For novice sportsbook gamblers, online sports betting can be exciting to enter into, but it can also feel a little overwhelming because of all the confusing terminology and large number of betting options. Once you understand all these terms and options, sports betting can really be a lot of fun.

Why are the lines on games changing so often?

The oddsmakers are looking to get an equal amount of money on each side of a sports wager. Doing so allows them to break even on the betting action, while taking a profit on the fee the house collects. If more money comes in on one side of a bet, the sportsbook will often move the line in order to encourage more betting action on the other side in an attempt to even out the money. It is a common misconception that the sportsbook is trying to predict winners and losers. In reality, what they are trying to do is predict the behavior of bettors.

In this way the money on the losing side of a bet is paying off the money owed to the winners. This careful balancing of money on the winning and losing side of bets is vitally important for a sportsbook to stay profitable.

What is juice and vigorish?

The juice or vigorish, also often referred to as the vig, is the commission (often times somewhere between 5-10%) that the bookmaker takes for accepting your bet. This is where sportsbooks make their money. Their goal is to get the money even on both sides of a bet, so that no matter who wins in the sporting event, the sportsbook does not have to kick in any money to payout bets.

The money from the bettors on the losing side is used to pay the winnings to the bettors on the winning side.

How does a point spread work?

When a bet is placed on a point spread, the number in the point spread is added or subtracted from the final score of a team. If this total still results in a victory, then anyone who wagered on them would receive a payout. A team with a negative point spread is considered a favorite, while a team with a positive point spread is referred to as the underdog.

For example:

point spread wager example


In this line, the Arizona Cardinals are favored by 3 ½ points. If you place a bet on them on the point spread, they must win by more than 3 ½ points for you to win your bet. If they Cardinals beat the Eagles 24-21, you would subtract the 3 ½ points from the 24 point total of the Cardinals resulting in 20.5 points. Although the Cardinals won the game, your bet on the Cardinals would be a loss.

On the other hand, if you placed your bet on the Eagles, they receive 3 ½ points added to their total, which is now 24.5. They win the matchup 24 to 24.5. Although the Eagles lost the game, your bet would be a winner and you would receive your payout accordingly.

What is a money line wager?

On a money line wager, one side is a favorite to win the contest and assigned a negative number. The other side is the underdog and assigned a positive number. When a team is favored, that is how much money you need to risk in a bet in order to win $100. For an underdog, the positive number listed with them in the money line is the amount of money you would win if you placed a $100 wager on them.

Using the same example as above, the Arizona Cardinals are a (-172) favorite, and the Eagles are a (+152) underdog.

money line wager example


In this example, if you placed a bet of $172 on the Cardinals and they won, you would receive your $172 back plus $100 in winnings. When betting on the money line, the point spread is not taken into account.

If you placed a $100 bet on the Eagles, and they won, you would receive your $100 back plus $152 in winnings.

What is the over/under on a game?

This is also sometimes referred to as the total. The over/under is the sportsbook’s prediction for what the combined final score will be in a game. If the over/under on an NFL game is 56, a bettor can bet on the total be under that score or over that score.

How do parlay bets work?

In a parlay bet, the bettor chooses two or more sporting events to wager on. If all of their predictions are correct, they win a much bigger payout than if they had bet on the events individually. However, if any of their bets are incorrect, they lose and win nothing. Two, three, and four-game parlays are the most common, but some bettors will try to string together 10 or more events in a single bet.

How do teasers work?

A teaser is a type of bet that allows a bettor to combine bets on two or more different games. The bettor can shift the point spreads for the two games in exchange for a lower return on the bets if they win.

For example, look at the lines below:

teaser wager example


If you wanted to bet these two games in a traditional 6-point teaser, you could adjust the point spread by 6 points in either game. If you wanted to bet on the Patriots and the Eagles, the Patriots would now be a (-8) point favorite and the Eagles would go from a 3 ½ point underdog to a 9 ½ point underdog, significantly increasing your chances of winning in each game.

Like a parlay bet, you must pick the correct winner in both games to win your bet.