and then betting on the opposite outcome as well to set up a guaranteed return. Although this might not always be a guaranteed profit, lots of bettors hedge their bets to avoid losing all their stake if the initial bet does not come off. 

Live bet

Also known as in-play betting, live bets are those which you place once a sporting event has begun. The odds are constantly re-adjusted based on what happens in-play and bettors are able to wager once they see how the action is panning out. 


This is a straight up win bet which does not involve any spread or points wagering. Moneyline odds are shown as numbers with a plus or minus symbol next to them. Favorites usually have negative odds, such as -100, while underdogs normally have positive ones, such as +400.


A type of bet in which you try to predict if over or under a certain number of goals/points/runs will be scored in a game. If you wager on the UEFA Champions League for example, a bet may be possible on the ‘Under 2.5 goals’ market in a game between Barcelona and Benfica. If the final score is 1-1, your bet wins as there were only two goals in the match.


This is a type of bet which combines multiple individual wagers into one big wager. Each individual selection must win for the parlay to be successful but the returns you get if this happens will be larger than placing the bets individually.


This refers to the amount that is collected on a winning wager.

Props bets 

This is a type of bet which is not affected by the final outcome of a game. It requires people to predict whether certain events will or won’t happen in a race, game or event. For example, a person could bet that Connor McDavid will score at least one goal in a game the Oilers are due to play against the Redwings. 


This includes any bet where there is no winner or loser between the bettor and the sportsbook. If an NBA game spread is 12 points and the final result is 102-114, then it would be classed as a push bet and would result in your original stake being returned. 

Sports betting terminology key for gamblers

As the above shows, there are quite a few key sports betting terms any gambler should know before wagering. By learning what they mean, you are not only better able to understand betting on sports but also get the most from it. 

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