The Basics of Sports Betting

Key Terms

  1. Handle aka “Turnover” or “Drop”

    The total amount of money bet on a game or event. Handle does not represent the amount won by the house, or the public.

  2. Hold

    A sportsbook or casino’s winnings after payouts to successful bettors, but before taxes and other deductions.

  3. Point Spread aka “The Line”

    The predicted scoring differential between two teams in a game, used by bettors to pick a side in a game. Bettors will traditionally bet either on the point spread or the moneyline odds.

  4. Moneyline

    A number representing the odds that a team will win a contest as well as the amount that a bet on that team will pay out.

  5. Over/Under aka “Total”

    The predicted total amount that two teams will score in a game, combined.

  6. Legal Market

    The regulated, legal market consists of sportsbooks that are licensed in the U.S. on a state-by-state basis.

  7. Wager

    The amount you choose to risk on a single bet. To keep betting fun, it’s important to establish an overall budget at the outset and only wager a small percentage on each bet.

Moneyline vs. Spread Betting

A point spread is expressed in plus (+) or minus (–) with the favorite, the team “giving” the points expressed as “–” and the underdog, the team “getting” the points expressed as “+”. For example, in this line New England is favored by 7 points over Las Vegas:

New England (–7) Las Vegas (+7)

A bet on New England would pay out if they won by more than seven points, while a bet on Las Vegas would pay out if they won, or if they lost by fewer than seven points. If New England won by exactly seven points, the bet would be a push.

While point spread bets require a certain margin of victory, moneyline bets are straight bets on the winner of the contest. For example, if Boston were listed as –200, a player would have to bet $200 on the favorite, Boston, to win $100. Meanwhile, if the underdog New York were listed at +185, a $100 bet would pay out $185. In some locations, most notably Europe, moneyline odds are expressed as fractions or decimals.