The word ‘betting’ brings to mind images of horse and dog races, and the clink of gold trilling in the bank as the results of the races come in. While there’s nothing wrong with having a bet on a sporting event, there is a lot more to it than you think, and it comes with its own set of terminology and jargon that you need to get familiar with if you want to make the right kind of wager. Here’s a primer on what exactly is meant by the terms used in sports betting.
The spread, or the difference in the point spreads between two teams, is often used as a measure of the value of a game. For instance, the spread might be 3 points for the Los Angeles Lakers vs. the Dallas Mavericks on a Saturday night. The Mavs are -3 point underdogs according to Vegas Insider, but the spread usually ends up being closer to 5 points which makes the line an indication of the strength of the teams.
The advantage of using the spread is that it’s a simple way of looking at a game. The underlying assumption is that the total points scored by both teams is going to be close to the same, and that the margin of victory will determine how good a game it was. For instance, if the Mavs win by 10 points, it’s a good indication that they were the better team.
You’ll often see oddsmakers advertise upcoming games with either an over or under on the total number of points that will be scored. An over is when the total points are expected to be higher than the number called for by the betting line, and an under is when the total points are expected to be lower. For example, if an over/under is 47 points and the betting lines have the teams separated by 3 points, it’ll be an over bet. If the point spread is 3 points and the total points are 48, it’ll be a push.
The advantage of using the over/under is that you’re not necessarily committing to a winner before the game even begins, which can be risky if you’re betting on sporting events where the outcome is uncertain. This kind of bet can also be used to take advantage of mistakes made by the oddsmaker, and there’s a large market for over/under bets because they’re so easy to enter and exit. However, as with all betting odds, there is a flip side.
Another way of laying down a wager is with the money line, which means you’re agreeing to pay (or win) a certain amount of money on a given team. For example, the money line for the UCLA Bruins vs. Arizona State university is $100 to $1. A $100 money line on the UCLA Bruins would mean they’re a $1 underdog against the Sun Devils. When you see teams advertised with a money line, it usually means they’re a favorite in the betting, or that the oddsmakers think they have a good chance of winning.
The advantage of using the money line is that you’re committing to a definite winner. The disadvantage is that you have to decide how much you’re willing to wager before the game begins. Another risk with a money line bet is that the bookmaker can change the odds at any time which can cause you to lose or win money based on the action taken by the other side.
If you’re looking to enter a wager on a game that hasn’t started yet, you’ll often be presented with an expected winner, sometimes abbreviated as E/W or EV. When you see this term in conjunction with a horse race, it usually means there is an underlying expectation that one of the horses will win, regardless of whether or not they have started the race. It is not unusual for the horses to be pre-selected before the race even begins, and sometimes the expectation is that one of the pre-selected horses will win.
The advantage of using the EV is that you’re not necessarily committing to a winner before the game begins, and you’re given the option of backing out if you change your mind after the other side has decided to go ahead with the wager. The disadvantage is that you have to decide which horse you think is going to win before the game begins, and sometimes this can be tricky. For example, if a given horse has not had enough practice to determine their actual racing speed, it can be difficult to know how fast they’re going to be on October 27th at a definite distance (1-2 miles).
In the world of sports betting, the first score refers to the score of the first game, or the set of scores that will determine the outcome of the entire series. For example, in the 2019 NBA Finals, the first score will be the final score of Game 1 between the Toronto Raptors and the Atlanta Hawks. After that, the series will be tied 1-1, and each game will be won by the higher-scoring team.
The advantage of using the first score is that you’re making a wager on a series of games that you think are going to end in a particular way. The disadvantage is that you have to decide which game is going to be the first, and sometimes this can be difficult. For example, in the NBA, there are typically several games on the schedule each week which creates a conundrum for the bettor. They either have to commit to one game which has the highest probability of being the first game of a series, or they have to make a rash decision and hope that they’re not wrong. In the 2019 NBA Finals, for instance, the Raptors played the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday, June 6th. While the game was still tied at halftime, the Raptors won the game by 12 points. Because the game was such a blowout, they must have started the series as the favorite due to the first score hypothesis, but in reality, it was far from certain which game would be the first.
The game winner is the part of the wager where you either win or lose based on the ultimate outcome of the game. It is usually abbreviated as GW or GAM, and it is not unusual for bookmakers to advertise both the over and under on this part of the wager, allowing the bettor to hedge their bet. For example, if the line for the Cleveland Cavaliers vs. the New York Knicks is -140, it’ll be an under bet because the Knicks are -140 favorites. However, if the game ends up being a blowout and the Cavaliers win by 20 points, it’ll be a winning bet for the bettor because they doubled their original wager.
The advantage of using the game winner is that you’re not necessarily committing to a winner before the game begins. The disadvantage is that there is more than one part of the wager where you could lose, and sometimes this can be disastrous. For example, if you place a $100 money line bet on the San Francisco Seals (NFL)) vs. the Cleveland Browns (NFL), and the Seals win by 7 points, you’ll lose your $100 because the final score is 14-3 for the Browns. However, if the score is 21-3 in favor of the Seals at the end of the third quarter, you’ll win your $100 because despite losing the first two games of the bet, the Seals came back and won the last game. In this case, you had to guess right on the game winner part of the bet in order to win the overall wager, but in all likelihood, that was probably a safe bet.
A lay bet, sometimes called a prop bet in other sports, is where you essentially place a wager on an event that is not included in the official record, but in some way impacts the outcome of the game. For example, if the Miami Heat are 9-point favorites against the Toronto Raptors, and the line moves to 10 points before the game even starts, you’ll have to lay a bet on the Heat in order to win your wager. Because the Heat are the favorites, it is highly unlikely that the line will move this far in their favor, and in this case, you’ll have to lay the 10 points in order to win your bet, assuming the game ends in a tie.