As a sports fan, it’s fairly safe to assume that you’re well versed in all the jargon that comes with being knowledgable about the sports that you follow. Some will be technical terms, some slang. Either way, there’s a vocab that goes with the territory.
After all, how can you be a decent barstool manager if you don’t know what they hell it is you’re supposed to scream at the TV whenever your team fails to execute a gameplan, a coach makes a terrible substitution, a ref makes a horrible call, or a player makes a “rash” (read: dumb) decision – usually when the clock is running down and it ends up costing the game?
And the same applies to the world of sports betting.
If you’re new to betting on your favorite sports, there are some basic simple terms when it comes to understanding the fundamentals that you need to know. Here we look at some of them as they relate to the actual process of placing a bet.
Once you’ve made your bet, you can also read up on some of the jargon that surrounds bet settlement.
So let’s take it from the top – literally – and start with the headline we put on this page.
Such are the vagaries of the English language, that “wager” is one of those words that can be taken as both a verb – “to wager” – and a noun – “a wager”.
As a verb, “to wager” simply means to make a bet.
Now, that might be a proposition that you pose to someone else:
“20 shots from the free-throw line, I beat you – and I give you a 3 point start.”
(Incidentally, you’ve just unwittingly created a point spread).
Or it might mean you going to a sportsbook to place a bet:
Either in person: “I wish to bet $100 on the Pelicans to beat the Hornets”, or
Online: series of clicks at your favorite online sportsbook that achieves the same result.
(Incidentally, that’s a moneyline bet.)
In doing so, you have thus created “a wager” – as in the noun. You’ve wagered, to create a wager.
But to do so (verb and/or noun) you need something to wager.
Something to put up.
Something to lay down.
Whatever that is, is your stake.
As it happens, you can also stake something – as a verb – or refer to your stake – as a noun.
“I’m staking $100 that I beat you from 20 from the free-throw line”, or
“My stake is $100 on the Pelicans over the Hornets”.
To state the obvious, in both these cases, your stake is, clearly $100.
If you’re placing a bet (making a wager), or staking, with a sportsbook, then your stake will be a financial sum of money.
But it doesn’t always have to be. You can basically bet on anything, and put anything up that the other party is happy to play for – be that your Rolex Submariner, your Porsche car keys or, god forbid, the house…
Whatever it may be, your stake, by definition, is that which you put at risk on a wager.
Raising the stakes
Between buds, we’ve all made bets that – although scientifically unproven – often display a propensity to increase in value displaying some correlation to the amount of alcohol consumed.
Does this sound familiar? “$10 says I make this shot. 8-ball corner pocket” … quickly followed by “Double or quits?” (numerous times).
This either ends with a friend refusing to take all your money… or clearing out your wallet to teach you a lesson. A lesson that 8 times out of 10 is never learned (anyone want the over/under on that?).
If you legitimately want to raise the stakes on your bets, consider exploring the parlay.
Making a bet – What else you need to know
So now you’ve got a handle on what people are talking about when they refer to wagers and stakes. But what else do you need to know when placing a bet?
We’ve covered this in detail elsewhere, so if you’re unsure, click and read on. You will also need to:
1. Know how to read the odds. Most likely these will be American odds, but there’s no harm understanding decimal, fractional or implied odds too.
3. Understand what it may mean if your bet is void.
4. Be aware of how to break down your payout.
Breaking down your payout
Your payout is the amount of money that a sportsbook gives back to you once it’s settled your bet.
- Let’s say you back a favorite at -200 and its come in. You bet $50 on it to win.
- At -200, you need to place $200 to win $100.
- A $50 therefore wins you $25.
- Your payout is $75.
The constituent parts of your $75 payout are your $50 stake and your $25 winnings or profit.
- Let’s say you back a +450 underdog that miraculously pulls off an upset. You bet another $50 on it to win.
- At +450, a $100 bet wins $450.
- A $50 bet therefore wins you $225.
- Your payout is $275.
The constituent parts of your $275 payout are your $50 stake and your $225 winnings or profit.
Your payout is not your winnings or your profit
In the first example, your stake is twice your winnings; in the second, your winnings far outstrip your stake. If your payout on a game is $500, never make the mistake of believing you actually “won” $500 on that game.
Of course, sportsbooks wouldn’t survive too long if they were in the business of giving away easy money. Remember the basic golden rule of moneyline betting:
- Because the favorite is more likely to win, you have to risk more than $100 to win $100.
- Because the underdog is less likely to win, you have to risk less than $100 to win $100.
Your bankroll is the amount of money you have at any one time with which to stake.
In sports betting, the key to any longevity is in managing your bankroll, which is a subject that we explore in much more depth elsewhere.
However, regardless of whatever kind of process you adopt, recognising that a payout does not amount to winnings or net profit is fundamental starting place for anyone taking their first steps in this exciting world of entertainment.
What is Implied probability?
Sportsbooks around the world decide at what price to set their odds based on their estimated probability of any given outcome. This implied probability is converted into different odds formats, and can be re-calculated back again quite easily too.
Implied Probability calculator
Let’s take, for example, a game with a -150 favorite and a +130 underdog.
The implied probability for the favorite to win is 60%, and for the underdog it is 43.48%.
Here’s the math:
For favorites, where the American odds are negative, take the absolute value of the odds (i.e., remove the negative) and calculate using this formula:
Odds / (Odds + 100) * 100
So for a -150 favorite, we have:
150 / (150 + 100) * 100 = 60%
For the underdog, with positive odds, we have:
100 / (130 + 100) * 100 = 43.48%
Now, if you’re wondering how the probability could possibly exceed 100%, then you’re onto something. The reason for this, we explain in our article about Vig – in short, the fee the sportsbook takes for allowing you to place your bet with them.
What does a +7 point spread mean?
This means the team is a 7-point underdog. If you back a team at +7, for your bet to win they must cover the spread by either winning, or losing by fewer than 7. If your team loses by exactly 7, your bet is a push and your stake is returned. To avoid these pushes and force a result, sportsbooks often set the spread with a half-point. At +7.5, a 7-point loss would be covered.
What was the biggest Super Bowl point spread?
There have been two Super Bowls that have shared the widest 18 point spread. In 1994, at Super Bowl XXIX, the favored San Francisco 49ers beat the San Diego Chargers 49-26. Super Bowl III, in 1968, to this day remains the largest upset in Super Bowl history as New York Jets legend Joe Namath led his team to a surprise 16-7 win over the Baltimore Colts.
Can you parlay prop bets?
Yes. A parlay bet, or an accumulator, constitutes different legs, where the winnings from one rolls on to the next, and the next, and so on. For your parlay to win, all the individual bets must win.
Parlays are a great way to boost your odds and hence winnings.