Betting Terminology Explained

What does that mean? Glad you asked!

After much thought we’ve decided to add a betting terminology resource for your viewing/reference pleasure. We at Side Hustle Bets MJQ believe that sports betting is a beautiful thing, gets a bad rap and should be enjoyed by the masses! The purpose of this resource is to eliminate any confusing jargon terms you may come across in your pursuit of supporting sports everywhere and predicting their outcomes.

Go ahead and bookmark this page for the future and always remember to bet smarter, not harder.

Common Terms


Definition: For the results of a game to exceed the parameters of a bet for the specified team. To win the bet. As a result, the bettor receives the amount they bet plus their winnings (winnings based on the odds of the bet).


Definition: For the results of a game to meet the parameters of a bet exactly for the specified team. To tie a bet. As a result, the bettor receives back the amount they bet originally.


Definition: The typical monetary amount by which you place a singular bet.

Example: The bettor’s unit is $100. That bettor tends to bet $100 on any bet they place.

Straight Bet

Definition: A singular bet on one aspect of a game (spread, total, money line, etc).


Definition: The multiple of payout for a winning bet. 

The team favored to win a bet will have a negative odds multiple for payout. The team favored to lose a bet will have a positive odds multiple for payout. General concept of “risk vs reward”.

Spreads/totals will tend to have equal odds one way or another (regardless of which side you bet). 

Money lines will tend to have unequal odds, proportionate to the amount of risk you are taking with your bet (favored vs unfavored).

Example: Clemson was favored to win the game outright. Their odds were -200 to win the game and they did in fact win said game. This means that one would have to bet $200 in order to win $100 (in addition to receiving their original $200 back). Let’s say Clemson was not favored to win the game so their odds were +200. If Clemson won the game, this means that a bettor would have needed to bet $100 to win $200 (in addition to receiving their original $100 back).

Tips: Odds are a large factor in risk tolerance. The larger favorite a team is to win a game, the lower the payout and vice versa. You want to find bets that assign correlating odds (so winner payouts) to the risk that you are willing to take. If you feel like the payout wouldn’t be worth the risk you are taking with the bet, don’t take the bet. If you see value in the odds (so winner payouts) to the risk that you are taking, take the bet.

Point Spread (otherwise known as “spread”)

Definition: “The number of points by which an oddsmaker expects a favorite to defeat an underdog.” – Merriam-Webster

“Favorite” meaning the team expected to win the game, “underdog” meaning the team expected to lose the game.

Example: Clemson was favored to win the game at a spread of -3. The final score of the game was a Clemson victory, 27-21. Clemson covered their spread by 3 points (27 – 21 = +6) (+6 – 3 > 0). 

Tips: Think of a spread like a handicap to the final score of a game. If your team is favored then their spread will be negative points (meaning they have to win by x number of points to cover). If your team is the underdog then their spread will be positive points (meaning they can lose by x number of points and still cover). If you add your team’s respective spread to their total points at the end of the game, it’s easy to see if you’ve won the bet or not. If they are still winning the game after adding the spread to the total, then you’ve won. If they are not winning the game after adding the spread to the total, then you’ve lost. If they have tied the game after adding the spread to the total, then you have pushed.

Money Line (otherwise known as taking a team “straight up” or “winning outright”)

Definition: Betting on a team to simply win a game by any amount. Teams favored to win will have negative odds, teams favored to lose will have positive odds. 

Example: Clemson was favored to win the game outright with odds of -200. If a bettor had placed a bet of $200 on Clemson’s money line, they would have won $100 (in addition to receiving their original $100 back). 

Tips: While people might find it enticing to take the money line on a heavy favorite to win a game, pay attention to the odds on that money line (which determines the payout amount). More times than not, Vegas has calculated the amount of reward vs risk into the odds amount accurately so you could be taking more risk than the payout would be worth. For example, there’s no reason to risk $100 only to win $10.

If you think there’s a good chance for an underdog to win a game outright then a money line is a great bet to sprinkle small amounts of money on since the payouts are typically higher (due to the higher risk). Money lines are also a useful tool for hedging (which we’ll define shortly).

Total (Over/Under)

Definition: Placing a bet on the total number of combined points between two teams during a game. Bettors are given the “total” (Vegas’ prediction of the total number of combined points between both teams) and asked to decide if they think the actual total will be more or less than that number (hence the “under” or “over”).

Example: The total for the Clemson game was 54. The final score of the game was 27 – 21. If a bettor were to take the over, they would’ve lost the bet (only 48 total points). If a bettor were to take the under, they would’ve won the bet (48 < 54).

Tips: In general, overs tend to hit in high scoring games and unders tend to hit in low scoring games. Unfortunately, sports betting never tends to be that black in white. When it comes to totals, aim for unders in games that the total amount appears to be underestimating one or more of the defenses or overestimating one or more of the offenses. Vice versa for taking overs. 

Against the Spread (otherwise referred to as “ATS”)

Definition: Term referring to how a team performed against their respective spread(s). These data points can be used in the analysis of future prospective spread bets (based on historical performance).

Example: Clemson has been 6-2 against the spread this season. This means Clemson has covered their given spread 6 times and failed to cover their given spread twice.

Tips: Pay attention to how teams have performed against the spread historically but don’t become a slave to that data. There’s a lot of details/variables that go into each and every game so don’t live and die by historical ATS data alone. That said, it’s a valid data point and shouldn’t be ignored.

Move the line (otherwise known as “buying points” or “alternate spread/total”)

Definition: Manipulating the given Vegas spread/total to a number a bettor believes to be more likely to occur. Moving a spread or total to a more preferable number will result in a lower payout amount (due to the less risk). Moving a spread or total to a less preferable number will result in a higher payout amount (due to the increased risk).

Example: The bettor believed -7 to be too steep of a spread for Clemson to cover so they moved the line to -6.5. Clemson ended up winning by 7, so the bettor won the bet vs pushing the bet (because of moving the line).

Tips: There’s specific “magic numbers” that make sense for bettors to move the line towards in order to win bets. Those numbers differ by sport but are similar in the sense that they are the most likely numbers to occur based on the dynamics of the given sport. For example, 7 is a magic number in football (due to touchdowns) but not in basketball.

Future Bet

Definition: Placing a bet on a team or an individual to achieve something in the future.

Example: A bettor can place a future bet on Clemson to win the National Championship before the season even starts. A bettor can also bet on a specific Clemson player to win the Heisman trophy before the season starts.

Tips: Future bets are so much fun and there’s nothing better than when one hits (since the odds tend to be very juicy). That said, keep in mind that the payouts for these types of bets are large because of how unlikely they are to ultimately hit. Don’t write these types of bets off by any means but always do your research and try to avoid dedicating large amounts of capital towards them (again, you’re more likely to lose a future bet than to win one).


Definition: Combining spreads and/or totals for games in which all wagers must win in order to win the overall (singular) parlay bet. The more spreads/totals that are combined, the less likely to win but higher payout amount. 

Example: Clemson is favored to win the game by 3 points (spread of -3) and the total for the game is 54 points. A straight bet (singular) on the spread of -3 would yield odds of -110 and a straight bet (singular) on the under of the total would yield odds of -110. If a bettor were to parlay both the spread of Clemson -3 and the under of 54 total points, the singular parlay bet would yield odds of ~+265 (due to the combination of the two singular bets) if both the spread of -3 and under of 54 were to hit. If either the spread or total bets don’t hit, the entire parlay bet loses.

Tips: Parlays are a tempting way to capitalize on your insights but it’s important to keep in mind the concept of probabilities. Regardless of how likely each team you bet on is to win their respective bets, combining multiple probabilities into a singular bet will always lower your chances of winning the overall wager. Parlays are a fun way to sprinkle small amounts of money on bets with the possibility of large payouts but forget that the more bets you add to the parlay, the less likely you are to actually win the overall bet.


Definition: A type of parlay bet in which bettors are granted an additional amount of points towards the individual bets their parlay consists of.

Example: Using the above mentioned parlay as an example (a parlay bet of Clemson -3/Total points under 54), a 6 point teaser would change both bets by 6 points within the parlay. The original spread of -3 would change to +3 (meaning Clemson can now lose by 3 vs having to win by 3 to win the spread bet) and the total points scored would change to 60 (meaning the total points need to be less than 60 vs the original 54). Just like a parlay, if both of the 6 point inflated bets win, then the bettor wins the teaser bet. If either one of the 6 point inflated bets lose, then the bettor loses the teaser bet.

Tips: Teasers are super enticing off first glance, but they also have very similar payout odds to individual straight bets. While the point buffers that teasers provide are appealing since they make you feel better about bets you were already considering, you could very likely have just as good of a payout for an individual bet with equal if not more likelihood to actually hit (meaning you only need to be right once vs numerous times). Teasers can be an effective hedging tool but don’t turn a blind eye to overall probabilities.


Definition: “To protect oneself from losing or failing by a counteracting balance.” – Merriam-Webster

Hedging refers to placing bets opposite of a bettor’s original bets in order to either increase the likelihood of winning or guarantee a profitable payout.

Example: A bettor places a future bet on Clemson to win the National Championship and they end up making it there. Before the championship is played the bettor could hedge their bet by betting the money line on the opposing team (betting that the opposing team will win the game). The hedging bet would ensure that the bettor wins at the very least a smaller profitable payout (from the most recent money line bet) with the possibility of a larger profit (from the older future bet with higher payout).

Tips: Hedging is common and absolutely necessary in betting. That said, it’s important to find the happy balance between protecting your bets vs negating them. For example, betting the same amount on two opposite bets with the same odds would negate the bet entirely since the bettor’s profits would exactly offset their losses. Bettors should look to hedge bets to ensure profits or to protect wagers of large value. 

Prop Bet

Definition: A prop bet is a wager on details/stats of the game outside of the final score. “Props” can be tied to individual players, teams or overall possibilities of the game.

Example: A bettor took a prop bet on Trevor Lawrence to throw at least 2 TD passes in the National Championship. Trevor ended up throwing 3 TD passes, so the bettor won the prop bet. The bettor also placed a prop bet on the game to go to overtime. Since the game ended in regulation (no overtime) the bettor lost that prop bet. 

Tips: Look for prop bets that seem to overlook the possibility of big games from specific players or vice versa. Same goes for offenses and defenses (prop bets aren’t limited to individual players). 

Disclaimer: is not an online gambling operator or a gambling site of any kind. Our insights about sports/sports betting are purely for entertainment purposes only.