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US Sports Betting Dictionary - The Complete Beginners' Guide

America is a sporting nation with its own unique traditions, including in betting. Read our guide to US sports betting terminology to get the full low-down.

Do you know your parlays from your pushes? What about your moneylines from your matched bets? Your layoffs from your laying points, perhaps? If not, there's no need to panic - we're here to help.

The US occupies a unique position in the sporting world, one that has its own traditions, games, and betting language. Anyone who is new to gambling on US sports games will quickly find themselves inundated with unfamiliar terms and phrases, which have emerged over many decades to describe exactly how and why American sports betting looks and sounds the way it does.

If you're a beginner bettor, we can help you understand all the jargon. Read our comprehensive breakdown of US sports betting terminology so that you're not caught off-guard the next time someone asks for a round-robin.

Alternate Lines

Every sportsbook offers "lines" on all games, which are markets that have a predicted result by the bookmaker that you can bet either side of. Alternate lines are offers of varying spreads or totals on the same game based on which market it is, allowing you to choose from a menu of options.

For example, you might find a standard point spread of +5/-5 on a particular game. Some sportsbooks might then offer different lines on the same game: +7/-7 or +10/-10, for instance. These would be considered alternate lines, and you'll see that the odds change along with the spread, or total if it’s for the over/under market.

Bankroll

Your bankroll is the total amount of cash that you have to wager, either on a single game or a series of games. Your bankroll is an essential part of the betting strategy — always set your bankroll before you place that first bet and make sure not to go over it by a single cent. If you are lax with your bankroll, you could make some pretty costly mistakes.

Betting Unit

A betting unit is simply a way of breaking up your bankroll into even-sized chunks, to help you manage your wagers more easily. Let's say you're a high roller with a bankroll of $1,000, divided into 100 units of $10. You could choose to bet, say, three "units" on one game and four units on another. This helps you keep in control of your game.

Bonus

Every sportsbook in the US offers some sort of bonus: they can come in the form of welcome bonuses that offer 'free' bets, money for referring friends, holiday-specific promotions, and many others. It should come as no surprise that they're not offering these bonuses as a favor to you, the player; it's because they want to win your custom in an extremely crowded market.

Always read the small print before taking advantage of any offer or promo, no matter how good it sounds. Welcome bonuses, for example, usually have a playthrough requirement attached to them, meaning that you have to bet a certain amount before you qualify for the promotion or before you can cash out. Sportsbooks don't usually shout about that aspect of a bonus, but it will be in the terms and conditions.

Even Money

As the name quite helpfully suggests, an even money bet is when a bet pays out exactly the same as you wager, i.e. you wager $100 to win $100. In all US sportsbooks, an even money bet will be given as either +100 or -100, depending on which side you are rooting for.

Futures

Feel like playing the long game? If so, try your hand at futures betting. This is when you make a wager now on an outcome that is far into the future, such as the outright winner of the Super Bowl or Rose Bowl. Your money will be tied up for longer, but the payouts can also be much higher than with standard bets. Warning: patience required.

Grand Salami

Probably the best name for anything related to betting, and a sign of American linguistic ingenuity. A Grand Salami is a popular hockey or baseball bet where you wager on the total number of goals scored by all teams within a single day. You aren't betting on a team per se, but rather the combined total of goals.

In-Play Betting

Think of in-play betting as the polar opposite of futures betting. With in-play betting, you can make wagers as the game is unfolding. You could, for example, make a bet on Jonathan Taylor covering a 20-yard rush right before he does it. Since the action is live, the odds are constantly changing, often aided by high-tech algorithms. This type of betting can make games involving even the worst teams more exciting.

Juice

The "juice" is the amount that a sportsbook will take as their cut from every single wager. This is basically how sportsbooks make their money. As a rough average, it's usually between 4-5% of the wager, and it rarely exceeds 10%.

The juice level on a spread (also referred to as “vig”, short for vigorish) can be calculated by using odds as they indicate the cut the bookmaker is taking, so the implied probability can be worked out through that.

If you want to get technical and figure this out, use either of these equations on both sides of the spread:

  • Negative odds/(negative odds + 100) * 100: This should be used when odds have a minus in front of them - you just need to remove the negative sign.
  • 100/(positive odds + 100) * 100: This should be used when odds have a plus in front of them.

Once that is done, add the values together and take away 100 to find the juice level. For example, if you see odds of -110 for both sides of the main spread on a match then the juice level is 4.8%

Laying Points

Laying points describe the point spread that is applied to the favorite, meaning that the favorite would need to win by a certain number of points for the bet to actually pay off. For example, if the Rams have 2.5 laying points, they would need to win the game outright by at least three points in order for your wager to cash out.

Layoffs

A layoff is an action by the bookie where they might place some bets with a different sportsbook in order to balance out risk and lopsided wagers. If too many people are betting on one outcome, the bookie can counterbalance this by placing their own bets on a different outcome with a different sportsbook.

Matched Bets

This is a very common bonus offered by US sportsbooks, especially to new members. With a matched bet, the sportsbook will match any wager you make on a certain game. These free bets will sometimes have restrictions such as only being able to use odds below a certain level and can have wagering requirements where the free bet amount will have to be wagered a certain amount of time before winnings can be withdrawn. Being able to navigate through these and pick well continuously is pivotal to coming away with winnings.

Moneyline

In US sports betting, this is as easy as it gets. A Moneyline bet is any wager on the outright winner of a game or event. There is no point spread whatsoever, making this a straight-up bet. The favorite to win will be posted with negative odds (i.e. -165) while the underdog will have positive odds (e.g. +120). You just have to pick one.

Over/Under

An over/under bet is a wager on whether the total combined points scored by both sides in a game will exceed a given number or fall short. The sportsbook will usually post over/under numbers and it is up to you to bet on whether the final tally will exceed this or not.

Parlay and Same-Game Parlay

A parlay is a series of successive wagers in which every single bet must win in order to get a payout. While this might seem like an odd shot, it is a way to try and exponentially multiply your final winnings, should Lady Luck be smiling upon you. There are different types of parlays as the regular version is made up of bets on various games, whereas, a same-game parlay covers different markets for one match. For example, you could bet on the Chiefs to beat the Raiders, over 50 points in the match and Derek Carr to assist a touchdown within the same ticket in a same-game parlay.

Point Spread

As mentioned, the point spread is the additional points requirement for the favorite to win (or vice versa) in order for the bet to pay off. The favorite might need to win by at least six points in order to pay out, while the underdog might only need to lose by less than this number for the bet to win. This helps keep betting a little more even and fair.

Push

If the outcome of a game lands exactly on the point spread, you have a push. Using the example above, let's say the favorite wins by exactly six points. In this case, you would receive your original stake back in full, without any profit.

Round-Robin

If you feel like kicking things up a notch, go for a round-robin. This is a term used to describe multiple parlays all running at the same time. For example, you could back three selections and all the different combinations would be covered, which would be the treble, three doubles, and three up-and-down pair bets. The odds of all of these paying out are slim, but anyone who pulls off a successful round-robin could be in for a legendary payday.

Two/Three-Way Bets

There's a simple difference between two-way and three-way bets. With a two-way bet, the event you're betting on can go one of only two ways: win or lose. With a three-way bet, there are three ways that the event can turn out: win, lose, or draw. With a three-way bet, it is possible to cover more than one of the outcomes (for example, you can bet that a team will win or draw), but your net payout will be lower.

Put Your Lingo to the Test

Now that you're all clued up on US sports betting terminology, it's time to put it to the test. For this, you'll need to sign up for a top-tier, trustworthy US sportsbook. Make sure to consult our expert, impartial reviews on the US's biggest sportsbooks to find the right platform (and the right bonuses) for you.