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Sports Betting 101: Betting Terms Explained

Whether you are just getting into sports betting or you are a seasoned professional, you may have seen a betting word or two and scratched your head thinking, “What does that mean?” Knowing the terminology is important when placing bets, and it does help to know a wide variety of others. Knowing how to read the odds, is another important skill when learning the essential betting terms.

Betting Terms for New Players

Legal sports betting seems to be increasing legislation odds and popularity each day. Below are the most common need to know sports betting terms for any user, especially if you're new to sports betting:

Against the spread (ATS)

This is when you place a wager to decide by how many points a particular team will win or loose, meaning that you can bet not just on the favorite, but also on the underdog.

American Odds

These are displayed differently compared to the rest of the world. Also known as “Moneyline odds,” these are shown as plus or minus sign, and then a number. 

Outside of the US, these odds will be presented with a decimal point or by a fraction. Example: the Red Sox are +400 American odds, and this would be a 5.0 or 4/1. The bettor still takes home the same amount of money if they win.


This is the total amount of money a bettor has to place wagers.


Sportsbooks tend to offer a bonus to their customers for a variety of reasons. A signup bonus is the most popular way to attract bettors to use their sportsbook.

Decimal Odds

This is a different way to present odds than what Americans are used to. Sometimes referred to as “European odds” since this is how odds are listed with European sportsbooks. 

The math is considered easier to figure out for most bettors than US moneyline odds. These odds can be derived from a calculation of the amount bet x odds.

Fixed Odds

This is the odds that most sports bettors typically will experience. This means that once a wager is placed, the odds are set and do not change. Horse racing bettors might experience a change in odds from pari-mutuel betting.

Fractional Odds

These odds are mainly used in Britain and Ireland. They are listed in fraction form (1/5) instead of a moneyline (-500).

Live Betting

When you wager on a game or event while it is taking place; this is also known as In-Play wagering.

Matched Bet

When a bettor will use free wagers from a sportsbook to increase their potential profit. This is a popular technique in new legal US sports betting markets, as promotional offers allow.


Acronym for Return On Investment. The ROI of a sports bet can be calculated: (Gain from Investment – Cost of Investment) / Cost of Investment.


Betting Totals are the numbers that bettors will choose the over or the under on points (runs, goals, etc.) scored.

Betting Terms FAQ

I want to bet on hockey, but do I have to know what the betting terms are?
Hockey has terms such as puck line. The puck line in a game is often plus or minus 1.5. It is important to know various terminology if you want to expand to different areas in hockey betting.
What if I find a word on a sportsbook that I do not understand?
You can either do a search online of that specific word, or you can get in touch with your sportsbook. Most sportsbooks use the same terminology, but some may use slang or other forms of a word such as “underdog” and “puppy,” which mean the same thing.
How can I learn all of the words?
The best thing to do is to take it a day at a time. Learn the basics first, and then branch out once you are comfortable.
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