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NFL Betting Glossary and Terminology

Here is a comprehensive list detailing all of the terminology that you need to know when betting on the NFL regular season, playoffs, and Super Bowl. Grab a 6-pack, some snacks, and study this glossary until you’re fully ready to take on any terms online sportsbooks throw your way.

NFL and Super Bowl Betting Glossary, Terms, and Terminology

Football betting, while very simple at its core, can feel a little complicated when you start to see terms like “handicap” and “push” used in ways you’re not used to.

To help you cut through the jargon, below is a list of betting terms that are commonly used in the fun world of betting on the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl Betting Glossary

Action

All bets made on a game or sport are referred to as its action. For example, if you bet $5 on the Seattle Seahawks to cover their 6.5-point spread as favorites against the Arizona Cardinals, that bet can be referred to as part of the action on that game.

If a sportsbook is “taking a lot of action” on the Cardinals, a phrase that is used commonly, that means the majority of bets coming in are on the Cardinals.

American Odds

Also known as moneyline odds, these are the types odds are the most commonly used for American football. Not to be confused with the moneyline bet which simply relies on a straight-up outcome of who wins, American/moneyline odds are the form of the price of spread/totals lines.

These odds can be either positive or negative. If the moneyline is positive, such as +120, a bettor would win that amount ($120) on a successful $100 bet. If the number is negative, such as -200, a bettor would need to bet that amount ($200) to win $100. In general, remember that odds with a “-“ are going to offer you less value on your money than odds with a “+” in front of them.

Bad Beat

Bad beat refers to an unsuccessful bet that is particularly difficult to swallow. In football, a bad beat loss could come from a last second touchdown or field goal.

Book

Book or sportsbook is the organization that accepts bets on sporting events. Some books also accept wagers on non-sports related events like politics or, in the case of the Super Bowl, things like how long Christina Aguilera will hold the last note of “The Star Spangled Banner” before kickoff.

Cover

Whenever a team won and beat the point spread it was assigned to prior to the game, that team can be said to have “covered the spread”. If the New England Patriots were -10 favorites and won the game by 11 points, then the Pats have won against the spread.

Decimal Odds

Also known as European odds, decimal odds are primarily used in Europe, Australia, Canada and other parts of the world. These odds allow you to easily calculate your total winnings if you win the bet, simply by multiplying your stake with the odds. For example, if you bet $10 at odds of 3.75, you will receive $37.50 in total if you win the bet.

Dime Lines

A dime line is a line with reduced juice. Where a normal moneyline bet on the Super Bowl might be, say -165 on the favorite and +145 on the underdog, and dime line reduces the number between the two prices to 10 instead of 20. So, in this example, a dime line on this Super Bowl might be -165 on the favorite and +155 on the underdog.

Favorite

The favorite in an event is the side, which is believed to have a higher chance of winning.  A bettor can tell which side is the favorite in football just by looking at which team has the “-“ sign accompanying its odds. If the Denver Broncos are -3 over the Seattle Seahawks, it means the Broncos are considered the favorites to win by three or more points over the Seahawks.

Fractional Odds

Also known as British odds, fractional odds favored by bookmakers in the United Kingdom and in sports such as horseracing. These odds tell you the amount of profit relative to your bet if you win. For example, if a bettor places a $10 bet at 3/1 odds, the profit will be $30.

Futures

A futures bet is placed on the outcome of a team’s performance throughout the season. For example, futures bets could be played on how many games the Cincinnati Bengals will win in 2014 or if the Seattle Seahawks can repeat as Super Bowl champions.

Handicapping

Handicapping is the practice of determining the right odds for each team involved in an event. The person who assigns the odds is called a handicapper.

Hedging

Hedging is a betting technique often done by experienced bettors to protect an advantage they’ve already gained on a pre-existing bet. Say, for example, you had bet before the season started that the New York Jets were going to win the Super Bowl, when they were still starting an untested quarterback and had an unproven defensive line. The futures odds on them might have been set at +2,000 to win it all, meaning a $100 bet on the Jets would pay $2,000 if they won.

Flash forward to the night before the Super Bowl, and the Jets are (in this hypothetical) playing in the Super Bowl. Before the game, a bettor who already stands to gain $2,000 on a Jets win might hedge by betting an additional $500 on their opponent, just so that in the case of either outcome they would win at least $500. If the Jets win they would win $1500 ($2,000 – the $500 hedge) or $400 ($500 – the initial $100 Jets futures bet).

Juice

Also known as “vigorish”, the juice is amount or percentage a sportsbook takes off a lines in exchange for processing bets and guaranteeing that there would be a payout. The juice tends to be a fragment of the total payout.

Getting Points

Getting points refers to the number of points on the point spread that the underdog gets. If the Minnesota Vikings are given a +10 spread against the Green Bay Packers, one can say that the Vikings are “getting 10 points.”

Line

A line is just another term for odds. The New Orleans Saints line, for example, against the Carolina Panthers, could read: New Orleans Saints (-3)

Longshot

A team perceived to be as very unlikely to win. A long shot can also be referred to as a huge underdog. In the NFL, teams like the Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars are considered longshots to win the Super Bowl XLIX since they seemingly have very little chance of winning it.

Moneyline

The moneyline is for betting strictly on the outcome of the game, instead of adjusted lines like point spreads. Instead, the bettors are simply to choose which team will win straight up. However, in moneyline betting, the odds for the favorite are much less lucrative than in spread betting. Conversely, the potential payout for the underdog is bigger because they are facing higher odds.

Odds-on-Favorite

The opposite of the longshot, an odds-on-favorite is a team that is favored to win the outcome being bet on.

The Denver Broncos are considered the odds-on-favorite to win the AFC West.

Official Line

The lines and odds released by Las Vegas sportsbooks are widely regarded as the official line, largely because several media outlets refer to those odds when writing down their stories. However, official lines can also be those offered by any other sportsbook establishments.

Point spread

To make football and basketball games more appealing to bet on, bookmakers assign a point spread to each team. The point spread is the amount of points that is considered necessary for the game to be relatively even. By adding this handicap, it makes it possible to bet on either side without giving up tremendous amounts of value when betting on the favorite.

Point spreads are best explained with an example. If the Philadelphia Eagles are favored to win by at least a touchdown against the New York Giants, then handicappers are likely to set the line at Eagles -7, or Giants +7. For the Eagles’ bettors to win, Philadelphia must win by more than seven points. For the Giants’ bettors to win their bets, Eli Manning and crew company either win the game or lose by less than seven points.

Prop Bet

A prop bet has nothing to do on the outcome of the game or on who wins or loses. Instead, prop bets are about unusual propositions. When the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers met in Super Bowl 47, one of the most interesting prop bets was whether Jim or John Harbaugh would be shown the most times during the game broadcast.

Push

The wagered money is refunded when a game ends in a push, meaning that neither team have won nor lost the game. A push usually happens when the final score of a game ends with the spread favoring neither team.

Steam

Sometimes, a game receives a lot of action that sportsbook are forced to move the line rapidly. This movement is called steam. A steam happens when the sportsbooks need to balance the action between the two sides, especially when a weak line is getting abused by professional and experienced bettors alike.

Total

In football, a total bet is the type where bettors would decide whether the combined total score of both teams in a game would go over or under the posted line.

Underdog

The underdog is the team that the sportsbook (and the public) considers less likely to win the event in question. While the favorite is given the lower odds, the underdog, conversely, is given the higher (and more valuable) odds. In spread betting, the underdog is the one that has the “+” sign in front of its point spread number.

The Cleveland Browns have lost six games in a row and are +7 underdogs when they visit the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Value Bet

When bettors check out the odds offered by different sportsbooks on a game to see which offers the best bang for their buck. If Sportsbook A offers the Baltimore Ravens as a 6.5-point favorites against the Cleveland Browns and Sportsbook B, meanwhile, has the Ravens as 7-point faves, then a sharp bettor would smartly choose to bet on Sportsbook A.


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