Sports Betting 101

Every bettor has to start somewhere, right?

Well the best place to get started as a sports bettor is right below. We’ve created a comprehensive yet user-friendly guide to some general sports betting principles and common terms.

It’s Not Hip To Be Square

Having ‘action’ makes any game interesting but American sports bettors combine to lose literally billions of dollars each year.

There are three main reasons for that:

1. Juice – the standard bet has you laying $11 for every $10 you want to win. This immediately puts the edge in the bookmakers favor. Anyone can hit at 50% but they will gradually get worn down by the juice.

2. No edge – Most bettors use an unsophisticated approach based on media reports, widely available stats or simply a hunch. These methods have no value.

3. No plan – Poor bankroll management is also a recipe for disaster. Chasing when you’re losing or doubling down when your winning is never a smart move.

But you’re on this site because you like sports betting and want to get better results. Here some tips:

Have A Plan
Serious bettors have a well-constructed plan. Even when they get hit in the mouth. The fastest way to blow your entire bankroll is to chase – don’t do it.

Bet Numbers
Professionals don’t fall in love with hype or recency bias. They bet numbers, not teams, and are not on the same emotional roller-coaster as the recreational players.

Shop Around
Pro bettors put a lot of effort into getting ‘the best of it’. The game won’t always go their way but they know if they keep beating the closing line they will be winning long-term.

Go The Under/Dog
Casual bettors tend to prefer the favorite and the Over. That can lead to some good value situations on underdogs and Under the total.

Luck Goes Both Ways
Understand that you’ll have some brutally bad beats, but also some very lucky covers. Don’t let either of those affect your next bet.

The Parlay Police
The chance to turn a small amount of money into a massive return sounds great. But parlays will burn through your money faster than anything else so recreational players should avoid them.

Focus
The smaller the market the easier it is to beat. For example, achieving a high strike rate on NFL player props is far more achievable than betting ATS. On those bigger markets you are swimming with the sharks.

Get Expert Advice
Of course we’re talking our own book here, but that’s because we truly believe we can help bettors win.

Shut Your Ears
The talking heads on TV may have played the game but that doesn’t mean they know anything about betting. When it comes to predictions just put your TV on mute and you’ll be better off.

Don’t Drink And Bet
We don’t want to be the fun police, but betting + alcohol = 🙁

Las Vegas Sportsbooks don’t give you free drinks because they’re generous. They do it because they know that people make bad decisions after a few drinks.

Now that you have some basic tips it is important that you understand the language of bettors.

Here’s a brief rundown of Common Betting Terms:

Moneyline
Your team simply needs to win the game. There is no spread involved.

Spread
Also known as the ‘line’ or ‘point spread’, the spread is what bookies use to level the playing field and encourage bets on both teams. It is added to the underdog’s final score (or deducted from the favorite’s final score) to determine the winner of the bet.

Here’s a simple example:

LA Lakers -4.5

NY Knicks +4.5

The Lakers are 4.5 point favorites in this game which means they have to win by 5 points or more for you to win your bet. If they win the game by 1-4 points (or lose) then you lose your bet.

Knicks bettors have two ways to win. They can win the game outright or lose by 4 points.

Cover
When your bet beats the point spread.

Total
Instead of backing a team to win or cover the spread, betting on a total means you want the combined score of both teams to go Over or Under.

Here’s a simple example:

Patriots at Packers Under/Over 44.5

You bet on the Over if you’re expecting 45 points or more.

You bet on the Under if you’re expecting 44 points or less.

Bookmaker
They are the middlemen who set the odds and accept wagers. Also known as a bookie, book or sportsbook. Can be licensed and regulated corporations, illegal sites based offshore, or your ‘friendly’ local bookie.

Vig (aka Juice)
Bettors normally have to outlay $110 to win $100. This extra amount is known as the juice, vig or vigorish and is effectively the commission a bookie takes on each bet. The vig gives the bookmaker their edge and it means that a bettor will lose money with a 50% strike rate. They only start making money at 52.4% winners.

Props
A type of side bet that’s away from the main result of the game. Common examples are Over or Under player points or quarterback yards.

Futures
A long-term wager normally on that team winning the Championship.

Parlay
One wager but on multiple teams. So if all of your teams win you’ll get a much higher payout than you would by just betting on them individually. The flipside of course is that if just one of those teams loses you don’t get anything.

Sportsbooks love parlay bettors as they tend to lose at a much faster rate than individual bets.

Teaser
A bet type where you pay more juice to adjust the standard point spread by adding or subtracting points. Two and three-team teasers are very popular in NFL betting.

Unit
Generally has one of two meanings for bettors:

1. An amount that corresponds to 1% of a bettor’s bank; or

2. An amount equal to one regular wager for that bettor

Bankroll Management
Your bankroll is the amount of money you have set aside to bet with. It’s the dollar amount you have dedicated to betting and would feel ‘comfortable’ losing. Managing that bankroll is crucial because you need to be betting enough to generate a reasonable return, but not so much that a losing run can wipe you out. Balancing that risk versus reward is essential for long term success.

Some bettors outlay the same amount per game – this is flat betting. Others bet a varying percentage of their bankroll per game depending on the odds available and their confidence level of that play. That is almost always between 1-5% of your total bankroll.

Sharp
A bettor who has been successful for many years.

Square
A recreational player who is highly unlikely to win long-term.

Bad Beat
An unlucky loss. Every bettor can easily recall bets where you were certain you were going to win but somehow lost.

Action
Any type of sports bet.

Chalk
The team that is favored.

Wise Guy
Term used to describe a professional (aka sharp) who is a long-term winning bettor.

Dime
$1000 wager.

Nickel
$500 wager.

Handle
The total volume of dollars bet on an event.

Key Numbers
The most common scoring differentials such as 3,4 and 7 in NFL.

Lock
There is literally no such thing in betting but it is used by some to describe a certain win.

Live betting
Live odds posted by bookies during the game. Also known as in-play.

Hook
The extra half point attached to the spread, eg at 3.5. Buying the hook would bring that down to 3.

Run Line
Baseball’s version of the point spread. The -1.5 run line is most common and it requires the favorite to win by 2 runs or more.

Steam
A line that is moving fast.

Pick ’em
A game where teams are seen to be evenly matched so there is no favorite/underdog/point spread.

Push
When the result of a game lands on the point spread. Results in all bets being refunded.

Runner
Someone employed by a sharp to make bets on their behalf.

For more advanced betting knowledge check out our Betting Strategies, Learning From Legends and Sports Predictor Podcast.