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Sports Betting Terms

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The following is a list of common sports betting terms. Because many countries use their own terminology, there exist numerous synonyms for many terms. Here the emphasis is on the terminology used in Australia. Popular synonyms are provided in brackets.

The basics

  • Sports betting – a form of gambling that entails placing a wager on the outcome of a sporting event. The primary intent is to win additional money.
  • Bookmaker (book, bookie, sportsbook, betting agency) – a company that offers betting odds and is licensed to accept wagers.
  • Betting exchange – a service that provides a marketplace in which odds are set. Clients can back a bet at the available odds, or lay a bet and play the role of the bookmaker.
  • Back – bet that an outcome will occur. For example, if you bet on Arsenal to beat Chelsea, you are backing Arsenal.
  • Lay – bet that an outcome will not occur. For example you could lay a bet against Tiger Woods to win a golf tournament. Your lay bet wins if anyone except Tiger Woods wins, and loses if Tiger Woods does win. Unlike back bets, you double your money (minus commissions) if you are correct, and have to pay out at the agreed odds if you are wrong. For this reason with a lay bet you are essentially playing the role of the bookmaker.

Bet categories

  • Single bet (straight up bet) – a bet on a single outcome within a particular event or tournament. Examples include a bet on the Warriors to win the NRL Premiership, a bet on Federer to beat Nadal, and a bet on Dan Carter to score the first try in a rugby game.
  • Multi bet (multiple, accumulator, parlay, all-up) – a bet that includes simultaneous selections on two or more outcomes for two or more events. If a least one of the outcomes does not occur then the bet automatically loses. The multi bet odds equal the product of the individual selection odds. Multi betting is discussed in detail later in the guide.
  • Fixed odds bet – a form of wagering where the punter knows the exact odds he/she will receive when they place a bet. The odds are fixed once the wager has been placed.
  • Tote betting (parimutuel betting) – a form of wagering in which all bets of a particular type are placed together in a pool. The “house-take” is removed, and the payoff odds are calculated by sharing the pool amongst all winning bets. In Australia it is known as the Tote after the totalisator which calculates and displays bets already placed. With the Tote the bookmaker displays the approximate odds that they believe you will receive. This approximation is based on the quantities of bets received to that point.

Popular bet types

  • Asian Handicap – a gambling term used to describe a type of spread betting in soccer. Asian Handicap betting reduces the possible number of outcomes from three to two by eliminating the draw. Matches can be handicapped in ½ and ¼ intervals. Quarter (¼) handicaps split the bet between the two next closest ¼ intervals. Learn more about Asian handicap betting.
  • Draw no bet – a popular bet type on outcomes where a draw is a possibility, like soccer fixtures. The bet wins if your selected team wins, and if the game is a draw your bet is refunded.
  • European Handicap – a wager where a whole number of points or goals is added to the underdog and accordingly subtracted from the favourite. The bet is settled on the outcome of the event after adjusting for the handicap. Learn more about European handicap betting.
  • Exotic bet (proposition bet, props) – a bet that is does directly concern the final scoreline. Examples include the first try or goal scorer in the fixture and the first stoppage in play. This term can also be used to describe bets on entertainment, finance, and other non-sporting results.
  • Futures bet (ante post) – a bet on the winner of the league or tournament. Examples include the NRL Premiership winner and the FIFA World Cup winner.
  • Half ball – a popular bet type on events where a draw is a definite possibility, like soccer fixtures. The bet wins if your selected team wins or draws the game. Note that this term is distinct from a half ball Asian handicap where one team is given a 0.5 goal head start. In this case a draw would result in a win for the (+0.5) handicap wagers and a loss for the (-0.5) handicap wagers.
  • Head to head bet (1X2)- a bet on the winner of a fixture between two opponents. Where a draw is possible (football, rugby, AFL, etc.) there are three options: team A to win, team B to win, or a draw. Where a draw is not possible (tennis, baseball, basketball, etc.) there are only two possible outcomes. This bet could apply to a specific period of the game (e.g. first half in rugby, 3rd quarter in basketball) or to the full-time result.
  • Line bet (handicap bet) – a bet where the the underdog is given a points head start to create an even bet. Line bets are typically designed to give each team a 50% chance of winning. For example in a game between the Blues and Stormers, the line odds could be: Blues (-6.5), Stormers (+6.5) with each team having odds of 1.92. This bet could apply to a specific period of the game (e.g. first half in rugby, 3rd quarter in basketball) or to the full-time result.
  • Margin bet – a bet on the amount of points (or goals) that one competitor finishes an event in front of another competitor. For a rugby game between the Blues and Stormers, a margin bet could be on the Blues to win by between 1 and 12 points. This bet could apply to a specific period of the game (e.g. first half in rugby, 3rd quarter in basketball) or to the full-time result.
  • Over/under – a wager on how many goals/tries/points there will be in the fixture. This combines the tallies of both sides. If a football game ends 3-1, the total is 4. If the over/under bet was 3.5, then the “over” wagers win and the “under” wagers lose.
  • Spread betting – a type of high risk betting where the payoff/loss is proportional to the accuracy of the wager. This contrasts with standard bets that either result in a loss of your wager or a payout based on the wager odds. The spread is a range of outcomes, and the bet is whether the outcome will be above or below this spread. To learn more, see the section on spread betting.

Other terms

  • Arbitrage – in a sports betting context it is a scenario where, due to a disparity in bookmaker odds, a punter can guarantee a net profit by backing all outcomes
  • Bad beat – losing a bet under unusual or exceptional circumstances. Examples include losing a low odds bet on a clear favourite and losing a bet in the dying seconds of a fixture.
  • Banker – a slang term for a bet that is highly expected to win
  • Bank roll (account balance) – the amount of funds available in a punter’s betting account
  • Bet (wager, stake, punt) – a gamble on the outcome of an event
  • Bettor (punter) – someone who places a wager on the outcome of an event
  • Bookmaker margin (advantage, the edge, juice, vigorish) – the bookmaker’s profit margin (commission) for a betting market. Learn more.
  • Boxed multiple (round robin) – a multi bet that combines one or more single bets and/or parlays such that not every selection needs to be correct to provide a return.
  • Credit betting – betting using a line of credit with a bookmaker. This enables you to bet without first depositing funds. If your bet wins you receive money into your account balance. If your bet loses you have a set period of time to top up your account. Suppose you have no funds in your betting account but have $200 in credit. If you place a $200 bet at 1.50 odds and win then you will receive $100 into your account which you can withdraw or use to make further wagers. If your bet loses you will have to deposit $200 into your betting account.
  • Dead heat rule – a common rule where in the event of a tie/draw/dead heat where odds on that outcome weren’t offered, wagers will be paid at face value of the ticket (total payout including the initial stake) divided by the number of competitors that drew for that placing. In head-to-head betting there are two competitors so the payout is half the value of a winning wager. For example, if a rugby league game ends in a draw and you had wagered $10 at odds of 1.50, you would receive a payout of $10*1.50*0.5 = $7.50 for a net loss of $2.50. Had you backed the underdog, say at 2.60 odds, you would receive a payout of $10*2.60*0.50 = $13.00 for a net profit of $3.00.
  • Dividend – the payout or return (in currency terms) from a winning bet. A winning $10 bet at 3.00 odds would pay a $30 dividend.
  • Even money – a betting outcome at 2.00 decimal odds
  • Exotic multiples – bets that combine one or more single bets and/or multis. Some examples are below. Multi betting is discussed later in this guide.
    • Trixie – 4 bets consisting of 3 selections. At least 2 selections must win to earn a return.
    • The Patent – 7 bets consisting of 3 selections. At least 1 selection must win to earn a return.
    • The Yankee – 11 bets consisting of 4 selections. At least 2 selections must win to earn a return.
    • The Lucky 15 – 15 bets consisting of 4 selections. At least 1 selection must win to earn a return.
    • The Super Yankee – 26 bets consisting of 5 selections. At least 2 selections must win to earn a return.
    • The Lucky 31 – 31 bets consisting of 5 selections. At least 1 selection must win to earn a return.
    • The Heinz – 57 bets consisting of 6 selections. At least 2 selections must win to earn a return.
    • The Lucky 63 – 63 bets consisting of 6 selections. At least 1 selection must win to earn a return.
    • The Super Heinz – 120 bets consisting of 7 selections. At least 2 selections must win to earn a return.
    • The Goliath – 247 bets consisting of 8 selections. At least 2 selections must win to earn a return.
  • Field – can refer to the list of competitors in an event. Sometimes, non-listed outside contenders are collectively called the field. For example, you could a place a bet on a specific poker player to win a tournament, or place a bet on the field (meaning anyone not individually listed) to win.
  • Fold – indicates the number of selections in a multi bet. A 4-fold multi bet is based on the outcome of four events.
  • Form – a measure of the recent success of a participant. It is often stated as a list of the participant’s results immediately prior to the event.
  • Handicap (line) – a predetermined number of points/goals/tries that are added to the underdog’s tally, typically with the intention of creating close to a 50% chance of winning for each team.
  • In play (in the run, live) – betting on a fixture that has already commenced.
  • Juice – the amount charged by a bookmaker for their services. Learn more.
  • Lengthened (drifted) – means the odds on an outcome have increased. The new odds suggest that the outcome is now considered less likely to occur.
  • Limit – the maximum permitted wager the bookmaker will accept on a selection at the available odds
  • Line (handicap) – a predetermined number of points/goals/tries that are added to the underdog’s tally, typically with the intention of creating close to a 50% chance of winning for each team.
  • Long odds – refers to high odds on an outcome, i.e. an outcome that is a huge long-shot.
  • Long-shot – an outcome that is perceived to be unlikely to occur.
  • Hedging – making an opposing bet to your initial wager due to a favourable shift in the odds. This often enables the punter to lock in a profit regardless of the result. For example, a punter backs team A at 2.20 odds, only to later observe that team B’s odds have lengthened to 2.10. The punter could hedge his or her bets by backing team B as well. Hedging typically results in a lower potential payout, but also mitigates any potential loss.
  • Margin – the amount by which one team/competitor defeats another. In rugby an example margin is 7 points. In soccer an example margin is 2 goals. For ‘margin’ in the context of bookmaker margins, click here to learn more.
  • Moral – (slang) an absolute certainty.
  • Odds on favourite – the team/competitor that has the shortest odds, and is hence considered the most likely to win out of the available participants.
  • Punt (bet, stake, wager) – a gamble on the outcome of an event
  • Punter (bettor) – someone who places a bet
  • Push – another term for a draw or tie
  • Round robin (boxed multiple) – a multi bet that combines one or more single bets and/or parlays such that not every selection needs to be correct to provide a return.
  • Tips – predictions and recommended betting selections, (hopefully) made by an astute punter or specialist in the sport
  • Tipster – someone who offers betting tips and predictions
  • Total – a wager on the total number of points scored by either one or all participants in a sporting event
  • Shortened – means the odds on an outcome have reduced. The new odds suggest that the outcome is now considered more likely to occur.
  • Scalper – someone who attempts to profit from differences in odds across bookmakers by backing both sides of the same event at different prices.
  • Single handicap – see the Asian Handicap section
  • Split handicap – see the Asian Handicap section
  • Stake (bet, wager, punt) – a gamble on the outcome of an event
  • System – a formal betting methodology, usually based on calculated probabilities of each possible outcome.
  • Vigorish – the amount charged by a bookmaker for their services. Learn more.
  • The Cut – the amount charged by a bookmaker for their services. Learn more.
  • The Take – the amount charged by a bookmaker for their services. Learn more.
  • Wager (bet, stake, punt) – a gamble on the outcome of an event

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