What Is Handle And Other Common Sports Betting Terms To Know

Updated on March 7, 2018
sports betting terms definitions new jersey

All signs point to legal and regulated sports betting coming to a casino or racetrack near you sometime in the very near future.

In fact, New Jersey has been fighting to get legal sports betting at casinos and racetracks inside its border since 2011. In 2017, the US Supreme Court heard the state’s case against the federal ban on sports betting almost everywhere outside of Nevada.

Anticipating a decision in New Jersey’s favor sometime in 2018, as many as 20 states have now passed or are considering passing legislation legalizing sports betting if the federal ban should fall.

No matter how you look at it, it’s probably time you learned a little more about sports betting. Here’s a glossary of some of the more popular sports betting terms to get you started:


An action is just another word for a bet. The amount of action on a particular event is equal to the amount bet. Whichever side a gambler chooses to put his or her action on is which side they are placing bets on. Having action on a game is the same thing as having a bet on it.


A beard, also known as a runner, is someone who places a bet for another person.


A book is short for sportsbook or bookmaker.


A bookie is a person that will takes bets and pays out winners. Generally, bookies operate in the black market. However, the person taking your bet and paying out winners at a sportsbook may also be referred to as a bookie.

Like sportsbooks, bookies may also set the odds on different sports bets.

Closing line

The closing line is the final betting line set before a game begins.


When a favorite wins by more points than the spread, it is said to have covered the spread.


Any advantage a gambler, team, or individual may have is referred to as an edge.

Favorites and underdogs

The favorite is the team or individual in the sporting event most likely to win. If they are a big favorite, they are often referred to as a lock.

On the other hand, the underdog is the team or individual most think will lose. If the most people think a team or individual stands very little chance of winning they are often referred to as a longshot. However, it’s always important to remember that in sports, anything can happen. Locks sometimes lose and longshots pay off.

Futures bet

Futures bets are long-term bets. They are usually placed on a team’s full season. Common futures bets include those placed on an NFL team to win the Super Bowl before the start of the season.


A handle is the total amount of money a sportsbook takes in on bets. Its revenue is only a small percentage of the total handle.

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A layoff is money bet on the other side of a wager to reduce exposure and liability.

Money line

The money line is the odds on a bet. The money line represents how much you need to bet to win $100 on a favorite, or how much you can win betting $100 on an underdog.

The money line on the favorite to win a game is represented by a negative number. For example, the money line on the Patriots to beat the Eagles may be -110. This would mean you would need to bet $110 to win $100 plus your initial bet back of the Patriots win.

The money line on the underdog to win a game is represented by a positive number. For example, the money line on the Eagles to beat the Patriots may be +150. This would mean you would win $150 plus your initial bet back if you bet $100 on the Eagles and they won.

The point spread has no effect on money line bets.


The over/under is a line set on the total points that will be scored in a game by both teams combined. Gamblers bet on whether total will be over or under the set line.

For example, the over/under on the Eagles versus the Patriots might be 45. If the final score of the game is Eagles 25 Patriots 24, the total score would be 49 and all bets on the over would pay. If the final score was Eagles 24 Patriots 20, the total score would be 44 and all bets on the under would pay.


A parlay bet combines more than one wager. All bets have to win for the parlay to pay. Therefore, it’s the more the merrier, meaning the more bets you make in a parlay the better winning it will pay. However, the reason large parlays come with larger payouts is that they are so hard to win.

Pick ’em

A game with no favorite or underdog is referred to as a Pick ’em game. The point spread on the game would be zero.

Point Spread

The point spread is the number of points the favorite in a certain game must win by in order for point spread bets on that team to win. Gamblers can also make the point spread bets on the underdog, which pay off when the underdog wins or the favorite wins by fewer points than the established point spread.

For example, the point spread on the Patriots versus the Eagles might be 3.5 points. If the Patriots are the favorites, they would need to win by more than 3.5 points to cover the spread. If the final score of the game were Patriots 17 Eagles 10, the Patriots would have covered and all point spread bets on the Patriots to win would pay. On the other hand, if the final score of the game were Patriots 17 Eagles 16, the Patriots would not have covered and only point spread bets on the Eagles would pay.

In other words, once a point spread is set, the favorite must cover for all point spread bets on that team to win. If they don’t, all bets on the underdogs pay off. An easy way to check the winner is to add the point spread number to the underdog’s score. If the favorite is still ahead straight up, they cover the spread.

Proposition bets

Proposition bets are also called props. Props are often exotic bets that have very little outcome on a game. Essentially, gamblers are betting on something to either happen or not. Past props have included bets on who will win the coin toss, which team or player will score first, and the like.


A point spread bet is considered a push when the final score lands on the point spread number. For example, it’s a push if the Eagles are favored by three points over the Patriots and the final score comes up Eagles 27 Patriots 24.


A sharp is a professional sports bettor who always seems to be on the right side of things. Sharps often have inside information and bet wisely.


A sportsbook is a legal and regulated operation that will take bets on sports and pay out winners. Sportsbooks are often located inside casinos. Sportsbooks may also set the odds on different sports bets.


A square is a casual gambler that follows public sentiment when wagering. A square often has very little inside information and bets with the heart instead of the mind. Squares are the opposite of sharps.


A tout is a person or a service that gives away or sells picks on various games.


The vigorish, also known as the vig or the juice is the commission a bookie or sportsbook takes on a bet.

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